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).