In the last few weeks, as folks re-emerge from Covid lockdown, our ~2 year old Labrador has discovered that people - small children in particular - outdoors in parks and other green spaces often have food for the taking. And she's started going and taking it. This unacceptable behaviour is likely to become a big problem if not nipped in the bud. Besides the annoyance to others there's also the risk she'll gobble something extremely chocolatey at some point.
Obviously we're now trying to anticipate any encounters and get her on a lead in advance. Or just getting her attention on a ball will keep her sufficiently focused on us until temptation has passed. However, surprises can still happen on winding paths or other situations with short sight-lines or when someone suddenly hands their child some food.
We're not sure how to best address this:
Improve her recall? This could be better. We've got whistles and the whistle means "come and get some yummy liver paste", but the chance of success rather depends what's competing for attention. When the alternative is a small child with a piece of pepperoni pizza I'm pretty sure the lure of the pizza slice will win over any reward we're likely to have.
More work on "impulse control"? Indoors, we can put her dinner in front of her and she'll sit and wait indefinitely until being given permission to eat it. She's similarly restrained with treats placed on the floor and so on. Nor does she beg or bother us when we're eating, or try to raid shopping bags or food on kitchen counters. However it occurs to me that we've never done that sort of training in an outdoor setting, and she will certainly lunge for edible/lickable litter encountered on walks. Should we try and get her to learn to apply the same restraint she can indoors, outdoors? And how then can we make sure she's as well behaved with the food in someone's hands as she is with the food in her own bowl?
Or some other approach?