Excerpt from The Loved Dog
When I play train a dog, I always try the easiest method first, or the path of least resistance. If that doesn't work I'll try other ideas. (One of the greatest gifts of my military training was learning never to count on Plan A alone. I was taught to always have Plans B, C and even D in my vest pocket.) Since Layla felt that getting out of the pond was a bummer, I had to teach her to want to get out. I started by putting a chicken treat (the gold medal of treats) in my hand, took Layla by the leash and walked her to the pond, feeding her treats and saying, "Take it, take it, take it," as she happily munched away. Then I took a liver treat (silver medal) and threw it into the pond. "Dive, dive," I told Layla. She did not need to be asked twice! She flew into the water to retrieve the treat, but she still did not want to get out.
After she swam around for a few minutes, I dangled a gold treat from my fingers and lured her with it by saying, "Take it, take it." Layla hesitated. I could see her mind churning, "What should I do? I really like those treats." She compromised and took a step towards the edge of the pond. When she stepped out of the water, I gave her a jackpot of gold treats that I reinforced with the words "Take it, take it," using my happiest voice to praise her, as if she had just won the World Cup. Then I tossed a silver treat into the center of the pond, called out "Dive, dive," and she rushed back into the pond. That day, she went in and out of the pond whenever I asked her to—with the help of some wonderful treats, my happy tone of voice saying "Take it," and my arms extended wide open as a big reward. On a scale of one to ten, getting a jackpot of gold treats and then being allowed back in the pond was an eleven! Layla's pond explorations are no longer a problem, since she happily comes out when asked.
What I did with Layla was an exercise in healthy behavior modification that served us both. My challenge was to make her understand that when she got out of the pond, the fun would not stop. With my method, coming onto land was not a bummer, but a gift. Layla finally understood that getting out of the pond was not a punishment or the end of her play time. I could see her brain registering it, and then she made the change herself because she wanted to, not because she was afraid. I simply aligned her pleasure association with what I wanted, and she started getting out of the water when she was asked to do so.