Whenever I tell someone that we’re not doing “purely positive” training with Ziva, I’m always afraid it sounds like we’re being really mean. But the truth is that she gets more praise and reward than any animal I have ever had, because we are spending so much more time consciously training her than any animal I have ever had.
During the 7 weeks that we are in Basic Obedience 101 class, we’re feeding Ziva her morning and evening meals from our hand. She gets food when she looks at me. She also gets tons of crazy praise. Because when we are trying to reinforce positive behaviors, the praise needs to be effusive — consider this: You finish a project at work and your boss notices. But she says “Oh. Thanks” rather than “Fantastic job! You’re awesome. Well done!” Obviously as silly as it may sound, the second version is more meaningful to you. Same thing here. Here’s a quick video of me feeding Ziva this way. Thankfully we’re only doing this for 7 weeks, because it is pretty time consuming. I thought I was doing enough by having Ziva wait for a minute after I placed her food bowl down, but our trainer said (to the class in general, because I guess this must be a common misconception), “Making your dog wait 1 minute for an entire bowl of food is not making her work for it. That’s like telling you to sit still and you’ll get a million dollars. That’s what a bowl of food is worth to your dog.”
I won’t lie and tell you that we do this for every single meal. Life happens, and sometimes I’m in a rush to get out the door, and I do put her food in the bowl. But I would say about 90% of the time we do the hand feeding right now. Here’s a quick video: