Do these scenarios sound at all familiar:
- There’s a knock on your door and it’s a race between you and your dog to see who can get there first?
- Is the first thing company hears when they come for a visit the sound of barking and you on the other side of the door trying to get your dog to sit quietly?
- How often do your guests have to greet your dogs before they can say hi to you?
These are all incredibly common behaviors in dogs and ones that I’m consulted on frequently, but they can also be extremely difficult for owners with less-than-stellar compliance to deal with because the things in play – a knock at the door, the commotion of guests coming, and the possibility of someone new entering the house – all can combine to push a dog’s buttons for good or bad.
Luckily, there’s a great tool out there for situations just like this that I’ve been using since it came out: the MannersMinder.
In short, the MannersMinder is way to dispense treats remotely for times when you just physically can’t give them to the dog or when you want to redirect the dog into a different location.
At its heart, the MannersMinder is a base unit that sits on the floor, filled with rewards, and a remote control. When the remote is clicked, the base unit makes a distinctive beeping noise and the treat is dispensed into a small tray on the side.
In addition to the manual remote control, the MannersMinder incorporates into the base unit volume control for the beeping and a good selection of automated timing controls that allow you to manually set the variable reward schedule. Similar to how it works remotely, when the automated timer goes off the base unit makes the same beeping noise and the treat comes out.
When you first start using the MannersMinder you’ll need to show your dog what it does the first time or two, but you’ll be amazed by how quickly they realize that it pays out and before long they’ll camp in front of it like seniors at a bank of slot machines.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Here are photos of two of my students, Boomer and Stella, demonstrating the awesome power of the variable reward schedule:
Now that you know what the MannersMinder is and what it does, why would you want it?
Let’s go back to the scenario above: someone knocking on your front door.
Rather than the mad dash to the front door to corral the dog with all the barking and jumping, when the doorbell rings just grab the MannersMinder remote, give it a click, and your dog will go running to the base unit rather then to see the company. Keep it in-hand and give it a click every now and then and your dog will be too distracted by yummy snacks that you’ll be able to greet your guests on your own terms and let them get comfortable before their furry friend comes to say hello.
Another great use for the MannersMinder is when you simply can’t physically get to your dog in order to be able to treat them for good behavior.
For example: we have very high ceilings and walls in our house and we’re frequently up on tall ladders painting.
If you’ve ever house painted you know that there’s a million different things that you don’t want your dog getting a hold of – wet mixing sticks, damp cleanup rags, paint lids, etc. – so if you’re up on a high ladder and you notice your dog going for something it shouldn’t have, how do reward them to leaving it alone when told to?
Simply click the MannersMinder remote that you’ve taken up with you.
Now this isn’t to say that the MannersMinder isn’t without a couple of areas for improvement:
- The MannersMinder is on the pricey side. Most positive reinforcement tools are very economically priced, but this one comes in on the high side of things.
- The MannersMinder only ships with one single remote control. If your dogs are like ours they may very well learn that it’s the remote that causes the yummy beeping, so the remote can become a valued resource they will want to get a hold of. A second one in the box would be great.
- The batteries the MannersMinder remote control uses isn’t one of the normal type that you’re used to – AA, AAA, C, D, etc. – but is one of the kinds that you’ll need to look around for or order online. Stocking up is necessary.
Those minor quibbles aside, the MannersMinder is a great positive reinforcement tool that allows us to maintain our reward schedules without needing to be within close physical proximity to our dogs.
I find the MannersMinder to be an invaluable tool in my positive reinforcement bag of tricks and, if you choose to make the investment in one, I’m sure you will, too.