A ‘lure’ enables us to move a dog into different positions without grabbing at the dog.
Or taking hold of him in any way!
We can then mark and reward those positions or movements, and shape them into new behaviours.
Why do we use a lure?
Learning how to lure takes a little practice, but it is well worth the effort.
This is because luring enables us to quickly establish behaviours that would take a lot longer if we tried to shape them or to use physical manipulation – which many dogs resist at first.
I came late to luring.
In fact I came late to modern dog training, and even later to luring
For many years, I was convinced that using food in dog training was akin to devil worship.
Food was for party tricks (another kind of evil) and for the certifiably soppy.
There are a surprising number of people who still feel this way. But most of us are moving on now.
Moving on to modern methods
Modern dog training methods use food. Not only are these methods effective, but they are helping us to push back the boundaries of what can be achieved in dog training.
Once I had overcome my phobia of feeding a dog outside of mealtimes, I was bowled over by the potential of positive reinforcement training in general.
It took a little longer for me to experiment with luring. But once I did, I was hooked
The lure of speed!
Because you see, here is the point of luring.
It’s beauty lies in the speed with which you get to see results.
I could have kicked myself for not trying this sooner.
I had been spending literally hours shaping a behaviour that I could have taught in five minutes with a lure.
Yes, it can be compared with a bribe, but it is a very temporary one.
True luring uses the ‘bribe’ for just long enough for you to mark a behavior.
A behavior that you might wait a month of Sundays to ‘capture’ without that lure.
And unlike a genuine bribe which teaches the dog nothing, the use of the lure is entirely temporary, it is a means to an end, not the end itself.
So what is a lure?
A lure is anything that the dog will follow closely with his nose.
Mostly we use food.
Toys can also be used, but food is the simplest and most practical option
Isn’t this a bribe?
It doesn’t matter that luring is akin to offering a bribe, as we only use lures in a very temporary way.
Once we have established the position or behaviour that we want, the lure is no longer needed.
What can we teach with a lure?
You can use a lure to teach your dog to move into a sit, down or stand position.
You can also use a lure to teach a dog to alter his position relative to you.
Once you have achieved the behaviour or position you desire, you can then reinforce that behaviour using a marker and reward.
Once the dog has learned a cue for the behaviour, such as a movement of your hand, the lure is redundant and you should get rid of it
Following the lure
The lure is not much use to you, if your dog simply tries to grab or snatch it from your hand.
Your dog will need to understand the difference between your hand when it is holding the lure, and your hand when you are offering food for him to eat.
Some dogs find this very simple and need little or no preparation.
Others find it more difficult and will initially try to wrestle the food from your hand.
You don’t get involved in an unseemly scuffle with your dog, so if your dog is prepared to fight you for the lure, it’s important to teach him how to follow the lure with his nose.
You need to do this before trying to master a new skill with this technique. I explain how to do this in the training exercises section.
Fading the lure
It is possible to get stuck using a lure if you continue with it for too long.
So we aim to replace the lure with a hand signal as quickly as possible.
This is a simple matter because you move your hand as you lure, and the movement described by your hand when you are holding the lure, is easily morphed into the hand signal that replaces it.
Use it then lose it.
As soon as the dog has performed the behavior three or four times, the lure is replace with an empty hand.
Quite literally, you use it, then lose it.
The point of the lure is to move the dog into a position or action that he is easily capable of, yet would probably not chose for himself on a regular basis, mark that behavior, and reinforce it.
When to lure and when to shape
Of course, some behaviors cannot be lured. Complex behaviors and behaviors that a dog would never chose to carry out naturally are usually better shaped.
If you want to teach a dog to unload the washing machine, you are going to need to shape it.
On the other hand, if you want the dog to stand on a mat, turn in a circle, or move from a stand to a sit and back again, luring may well be your weapon of choice.
Don’t be silly
I am sure that you are not as silly as me.
My deeply ingrained prejudices against the use of food in dog training meant that over the years, I have wasted hours of good training time.
Luring is an exceptionally fast and useful way to establish a range of key behaviors in puppies and older dogs.
Don’t forget the rule. Use it, then lose it!