Even though I’ve had dogs in my life for over 20 years now, I’m still fairly new to formal training, especially positively. Our first dogs were trained in the basics – come, sit, and stay, but it was never an ongoing process with them. We taught them and we were done. We worked on the things that we had to; not pulling on leashes (an unending project with our beagle Kobi) and not jumping on people (it took a while but we did succeed in training our golden Sheba not to jump on people).
When Luke joined our family over 3 years ago, I wanted to do more with him. I was envious of all the people who had perfectly trained dogs who rarely misbehaved by jumping on people or not listening. I had to learn about managing a reactive dog with Luke, but we’ve also learned the fun of tricks and nose works.
I did determine that it’s not all as easy as it might sound, and it takes a lot of work; sometimes more than I really intended to sign up for. However, it’s also fun and rewarding, and once in a while you happen upon something that you never saw coming. You didn’t read it in a book or on a website, and no one really told you. It’s not necessarily a secret, per se, but it turns out to be a pleasant and fun (or funny) surprise.
This may not be news to anyone who’s had more experience than me, but these are just a couple of fun things I wanted to share, and the best I could come up with for this month’s Positive Pet Training blog hop’s theme of “Training Secrets”.
#1 – Dogs Can Learn Commands You Didn’t Even Know You Were Teaching Them
I’m sure many of us have realized that dogs can learn bad habits if we let them. They pay a lot more attention to us than we sometimes realize. It’s not all bad though, they can learn good things from us unintentionally as well.
I wrote recently about the cues I was working with both dogs on for walking, ways to keep them from reacting to things that might scare or upset them at home, and when out on walks. I had a list of cues we worked on, such as “let’s go” and “with me”.
Apparently, I had another command in there I didn’t even realize I was using, and I noticed when walking the dogs recently that Luke was responding to something I never even trained him to. We have trails around our property that connect to the road so we’re often going in different directions each time, and they twist and turn in the woods with many ways to go.
I said “this way” more than once when we turned, and realized that each time I said that, Luke automatically changed directions to follow me. I didn’t even know I said it that much, but I tested him….I was careful to just say “this way” without tugging on his leash to see if he responded. He did. I must have been saying that all along while giving a tug on the leash, until he learned on his own that we were taking a turn when I said that. The bonus? No treats required for that training! Even better? Luke tends to focus on his nose when we’re walking, so I am pleased that he’s actually listening to me far more than I thought he was!
#2 – Yes, Sometimes Your Dogs Train You
Cricket has a different agenda than Luke. She’s not so interested in learning things from me, she’d rather teach me things. She used the same trick as me though….I didn’t even realize at first that she was training me (only I suspect unlike mine, hers was intentional!).
We’ve always had routines of giving the dogs treats when we leave for work or other occasions, then they also get one when we get home (it used to be they’d get a treat when they were puppies “if they were good” – but eventually they just always got one). They also get to lick our plates after meals and they’ll get a treat when we’re done eating. That was always our way of training them not to beg, and that works well.
Next thing I know, Cricket is going to the pantry door, where the treats are kept, when we get back from walks and when we come in from playing. It was only a matter of time before I gave in once, and then again, and again….until that became the new routine. Once I realized we were doing that, I tried to stop it. Our little beagle is as stubborn and persistent as they come, and she’ll stand there, then lie down, until you give in. She might leave the room if you leave, but when you come back, she’s right there by the pantry door, waiting. When necessary, she’ll get her brother to join her there.
Now this is the new thing. After all, she worked hard chasing that ball, or tromping through the woods…often having to stop and wait for her brother to smell and pee on everything, so she deserves a treat, right? I’m not totally stupid though, I now have two cans of treats in the pantry…one with larger ones for the regular occasions, and then one with smaller ones for all the bonuses they now get. The size of the treat does not matter to her, as long as she gets something.
In addition, we did learn through our recent review of the Poof Pet Activity Tracker, that they are burning sufficient calories throughout the day, so these extras are not overdoing it!
Words of warning: be aware of what you might say or do repetitively with your dogs, be sure it’s something you want them to do; and watch out for their sneaky little ways of getting you to do exactly what they want!
Have you ever accidentally trained your dog to do something good, or has your dog ever trained you to do something they wanted?
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Training Secrets”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not! (There is an issue with the linky list for the blog hop right now but I’ll get it up here when that’s fixed).
Jodi Stone says
Oh my. Sampson has us trained to get down on the floor and rub his belly when he lays on his back and smiles. And Delilah has me trained to rub her ears when I’m in the bathroom getting ready for work. Slick dogs.
I blame Luke when I’m late for work, because I have to stop getting ready and rub his belly so often. 🙂
Sarcastic Dog says
Wow! I am suddenly reevaluating every single training session and wondering who was training whom! 😉 You raise such a good point about inadvertently reinforcing behaviors we may not actually want. I know that when I am particularly distracted, I am often oblivious to giving in where I had no intention of doing so. On the other hand, I can think of several instances where I did not even realize I was successfully training a desired behavior. When Piper was a puppy, I just got in the habit of saying “no mouth” when she would nip and she now has a super soft mouth and responds to “no mouth” instantly if she is playing hard with one of the other dogs.
That is really great! I’ll have to remember that next time we get a puppy. 🙂
Jackie Bouchard says
Such good tips. And Rita definitely has Daddy trained… You should see how often she stands in front of the pantry, where we keep her treats. And Daddy is a sucker for his cute little girl! Now… if I could only train him….
(Actually I’m not so great at training her. She’s mostly a very good girl, but the reactivity thing is always a work in progress. She’s SO MUCH better but still not perfect, and don’t know if she ever will be. I use “leave it” a lot with her when we see something on a walk she might be reactive too. But one bad way I’ve “trained her” is if someone suddenly comes around a corner with a big/”scary” dog that I think she might not like, I’ll say “uh oh” and she goes right into UHOH mode and gets ready to take on all threats. I’ve been working hard to stop saying that!)
Pamela and I keep having the discussion of one of our training topics being “how to train the hubbies”, except neither of us has the answer to that one. LOL
I’ve also had to work hard to not react to things myself, thus making Luke react. It is not an easy habit to break! I honestly think the most we can hope for with reactive dogs is progress, though there are those who say their dogs are now perfect. I think it may make a difference why they’re reactive – when it’s just their personality or genetic like with Luke I think we can only get so far. Although I do hold out some hope that maybe as they get older, they’ll get better. That remains to be seen!
Sand spring Chesapeake says
Oh yes they gain us, good job picking up on way. Cricket I love you
She loves you back. 🙂
I couldn’t resist Cricket’s little face either!
My dog Sophie is super observant. She knows when I’m getting to leave the house and goes into her crate before I am even ready to put her in. I give them a treat (honestly, just a piece of kibble) almost every time I put them in their crates. All I have to do is say “crate” once and they run into their crates.
We don’t use crates all the time, so mostly Luke just follows Dad around when we’re getting ready to leave for work! They definitely learn the routines, that’s for sure.
Christine Caplan says
Oh! My fav is — your dogs train you! Sherm has this nailed. He waits outside on the deck (also a super stubborn beagle/mix) and will sit there until I bring out treats. We have dogs on all sides so I’m typically desperate to get him back in when those dogs are out barking. He’s really good with recall so I know I’ve simply trained him to only come back from the deck when I have something tasty. And it’s due to my laziness.
“Whatever works”, I always say, even if it’s the end result of some of our own bad habits (mine would be babbling to the dogs all the time when we’re walking!).
Jen Gabbard says
You’re so right about them training us, whether we realize it or not. Cricket reminds me so much of Laika, but rather than treats she goes to the cupboard where the bubbles are kept after dinner. Like you, I taught Laika that she gets something awesome if she stays calm while we eat dinner. It didn’t take long for her to start asking for it by pushing on the cupboard as soon as I set my plate in the sink, rather than waiting for me to start the game. I don’t mind it, and personally I find it rather endearing.
And regarding your first tip it’s amazing when I think about all of the things Laika has learned indirectly. (well directly by me, though unintentionally on my part) As soon as I say “bed” she’s jumping up on the couch to settle in for the night, and when walking I must say “wait a sec” and “hold on” quite a bit because she stops immediately.
Cricket is so ball obsessed, I really should use a ball and might have better results with training her. I do use one for taking photos, but she’s SO impatient and if I throw it, the ball game is on and there’s no getting her attention back. LOL
Even though training can be hard work, it sounds like you’re all having fun doing it.
Brian Frum says
I’d say they are doing a darn good job making sure your training is up to their requirements!
We wouldn’t know what to do if the animals weren’t in charge! LOL
M. K. Clinton says
My husband trained our German Shepherd to go long or go short and left and right simply by playing Frisbee with her. Of course, she was OBSESSED with the Frisbee so it wasn’t too difficult. I still need to work with the boys on more training.
Oh, I wonder if I could train Cricket that way with her ball? I’m just afraid she’s so obsessed that she’d never hear a word I said. 🙂
The Island Cats says
It sounds like training dogs isn’t that much different than training small children. 🙂
Only we can curse around the dogs without worrying about it. LOL
Roby Sweet says
Cats can train people too! Our cat Webster does the same thing Cricket does, sitting in front of where the food is kept for a loooong time, looking up with his big, irresistible eyes every time a human happens by. It’s worked out pretty well for him, except now he has to lose a little weight. 🙂
Hee hee – an unexpected side effect for poor Webster! At our previous house with multiple cats, they just hung around on the kitchen counter where we fed them. You know how persistent they can be – no matter how many times we booted them off, they’d be back until we finally gave in!
Some of our best commands are ones Mom did by accident. I think less stress makes us more eager to learn things!
You are probably right about that – no pressure might make you guys a lot more receptive to learning.
Dolly the Doxie says
Mom says we have something in common with the treat sizes and activity tracker. I had to go to the vet the other day, can you believe I got a bladder infection from holding it too long on the 4th? Anyway, I gained 2 pounds so my treat intake is seriously cut down along with my meals. Sigh. Love Dolly
Oh no, Dolly, I’m sorry to hear that about your bladder infection! I never thought of that happening from the 4th.
And oh no, not the dreaded diet! That is definitely no fun. Hopefully your weather is not too hot, so you can get some of those walks in to help?
Monika & Sam says
These clever critters might as well be college professors! Elsa has learned what ‘wait’ means and like Luke, it was not intentional. Now that I use it on her, she definitely responds. When the sheep dogs were still alive, it’s a wonder they didn’t put a nose ring on me for all the herding they did when I thought I was walking them! They managed to keep me in a certain spot along the sidewalk all the time. NEVER try to compete with sheepdogs, they’re too clever and will embarrass you. They might even give your little Cricket a run for her money! LOL
It is not easy when our dogs are smarter than we are. LOL
Our beagle Kobi learned hand signals accidentally too. Apparently I gesture a lot without realizing it. It turned out to be a great thing later in his life when he became hard of hearing though!
Cricket looks very pleased with herself for training you so well! She’s such a smart girl 😉
Two French Bulldogs says
We do learn stuff and mom doesn’t even know she is training us. “This way” is a good example. We also learned right and left. BOL. We learned so much that mom needs to spell stuff BOL
Lily & Edward
Thank you for contacting Lily & Edward at Two French Bulldogs. If you are interested in a me know. We do share the post on Twitter
Two French Bulldogs says
I reread our post, I have no idea what that last paragraph is….yikes
Sometimes our computers or phones have a mind of their own, don’t they? It is kinda scary! 🙂
Shadow and Ducky's Mom says
Oh Cricket, you make me smile! You have the Momz and Dadz trained just the way you want them. Smart girl!
Shadow and Ducky have their daddy trained, too; but most times I circumvent it. And, when one of them gets sick I can usually pinpoint exactly what caused it – and who gave it to them.