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Training without a food lure

865 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  kelly528
Hi everyone! My name is Hallie, and I am a first time dog owner with my Australian cattle dog aka Queensland heeler. I adopted her from a ranch back in July just after she turned one, and she is one incredible dog. She picks up on things very quickly, learning basic obedience (sit, stay, down, come) in just the first two weeks of my owning her. We have since mastered "shake" and "bang" (play dead with a hand-gun signal) with much ease.

I planned long ago to teach my dog many fun tricks, as I read back before even meeting her that it helps to build communication and confidence in dogs and their people. But now things are getting more difficult...

You see, Sadie is motivated by cuddles and toys, not treats. But all the articles, videos, and wiki how pages I read on the next skill set I plan to work on together say to use treats as a food lure. Given her heeler instinct to be mouthy, her previous owners trained her not to respond to anything being places right at her muzzle so that she wouldn't bother their 3 and 6 year old grandkids, so using any sort of lure is out of the question. I would really love to know what, if anything, other people have tried to do to train their pups more complicated tricks without the use of a lure.

For down and "bang", I physically moved her into the pose I wanted and had her stay their for a moment or two before clicking with my clicker and rewarding her with a toss of a tennis ball. But that just isn't possible for things like training her to spin in a circle, stand on her hind legs/beg, lowering her head to her paws in the 'down' pose, or 'bow'. Please help! We both love the training game, so we won't give up so easily!
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I mostly train without lures as well. What I find works very well is to doing mini training sessions during feeding time. Basically getting fed is the reward at the end. Afterwards, when I ask for tricks not during feeding time, they still do the tricks and sometimes get treats but not always, yet they always get verbal praise and a pat or ear/belly scratch. Has worked very well here with my guys.

You can still reward with a toy or game afterwards, just give praise using your chosen wording "good girl" or "good", etc, then immediately give the toy or play her favourite game.

To teach spin without treat luring, you can teach the "watch me" command first. Then walk around her asking her to watch you as you circle around her. Or have her favourite toy and spin it over her head to have her follow the toy into a spin.
You could try teaching her touch, then use that to lure her into position.

Using down for an example, teach her to nose touch something like your hand, or some object like a spoon or target stick, then tell her to sit then tell her to touch and slowly move whatever you use till she's in the down position. As an added bonus the touch command is used in a lot of other commands like turning on or off the lights.
You can use targeting as basically a substitute lure. Something that your dog might really like though is behavioral shaping (done with a clicker). It is awesome mental stimulation, among other things. Dogs also get better at learning the 'art' of shaping faster as soon as they realize the object of the 'game'.
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