At the moment we’ve got a lot of people playing ItsYerChoice in our Home School the Dog program. And when I say a lot, it’s more than 20,000 people right now and growing. How awesome is that!
Now, if you are reading my blog for the first time, you might be wondering what ItsYerChoice is. It’s one of my foundation games that teaches dogs HOW to make great choices. And because it’s a game, it’s fun, and we all learn best when we are having fun.
You can join in with everyone at Home School the Dog and learn how to play (all through the month of April it is totally free to the world).
Sometimes people who are introduced to ItsYerChoice wonder what the difference is between educating our dogs they can make good choices, compared to using the traditional “leave it”. It’s such a common question that a couple of years ago I did a short video on Facebook with the answer, but it’s not always easy to find. So, I decided it should be here on my blog to be easily accessible to everyone who has the question, and for everyone to share the answer with family, friends, training buddies and students.
One of the keys of our dogs playing ItsYerChoice is our dogs looking at the treat, and not at us. This is not something I just arbitrarily decided … “let’s not have the dogs look at us”. This was really purposeful. It’s all about layers of training in our program because it is a choice based program. We want the dogs to think for themselves when we are not around or close by. The cookie we use in ItsYerChoice (IYC) ultimately represents every distraction our dogs might have in their life.
And another reason we don’t use “leave it” is because we’d have to be saying “leave it” for our dog’s lifetime … and always micro-managing our dogs as we’ve never taught them they can make great choices.
Remember, the food or toy in IYC represents a distraction. You are now teaching your dog “self-control” rather than “imposed control”. A dog with self-control has learned to have “impulse control” when in stimulating environments. Our dogs learn that good choices have good consequences.
Be the Keeper of the Joy
Hand in hand with IYC is us harnessing the power of permissions so we let our dog know when he can have something he wants! We want to be the keepers of joy, not the stoppers of joy.
The first layer of our dog understanding permissions is the ‘get it’ cue we introduce in ItsYerChoice. The learning in the game carries through to any situation and gives our dogs total clarity. Clear is kind.
Of course, it is super important to understand that you won’t be jumping from your dog playing IYC for the first time to being able to take it straight to a bunny farm. In choice based dog training it is very important that the dog has competence at every layer before adding the next. I covered this in my vlog “Expectations vs Understanding in Dog Training“. We’re not going to play ItsYerChoice with a couple of cookies in your living room and then go to a bunny farm and expect your dog not to make poor choices.
There is also another reason for our dog’s looking at the cookie in ItsYerChoice. Dogs that are trained and live in “Do-Land” have immense value for us. This attention from our dogs is a by-product of effective, inspired training. When you get it right your dog will never want to take his eyes off of you and you will have to create a new response; that of inspired focus forward towards something else! For dog agility, and other sports, we want our dogs to be focused on what they are doing, rather than looking at us.
Today I am grateful for everyone who has joined us in Home School the Dog, you are filling our life with joy and your dog’s life with joy. If you have not jumped in yet, we’d love to welcome you and the dogs in your life inside!