Don’t be boring! Your dog won’t like it
My puppy is becoming a teenager! She is getting into particular habits, some good, some not so good. One of these is to demand that I play with her in the evenings. She does this by bringing me a toy and then shouting at me until I interact with her. How sweet! Well, maybe.
With a Border Collie, you have to be very careful that they don’t train you to do exactly what they want until you find yourself running around at their beck and call. Of course other animals also train you to do their bidding. I have a cat…
Last week I was helping out with some recruitment of primary school teachers. I was struck (as always) with how often the needs of children and dogs are similar. We were interviewing a particularly enchanting teacher; she was so full of passion for what she does. I asked her how she would manage a child who was behaving badly in class. She thought for a second and then said “Well maybe they are behaving badly because my teaching is boring. I might stand on the desk!” (She got the job 🙂 ) Here are some thoughts on why you need to be exciting for your dog.
Catch their attention
If your dog is not listening, it might be because you are not calling them in the right way. The more often you repeat their name, the more likely they are to ignore it. You need to say it like it is something you just thought of. This is much more likely to make them stop what they are doing and wonder what you are up to.
If you want your dog to listen to you, they need to be motivated to do so. When I am out with my dogs and I stop to talk to someone, people often remark how attentive they are to me, while I seem to be ignoring them. They will all lie quietly and wait for me to re-engage with them. Why? Because I have the ball of course! And the treats. I know what they want and I know how to use it.
Reward good attention
When they are paying attention and doing what I want them to do, I ‘catch them at it’ and reward it. If they come to me, I praise them. This will normally be with a treat, but might equally be with a play with a toy, or even just a bit of physical contact. I will usually try and use a reinforcing word, such as ‘yes!’ if a dog engages in an activity that I am looking for. They then know that this was what I wanted and that a reward is coming. If I want them to try and find a good behaviour, I will focus on them and remain still until something is offered.
Set clear expectations
In order to manage poor behaviour, you need to reward good behaviour. There must be a very clear distinction between the two and the good stuff should be clearly set out and rewarding to do! I want this! YAY! Wow, that was brilliant! I am so happy you did that for me! The more exciting you are, the more rewarding you become and the clearer you are about what exactly you are looking for.
Practice every day
It’s no good being exciting every now and again. You need to be exciting ALL THE TIME. Well OK, not 100% of the time, or you would all be exhausted. But if you want to achieve good behaviour, then you will need to want it. And reward it.
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