17 min 28 sec
Our food on the floor game is a positive way of teaching the dog that it is not allowed to take food that has been dropped or left available for it to eat.
We feel that having our dogs understand that it is not allowed to take food on its own is priceless for many reasons. Not only is it convenient in our home environment, but also away from home with strangers who may trying to offer your dog a treat without your permission. Again, by using your imagination the practical possibilities are endless.
Before we begin, we want to make sure we are using a low value treat. We feel that it makes the initial steps of this game much easier by doing so. Start by sitting on the ground with your dog more or less in front of you. In one hand, have a good amount of food cupped inside your palm so that it is not available for the dog to eat. In your other hand have a single piece of food. In the case of using a clicker, hold your clicker in the same hand as the single piece for now. Bring the cupped hand toward the dog making it available for contact with the dogs muzzle. At this point the dog will most likely poke and lick at your hand in an effort to get to the food. Your role in this is to remain fixed, with your hand in place not allowing it to be moved or opened by the dog. At some point the dog will eventually pause for a moment, most likely to either look up at you, or to look at the hand with the food. In either case, or any case, when the dog backs away to any extent, you mark and reward. When we are rewarding this game, we do so a little differently than the way we normally do. Using the hand with the single piece, lightly toss or roll the food away from the other hand. While the dog is eating his reward, go ahead and prepare another piece in your single hand. Go ahead and repeat the exercise a few times.
After a couple of reps of success, bring the cupped hand closer to the ground methodically over the course of a few repetitions. Now that your hand is making contact with the floor, drill that a few times. After a few passes, slightly open your grip to as to create a cage around the food with your fingers, still not making it possible for the dog to successfully bite the food. The idea is to seemingly make the food more available. Again, look for the same response you've been getting thus far, and mark and reward. As the successful reps pass, go ahead and slightly lift one side of your hand upward, making the food even more available. If at any point the dog goes for the food, which again is now on the floor, quickly bring your hand back down to cover the food before the dog gets a chance to eat. If you are working methodically, this should happen very few times. So again, lifting your hand to one side make the food fully visible to the dog. When the dog shows a sign of backing away or slightly avoiding the food, your mark and reward accordingly.
So by now you've hopefully worked to the point of having the food on the floor, near your hand. If the dog is showing you all the signs of understanding, you can go ahead and subtly play with the food, looking again for the same behavior from the dog. Mark and reward accordingly. Flowing with the progression, gradually make the food a little more animated, and continue to mark your desired behavior. After the proper amount of reps and training, you should be able to gently drop a piece, have the dog exhibit the desired behavior, and reward.
As this game becomes more clear to the dog you can also start to use food which has a higher value. Methodically of course. Always try to set yourself up for success, and be patient. Once the dog grasps the game, it can move along rather quickly.