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Reverse Luring with your Dog - SpiritDog Training LLC

Reverse Luring – a new approach to training duration behaviors in dogs

In dog training, we can divide all behaviors into two groups:

  • “one-time behaviors” – these are behaviors whose duration is predetermined by the behavior itself. A dog spinning right or left is a good example: we do not want our dog to keep on spinning until we tell him to stop. Instead, a spin is completed after a 360 degree turn and our dog is ready for his reward or a different cue
  • duration behaviors – these are behaviors whose duration is determined by us. If we tell our dog to sit, we ideally want him to stay sitting until we release him or ask for a different behavior – we do not want him to just pop down on the ground and get up again on his own terms.

Communicating the concept of a duration behavior can be challenging. When we first teach a new behavior, our dog has no way to know whether it is a one-time behavior or not. In his mind, “sit” may just as well mean “sit for 1 second”). They do not come with a pre-programmed understanding of which positions to hold and which not. We need to explain to them when to add duration.

A popular and straight-forward approach is to feed a dog in a position (for example the sit) for which we want duration. This is very easy and successful as it builds a lot of value for the position, as well as makes it less appealing to leave it – why get up when it really pays off to stay sitting?
We only run into a problem once we cannot feed in the position – either because our distance to the dog is too big, or because the dog cannot eat while performing the behavior. This last case is when most owners first run into the challenge of adding duration: Training their dog to hold an item in their mouth.

Obviously, eating while also holding a dumbbell is impossible. We need to come up with a new way to build duration in training, and here it is:
Reverse Luring.
In reverse luring, we first teach our dog the concept us showing them to hold a position, then we utilize this concept for whichever duration behavior we chose.
(It’s luring “in reverse” – instead of making our dog move by luring them with a piece of food, we make our dog hold still)

Here is how we train it:

  • Put a cookie in your closed hand and sit in front of your dog.
  • If your dog nags you (pawing, nuzzling, jumping etc.), simply stay silent and still and keep your hand closed. Do not tell your dog to back off.
  • As soon as your dog backs away the slightest, open your hand. He will likely rush towards it – close it again.
  • Keep doing this until your dog backs off for about 1-2 seconds. Then give him the treat in your hand with a lot of praise!
  • Slowly – over the time of days  – raise your rules (“criteria”) to your dog waiting for longer and longer.
  • Once your dog understands this, we can use the meaning of the open hand (“keep going”) and closed hand (“not correct, try again”) in any behavior – start out with ones that your dog is already good at, for example a sit stay. Don’t tell him “stay”, but let the hand “speak” for itself!
  • When your dog has used the concept successfully in several known positions, try it with the hold.
    For this step your dog needs to be able to take something in his mouth for at least a split second – if you have not trained this first, check out the first part of this video)
    Hand your dog an object with one hand, and keep the other hand open with food. Make your criteria very easy at first – maybe just a 1 second hold or less to start out with!
  • If you have a toy driven dog, definitely try this method using toys. The have even more of a “freeze potential” than the food.

Here is a video to show you how I did it: