Learning to Drive Your Dog
Thank you to iiscute.com
Let me first say this is not like “Driving Miss Daisy” I am sure you are capable of giving your dog a fun means of transportation in your vehicle!
I remember being 14 like it was yesterday and itching to get my drivers permit.
I lived in WY and 15 was the age that most of us made the trip to the DMV took our test and began terrifying our parents.
But at 14 I was intensely studying driving laws and pay attention to each time my parents missed using their turn signals or changed lanes in an intersection.
Each yellow light was duly noted and intensely watched and all of my parents’ infractions were mentally cataloged.
Thank goodness for my parents I lived in WY, where one of the biggest parental concerns of driving is grazing a deer since deer and antelope far outnumber the amount of people.
It was my father’s job to teach me to drive.
I think mothers are strong enough to give birth to their children, but I have noted that few are brave enough to then teach them to drive.
Ironically, I remember my shins hurting like crazy as I learned to work the clutch. I am grateful that they taught me to drive on a standard so that I could drive anything (I still enjoy shifting and driving my little car).
And, I remember it took lots of hours both during the day and at night to be able to qualify to take the test for my license.
My parents also made me take driver’s education so their insurance didn’t skyrocket anymore that it needed to!
So Why Is It That We Think “Driving” or Working or Training our Dogs Should be so Easy?
A car is mechanical and usually it is pretty standard from one car to another (unless you get to drive a Lamborghini in which case it is a whole different world and I highly recommend it).
And, I must admit if you make a drastic mistake in a car, you could kill yourself or others.
But in some ways isn’t it the same with your dog? (Unless your dog isn’t big enough)
We get a dog or a puppy, we bring it home, we are all excited… but we don’t study or learn to “Drive” it.
We actually, or most people, expect our dogs to “Drive” themselves.
They should come straight out of the womb trained, right?
They should know automatically whether we want them on the furniture, they should recognize when we are dressed in our finest and they should know how to treat old people and children…
If you think about it, it’s kind of silly, the expectation we have for them.
We spend all this time learning to drive a car, and so little time learning to work with our best friends!
Understanding the Intricacies
Unlike cars or trucks, each dog is different!
You must learn to drive them individually.
What works for one dog, does not necessarily work for another!
I have 3 dogs and they all have different motivators or “drivers”… well, I am the “driver” but they all have different things that drive them to do what I want.
For more on Building Your Dog’s Drive click here.
My long haired Dutch Shepherd, Fury, would kill for a chuck it and tennis ball. Don’t worry, she is pretty petite and I am not worried that she will choke on the ball, if she was bigger I would get a bigger ball.
More on why tennis balls can be dangerous click here.
She also has a strange affinity for fruit and once tried to pluck a pear from the lips of my agility instructor… I don’t really understand either! But I do know if I don’t leash walk her during peach and fig season she will gain a large amount of weight 😉
Jovi, my gigantic Belgian Malinois has a love for tug toys. Balls on a string are good too, but a big tug that he can bite and thrash then run around and buck like a tiny stallion is his favorite.
He likes food, but he would rather play with a tug toy any day!
And sometimes pairing food with toys and games can risk the safety of my fingers, he is so wrapped up wanting to play he doesn’t realize he might be drawing blood or swallowing a finger. For more on why extreme excitement can lead to a bite click here.
Pharaoh is my newest addition and he is just 7 months old. He has had a few bad bouts with pano (for more on panosteitis click here)
So, because he has been painful, he has just kind of been hanging out and being a wild puppy.
I haven’t wanted to do obedience while he is painful (manners yes but structured obedience no) so he has been chilling on the sofa a lot.
But, his motivator is anything that moves fast… He is in the teasing phase of teaching him games and obedience.
Ball, tug, squeaky toy, flirt pole… he loves them all! As he develops I will allow him to choose what his favorite thing is or I will pick something special for him that we will use mostly for training.
Know Your Dog
The key is to spend enough time with your dog to know him, to build his drive for toys by teasing him a little bit (for more on that click here) and then you can use his motivator to “Drive” him to do whatever you want.
It doesn’t matter whether it is simple obedience; Sit when I ask you and I will throw your toy.
Or it doesn’t matter if it is complex obedience you desire; run in the direction I point you as fast as you can and drop or down when I tell you and I will play with you. Or turn off the lights for me when I ask you; or find the remote (I love this one), get me a beer… the options are limitless!
His toys, his food, and his joy for training become his “drivers”.
My dogs listen because I know how to “Drive” them and work effectively with them.
I spend time not just working and training with them, but PLAYING with them!!!
Playing with them really comes first figuring out what they like, how to tease them effectively, how and when to reward them, then play develops into “sneaky” training. For more on that click this article “Dog Training the Conspiracy Theory”
I studied, I played, I learned about each of my dogs and I suppose the competitions I compete in lately are like my driver’s test for my “license”.
So far I think both Fury and Jovi have passed… Pharaoh and I are still working on and studying together… but isn’t that the most fun part?
We will have our glory days someday very soon!
Get out there and learn to drive your own dog!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.