Using Luring In Your Training
There are so many ways that we can engage with our dog when we are training, what we use as a
training aid is dependent on your dog’s preference.
Some LOVE their food to the point that they will almost turn themselves inside out to gain what you
have in your hand. Then there are others that will give your Uba treat a sniff then turn away with
that look that says ‘You can’t do better than that?’
There are many breeds or mixes of breeds that have what is known as a ‘high prey drive’ or ‘retrieve
Drive’. For these dogs, toys are your best form of reward and focus puller.
So your homework will be: Who is your dog? Who are they really? What rocks their world? Have
you conditioned your dog to engage with you through play? Is there a toy that just really ticks all
the boxes for them? Or do they not have any inclination to play with toys?
If the latter is the case then you will need to find a training treat that really does attract them. Have
a range and swap them around. Work out what works well and reliably, but keeps the dog at a
steady level of concentration.
Safety warning: Many of the products on the market today are brought in from China; they are low
cost for bulk quantities and readily available from most retail outlets.
READ THE LABEL – What have they used in the ingredients? What have they used as a
preservative? What have they been treated with to appease Australian Quarantine laws? The
answer to all of these questions is often quite frightening with devastating results for your dog. If
you would not eat it yourself, then do not use it on your dog! If it looks and smells like plastic then
why would you feed it to somebody you love?
Research what is safe and why not add beneficial ingredients to their diet through training treats?
USING THE TREATS
The concept of a ‘lure’ for a dog is pretty much the same as what you would use for fishing. The lure
needs to attract the dog attention and get its body to follow it. With dogs though, we do not use
hooks! We want to capture the behaviour not the dog itself!
Some treats are so highly rewarding that the dogs ability to hold a thought is impaired by its
overwhelming need to have what you hold. They then throw random behaviours at you in the hope
that one will work to gain what they need. We need to find out what works for your dog on that day,
in that moment. Dogs are not machines; their tastes change, as do their needs.
Levels of anxiety directly affect the dog’s appetite and ability to concentrate as well as problem
solve. Ambient temperature, how hydrated is the dog? How fatigued are they?
Also consider that trinity of training, Distance, duration and distraction.
So take a look at your training kit, do you have a broad range of lures (treats)? Is there something
in that bag for the dog that is reliable? That the dog will always want and feel that they have gained
a reward for a behaviour? That they will offer that behaviour again and again even under
distraction because they really want what you have?!
Then we need the ‘jackpot’ treat, that reward that says to the dog you have hit the mother lode
here buddy ( try jerky!). That what you have just done for me is awesome, a complex skill that
required dedication to complete. The attitude of you as the trainer needs to reflect the value of
the reward and the recognition you give the dog for the skill they have just learned.
A note of caution here, DO NOT just become a Pez dispenser! Poking treats at a dog to overcome
every behavioural issue is a trap that will lead you up the wrong path. Use a balanced approach of
YES and NO to let the dog understand what is an appropriate response to a stimuli and what is
The correct use of treats is as a lure to condition a response to a command, that is our aim. Using
a suitable treat for your dog as a part of the pattern of learning can then enable you to teach the
dog to offer different positions according to where you move that lure. Engage the dog’s nose, then
where you move that lure is where the dog will follow. Think of it as a dog magnet
If you allow the dog to get a snoot full of scent then hold the treat up and above the dog’s head,
then the dog will naturally look up, and the rump goes down into a ‘sit’. Tie this movement with the
sound you want to use as a command, and there you go!
For a stand, pull the food forward in line with the dog’s nose, guiding gently with your other hand. this can then teach the dog to ‘stand’.
A drop or down can be achieved by getting the dogs nose onto the treat then pulling your hand
down between their paws and then moving the hand along the ground back towards the dog’s hind
feet. The dog will then crouch and lie back into a drop by simply following the lure. Once you master the dog magnet concept of luring have some fun with it! Teach the beg, roll over,
dance, head down, on your side etc.!
If you can condition your dog to have an excited response for a toy, then you will have an incredibly
powerful reward system. One that works in high distraction environments, is reliable, and has the
ability to hold the dog’s focus even if it has aggression issues etc. You can then have an energetic
play session after the release command to burn off some of that angst. If the love of your dogs life is his stomach then you will need a range of options to suit their whimsy of appetite. The higher the value of the reward for the dog then the more reliable the response and also the more the dog engages with you to achieve the outcome you both want.