Honey in Training – It’s Better and Wurst

Honey the Golden Retriever

You expect me to go in this scary place for one tiny treat?

So she’s not doing handstands. And backflips? Forget it.

But Honey is making great progress on our training goals. What are our training goals?

  • To ride comfortably in a cart pulled by our bicycle.
  • To be confident with the movement she’d find on a sailboat (more on that later).

Our trainer, Russ, suggested we work on getting Honey to jump in one side of the bike trailer and out the other. This way, she’d learn that entering the cart did not mean she’d be stuck there. He wanted her to know that it was her choice to enter and leave the cart.

How do you teach this to a dog who strains every muscle to reach treats in the front of the cart while keeping both rear paws firmly anchored on the ground?

That’s been the trick. We’ve set up an impromptu “jump” in the living room and it seems to have helped her move to the next level. Because now, my husband has gotten her to jump through the cart three times in quick succession. All it took was good body position and a hand full of liverwurst.

I have not attempted this with Honey. I don’t like to jinx all the good work my husband has done. But Russ comes back on Friday and I’d like to show him that Honey is comfortable with this new behavior.

What do you think? Will Honey be ready to show off her latest trick no matter who’s asking her to do it? Or will I just end up with liverwurst all over my face?

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  1. Delilah HATES the bathtub. One year Hubby threw out his back and basically couldn’t move for a week trying to get her into the tub. Since that time I’ve used treats to lure her into the tub, I can get her in as long as there is no water in the tub and then fill the tub once she’s there.

    As you know we feed raw and each time I pick up food I need to defrost the chicken necks so I can package them up into smaller, packages. The 40 pound bag of necks goes in the tub while it defrosts, there is usually a bit of ‘stuff’ left behind. Little bits of this and that and of course ‘juice.’ I normally leave this in the tub and let Delilah go in there, where she licks every inch (and then some.) I clean the tub after she’s done. While she’s doing this I just ignore her. I think it lets her know that not every time she gets in the tub means it is bath time.

    Since the liverwurst is working for Honey, I might suggest (if I might) that you throw little bits of something in the cart and just leave it. It might be more appealing to her if you aren’t so invested in getting her in there. Just a thought. :-)

    • I wish I had an awesome prize for best bath tub comfort trick I’d ever heard. Because you would win it. [Insert curse gerund here] Awesome!

      I think it would take 40 pounds of chicken necks to get Honey into the cart. She once left a piece of salami in for an entire week until a foster puppy came along and hopped right into get it out. :)

      She’s doing much better now. But Honey is not food motivated enough to do anything she really doesn’t want to do. Now my husband… I wonder what he’d do for a piece of the right snack? :)

      • Mike Webster says:

        Pam, what I’d do for the right snack depends on whether you put it in the right place. I do have a list of suggestions.

  2. I think Honey will do the trick for you, too! Especially if you have liverwurst!

    And touche on the hustle! You looked at it in a way that I certainly had not. Although I didn’t pursue a sponsorship, it more just fell in my lap!

    • Ok, you have a new name today: Ms. Self-Deprecation. After all, things don’t fall into your lap unless you’re hustling all the time writing great stuff, engaging with readers, and taking lovely photos. :)

  3. What a very good idea. Then after that, maybe get her comfortable just sitting in it for a few moments with the sides down and all. Do you think it is the being closed in or the bumpy motion that bothers her?

    • We’re not sure. Honey sleeps in a crate but it’s much more open and roomier than the doggy ride.

      I think the big problem is feeling things shift under her feet. She has absolutely no other typical fears: fire engines, thunder, fireworks, reality tv shows. :)

  4. Don’t underestimate the power of liverwurst! Don’t overestimate it either, though; as you say, you don’t want to push her, or undo some of the good work that’s been done. If she’s making progress at all, it’s a great thing!

    • Good reminder to not worship the liverwurst. Maybe I should buy her a steak to keep her interested. :)

      We always to to end on a high note and not push her too hard. The good news is she’s starting to see the training as a game.

      • Steak sounds good 😉 Training is a pleasure when you’ve got a willing student.

        Elka just dances when the clicker comes out, because she knows treats and games are coming!

  5. I’m betting on your Golden Girl performing to please her humans. Oh, and the power of liverwurst too.

    • You know when people ask what super power you’d like to have? I just decided I want the super power of liverwurst. :)

  6. In agility reward and body placement is everything, so I am not surprised your husband was able to figure out the optimal positioning in order to get Honey to jump in your living room. I understand not wanting to jinx anything but I am sure if you duplicate his actions, you will be able to get Honey to jump as well. Except for the really sensitive dogs that are overly attached to one person, the handler doesn’t matter. The actions do.

    Congratulations on all your progress! You have come so far!

    • Your agility videos really helped me understand the importance of a handler’s body position on a run. It’s been so impressive to see how you’ve been using position to send cues to Shiva. And, given her speed, it looks like quite a challenge.

      I’m not very good at sending good messages to a dog with my body position. I’ve even had trouble luring a sit. :)

      I’ve made a date with Mike to teach me how to set Honey up for the Great Bike Cart Leap tomorrow after work. :)

  7. Way to go Honey! YOU ROCK!! I have every confidence in you and Honey! Besides, the end goal is getting Honey comfortable enough to do it – whether it’s your or the hubby. I’d risk not having the behaviour down pat by Friday to ensure that she eventually will do it for both of you. Besides…can she really resist liverwurst???

  8. It’s so exciting to hear about Honey’s progress. You, Mike and Russ are obviously a great team. It also sounds like you could easily train your husband with some strategically placed treats! LOL!

  9. Honey sounds like she’s a cross between Apache and Linus. Linus is on the timid side and not very food motivated. However, we did find some really stinky salmon flaky treats that he responded to during training. I introduced Linus to the KONG Wobbler and he wasn’t to pleased that it was so unpredictable when it got knocked over.

    I’m glad Honey is doing so well getting used to the bike trailer. Pretty soon you will be out and about on your bikes with Honey!

  10. A high value treat does it every time. Just keep the liverwurst coming. Honey will do as well with you as she does with you husband.

  11. Whee just found your blog completely by accident but whee love it! Our Mummy couldn’t train us like you train Honey because whee are naughty and steal the treats without doing the trick! (Well they don’t do training classes for guinea pigs now do they!)

    Nibbles, Nutty, Bingo & Buddy

    • I’m so glad you found us online. We’re very Guinea Pig friendly at Something Wagging. My sister has had guineas for her entire adult life.

      Of course, Guinea Pigs are very good at training people, aren’t they? Cousin Lenny has taught my sister than when he squeaks in a certain way, she’d better let him answer a call to nature of she’ll end up with a very wet lap. Smart guinea pig. Smart human. :)

      • Whee have our hoomans trained. If whee stomp our feet then whee need to go back and if whee squeak in a certain way and the weather is nice it means whee want to run in the garden. Very well trained hoomans! :)

        Nibbles, Nutty, Bingo & Buddy

  12. Ha ha, when I first read this I thought it said that your husband had jumped through the cart 3 times – ha ha ha :) I should NOT read blogs late at night!!

  13. Practice makes perfect! If you don’t practice it with her, than no she won’t do it. THis is something I’ve had to remind myself as I’m working with my teenager this week. If we don’t ever practice the behavior when it comes time to perform than we will fail!

  14. Hmmm I wonder how Honey will do? Some dogs do not easily switch from one handler to another, especially if it is something they are not comfortable doing. But it sounds like she is making great strides forward. Nice job.