Are you under the paw?
15th May 2017
You may have seen our recent article 'The Importance of Training your Dog' where we talked about the importance of regular training sessions between you and your dog to maintain communication.
In today's article, we are taking a lighthearted look at the training that takes place in lots of homes every day...where your dog is training you!
It might amuse you to know that, when our Bark Buster trainers visit dogs and their owners in their homes, one of the first things we are assessing is "who believes they are in charge here?". By simply observing the behaviour of the dog and the owners whilst we are chatting and taking notes, we can see how well the dog has trained its owners. In fact, in most of homes we visit for behavioural issues, the dog believes he is in charge and the owners don't know it! Often, once we point out to the owners the very subtle tell-tail signs, and they realise how silently and expertly they have been trained by their dog (and after we have all had a good chuckle about it), this is the point when owners start to see things from their dogs point of view, and have a new respect for their dog's intelligence.
So, as a fun exercise, we decided to put together some examples of dogs who have used their intelligence to work out what they want to happen or what they want to achieve, and who have then gone on to successfully train their owners or to control situations to get what they want! These are all real-life examples of dogs practicing their "human training". Names have been changed to protect the identity of those kind enough to admit to being trained by their dog! We hope you enjoy them, and maybe you will see in these stories a reflection of your own reality!
- "Merlin (Border Collie) is very good at asking my husband to let him out during the night, and then running back upstairs before him and stealing his place in bed!"
- "This recent bout of very wet weather meant that Olly (Boxer) was coming home from walks very muddy. So, my husband started breaking a biscuit in half and throwing it onto the wet grass in the garden to clean Olly's feet before he came onto the patio for washing. However, now that the weather is drier and he no longer has muddy feet, Olly still goes and stands in the middle of the grass waiting for his treat before he'll come onto the patio to be cleaned!! It works every time!"
- "When Diesel (Border Collie) was alive his favourite toy was a tennis ball which he carried everywhere with him. But if you were eating something especially tasty for dinner he would bring it over and offer an exchange."
- "If I ever have new people over and they ignore Ozzie (Sharpei/Rottweiler/German Shepherd X), he will go and get Gromit (originally a hot water bottle cover so it's pretty big). He will continually shake Gromit into the visitor's legs, and then lie on his back and wiggle around relentlessly until someone rubs his belly or says "Hello". Only once he is satisfied with the attention he has received will he lie down and go to sleep. Shutting him into another room doesn't work as he can open any door!"
- "Ashka (Malamute X) flips the indoor flap of my letter box to get my attention! He started doing it a while ago in the middle of the night, waking me and bringing me downstairs, so I taped it up. Assuming he'd forgotten, I removed the tape a couple of weeks ago. But he's not forgotten! So, I come to the door thinking it's the postman or a visitor knocking and there he is grinning at me waiting to be let into my office which he likes to lie in when a little anxious about storms/wind/fireworks etc."
- "If Matty (Border Collie) wants to go out to toilet he will stand at the back door and wait as long as it takes for someone to open it (he is slightly slow on the uptake for a Collie). However, if Jasper (Border Collie) sees Matty standing there, he will come and bark to tell us Matty wants to go out! Not sure whether it's Jasper training us or our lovely simple boy, Matty , who has trained Jasper to get us?"
- "King (German Shepherd) doesn't often ask to go out or come back in as he has unfortunately learnt to use the door handles himself, so he's pretty self-sufficient in that respect! But he gets us to respond anyway because we then have to go and shut the door after him. He also knows how to open the little gate we have between the patio and the lawn in the back garden and tries to turn the ring handle with his mouth to lift the latch. His current project is working on the baby (dog) gate. He stands up and tries to squeeze the buttons either side of the latch with his paws and lift the lever with his nose. Too clever!!
- "Snoopy (Labrador x) hates you looking at your phone! If you are holding your phone in front of you with both hands, his big black face will suddenly appear in front of your phone. His face will be in the way of the screen, and his tail wagging means that it's impossible to read the screen as it is moving too much!"
These are just a few examples of dogs using their intelligence to get what they want and, in some cases, train and control you. There are many more methods not listed here! Try to observe your behaviour with your dog for 24 hours and make a note of incidences where you are responding to your dog's demands.
Don't panic if you have a long list! And if you have no behavioural issues with your dog, you can just regard these behaviours as amusing, quirky aspects of your dog's personality that make you laugh and brighten your day!
However, where you are struggling with aspects of your dog's behaviour, this may be the first place to start turning your relationship around and getting yourself back in control. The way to turn things around is simple. Be mindful of what you are doing at your dog's command, and stop doing it! Ignoring attention-seeking behaviour, or demands from your dog. By not responding to your dog's demands you are communicating leadership to your dog in a passive way that he instinctively understands. He may sulk, or try extra hard for a few days to win his control back, but eventually the demands will cease once he sees they don't work anymore.
However, we don't want you to ignore your dog completely! We want you to play with toys with your dog as this builds your relationship, uses his brain and gives him exercise and interaction with you. We want you to stroke your dog and walk him and feed him too, but all these interactions from now on must be instigated by you and not when your dog demand it. If your dog demands something from you, ignore him until he gives up and goes away. Wait 10 seconds and then call him back to play, eat, walk, have a cuddle. This may seem like a minor change to you but the message it sends to a canine brain is massive.
This simple step is the foundation to changing your relationship with your dog so that he begins to respect you rather than control you. It is easy to put in place and make the new behaviour part of your life. Once you have identified where the changes need to be made, the only thing to remember is to remain consistent.
In all aspects of dog training and behaviour consistency is the key!!