Pushing for Food

Well I read the books and watched the DVDs – I've never been a great one for jumping into action – I prefer the couch and a cup ot tea, to let me think about it for a while! Neil Sattin's DVDs provide a straight forward way of following Kevin's approach, offering simple techniques for you to follow when working with your dog.

I started on the first key technique, 'pushing for food'. It looked simple, but I got into difficulty straight away and found that I needed to go back to the DVD's to check my technique. Good advice that I got from the NDT forum.

You need a good treat bag. I had owned a dog treat bag, it cost me £20 and lasted less than a year. Someone once referred to it as my 'sporran'! Neil advises a nail pouch from a hardware store. His is a tasteful leather affair. To start the NDT training I got something a bit less stylish but just as functional from B&Q, at £8.98 it beat the previous dog treat bag hands down. I now give my dogs at least one of their two to three meals a day 'pushing for food'. At times it did make me wish I hadn't got into this raw feeding affair – hand-feeding raw tripe is smelly! But that's what they made latex gloves for!

'Pushing for food' has been a great learning experience, and I started to get more understanding of the dogs' different temperaments. I know three dogs are hard work, not for the faint-hearted, but the differences that you see when comparing their temperaments can give you more opportunities to learn. Maybe the people with more dogs have more to learn?!

The pup Archie was up for it straight away. At 9 months old he could find no reason at all in his short life not to fully trust me and happily launched himself at me, a great way to get to his dinner. Sometimes I worry that he will do himself an injury, or me.

Jack, a 5 year old intact male, who I have also had from a puppy, is still a puppy at heart. He finds the whole thing a good game and was fairly quick to give me a good push, although he tends to bring his great big paws into it, which can be a bit of a liability and stops him pushing fully. We are still working on this.

Pushing for food with Jack (spot the offending paw on my arm)

Take heed, Neil Sattin advises getting the dogs' claws clipped before doing this – and it is true that my arms were starting to look as if I was self-harming. 37 Kg of hamiltonstovare (he is big for the breed) is a fairly chunky opponent.

Logan is a bit more of work in progress. He has had a few homes before he came to us at 3.5 years old and previous owners believed he had been badly treated at an early age. He certainly has some issues, very uptight and a hair-trigger sensitivity to noise. He was a bit slower to get in to the pushing and is more likely to withhold energy unless he is on a a very 'open-space' environment, like an open field. In the garden or the village he is much more tentative. But he is getting there and has pretty much stopped putting the brakes on when he is in the right environment.

Neil also advises having the dogs on a long-line to make sure you don't lose them – welcome to my world! This I only do with Jack – a 60ft long-line at first. The other two I don't bother but I am working them in a field that is fairly secure. More on long-lines later!

Another thing to mention to the more sensitive reader. All this running about while eating their dinner, you do run the risk of having a dog burping in your face!

That's all there is to pushing for food. We are gradually moving on to 'tug of war' and 'push of war'. Again each dog is moving at their own pace, Archie first and Logan bringing up the rear. I can feel that the relative positions of each dog in the journey is a direct correlation to the trust that they are willing to invest in me.

The biggest lesson for me
Patient, patience, patience.....I think I will be learning that one all my life!

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