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Ice cream or Sorbet

This blog isn't only about ice cream vs Sorbet (thought that is definitely an important question!) ... it is about understanding and satisfying your dog's need for fun. To the dismay of most owners, dogs do not always look at us for fun. They quite frequently look at the environment instead: other dogs, other people, sheep, bunnies, birds, a leaf blowing in the wind, child running etc.... Once your dog feels motivated to go and have fun with something else (such as another dog), it can be really hard to calm him down again! But the question is: Do you need to calm him down? Or is there a different way to deal with the situation?

Before I answer that, let's have a little experiment:

Your walking down the street and with a little mission in your step because its a beautiful summers day, the birds are singing and its beginning to feel just a little too warm for your liking so you debate ways of cooling down...... at that moment a Mr Whippy ice cream truck drives past with its infamous tune...... 'Perfect!' you pick up your pace the catch the van and check the change in your pocket.

you see the van stop but uh oh..... youve dropped all your change on the floor..... in a hast to pick it up you have missed the van, it drives off into the distance and you stop running with a style out sort of jog.....

Bummer! You really don't want to go home without satisfying the sweet tooth. You were so looking forward to having ice cream, and now ... you can't. :( But then you turn around and see that on the other side of the road, there is a sorbet shop: you didn't think of sorbet's but would it quench the thirst for ice cream..... maybe not but is it better then no ice cream at all.... hell yea! are you looking foreword to your sorbet now? most likely as you march across the road feeling on top of the world with your new desired WIN.

Do you know what happened here? You wanted something. You could not have exactly what you wanted. Not having anything at all felt really bad. But having an alternative to your initial wish (though it's not perfect) was good enough and you went with it and likely were happy.

Even if you're lactose-intolerant or don't like ice cream, you can probably think of similar situations in your day-to-day life. You had a vision - the vision didn't come true - but you could find an alternative that was close enough. So ... how does this relate to dog training? When you have a dog that is really motivated by something in the environment, not giving him anything at all and trying to have him "forget" or "let go" of his vision is really hard. Even as a very patient person you might get tired waiting your dog out as he is jumping and barking on the leash, because he just has to meet that dog on the other side of the street. The dog in that moment is the person missing the ice cream van: bummed out and without alternatives to satisfy the craving.

However: By engaging the dog, we can offer an alternative fun! It's not going to be exactly the fun he has in mind originally (playing with another dog). But it's definitely better than nothing! Just like sorbet was not ice cream ... but is still better than no sweet treat at all.

Of course, this does not mean that you simply show your dog a cookie and he will right away forget the biggest distraction and only have eyes for you. Like everything in training, it's a process. The more often your dog gets to rehearse not getting his exact wish, but a close enough alternative (through fun with you), the better he will be able to accept the alternative! He might not be able to pull you across the street to play with another dog - but he can always play with you. Have you ever told your dog: "Sorry, you cannot have the ice cream ... but here is a sorbet"?

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