Tag Archives: stealing food from counter

Impulse Control

Thank you to this week’s guest blogger Jennifer Skiba, Westminster, CO who shares training tips that will make living with your Gordon Setter easier.

You know, reading this I realized that if anyone had taught me impulse control I wouldn’t have that half eaten box of Turtle candy sitting on my kitchen counter. However, on the plus side, Sara hasn’t been counter surfing as usual, otherwise they’d be totally gone. At least one of us has learned impulse control.

Jennifer SIf I could teach only one thing to dog owners it would be to understand the importance of teaching their dog impulse control. Impulse control is an incredibly valuable life skill for your dog to have and yet is one of the skills I find most dogs lack. When people think of a “good dog” what they are really noticing is a dog with good impulse control. It is a dog who doesn’t jump on people, who doesn’t steal food, who doesn’t pull on the leash, etc. These are all behaviors that require the dog to have impulse control, to wait. How does the dog learn to wait? To feel an impulse and decide not to act on it? Through lots and lots of practice.

Impulse games teach your dog to feel an impulse to want to do something but to not do it, or to look for permission before doing it. Many trainers teach this as a “leave it” command but I prefer to teach it as a default behavior. Meaning the dog automatically defaults to waiting instead of snatching food. This isn’t about micro managing your dog. This is about teaching them to think before they act. This isn’t just for food either, if done correctly it teaches the dog to look for permission and will be a foundation for other behaviors that don’t involve food. Impulse control is a foundational behavior of all of the advanced behaviors that people recognize as hallmarks of a “good dog”.

So, how do I teach impulse control? I start with the dog’s food and some treats and I teach them that the way to get the treat is to not want the treat anymore. That is the basic behavior. Once they understand that I challenge them over and over again with the same exercise in different contexts. This is called proofing a behavior, what that means is I am helping my dog to generalize the behavior. This allows the dog to access the behavior even if it’s not exactly the same as the last time. Here are two videos that I made that show phase 1 and phase 2 of impulse control.

Impulse Control – Part 1 video

Impulse Control – Part 2 video

A progression of challenges might look like this:

  • Treats in a closed hand
  • Treats in an open hand
  • Treats on the floor
  • Treats dropped on the floor
  • Snapping turtle
  • The dog’s food bowl
  • Treats on the dog’s paw
  • Treats I find when I walk into a room and they are on the floor already
  • Treats on the coffee table, picnic table or dining room table
  • People food (start easy with crackers or bread)
  • People food that is harder (cheese or lunch meat)
  • People food that is on a table surface
  • The above challenges outside (backyard, front yard, porch)
  • “Treats” in the real world (goose poop)

Non-food related impulse control behaviors:

  • Not greeting other dogs
  • Being calm around other dogs
  • Not jumping on people
  • Not begging
  • Not stealing food from children
  • Not counter surfing
  • Staying
  • Waiting
  • Walking politely on leash
  • Waiting for you to throw a toy
  • Not stealing kids toys/shoes
  • Not stealing your shoes

I start to teach this with food because generally all dogs want food. Once they understand the behavior with food I can change it to other items like a toy. The key to having good impulse control is LOTS of practice in LOTS of different contexts. If you take the time to teach your dog to wait without having to say “wait” all the time (or “leave it”) you will find that your dog is a joy to live with. You aren’t having to watch their every movement and they understand that waiting is the first choice they should offer.

Jennifer Skiba, Westminster, CO

Namastay Training   www.NamastayTraining.com

“Teaching People to Listen, One Dog at a Time”

Counter-Surfing – Gordons do it best without a board!

After thirty plus years and six generations I am announcing that I have created a line of Gordon Setters that are the very best at one of the breed’s favorite sports – Counter Surfing. My dogs are so good at this sport they require no supporting surf boards or other paraphernalia, they win each and every time with pure perseverance and style. Generation after generation my dogs have improved their tactical approach, scent prowess, snatch and gobble style, and always finish each run perfectly with a purely innocent expression that captivates the judge’s heart every time. I’ve employed many counter measures (no pun intended) to try to foil their prowess, training methods that were promised to break the habits of top winning Counter Surfers and I will tell you that despite my perseverance and skill my Gordon Setters have always triumphed in the end, making their best counter run when I least expect it and when I was the most confident that I’d gained the upper hand.

Counter Surfing at it's best!
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson – Fiona loves steak, can you tell?

So, I know there are a bunch of you out there who also believe you have great Counter Surfers, and some of you who wish you could convince your Gordon to give  this sport up – like permanently. Well, I share your pursuit of a happy ending and as such often find myself trying just one more measure (yes I’ve done the mouse traps, tin cans, blah blah blah…do you remember I said 30 plus years?).

I ran across this training website on You Tube last week and thought I’d share it with you as I kind of liked this guy and his advice is not only humane but also good.  His name is Zak George and a link to his website and the YouTube training video follows.

How to train your dog to stop stealing! Teach Your Dog to LEAVE ANYTHING ALONE Counter Surfing – YouTube.

Reason for counter surfing!
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson – Chicken Marsala by Jerry Nelson

I also want to send a special Thank You out to Susan Roy Nelson for capturing the beautiful photos of Gordon Setters in competition as Counter Surfers. I’ve never been able to take photos of my own dogs in action, my skill as a photographer doesn’t come close to Susan’s! I also am wondering if Jerry’s cooking is better than mine and thus his tasty dishes are more incentive for a stellar performance on the dog’s part?

I’m not sure I still have the energy as a woman of a certain age to teach an old dog new tricks, but I will be waiting to hear from those of you who’ve tried this method with your Gordon. Or, better yet, many of our readers would love to hear from those of you who have your own working method of countering the counter surfer! That’s what the comment section is for people, for you to join in the conversation helping other Gordon Setter owners by sharing.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ