Elmo drops! A tale of a lot of carrot and a very little stick

Our practically perfect mutt has become that bit more perfect over the last fortnight. He’s always chased balls (see Zogoflex) but he then pranced around, taunting me with his gains. We could go to the park for an hour and I might cajole him into three or four throws. No more. Now he fetches, returns and drops on command – most of the time. Like this.

How?

We were in Richmond Park one morning when we chanced upon a woman with two younger and smaller dogs. Elmo went up, to be admired, and she asked if he could have a treat – of course. She took out a small bag of treats and her two dogs promptly sat at her feet staring up expectantly. And so did Elmo – bolt upright. He had his bit – and sat rigidly waiting for more. I was amazed. Elmo is toy and ball oriented. Chase a ball, tug-o-war, always trump food. Treats were very much an after-thought.

What was this ambrosia, this food of the gods? Home-made liver cake.

The web is full of recipes. I used the simplest: 250 grams of chicken livers, 125 grams of flour, two eggs;  pulverised and poured into a baking tin; into the oven for 30 minutes and cut when warm – making a month worth of supplies to freeze.

We set off to the park. I gave Elmo a treat to set the scene. I threw the ball. He fetched it and came rushing back to my feet. He dropped the ball to have another treat as I praised with “good drop”. And that was pretty well it. Within a session or two it was pretty automatic. Now I have to gauge how much running he can take or he will exhaust himself.

Of course, a couple of times he reverted to his old ways. He’d retrieve, come back to me only to show the ball, not drop it -and walk away hoping I’d chase him. And that’s where the “stick” comes in. I have a spray tube of Pet Corrector. It’s just compressed air that makes a hissing sound. You don’t actually spray it at the dog, it’s just a noise. But the hiss makes them stop dead and drop anything from their mouths. So, when Elmo didn’t drop the ball I used it and he dropped it. Now, if I even motion to use it, he drops the ball.

So, there you have it. Home made liver cake and the odd hiss.

If we go to the park now for 20 minutes he’s shattered. Each chase is about 40 yards. He heads off at full pelt and is there in about 4 seconds. You don’t need very many maximal exertion wind sprints.

He’s not quite perfect, just practically perfect.

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