This afternoon I took them out, one at a time, to work and exercise them, but first I let them watch me fill the treat pouch with pieces of mozzarella and tie it around my waist. Wolfie did some nice stays and recalls and was delighted with the cheese rewards. Then I brought out the ball thrower, which he is addicted to, and made him stay while I waved the thrower around. He was o.k. with that. I ratcheted up the challenge by actually throwing the ball past him, and he held his stay. But when I tried to reward his self control with a bit of cheese, all he cared about was the BALL! He wanted to CHASE THE BALL!!! That's why he'd done all that silly stuff I'd asked of him, so he COULD CHASE THE BALL!!!! It was clear that even the ripest Camembert would not have distracted him, so I put the cheese away and let him have a rip-roaring session of chasing THE BALL!!
(As I threw balls for him with all my might, I remembered, two years ago, with the snow deep outside, locking myself in our guest room with eight-week-old Wolfie and a little ball. I would throw the ball and he would toddle after it, but would get distracted by the fringe on the rug. Eventually he'd remember the ball, start to bring it to me, drop it, go after the fringe again, find the ball, chew on it a while...tempus fugit.)
Then it was Lexi's turn to work. This is a dog who's been through years of obedience training, and has all her commands down pat. But she was so focused on cheese, the presence of cheese, the possibility of cheese, that when I put her on sit/stay and walked away in order to do a recall, she kept getting up and following me. It was as if there were a string from her nose to the cheese, and she couldn't not follow it. It took a few tries, but eventually she recalled what recalls were all about, and ran to me to snatch her reward, almost taking off my fingers as she did so.
The dogs have just had their dinner, and are lying down, momentarily sated. In half an hour, though, they'll be thinking about food again, like this: