With the arrival in my life of Maisie, the gorgeous Blue Weimaraner we recently drove up from Tri-State Weimaraner Rescue in Virginia Beach – I find myself thrust back into the world of dog training. I have to teach basic manners and build reliable communication and response from a 10-month-old large puppy who hasn’t had much consistency in her life. For me – and probably for most dog owners – the most important command that I need to feel confident about is “Come!”
And that is where the “bait bag” comes in – it’s a small drawstring pouch that clips on your belt or pocket (they are available anywhere that dog supplies are sold). You fill it with the best, most delicious treats you can find. Some people cut up hot dogs or bits of cooked meat, but then your fingers get all greasy and you have to scrub out the bait bag when you are finished each time.
For myself, freeze-dried protein treats like Halo Liv-a-Littles are the only bait I want to use: they are lightweight so many can fit in the bag, they have zero carbohydrates, and even a small piece gives a dog such a taste delight that she will learn immediately that when that bag emerges, good things happen for her! And by making the bait a freeze-dried protein (Halo makes it of several different proteins – chicken, salmon or beef) it gives you an insurance policy that what is in your bait bag is more appealing than whatever else your dog might want to focus on.
I have learned to have that bait bag with me all day. It allows me to practice commands randomly with Maisie throughout the day. Having seen the value of being able to reward a behavior instantly, I now believe no dog owner should be without one, whether with an aging pooch or a young whipper snapper as I have now.
I live in Vermont, where one of the joys is to be able to take walks in wide open fields, over hills, and in wooded areas. However, being able to safely allow a dog to run free with me means that I must “have a solid recall” on her – she has to respond without hesitation when I call or whistle for her, even from far away.
That’s where High Value treats enter the picture – once Maisie tasted a Halo-Live-a-Little dried salmon treat, I saw that my bait bag became as valuable to her as an Hermes Kelly bag is to some people! And I know that when I have that bait bag, Maisie will never be far away.
For good advice and information about dog training, please listen to my show GOOD DOGS! On the Radio Pet Lady Network, co-hosted by the breeder/trainers from Avidog.com.
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.