Loading the cup will come from a reserve held in the other hand. Not your pocket or pouch. Loading will need to be prompt and you will have no time for fishing around for food which will detract the dog from the cup. Either hand should be able to perform each role without hesitation and whilst the you are moving.
Give yourself enough space to swing the stick and avoid the furniture. Dogs should not be watching and neither should any relatives who may be holding a camera.
1. Take up 5-8 beans and practice rolling one from the palm of the hand to the finger tips. Hold in the fingers tips, then place in the cup. This is easier if you use dried beans, buttons or kibble and this is fine for first practice, but you must check that you can easily roll the real food from palm to finger tips easily. I assure you that whilst some food may be the dog’s joy is it too sticky for roll to finger tips, so check it out.
2. Load to the cup without dropping or any hesitation, equally competent when the hands are reversed. Although the stick is long, don’t be tempted to hold by the end at the early stage, you can slide down for a longer stick as you progress. Being accurate with cup-loading is our first priority.
3. Move the cup from the point of loading in a smooth curve to a level between waist and shoulder and then a smooth sinking curve towards the floor. Make sure you have also explored loading the cup when it is near the floor as well as at should height.
4. When near the floor turn the cup to place the food. When placed the food should not be wildly rolling away but placed in preparation for the next re-engagement.
5. Develop a clear language of cup-rising, cup-sinking, and walking whilst following the cup.
6. As this process gets smoother begin to place the bean further away, lengthen the stick, and use your feet to step towards the placement. Change hands!
This is the moment when we subtly prepare the dog for training. Keep your reserve in a container and count out the food from the container, it will become the “open session” cue for the dog, so it is worth adding at this stage. This time for loading is important to let you mentally review what you are going to do in this session.
A counted batch of food is an excellent form of monitoring progress and ensures you only train in batches with short breaks between. Once you start training the success can gather momentum and take you further than you should really be asking, so a semi-forced break will ask for a pause and question whether this is the time to stop. …. and then you can write up some notes.
Remember the cup will become a “talking reward” so be careful as you count that the cup is not left in the dog’s view and be doing nothing. Good practice means you hide the cup whilst counting, place it over your shoulder or behind your leg out of view.