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I’ve been creating and playing games with my dogs for more years than I can remember, and many of the games have the word “cookie” in the name. Cookie is most often a code word for anything that your dog finds reinforcing.

Reinforcement is the number one most important thing in training. Reinforcement builds behaviour, and you want to be fully aware of what your dog loves so that you can use that to the advantage of both of you.

One of the cookie games I play is “Taking Back the Keys to the Cookie Jar” … and it might be familiar. You might have learned it attending workshops or camps here, or at workshops with me in your part of the world. It has been in our online programs and was also sent in my newsletter well over a decade ago now. You may had heard of the game from one of my students. All of that is to say that the game is so much a part of all we do that I’d overlooked the fact it has never been on my blog!

It’s a game that harnesses your ItsYerChoice (IYC) foundations. If IYC is new for you, you can learn that game plus a lot more about choice based dog training in our free IYC Summit. So, without further preamble, today is all about one of the most vital cookie related games you should know how to play.

Taking Back the Keys to the Cookie Jar!

We all love our dogs; therefore it is difficult not to indulge them occasionally. However, I have often said, “dogs are far better at shaping people than people are at shaping dogs!”.

In order to change your dog’s unwanted behaviour around the house, you need to become as good at studying your own habits of reinforcement as your dog has!

A dog’s goal is to earn reinforcement. If you bring out a favourite ball or cookie, does he immediately dive towards your hand in order to take control of  what you have? I want, I want, I want! Would that be your dog’s plea if he could speak?

If your dog is grabbing for the ball or cookie, what do you do next?

If you are like most people, you immediately raise the toy or treats over your head or put them behind your back in hopes of deterring your dog’s single-minded attack towards his treasure.

That is the dog shaping you! By getting you to move your hand with his toy or treats, the dog has managed to get YOU to alter YOUR behaviour rather than you getting the dog to alter his!

In Game Based/Choice Based dog training, shaping your dog so that he enjoys waiting and “asking in a more polite fashion” is POSSIBLE! … and to get started on what “polite” looks like, join us in the IYC Summit.

The next time your dog tries to get you to alter your behaviour for the toy or treat, become as still as a statue, do nothing and say nothing, waiting until your dog offers to alter his approach.

At first, it may just be that he stops barking at you, or he may back away from your hand or go into a sit or down (without being asked). When he does, you can reward this more appropriate response with the release of the object of his affection.

It is time to turn the tables on your dog and show him that you are actually the keeper of the cookie jar!

Shout out to John Hill for the photos of Tater. We might need to teach the trees about cookie jar games!

Turn Frustration to Fun

I want you to note that this game is not meant at all to dampen your dog’s joy in the object of his affection. It’s to make you aware of your responses, and how you can use what your dog finds reinforcing to remove frustration and introduce fun for the both of you.

Let’s face it, you being mugged by your dog for a toy or treat, is not something you will find fun when it’s happens again and again. It’s possible that you will find it more and more frustrating as time goes on, and you might even get angry with your dog. Turn it all around with an easy game!

Dogs are amazing at shaping us humans. I have a blog post from years ago where I outlined how I’ve been shaped (and yes, the masters were terriers). Just be aware of this in daily life with your dog. Make changes in your responses to make life better for you and your dog. And remember to notice and celebrate all the good choices that your dog makes!

Let me know in the comments where you can use “Taking Back the Keys to the Cookie Jar!” in daily life with your dog.

Today I am grateful to be enjoying running super fun sequences with Momentum who is being a superstar with layering and distance while my hamstring recovers … I’ve shared clips of a couple on my Facebook page.