Re-balance the Relationship or Is Your Dog Training You?

Dogs are naturally competent in training us humans.  The only ingredients needed are a kind human soul and a dog who is curious and happily tries new behaviors.  Our responses to the dog’s actions determine if he is training us or we are training him.  The real question is:  who is initiating the order of events?  The human or the dog?  Make no mistake.  Dogs thrive best in environments where benevolent humans are setting the order of events and boundaries, and controlling most of the animal’s access to resources (things needed for survival and enjoyment of life). 

Caution Flags

If you hear yourself uttering the following comments, you might be heading into troubled waters. “He lets me know when he wants to play, go outside, get a treat, etc…..”  “He gets grumpy when we sit on the sofa together, and I shift my position.”  “He drops his ball in my lap when he is ready to play.”  “She comes to the door and barks at me when she’s ready to come inside.”   If it feels a bit like the dog is calling the shots and determining what you are doing and when, it’s time for a change in routine.

Planning the Turnaround

The first step is to identify when your dog is initiating activities.  How can that be interrupted and ultimately changed?   To devise a change plan, understand the true purpose of the dog’s behavior.  For example, he may be guarding his spot on the sofa.  Location guarding requires a particular protocol to erode the behavior.  Behavior patterns are predictable, and an effective way to alter them is to pre-empt the ones you don’t like.  Start or refresh an obedience training program so you have a set of tools to use.  A handful of reliable cues will work.

Bringing the Right Balance

Make time in your day to play and constructively interact with your dog.  That is to say, on your schedule and at your initiation, not hers.  Ask her to “sit and stay” before the games begin.   Ignore or redirect behaviors that overstep boundaries.  An example of this is demand barking.  Use a house training program where you take the dog out or give him access to his yard potty spot at routine times during the day.  Don’t leave it up to him to “tell” you by barking at the door or ringing bells.  Train your dog to come to you!

Dogs learn quickly which behaviors work for them.  If an outcome is gratifying, it will be repeated, so consider your response.  It’s much easier to train in desirable behaviors than to undo habits you don’t love. 


Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC