Food refusal. Dante and I have been working a lot on it this week. All puppies in training are expected to totally ignore anything on the floor weather they are walking over it, doing commands next to it, or laying down next to it (in a restaurant, etc.). It is so important that working dogs pay absolutely no attention to anything on the floor because it could be detrimental to the dog's handler. Beside the fact that it looks extremely unprofessional, a distracted puppy is hard enough for me to handle, much less someone who is disabled and may not see it or have the strength to control him.
While Dante is far from perfect in this area, he tries so hard! We have had a few times this week where Dante was exerting all the willpower he has, and it is SO cute!
The area between the two sets of automatic doors at Target always has popcorn littered on the floor. Tons of popcorn. Dante can walk over many things just fine, but he is not good at refusing the popcorn. But really, who can blame him? I helped him out a (very) little bit by making him walk right next to it instead of over it. Just when we get up to it he stops dead and stares. It is the cutest thing because his nose is an inch from the floor and his ears are hanging over his eyes. He stands there for close to thirty seconds, before he looks back at me with the most victorious "I didn't touch it, Mom!" look, and continues to walk with me. Treats for you, my Little Buddy!
The other night, we were working on his commands at home. I had Dante in an "under" underneath my chair. He was facing straight forward with his head and front paws sticking out between my legs. I started dropping kibble and high value treats in front of him until there were around 20 within his reach and between his paws. He was trying so hard not to pay attention to them, but after ten minutes I guess he didn't think he could take it any longer, and scooted around until he was facing my right side where there was nothing dropped, and plopped his head down.
Dante passed that better than I could have expected, so we move out from "under" and work on all his other commands. I had him do "stands," "sits," "shakes," "speaks," and then I asked for a "down." Now, no matter which way he turned, there would be kibble between his paws. Dante looked at the floor, then looked at me, and back to the floor. He moved his paws a few inches before he popped back up and whined. I commanded another "down" and he did the same thing. I asked a third time, and he looked at me and then offered all his other commands: sit, shake, speak, stand. Poor baby just knew he could not refuse the temptation if he followed through with a "down." I lured him once, then he was able to do it a few more times with lots of encouragement. He never did touch the kibble.
Dante still has a lot of work to do food-wise, but I know that he understands what he is supposed to do. I am so proud of his progress. Whenever we practice food refusal, I can see his little brain turning - "I think I can, I think I can..."