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!
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.
My Dogs are definitely shaping me too. I was not always nice to my doggies as a kid, when they didn’t listen id get mad and hit them (I’m very very sorry now that i understand better) then as an adult i had got My Husky Lex with my wife, and he was sooooo timid even raising my voice made him scared of me and made me feel bad. I’ve taken a much Gentler approach. I’ve been working on Gentleness in my life for many years now and this program is so important to me and my process i really cant thank you enough for giving me so many key philosophies i will carry with me forever.
Barking to get inside. I don’t let my dogs stay outside barking their heads off. I call them in when the barking starts. There are times when I need them to stay out for while though, and they would prefer to be inside. So what does my barker do? He runs out in the yard and barks at nothing so I will bring him in. At first, I was falling for it but then suddenly realized what was happening. So now I just open the door and tell him to hush and close the door again. And when he’s quiet for a few minutes then I call him in.
Where are the answers to these questions found?
We’ve tried playing tug with our 2 year old Great Pyrenees pup, but he just wants to grab and run. If we hold onto it, he gets really excited and sometimes jumps. This isn’t good since he is taller than us on his hind legs! His jumping is unpredictable, but we know it is excitement/overwhelm/overstimluated. He does this at training as well…the jumping. He loves people, but a jump greeting isn’t good. We are working with him on the Greet and regreet per one of your videos and hope that will help. But what do we do about the jumping while playing? He sometimes will come running at us and though he has never collided with us as he tends to last minute go to the side like it is a great game for him. Ezra is a great sweet dog, but we want him to make the choice not to jump. Any suggestions are welcome! We are members of Homeschool the Dog and Wag Nation. Thanks!
I practiced this today with my dog, Rebus with one of his favourite toys.
This is a game that I admit I had not thought of playing and it’s indeed a brilliant add-on to IYC. Quincy is crazy about his ball…. I shall be playing this game this evening! Thank you so much ❤
Doing this with Gemma and her Best Ball ,I have her sit and not bark then throw. ❤️❤️❤️
My problem is one of my dogs gets so excited when I come home from work she jumps up at me and has started nipping. if I turn my back this seems to increase the problem as she increases her efforts to gain my attention. I think maybe I do not do this for long enough as the more frustrated and excited she gets the more it frustrates me. I Will try and keep doing it until she calms down.
The other problem I have is. I live in a small villa with a lounge dining room and kitchen combined with the loungeroom facing the street. The street I live in is a main thoroughfare for walkers to our local shops and walking paths around the lake. So lots of people walking past. The same dog jumps upon the lounge to look out the window and bark at dogs or people. This also becomes very frustrating. I have tried doing ‘It’s Your Choice ‘ and ‘Hand Targets at these times which seems to work for a bit until I am doing something that I cannot leave like cooking something which needs constant stirring then she takes this opportunity to be the best small guards dog in town. The result of this is we have then taken a step backward with her behavior again very frustrating. Other than putting her in the laundry or in my small courtyard ther is nowhere she can be that does not give her access to that window.
Just wondering what the expected time frame I this is he will back off and sit after he jumps at the toy but always jumps first like it is part of the game?
Would this work at the door as well? We have been turning our backs when coming in and getting jumped on but this has just seemed to make him jump higher and grab my hair. I have given treats when he sits for a moment but once the treat is gone he is jumping and pulling at my coat gloves again???
Thanks Susan, my biggest problem is my girl insists that I get out of bed every morning at 6:45AM .. UGH. I really need to push that until about 7:30 – but she is physically insistent, please advise.
Perfect timing. I just struggled with what to do in last night’s training session. We are in recallers and this is one of my goals for the year. Night has always been getting what he wants, not having to ask for it politely. So, we are trying to improve. He gets these games and we both thoroughly enjoy all of our training. I am just not an expert yet. Still plenty of room for improvement for both of us.
I think I’ve been well and truly shaped by my 5 year old rescue. Time to turn the tables. Thanks for the advice and great explanation.
My border collie Fly (4) is ball orientated and when we go out to play she was rushing back with ball and throwing it at me and bouncing about, so I decided to try IYC and remained still and ignored her, she stood still, had a think, and lay down. So I picked up the ball in the chucker and threw it, off she went like stink. Came back, bouncing, throwing the ball at me but I repeated and by the third time she was coming back, dropping the ball, waiting, no reaction from me and then lay down, masses of praise and ball thrown again for her. I just LOVE your methods and my dogs learn so quickly!m
I have been training obedience, rally, agility and NW since the 80s with GSDs, Toy Poodles and Aussies. I really enjoy your articles and learn something useful all the time. Thankds
Hi Susan, I love all your methods and games and have followed along with Homeschool The Dog. Moxie! is now 7 months old and if I have a dish towel (or anything she wants) in my hand, thinks nothing of jumping up and grabbing the end and tugging. If I stand still she just keeps tugging (reinforcement). We’re working on “Out” but it takes her awhile. When she lets go it’s instant cookie or letting her tug(I don’t want to diminish tugging as she’s my latest agility prospect) She is a beagle and if she’s not crated, she is “on” all the time!!! Help! I’m exhausted!!
I just was introduced to you. Am I ever glad I was. My Lily is a 4 yr old Min Pin which I’ve only had 10 months. She has had great progress from when I got her. She had never had any training at all. I still daily try to improve training with her.
This blog really opened my eyes, Lily knows to come on recall, recently (since loss of the dog behind us passing away that she played with daily) she has taken to barking at the fences every time she is outside. I don’t want her doing that. So I will call her and she will continue to bark at fence until I go outside with a treat. Then she will play chase me if you can. I cannot chase her so she runs from one side of fence to other side. She does this till she is ready for treat. Talk about having her owner trained that what she’s done to me. I will be trying this method with her from now on see how she does.
My late Labrabor non-Retriever would play keep away with the tennis ball. I tried turning my back and that resulted in her returning to me … without the ball. Then she would start barking at me as if to say “I’m here! Throw a ball already!”
I’ve noticed that recently when I’m throwing a ball for Chance, instead of coming right back to me and dropping it at my feet, he has been playing “keep away”. After three or four days of doing this, I finally just walked off with the chucker, went around a corner, and waited for him to come to me. It took a couple of minutes, but soon he came trotting along, ball in mouth, and lay down with it, then dropped it. I picked it up with the chucker, threw it, and we repeated the sequence a couple of times. I’m pretty sure he’s going to try keep away a few more times, but equally sure he’ll decide it’s more fun to drop the ball and let me throw it for him, too. I expect his ball behavior to return to “normal” by the end of the week.
BTW. this started only after he’d learned to play tug.
This is very much Pavlovian Reinforcement. We use it in our training process and have been very successful with all of our dogs both past and present.
Thanks for helping those who do not have a clue about training.
Yep. Iceman (9mo BC) is getting to be a bully with constant wanna fetch! wanna fetch! wanna fetch now! This arrived right on time!
One of my dogs runs to the orchard to “pick” fruit. Also to the vegetable patch for tomatoes. He doesn’t wait until the fruit is ripe so, sadly, we all get less edible fruit. He has “taught” the other dog to do this as well. I will try to get a picture but probably should stop the reinforcement with I YC.
Thanks Susan. This is so true. Our terrier mix had trained us to throw the ball by dropping it in the kitchen while we were preparing dinner. We would throw it, just to get it out the way. But no more. Since I have been in Recallers I have put away all the toys and use them strategically to reward good behaviour. IYC has made a huge improvement in our training. Parson and I LOVE the program! Now I just have to train my partner…
We put the toys away but now he wants to fetch with the chew toys we left out! Did you have that issue?
Loving following your advise