The first stage in any behaviour modification program involves managing the problem behaviour. This is because the more a dog practises a behaviour, the more likely it is to perform that behaviour in that situation. We therefore try and ensure that, whilst training is ongoing, we don’t put the dog into any situations in which he or she feels the need to practise the behaviour that we are trying to change.
However, despite our best efforts, it’s not possible to control the environment. However dedicated we are in trying to avoid other dogs, cars, strangers or anything else that could be a trigger for your dog’s behaviour, the chances are that he or she is going to encounter the trigger just when we least expect it. I’ve therefore developed the “crouch and feed” training which is a great tool for distracting your border collie in difficult situations.
Thinking of the “crouch and feed” as a trick or a fun behaviour alters the way in which we train our dogs, making it more exciting for them. We can build up a strong reinforcement history, giving the dog lots and lots of practice in small training sessions at home using high value treats so that it’s something that the dog wants to do.
The point of the crouch and feed is that it’s a good way of distracting your border collie, getting your dog to focus on you completely, while blocking your dog’s view of the trigger. The following video shows the two stages of training with Esther:
- Have the dog on the lead
- Have a handful of high value treats.
- With the dog next to you on the lead, crouch down and drip feed the treats to the dog, one after another in quick succession.
- There’s no need to ask for a sit or lie down – whatever the dog naturally does is fine
- Praise the dog and stand up.
- Repeat for 2 or 3 more times then end the session
- Start to make the training more fun by moving about then suddenly dropping and feeding the dog. Use phrases such as “ready, steady,” building anticipation that something really fun is going to happen, then crouch down and drip the feed the dog his treats.
- Gradually build in more movement by running with the dog on the lead in between crouching and feeding. Work on building the speed at which the dog into the position and building enthusiasm with the game.
- Start to train off lead in the house and garden, calling the dog to you to crouch and feed.
- Once you have the enthusiasm and a very quick response, you can start to use this on walks whenever you need to distract your collie.