“Top 12 Things You Can Teach Your Dog Without Really Trying” – The Good Things
I grappled with the idea of calling this the 12 things your dog can teach YOU without really trying… but the truth is you are usually the one doing the teaching even when you don’t mean to be teaching.
And, that is the whole point.
You may think you don’t have time for training or your puppy or dog has had “no training” but that is not true! Every day of your puppy or dog’s existence is full of training especially if he is with you, but even if he is not he is learning through trial and error what is rewarding and what is not.
He is either in control, or you are. Which do you prefer? Would you like to be in control, or would you prefer your dog to train you to do everything he needs?
Now, don’t get me wrong; not everything that your dog teaches you is wrong or even BAD, actually if you and he do it right you can work out a very symbiotic relationship where you reward the things that you like and he chooses to keep you happy because he likes the rewards and what comes from doing what you like.
You just have to be aware he is trying to train you and only reward the good things ;)
This is actually my favorite way to train, because the dog has no idea you are training him, instead he thinks he is training you to reward him!!!
So Let’s Break Down the Good Things on the List (the bad things will make the next installment to be posted later)
The Good Things
Sit: All dogs sit, it is a natural behavior and it HAS to happen at some point. Even dogs that find sitting uncomfortable like Greyhounds and Whippets (because of the muscles in their legs and their conformation) sit at some point in time.
If you reward their choice to sit, when they sit with a treat and praise, you increase the likelihood of it continuing to happen! And, sit is a great behavior, so you want to see it as often as possible. It is easy to reward when it happens!
If your dog is choosing to sit, he is not jumping on you or other people or doing other naughty behaviors.
Down: Down is just like sit except down is not uncomfortable to any breed. Down is a natural behavior that HAS to happen and happens with regularity many times throughout the day!!!
And, again if you reward it you will see it begin to happen time and time again. Many dogs don't like to be forced to lay down (think of the dogs that fight the old compulsion methods) but if you reward the behavior when they choose to do it, you are increasing the likelihood of seeing it more regularly.
Instead of doing naughty things your dog will choose to lay down because he knows that you like the behavior, and guess what? If he is laying down he isn’t running through your house with your underwear or chasing your cat ;)
Once he begins doing it with regularity you can add a command or a "cue" and the behavior become under your control.
DOWN is one of my favorite behaviors!
Stay: Stay is another behavior that is pretty natural! Hard to believe stay is a natural behavior, right? It is especially hard to believe for people who can’t get their dog to do a 2 second stay!
Do you know why it is so hard to teach? It is hard to teach because the existing behavior is not being rewarded.
When we teach stay, we are trying to FORCE our dogs to stay; not rewarding them for patience when they are already sitting or lying down and staying as a choice they have made. Even if the stay only lasts a fraction of a second in the beginning it doesn’t matter, if you reward it the duration will get longer after they begin to understand why they are being rewarded!
Add to that, that when we are training our dogs we are very often training "action" your dog gets rewarded for sitting, or laying down, or heeling or some kind of quick movement, he is rarely rewarded for not doing anything.
Later you will build on that fraction of a second and can make your “stay” longer and longer until you can leave him out of sight for 10 minutes or more!
Come: This is one of those behaviors we EXPECT but we don’t necessarily want to reward it nor do we think we should need to teach it…
We expect our dogs to come when we call them, but we want them to come to us out of sheer joy and commitment to our relationship.
We don’t want to feel like we have to reward this behavior or teach this behavior.
The truth is our puppies or dogs do come to us in the beginning of our relationships out of joy and commitment and the joy of being with us; but then they realize there is a whole world around them and the kids down the street may be more rewarding than we are so they learn to reward themselves. Which is why you need to follow these 5 principals for how to train your dog to come every time you call.
They also learn that sometimes we may be mad when they finally come, or we do bad things like trim their nails, put them in crates or give them baths; and they don’t want to risk that.
In order to keep this behavior strong, it needs to be the most rewarding thing that can happen to them! We need to make sure every time he comes he is rewarded with the best thing possible; great treats, toys, games and fun.
When we are more rewarding than everything else going on around our dogs then we are doing dog ownership right! For more on teaching come read click here.
Heel: In the beginning almost all dogs choose to stick by our side when we take them out.
But like I discussed when talking about come when called; they soon realize that we aren’t the most fun thing available to them.
They begin to sniff and pull and learn to reward themselves instead of being rewarded by us.
I think this is another one of those things we “expect” from our dogs. We expect them not to pull us or be unruly on the leash, and yet this is one of the most important things we need to teach our dogs, is how to act and react on leash.
They must be rewarded for choosing to stay with us and not pull on the leash and the reward has to be more exciting than the distraction (all the good stuff to sniff and the neighbors and everything else that is going on!) For more on being more rewarding than the distractions click here.
For more on leash manners click here.
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.