Howdy friends! It’s Al the Dog Trainer. Welcome to Al’s Dog Training Tips. Today’s topic is “are you rewarding your dog, or yourself?”
This particular issue is particularly hard because dogs are incredible creatures, and whenever we see one, own one, or have one with us, it’s very easy to begin to reward ourselves with their presence. The dog isn’t going to object of course, because they really do live in the moment and they enjoy all the attention we give them.
One of the problems this can create when you’re trying to raise a dog is that some of the things you might be doing may be fundamentally rewarding for you and your dog, but may not actually be building the things you’re going to need the dog to learn in order to be able to enjoy a long term relationship that’s filled with the things that you want. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m the absolute authority on what your dog should or should not be doing. However, it’s been my experience that when dogs understand to stay where you tell them to, walk on a leash, come when called, and they understand how important it is to listen, then they usually know how fun life is when they do understand those things.
A lot of folks allow their dogs privileges such as eating human food, sleeping on the bed, or going to dog parks, and it actually works out perfectly well for them. The problem therein lies when people are giving their dog those types of freedoms, then they end up saying, for example, “Hey, I want you to come,” and the dog is like “Hey, I’m not going to do that.” Then meanwhile, we’re giving the dog all sorts of entitlement.
I’m going to give you some examples from my own life, and these things may be a little bit harder than what most would be willing to do, but it’s my intention to share these things I do with my own dogs, so maybe you can glean something out of it for yourself. One example is that when I get a puppy, I don’t let them eat out of a bowl, and I never “free feed” any of my dogs. When I get a puppy, I will hand feed the dog every single last piece of kibble for an extended period of time. I want my puppy to see every piece of food coming from me, instead of entitling that dog to a bowl.
If you’re complaining at all about how your dog is responding to you, and you’re putting food in a bowl and not training with your dog, it’s a huge vulnerability. So, maybe that’s something you should think about. I’m not even saying do it for a full year, but even if you do it for 10 days I bet you’ll see a big difference. Another thing to think about when getting a new dog is where you’re cuddling with them. Are you cuddling on the couch and on the bed instead of maybe cuddling with them while they are on the place stay? The place stay is something I use quite a bit and I get a lot of messages from clients saying “ when you taught us how to do this, it was a game-changer!” So instead of cuddling with them on the couch or the bed, if you have a dog that is not listening, put them on their place, get on the floor and start cuddling with them there to show them how important it is for them to actually be on their bed and actually value it.
It’s really important, especially when you first get a dog or first form that relationship, that you do not take too much reward for yourself. It’s really easy to do that, so you’re really going to have to be thoughtful when you’re interacting with that dog and showing them that “we’re going to reward you for the things we want you to do long term” and then once the dog learns how to do that, you can go to town and really enjoy that relationship in a meaningful way.
Send me a text message at (832)734-5189 if you have any questions about this or need help with anything else. I hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy your dogs.