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My 3month old shepherd/Pyrenees pup is, in general, learning all her new commands wonderfully - with the exception of "drop it/leave it". She is such a curious girl, and picks everything up in her mouth when we are walking - usually it's stuff that won't harm her (grass, leaves, etc), stuff that is too big to swallow (giant sticks, big pine cones, etc) or bigger things that she picks up and then drops (rocks, paper, anything you can think of!). BUT - she does pick up something (at least once a day) that would be serious if she swallows it - smaller plastic things, balloons, little rubber balls...a whole assortment of stuff!

When she was a little younger, we could just reach in and remove the object, but now she is learning that we will do that, and has started panic swallowing if we can't get to it fast enough! The other day she ate a whole cup lid, and we had to give her an emetic...not a happy day.

I am having NO LUCK with teaching her "drop it", and would welcome any suggestions....except treats. For various reasons, I will NOT treat train, and seeing as she has learned sit, sit/stay, ok, and wait, and is now learning down and come without needing treats, I am sure that there must be a way to teach her this without resorting to treats. We have tried startling her with a firm "leave it!", but she is so intent, she just ignores us, although that is the same tone and volume we used to teach her not to chew items in the house. I tried pinching her ear, on a trainer's advice, but she just freaks out even more. If we try to physically remove the item, she goes NUTS - squirming away, whining, running...and panic swallowing. Distracting is about as effective as startling - she just won't be distracted.

The worst thing is that it is now affecting play time - she was doing well on "bring it" and "give it" when we are learning fetch games, but now she is starting to fight rather than giving us a toy - so not only is it dangerous for her to swallow stuff, it is negatively affecting play. :(

My next plan of action is to try to bring a toy to distract her and get her to drop it, but that is just one step away from treat training...sigh.

Help!!
 

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I had the same problem with my APBT puppy. I was trying to teach him to play fetch forever. Eventually, I pulled some treats and the clicker I used for training. I hid the treats in my pocket, so that my dog wouldn't focus on the treats and ignore the toy. I shook the toy until he took it in his mouth and started to play with it. Then I pulled out the treat, held it in front of his nose, and said "drop it." He dropped the toy immediately. I clicked and treated. After about ten repetitions, my dog got the idea. I never had to use treats after that to get him to drop it, and now I can play fetch with him, rather than have my arm ripped out of my socket playing tug-of-war. I can also use the "drop it" command to get him to drop undesirable items out of his mouth. I really would advise using treats for teaching new tricks. Your dog doesn't become addicted to them, and they don't start refusing commands when you don't have the treat. If they are acting defiantly and refusing commands they already know, there is a much deeper issue in your relationship than treats. However, if you don't want to use treat training, you might want to try using a toy or other distraction to get her to drop it. Personally, I have much better luck teaching my dog new tricks and complex commands with treat-and-click training, and yes, he will perform any command without a treat.
 

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I had the same problem with my APBT puppy. I was trying to teach him to play fetch for ever. Eventually, I pulled some treats and the clicker I used for training. I hid the treats in my pocket, so that my dog wouldn't focus on the treats and ignore the toy. I shook the toy until he took it in his mouth and started to play with it. Then I pulled out the treat, held it in front of his nose, and said "drop it." He dropped the toy immediately. I clicked and treated. After about ten repetitions, my dog got the idea. I never had to use treats after that to get him to drop it, and now I can play fetch with him, rather than have my arm ripped out of my socket playing tug-of-war. I can also use the "drop it" command to get him to drop undesirable items out of his mouth. I really would advise using treats for teaching new tricks. Your dog doesn't become addicted to them, and they don't start refusing commands when you don't have the treat. However, if you don't want to use treat training, you might want to try using a toy or other distraction to get her to drop it.
This is exactly how I taught it, too & Molly picked it right up. It comes in very handy during walks when she picks up something she shouldn't eat.
 

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In this situation I wouldn't use "drop it". That just means you're constantly hovering over the dog in case they pick up something.

I would teach the dog that the default is to leave everything alone unless she's told she can have it. Look up "it's yer choice" on youtube. Really good video for teaching impulse control, and it can be transferred to any distraction.

To stop her picking stuff up on walks, put a muzzle on her, or a head collar, and physically stop her from getting to things. If there is something she's allowed to have, ask her for a behaviour, then release her to go and investigate. That way she learns to check in with you before going over to investigate things.

Teaching "drop it" or "out" is always a good idea though. For Obi I just held a treat at his nose as I said "drop it", and he had to let go of the object to take the treat. With Pixie I taught her while tugging, as soon as she let go I would give the tug back and keep playing. Within 2 minutes in one session she got it and dropped the toy instantly in the middle of tugging. The first few times she wouldn't let go, so I then held her by the collar and released the tension on the tug to make it really boring, then just waited for her to get bored and let go, as soon as she did I marked and started the game again. Once we'd practiced that for a few session I gave the cue when she had a different object in her mouth, and she dropped it. Big reward.
 

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Why are you so opposed to clicker/treat training? It works. Check out kikopup on youtube.
 

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Both Eppy and my previous dog both have very solid drop it's. Eppy will drop a chunk of meat if I ask him to. However, I did use treats to teach this. I no longer use any when asking him to drop something, he just does it.

If you change your mind about using food in training, let me know. I will be happy to post how I did it.
 

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Just wanted to say thank you for all the posts here - and to the OP for posting the question; this will solve a problem for me, too-

You guys are great :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Why are you so opposed to clicker/treat training? It works. Check out kikopup on youtube.
I'm not necessarily opposed to clickers, but noises just don't distract her!!! We tried taking a squeaker out to distract her, and it just had zero effect - she wouldn't even look toward it when she had something in her mouth, even though we use it to encourage her to come to us, and it will get her attention otherwise. The thing she wants to eat is just too exciting for any kind of distractions!

As for treat training, I have an issue with the concept, as well as a practical issue on this one. First off, I am VERY opposed to treat training for health reasons. At this point, she is picking up maybe 20-30 things per walk. Most are not a big deal, maybe 3-5 times we have to stop and remove the item for fear she will swallow it. She is walked 3-4 times a day. So using treats, that would mean giving her a treat anywhere from 9-20 times a day! Give it a week, and we would have a sick puppy on her way to being seriously obese. Another practical issue with using treats to "drop it" is that one one walk, I decided to give in - miserably, reluctantly, but I figured that using ONE treat for really serious items would be better than letting her swallow it. Guess what happened? If the treat was held more than an inch or two away from her, she would ignore it and keep eating. If it was held closer, she would leap up and snatch it WHILE KEEPING THE THING IN HER MOUTH! That ends up ENCOURAGING her to swallow stuff, because she then has two things in her mouth - one of them food. And what do you do with food? Eat it.

So those are the practical issues. I object to treat training on principle because to be totally honest, I have never actually met a dog who was truly well trained using treats. I have met a slew of dogs that have aced obedience classes, and will do any number of complicated tricks for a treat, but are completely unmanageable when there is no treat present. Given that she is a sniffer dog breed, she's incredibly smart, and has a good nose. She'll know if there is ACTUALLY a treat in the offing. I've also found that many dogs that are treat-trained are good about commands if there is nothing overly exciting going on, but that treat-training doesn't work otherwise - meaning that dogs will sit, but not if there is a lot of noise, or another dog passing by...or will come if they are tired out, or at home, but not if they are afraid, and bolt across the road. The dogs that I know that are the best trained were trained using alpha techniques and body language - so that is how I intend to train her. Already, she is better behaved than pretty much every pup her age that we know, and a lot of older dogs that we know as well.

I just can't see treat training as the best way forward.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
To stop her picking stuff up on walks, put a muzzle on her, or a head collar, and physically stop her from getting to things. If there is something she's allowed to have, ask her for a behaviour, then release her to go and investigate. That way she learns to check in with you before going over to investigate things.

Teaching "drop it" or "out" is always a good idea though. For Obi I just held a treat at his nose as I said "drop it", and he had to let go of the object to take the treat. With Pixie I taught her while tugging, as soon as she let go I would give the tug back and keep playing. Within 2 minutes in one session she got it and dropped the toy instantly in the middle of tugging. The first few times she wouldn't let go, so I then held her by the collar and released the tension on the tug to make it really boring, then just waited for her to get bored and let go, as soon as she did I marked and started the game again. Once we'd practiced that for a few session I gave the cue when she had a different object in her mouth, and she dropped it. Big reward.
She actually does know "drop it" when we are playing with toys!! She's still learning to do it every single time, but she is pretty good at dropping her toys for fetch and play. The issue is that if we are inside playing, she knows that she will get the toy back. If we are outside and she wants to eat something, she knows she will NOT get it back...and the command doesn't work.

In terms of physically stopping her, there is only so much we can do! We can keep our eyes peeled, but we live in a big city, and there is a phenomenal amount of stuff on the ground at all times....given that she also likes to try to pick up rocks and pine cones, the concept of "waiting to go over and investigate" doesn't work, unless we go for our walks one inch at a time on an incredibly short leash! And that's not going to teach her that she is waiting to go investigate something, it'll just screw up leash training..

I don't want to muzzle her, because then she won't learn - its like keeping her in a pen instead of teaching her not to chew furniture - it'll work in the short term, but then what? Keep her muzzled for the rest of her life? Or have her muzzled for a few months, then take it off and deal with the exact same issue, because it was never trained out in the first place?
 

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The purpose of using a muzzle is to have errorless training. You're still gonna train her to not go and try to pick things up, the muzzle just makes absolutely sure that there is never a time when she will self-reward because you weren't on top of things. Errorless training is far more efficient than trial and error learning, which is what you have if she picks something up even once. She then has to try to figure out where the advantage lies, ebcause sometimes she gets rewarded for going for things on the ground, and other times she can't get the thing on the ground and only gets rewarded through you.

By making sure that she NEVER gets rewarded if she tries to go for something on the ground, the advantage is very clear to her. Either she goes for the thing on the ground and gets nothing, or she doesn't go for it and she gets rewarded. You still have to train her to not go for things on the ground in the first place. Once she's trained and she never even tries, then the muzzle comes off. Dogs can't rationalise the way humans can, so she won't know that now that the muzzle is gone she can get things if she tries. All the knows is that going for things on the ground doesn't pay off, because it never worked in the past, while leaving them alone and offering you eye contact or similar, works, because that's what you've been rewarding.
 

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I'm not necessarily opposed to clickers, but noises just don't distract her!!! We tried taking a squeaker out to distract her, and it just had zero effect - she wouldn't even look toward it when she had something in her mouth, even though we use it to encourage her to come to us, and it will get her attention otherwise. The thing she wants to eat is just too exciting for any kind of distractions!

As for treat training, I have an issue with the concept, as well as a practical issue on this one.... I just can't see treat training as the best way forward.
I will say most of your reasons are based on misconceptions. You should give some of Kikopup's youtube videos a watch, they will give you an idea of what good treat training looks like and how it works. But personal experience is a strong motivator, so I'm not going to fight you on this one.

In terms of physically stopping her, there is only so much we can do! We can keep our eyes peeled, but we live in a big city, and there is a phenomenal amount of stuff on the ground at all times....given that she also likes to try to pick up rocks and pine cones, the concept of "waiting to go over and investigate" doesn't work, unless we go for our walks one inch at a time on an incredibly short leash! And that's not going to teach her that she is waiting to go investigate something, it'll just screw up leash training..

I don't want to muzzle her, because then she won't learn - its like keeping her in a pen instead of teaching her not to chew furniture - it'll work in the short term, but then what? Keep her muzzled for the rest of her life? Or have her muzzled for a few months, then take it off and deal with the exact same issue, because it was never trained out in the first place?
So, dogs learn by consequences. A dog does something, and a good thing can happen, a bad thing can happen, or nothing can happen. If a good thing happens, the dog is more likely to repeat that action in the future; if a bad thing happens the dog is less likely to repeat that action in the future. If nothing happens, over time the dog stops wasting his energy on something that doesn't pay off, this is called extinction. This makes sense, right? If a wolf is doing something that isn't helping him kill deer, he's going to stop doing it, because it's using energy he needs for things that do help him kill deer.

In your case, you're likely dealing with something called a "self-reinforcing behavior." Your dog likes picking stuff up. She gets reinforcement from it. The more things she picks up, the more she wants to pick things up. What this means is you can't use extinction, because she gets reinforcement just from the action. So yes, while muzzling her won't teach her anything, it will prevent the problem from getting worse. Every time she picks something up makes it more likely she will pick something up again. So what you MUST DO is interfere 100% of the time she picks something up (in whatever fashion you decide, which I'll get to in a minute). Even if you miss just one out a hundred, you will never get rid of it. You will always have this fight with her. This is why to use the muzzle. If you can't be watching her or physically stopping her all the time, it needs to be impossible for her to get the reinforcement from picking things up.

She actually does know "drop it" when we are playing with toys!! She's still learning to do it every single time, but she is pretty good at dropping her toys for fetch and play. The issue is that if we are inside playing, she knows that she will get the toy back. If we are outside and she wants to eat something, she knows she will NOT get it back...and the command doesn't work.
There are two prongs of changing behavior. Training, and management. Management is what you do when you can't train, and I discussed that above. Management means preventing the behavior from getting stronger. Crate the dog while you're away if he chews the furniture while you're gone. Leash the dog if he doesn't come when called. Put the dogs in another room so they don't jump on the pizza guy while you pay him. Management doesn't change the dog's behavior, but it keeps your hard work from coming unraveled.

Training is the other part. It's going to take time and work, there are no quick fixes in dog training. Especially when you are dealing with an ingrained behavior. It's not enough to teach her that you don't want her to do that, you have to change the habit and practice the new habit of leaving things on the ground alone.

Dropping toys for fetch and play is a good start! One thing you can do is practice that sequence in other places, so she starts to generalize the command drop it. See if you can get her to leave a toy while you play with it, start slow with little movements and as she is successful work up to whipping the toy around and tossing it and having her leave it until you release her or tell her okay.

The next step is to create set ups. Find a low traffic sidewalk (no traffic is better) and clean it up. You want there to be NOTHING on the sidewalk that she will want to pick up - expect for one thing that you plant there. One of her toys would work well. Walk her past the distraction and as you see her key in on it, tell her to leave it.

Tell her to leave it like you expect her to do so. Have you ever taken a standardized test? At the end they say, "Pencils down." It's not loud, it's not angry, but everyone knows it's not up for discussion. Tell your dog. Don't scream at her, don't ask, tell her. Walk briskly and purposefully. Confident handling will go a long way.

If she does leave it, walk about three to five strides past the object and really praise her up. Your dog should think she is the first dog in the history of domestication to figure out how to leave things on the sidewalk. You cannot over do the praise. Petting is good, excitement is good.

Practice a couple of her other commands, ones you know she can do so she is being successful and winning praise, then go for another pass by the distraction.

Rinse and repeat. When she can ignore one planted distraction easily, not just most of the time, easily, add another. The trick is to build it slowly, in circumstances you can control. She should be winning the game 50-80% of the time.

If she DOESN'T leave the distraction when you say "leave it," stop her with the leash from picking it up. Back up, practice a few of the other commands she is best at, make sure you have her attention, and try the approach again.

Yes, it's a lot of work. It will take time and go slowly. It may feel like you aren't making any progress. Keeping a log of your training sessions can help keep your motivation up and help you see that you are progressing.

Good luck. There are no quick fixes in dog training.
 

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^^ Thank you for not attempting to change my mind about treat training. I appreciate that. I was actually thinking about it, and realized that my issue is with FOOD treats - I absolutely train with "treats" when the "treat" is affection, attention, praise, etc.

That said, please bear in mind that I am NOT a total newb when it comes to training dogs. I understand the theory behind different training techniques, and don't need the very very basics explained to me. This may not come across in posts, because they are all about the new pup, but I come from a farming family, and have been around working dogs my whole life. In fact, most of my strongly held beliefs about training come from farming dogs and sheep herding dogs (as in, actual working dogs, not "herder" show dogs) - no one in the family has ever trained with treats, or would ever DREAM of putting on any of the random controlling contraptions like harnesses, gentle leaders, or muzzles. And most of the beliefs the family hold comes from the patriarch of the family who was a farm vet.

This IS my first time dealing with such a young puppy, with a puppy that is entirely mine, and with this breed (being used to collies, mostly), but most of the things that I am having issues with (at this point, just bite inhibition and this) are things that I haven't dealt with in a city before - running dogs on the farm, there isn't anything really that shouldn't be picked up, so teaching "leave it" is easy with a leash correction or a vocal correction.

I'm just adding that history in because I'd rather explain WHY I don't need the uber-basics explained, rather than getting offended about feeling talked down to. I know what tones to use when giving commands, and I know that there are no insta-fixes. I am just scouting for other options, as a verbal command has always worked for me in the past - other dogs I have dealt with tend to drop the item because the tone of the command surprises them, and dropping is just a natural reaction to that. I was looking for other options because this technique doesn't work on Dita.

And yes, we are working on her "leave it" with toys, and starting to use them in the courtyard and building up on distractions and other things. We will move onto the park, tennis courts etc as she improves.

While your explanation of why to use a muzzle makes some sense, I don't think that I would be able to deal with it on an emotional level - not so much for me personally, but because the city I live in is "dog friendly" to the extreme - and to the point where it is full of animal "lovers" rather than actual intelligent people that know what is appropriate for dog training. People constantly feel that it is appropriate to come up and tell you if they think that you are doing something wrong - when walking a friend's rottie, I gave a leash correction when he got distracted in a sit stay, and actually got physically pushed and SCREAMED at for "abusing" the dog (the big bad rottie, meanwhile, cowered behind me...). God only knows what I would deal with if I put a muzzle on her in public...
 

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That's fine, I'm not a big fan of muzzling in these situations either. It was just an option. I definitely think you should consider a head collar though, they do make it soooo much easier to control the dog, vs wearing just a normal collar. I went from having my JRT x on a harness to a head collar recently, and it's almost like magic.

There is nothing wrong with temporarily using a training tool to make training a little easier for yourself. But as long as you're in control of the dog it's all good, a head collar just makes it easier to control some dogs, other dogs don't need it, or they hate the head collar and so it's not feasible to use one anyway.
 

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We are currently using a martingale, and she is responding really well to it for being placed in sits, correcting when pulling (which isn't often, she's more a mule than a puller), etc etc, so I would like to keep that if we can....

However - I wanted to share a little triumph! We had a REALLY good walk this morning, and she didn't eat ANYTHING! Admittedly, I think I said "leave it" about 50 times....every time we passed something.....but she has FINALLY started to stop and sit when I see her aiming for something and say "leave it". And the couple of times that she managed to get something without me noticing, we managed to get her to drop it...For some reason, starting to teach "leave it" by stopping and sitting is working wonders...and even better for dropping it - although she doesn't react to NOISES with surprise, apparently making her sit often makes her drop the thing to better concentrate on sitting properly!!!

I was AMAZED the first time it happened today - I had started putting her in a sit to more easily get to her mouth and remove it, but I put her in a sit, reached for her mouth.....and then noticed that the thing was at her feet! She had dropped it in order to sit down! I would never have thought of it - my reaction was always to startle so that she drops it, whether by a noise, a distraction, a sudden stop....the idea of doing something to calm her would never have crossed my mind...but I am so glad that I discovered it by accident!
 

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Leave it and watch me are two important commands. I disagree with a dog being muzzled on walks..I would have suggested leave it, but that means you have to be ahead of the dog and you figured that out already:). Treat training is a very good method if you have a food motivated dog. I have a 2.5 year old Golden and a 9 month old German Shepherd. Both were trained with treats and neither of them require treats to perform commands now. Neither of them are over weight either. Both dogs went through 3 obedience classes and received their CGC's(you can't use treats for this test). And both dogs are very well behaved and listen with or without distraction. I would never train without treats...it works if done correctly.

**Also want to add that both of my treat trained dogs can do 3-5 minute sit/stays and down/stays with distractions(other dogs, kids, etc) and they can do the front command with no problems at about 200 ft or so**
 

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I've been having a big problem with that today. Charlie leaves it/takes it/drops it beautifully during training and in the house. The past few days though, he's gotten hold of critters in the yard and it's been a real struggle getting them away from him. A couple days ago he got hold of a young bird that was soaking wet under a tree during a storm. He picked it up by one wing and threw it around the yard for a good 5 minutes until I got hold of it. This afternoon he got into a nest of baby bunnies in the yard and I spent 10 minutes listening to the thing shriek while he ran around the yard with it in his mouth. He wasn't about to drop it and the few times he dropped it on his own, he wouldn't leave it. He got a second one tonight, but he brought it into the house and actually dropped it after I cornered him. I now have 2 very young baby bunnies in a box. Neither have visible injuries, but I can't put them in the yard, and wildlife rescue doesn't care about rabbits.
 

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If they aren't dropping it or leaving it, then more work needs to be on focus...watch me command. I have three dogs and all of them will either leave it if I catch it in time or drop it if I don't. As far as critters, none of mine would even chase a rabbit or squirrel, they actually ignore them. I chose to rabbit sit for my sister when the German Shepherd was a puppy and the rabbit ran around with the dogs, slept with them, etc. I think that extended to outdoor rabbits. As for ducks and geese I find them(they are everywhere by me) and I bring the dog pretty close and make it sit and leave it, and watch me One day when it was storming a while back my one dog was really trying to get outside and I thought it was weird, because she doesn't care to be in the rain. Well she pulled me right to a rabbit hole, with about 7 baby rabbits drowning(the hole filled with water from the rain), as I'm rushing to get them out, I see one that managed to climb out, but it looked dead. My dog pawed it and it must of been in the right place, because it revived the bunny. All 7 lived....I attached some pics of her find. She has also brought injured baby birds to me alive.
104_0163.jpg 104_0159.jpg
 

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Leave it and watch me are two important commands. I disagree with a dog being muzzled on walks..I would have suggested leave it, but that means you have to be ahead of the dog and you figured that out already:). Treat training is a very good method if you have a food motivated dog. I have a 2.5 year old Golden and a 9 month old German Shepherd. Both were trained with treats and neither of them require treats to perform commands now. Neither of them are over weight either. Both dogs went through 3 obedience classes and received their CGC's(you can't use treats for this test). And both dogs are very well behaved and listen with or without distraction. I would never train without treats...it works if done correctly.

**Also want to add that both of my treat trained dogs can do 3-5 minute sit/stays and down/stays with distractions(other dogs, kids, etc) and they can do the front command with no problems at about 200 ft or so**
I'm thrilled that treat training worked so well for you - to be fair, I have no issues occasionally using treats to reinforce good behavior, or to introduce to new situations...my issue is that with the amount of training a puppy gets on a daily basis, if we used a treat every time we gave a command, she would be eating over a bag a day, and that is not healthy!!

In this particular scenario, I also mentioned why it wouldn't work, because I was getting so frustrated with it that I gave it a shot....treats were either ignored, or eaten without dropping the item in the mouth....nothing like adding to your frustration by having a treat snatched from the hand without actually doing the behavior that warrants it - you just have a sore hand (thanks, needle tooth!), a dog happily swallowing the item along with the treat, and a dog that has been reinforced for undesirable behavior!!! Or, you are left dangling a treat above a dog that has zero interest in it, compared to this awesome hunk of plastic I found on the ground...

Thankfully, we are finally making progress!! I am just so amazed that sitting, and acting enthusiastic about getting what was in her mouth works like a charm....better than treats, distractions, verbal commands...incredible!
 
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