Skills not Tricks
We all love to give our dog a command in front of our friends and family or dog training class and the dog obeys us right away. Some of us like to teach our dogs to do funny and cute tricks. We feel proud of our dog and we get to feel like a successful dog trainer.
But when I work with a dog I teach the dog skills, not tricks. When I work with a human I teach the human how to teach the dog skills, not tricks. Why? What is the difference? It is a mindset that shows us that even the silliest little “trick” is a method of controlling our dog in a, fun, rewarding and low impact way while building up the dog’s confidence in themselves and in the owner.
Every skill that you teach your dog is another chance for you to show leadership over your dog. Every time you give your dog a command, and they obey, you have shown leadership over your dog. The more often you show benevolent, fun leadership over your dog the better chance you have of maintaining that leadership position.
Maintaining leadership does not require heavy handed, dominant methods. What it does require is consistency and one way to consistently and humanely show leadership is to command your dog to do the various skills they have learned and then reward them for it.
Does your dog follow you around your house? That is the perfect chance for you to show some leadership and give them the “Sit” command. Why? No reason. They aren’t being punished or anything you are just taking an opportunity to show leadership. Give your dog the sit command and when they obey praise them, reward them and give them a release command and go about your business.
You are sitting quietly in your house maybe watching television and your dog walks by you on the way to their water bowl give them the “shake” command. That causes them to put what they were doing on hold and obey your command. And when they do obey give them heaps of fun praise, a reward and let them go about their business.
You have just exercised your will over your dog by making your dog obey and you have done it in a rewarding, friendly, low impact way. Your dog will also start to pay attention to you more in anticipation of hearing a command and getting a possible reward.
A dog focused on you is a dog looking to you for leadership and that is a good thing. So teach your dog to sit, down, roll over, crawl, shake, dance on its hind legs or just about anything you can think of. Each skill is an opportunity for you to show your dog whose boss in an enjoyable way.
Too often dog training is done as a rigid, scheduled event. Sure, we attend dog training classes and dog behavior modification classes and those are structured events, they have to be. But we don’t have to wait for scheduled events to train our dogs. Do it when they least expect it, challenge them a little bit.
Remember that it is said that just because you train your dog to “sit” in the living room does not mean they will “sit” in your bedroom. So, challenge them to perform their skills in all different environments and at all different times and each time they obey you it supports your position as the leader.
Work on those skills, not tricks!
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