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Category: Dog Behavior

The best dog trick ever!

What’s the best trick you can teach your dog? Shake hands?  Dance?  Weave?  Fetch the paper?

Play Dead always goes over big in class.    Fun!   Army crawl, another cute one!

I think the best trick ever though is come when you are called.

What? You don’t think that’s a trick?  Why not?  I think it is.  It amazes me every time when I yell ‘dogs, come’ and they do!  Wow, what power I have!  I’m stronger than the frisky squirrel, more interesting than the neighbor’s  dog, more powerful than the pull of the stray cat running by!   My dogs come when they are called!

Did I hear my name?

Did I hear my name?

And you know why?  I taught them that.   Oh yeah, what a cool trick!

And every time they come, they get rewarded for it.   It doesn’t matter what they were doing, or how irked I might be at them, or if they took one last run at the squirrel teasing them on the high wire.  As soon as they get to me, its a good thing!  Praise and treats and love all around!

If you get your puppy as a baby, start day one.  Face him, take a step back, and they will usually follow you, ‘puppy, come’    Yay!

Same thing with your older dog.  If  you’re unsure if he will follow you, then hold out a yummy.  “Dog, come”   treat in mouth, good job dog!

When you are in the house, call the puppy just because.  Not always because you’re going anywhere, or need him or anything, but just because.   When I get a new one, I  count out about 25 to 30 treats and put them in a cup on the counter.  I try to call my dog that many times a day for a while.   Just from across the room, or down the hall or from one step away.  This does 2 things – teaches puppy his name, and that coming to you is fun!  We like fun, dogs like fun – fun for everyone!

But are you more exciting than dirty dishes?

But are you more exciting than dirty dishes?

If there are two of you, puppy ping pong is a great game.  Sit or stand across the room, and take turns calling puppy back and forth.    Bonus to this one, it wears him out.   We love tired dogs!

And if you don’t think this is worth doing, remember that when your dog slips his collar, or  the kid opens the door and accidently lets dog out,  or he digs  under the fence and is running merrily down the road away from you.

When he turns around and arrives safely in your arms, I guarantee you will be thinking Best Trick Ever.

Did the ‘come’ trick help recover your dog?  Share your story here!

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That is a behavior to correct

I took a class a while back with a very successful dog trainer.  She’d been training all her life, has won countless awards and her dogs were marvelous.  She does rehab – she takes aggressive dogs and teaches them to be happy and calm.   Amazing.

Her main bit of training advice is, ‘if you don’t like it, it is a behavior to correct’.   Her methods were very different from what is now considered the ‘best’ way to train dogs, which is positive reinforcement method (prm).   With PRM, you decide the behavior you want, and you help the dog understand that every time it happens, good things happen.   You sit, you get a treat, you walk nicely beside me, you get a nice walk.   Etc.

This face? How could I be anything but an angel?

This face? How could I be anything but an angel?

Her method was more you behave in a way I don’t like and something you don’t like happens.  And, like I said, she has rehomed many dogs who would have been put down otherwise.   A good thing.

With so many trainers focusing solely on PRM, with clickers and treats, people forget they can say NO to their dog.   Yes, I want to tell my puppy he’s the cutest sweetest thing ever, I want to distract them from chewing on the electric cord with something more appropriate to chew on, I want to give him a treat when he comes to me.

But I also want to tell him No.  really badly sometimes!   And you know what?  Its okay!   I can do that, and so can you!    Its not against the law, I promise.   Don’t laugh!  Some people think it is!  “But I was told to focus on the good stuff….”  Sure!  Do that.   But also tell them when they are doing something you don’t like.   They can understand that, too.

And if No hurts your feelings, or sensibilities, use another word.  Whoops, Ack! Uh-Oh, all work just fine.

I'm smart!  I'll understand 'no!'

I’m smart! I’ll understand ‘no!’

But there is nothing wrong with telling your dog, “I don’t like that.  Stop it.”   It won’t hurt their little psyche one bit.  I promise.

Rules Rules Rules!!

I just got the most amusing phone call.  Well, it amused me, but the lady was not a happy camper.

She just started a new puppy class with her little toy fox terrier.   There were four other dogs in her class, a nice size for a puppy class!   Included in the class was a two pound toy poodle and an adorable little Shih Tzu who would Not come when he was called.   His mother was an elderly lady who had ‘always had dogs’ but just got this one and was a tad bit frustrated.   Not only did she have this four month old puppy who was ignoring her, but she had broken her left wrist and was very uncomfortable.  This puppy had to learn!  Life would be happier for both of them when that happened!

So what did the teacher do?  Lectured her for ten minutes on how she should Really really try harder to hold the leash properly because dogs HAD to be walked on the left.   I asked, “Or what, if you walk them on your right, do they implode?”

The lady I was talking to wished she’d asked.  But the teacher had explained “If you go on to tracking or obedience work, they must be on the left.”  Well, by golly she’s right!  They do!  But this 75 year old lady wasn’t wanting that.  She was wanting her dog to come when she called him!

I've learned when I bark at the tv, everyone laughs and I get lots of attention.  Try it!


Now I understand, if you teach THIS behavior, it will teach the dog that, THAT behavior is a good thing, or makes it easier to teach, or is a building block. And you have a list of things to do in a class setting.    But come on – common sense, anyone?? Please?  She had a broken wrist and stated she had no interest in anything other than basic obedience.   How hard can this be?

And the two pound toy poodle who showed up on a -gasp! – harness!  Ohhhh nooooooo.    Harnesses are only for tracking!   They can not be used for classes or walking!   Lets put a collar on that two pound puppy and try hard not to injure his neck!    Because  – harness are only for tracking.  Its a LAW.  It goes against all things holy to harness any dog other than tracking dogs!   There is no way to teach a puppy to walk on a leash with a harness!  It simply can’t be done!

The toy fox terrier lady won’t be back, even though her puppy was fine.   I have to wonder about the other people who now think  ‘I’m too stupid to understand dog training’  or ‘dog training and dog trainers suck’.

I’m not really happy with either of those scenarios.

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