Using Reverse Luring- Zen Keeper

*Update 1/2018- I have been informed that the method I describe below is not actually reverse luring.  To respect the actual reverse luring technique I am changing the name of the method below to Zen Keeper in order to reference it as a doggy zen version of a keep going signal.  You can find my update FAQ on the topic in this new blog post by clicking here

I often think that getting a behavior is relatively easy, but having duration to that behavior can be immensely difficult.  I can't remember when I stumbled upon the principle of reverse luring but the discovery of the training technique has made getting duration much easier!  I believe Fanny Gott uses the method and/or some other European trainers, but I haven't heard much of it.  Before RL I was stuck with pure shaping, selecting the reps where the time was just a half second longer than average.

Reverse luring is similar to It's yer choice and doggy zen in that the dog has to make the choice to move away from food being held as a distraction.  But RL also is a feedback system for the dog in that it can communicate as a keep going signal and as a no reward marker.  An open hand=the dog is correct, a closed fist=try again.  Sometimes I will also remove my hand when the dog is wrong, but I'm not consistent in that use and I'm not sure if that was part of the original technique.  As a proofing method in later steps, I also use RL to cause the dog to think harder about the behavior and resist moving towards the food.  I do this my starting to move my hand with the food around the dog.  In some cases I will start the RL before the dog does the behavior such as having my treat hand held out in my right hand when I ask the dog to move to heel position or held out in both hands when I ask the dog to front.

Because there are scarcely any videos on youtube, I decided to make my own showing RL being used to teach 3 behaviors.
1. A chin rest to a chair (eventually used as a "go visit" another person command and also useful for teaching a dog to rise and drop an item onto a counter.)
2. A hold as the last step in teaching a retrieve
3. Calming da Bubba.  RL was used a lot with him to get rid of his spastic behavior in shaping :)


Let me know if you try this method and what you thought!

Update!:  I've gotten some feedback that people are confused about the difference between reverse luring and proofing.  The answer is reverse luring can be proofing, but that proofing isn't necessarily reverse luring :)  I use RL in order to TEACH the concept of duration and in later steps I can use it as proofing in order to further a dog's understanding.  For example, with a dog who understands dip head to the floor but has zero understanding of keeping it there, then RL can be the perfect way to get duration through the feedback system it provides to the dog.  I wouldn't really consider this proofing because the dog doesn't understand the concept of duration, yet.  But once the dog does understand that keeping head to floor is what gets the treats, then this can morph into straight proofing.  You can see this later step in the video by me starting to move my hand with the food so that the dog now has to concentrate even harder on the task at hand.   I hope that helps!

And since many come come here for help with reverse luring in teaching a solid hold, here is an additional post using reverse luring to teach a hold!

Ci Da  – ( February 9, 2013 at 8:26 AM )  

This is great. I hadn't seen this technique in action before,. I'm sure I'll be using it on both my dogs and clients' dogs in the future. Cheers.

Dexter  – ( February 9, 2013 at 3:59 PM )  

Very interesting. Will have to give that a try. Duration is very hard for Dexter.

Mango Momma

Kristen  – ( February 9, 2013 at 6:55 PM )  

Horray! We've done a lot of reverse luring from Fanny's classes and seminar. I learned really early on that reverse luring is the answer to pretty much all my problems. We use it ALL THE TIME.

Muttsandaklutz  – ( February 9, 2013 at 7:09 PM )  

Oh cool, I love it! Never would have thought of that on my own -- thanks for sharing and demo'ing with a video!

Kristen  – ( February 9, 2013 at 7:27 PM )  

That was meant to sound happy, not angry. We find RL to be very useful! (And comment now work?)

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( February 9, 2013 at 7:58 PM )  

Kristen, the first post didn't sound snarky :) I thought it was Fanny Gott who did a lot of it, but I couldn't find where I first found out about it, maybe 2yrs ago? I do love it though!

I change the comment form to be a separate page. But ironically the post a comment button no longer works for me. I can only comment if I click on the "x comments" line.

Kristen  – ( February 10, 2013 at 7:06 AM )  

I think she's the only one I've seen write about it in English, I've seen it in quite a few Norwegian/Swedish blogs. I think it's mentioned in some of her posts and in quite a few of her videos, but not not really by name.

Her version doesn't use a marker (typically?) and that's been hard for me... I mark and then have to feed. Without the marker, you can choose to not reward if the dog is being wiggly/prancy as the treat approaches.

Griffin's ability to do a stand for exam is largely due to reverse luring!

Kim  – ( February 10, 2013 at 9:36 AM )  

Oooo...very interesting! I hadn't seen that technique before, but after watching your video I can instantly think of several things that would work perfectly for my Holly. Teaching duration has been more of my problem than hers...this will be really helpful for me. Thanks!

Anonymous  –   – ( February 10, 2013 at 6:56 PM )  

Thank you. Great video, very clear and easy to follow.

Anonymous  –   – ( February 11, 2013 at 3:37 PM )  

I have used a similar technique to this before without really thinking about how or why it works. I just know it did, so I kept using it. For me, I would put the treat behind my back (or eat it) depending on the message I was trying to convey. I used the later for very proofed behaviors like recalls if I was being ignored.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( February 11, 2013 at 3:51 PM )  

I too was using a modified version of this technique before I found out about "Reverse luring!" I realized that by holding out a distraction for the dog they were focusing so hard on not eating the cookie that I was able to get duration before the dog even realized it. This was immensely helpful for me on teaching a hold for retrieval work as I found that by having the dog focus elsewhere it eliminated mouthing.

You're example of removing the food and eating it for a failed recall is a good training tip, but I think of it as a little bit different than RL as the food was never serving as a distraction for the dog to resist. However, the game where a helper holds food in their hand and the owner tries to call away the dog from the food could be seen as a variation, especially if the dog was then released to go get it once coming!

RubyTheWhippet  – ( February 13, 2013 at 5:51 PM )  

Oh that's what it's called! I didn't realize the method had a name :))
I started using it when teaching 4 feet in the bowl to Java and she kept stepping out with front feet. She knows IYC so I put an open hand with treats in front of her and that gave her the incentive to stay in the bowl - if she stepped out of the bowl the hand closed.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( February 13, 2013 at 9:05 PM )  

Perfect example of RL! I forgot that it helped a lot with Vito learning 4 feet in a dish too!

Unknown  – ( February 22, 2013 at 8:39 PM )  

This is cool. I would love to do this. How do you teach your dog that open hand means they're doing the correct thing and closed hand not?

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( February 22, 2013 at 10:10 PM )  

Most dogs get the concept very quickly, especially so if they've already been introduced to a lot of attention work and/or distraction work.

I recommend starting with a behavior your dog already knows fairly well. Most people have done the "windmill game" where you hold treats out to teh side of your body and reward the dog when they look at you vs the food. You can introduce RL by starting to move your hand with the food closer to your dog in order to tempt them and the open/close hand at that time. But any other behavior your dog knows well can be used to start. Even a "go mat" with your food hand held out temptingly- opens the exact 2nd the dog STARTS moving towards the mat, closed the exact second he hesitates.

Noa  –   – ( April 11, 2014 at 8:45 AM )  

I've done this as proofing/building duration in some Nose Work exercises, but haven't tried it with the retrieve - that sounds cool! Do you have any posts or videos about how you teach duration on the retrieve?

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck  – ( April 11, 2014 at 10:39 PM )  

Noa- I teach the hold after I already have a retrieve to hand. I want my dogs to already have a ton of positive associations towards having an object in their mouth and for most dogs fetching is way more fun than a boring hold. I don't do RL for a retrieve as it's not really a duration behavior yet:

After I have a full retrieve to hand I introduce stand/sit there and don't drop it. My first step is a variation of RL- being food in one hand, dumbbell in the other and click as soon as the dog bites the dumbbell vs stare at food. My step 2 is rewarding a tug-back on teh dumbbell so the dog knows to grip hard. My step 3 is usually pure RL then as I start letting go of the dumbbell while food is still in my other hand and rewarding the tiniest duration, closing fist if the dog mouths or drops it.
Other methods I've used are here:

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