The number one component for getting a good score in competitive obedience is to have a dog that is more interested in you than what is going on outside the ring. Every trial comes with its own special distractions, kids with hotdogs, squeaky toys in the conformation ring, tons of other dogs to hear and smell. Using this game is a great way to get back to being the most important thing in your dog’s world. I use this technique almost every time before I go in the ring.
This video will show you how to use a food chase game that you can do almost anywhere to bring your dog’s focus back to you.
Start by having a number of small treats that are of high enough value for your dog to work for. Hold the food in a cupped hand with your thumb on the treat so that your dog can’t take it before you are ready.
Be prepared to move, stationary rewards turn you into a treat vending machine and a boring one at that. At the beginning, show the dog the treat in your and then move your hand away the dog should follow and push into your hand. After your dog has followed and pushed at your hand, pull you hand a little further so your dog has to drive through to get the food. Pulling those extra inches away at the last second kicks your dog’s prey drive up a notch. In the second stage, I wait for eye contact and incorporate some side to side movement. I also use longer forward and back sessions to prepare for heeling. If you drop the food (it happens!) just let your dog get the food and come back to you.
As your dog becomes more proficient at the food chase game you can increase the difficulty level by incorporating “misses” so that your dog doesn’t get the reward the first time. In the video, this is where I essentially fake Sparks out and change direction and see how it brings his level of drive up. Another thing that I do with an experienced dog is instead of holding the food relatively close to the dog’s height I raise the food and make them jump for it which makes the game more challenging and more interesting for your dog. This allows me to have less back and forth motion while still keeping the dog’s drive up.