Bachelor of Lost Arts

Herein, a primer on the talents--like chopping firewood or putting an edge on a knife--that will never be obsolete.

Aug 31, 2010
Outside Magazine
Dog training

Danger, the adventure dog    Photo: Inga Hendrickson

For Overachievers: Train Your Dog to Find Gourmet Mushrooms

Just as they can sniff out cocaine in a suitcase, dogs can find chanterelles. Get three 12-inch cardboard boxes and put a few dried chanterelles from the supermarket in one of them. Put the boxes in an empty room with the dog and wait. Don't say anything. Most dogs will explore the boxes. When your dog sticks her nose in the right box, immediately say, "Good!" (or snap your clicker) and give her a reward. Mix up the boxes and repeat. When she's got it down, require a sit-and-speak for the reward. Now, before you have her search, give the cue, "Find mushrooms." Lastly, hide the mushrooms around your yard. Once your dog can reliably show you where they're hidden, try it in the field. Identify your finds carefully before eating. Find more adventure dog training tips at

1. A dog needs to know only four things: sit, here, heel, and stay. If he does nothing more than come when called, even when squirrels or other dogs are around, you're doing fine.
2. Behaviors followed by positive consequences are more likely to be repeated. Behaviors followed by negative consequences are less likely to be repeated.
3. Start positive. Clicker training, which uses a plastic noisemaker to mark a successful behavior at the instant it occurs, is an easy and effective way to begin. (Karen Pryor's 1999 book Don't Shoot the Dog! does a nice job of explaining it.)
4. Figure out what your dog truly loves—treats, affection, squeaky toys, etc.—and reserve his favorites for rewards.
5. They're always learning, not just when you're training.
6. Once your dog knows—really knows—what he's supposed to be doing, set boundaries, apply corrections, and make it clear that obedience, though it will be rewarded, is not optional.
7. You cannot be the Dog Whisperer. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recently came out against the pack-leadership, dominance/submis-sion training model. Instead of trying to impersonate an alpha wolf—trust me, you're bad at it— just be a human leader. Stand up straight, speak clearly, and don't repeat yourself.
8. With dogs, it's about getting what they want: food, play, retrieves, affection. And to get what they want, they've got to give you what you want: calm, attentive behavior.