Zen Traps and Defaults

Level 2 Step 5: Zen traps and defaults.

Before I get to the deep stuff, a small brag. We’ve been testing through L1 Zen and tonight I was able to pour the entire 15 pounds of dog food into the dog food bucket without the dogs diving head first into the bucket. I suppose that’s a zen trap of sorts since normally I wouldn’t have dared such a feat, but they’ve been doing so well I thought I’d try to “trap” them. They passed!

No, my dogs are not on L2 step 5 yet, and since we’re following Sue’s advice to start over from the beginning we probably won’t be there anytime soon, but I had to jump ahead and read about what a Zen trap is. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to set the dogs up for their success tonight.

You have no idea what complicated ideas I came up with when I first read about Zen traps and defaults. Turns out a Zen trap is exactly what it sounds like. Which perfectly illustrates one of the things I love about the Levels-the simplicity. Sue does start out the step warning you, “Here’s where it’s going to get complicated. I’m going to ask you to think.”

Well, compared to the convoluted ideas I came up with her explanation was plain as day!

Step 5 begins by having you think of the area’s “of your life with your dog that’s crying out for hand Zen or floor Zen.” Then Sue urges us to have some forethought, to even write out the problem and a plan for explaining it to our pup. L2 Step 5 starts transferring Zen from a treat to real life situations.

For example, Magnus needs a serious dose of kitchen table zen. (For fun check out the fun conversation on our FB page about “You know you’re a dog person when. . .” one of mine was about Magnus and his desperate need for kitchen table zen.) Since dogs on the kitchen table isn’t exactly covered in a specific step in the levels and I really don’t want dogs on the kitchen table my whole life L2 Step 5 fits perfectly.

Sue says, “Get yourself (italics mine) ready to respond correctly then enter the room with the Zen trap in it. Work the pre-placed trap as you would any other bit of food on the floor.”

The kitchen table Zen trap looks like this, I leave a chair out so he would normally want get up on it to get on the table. Of course since we are starting a new Zen behavior I make things easier and leave off the cue.

After bringing him into the room I can picture two options. In option one he’s off leash and I sit down on a different chair with my clicker and treats and ‘read’ my new Levels book. I then have the opportunity to reward any choice he makes not to get on the chair with a very high value treat.

In option two if we get to this point and I feel like his leave it is solid enough for him to understand the cue I think I could cue “leave it” at the chair if he leaves it click-treat! If not I know I need to go back to the beginning and make it easier for him.

Hmm. . . interesting plan. I’m glad I have several steps until we’re ready for step 5 so I can refine it. Any ideas?

Other areas a Zen trap could help us are my bedside table and the cat food. Set ups would be similar, the key is preparation. Have my plan thought out ahead of time, treats and clicker in all the places I set up a trap. Both are areas where I want Zen to be the default, meaning he always chooses to never get into those things.

Turns out Sue was right again, she warned me and she is making me think!

As always I welcome any suggestions, refinements or overhauls to my plan. When we get this far I’ll be sure to let you know how it went! Hopefully I report back a full A+ pass!

One more thing, if you haven’t bought your new Training Levels books yet, you really should. They are awesome!