Good Things Happen…

When I introduce a new rule structure to my dogs or to my clients dog, I make sure good things happen when the dog performs the wanted or desired behavior. We can all agree that consequence drives behavior in all of us, but I really want you to think of the consequence as a positive and rewarding one.  It is not just that I believe it works, it is scientifically proven that if a dog does a behavior and what follows is rewarding, the behavior will be repeated.  This repeated behavior performed several times per day and continued over a few weeks becomes a desired habit.  Is that not what we all are trying to do?  Shape our dogs behavior into good habits?Here are a few examples you might want to try:

1. Good things happen when you are on your mat! 

Good things happen when you go to a mat,
these two are chewing on stuffed kongs.

Simply have your dog near you with a handful of treats and your dog’s mat.  Lay the mat on the floor and when your dog sniffs it, looks at it or step on it, say “yes” and drop a treat or two between his paws.  Ask your dog to get off the mat, pick it up and walk a few steps with it in your hand.  Repeat the process of laying the mat down and rewarding your dog for moving onto the mat.  You can initially walk around the mat and stop while facing your dog with the mat between you two.  When he steps onto it, say “yes” and reward generously.  Initially, put the mat away between sessions and play this game a few times per day.  When you see your dog get excited that you are about to lay the mat down, add a cue like “go to your mat” just before you lay the mat down.  Once your dog is walking on the mat quickly, wait on the “yes” and see if your dog offers you a sit, then say “yes” and reward.  Eventually your dog will offer you a down and then you can jackpot this behavior.

To maintain this behavior of “go to your mat” you will want to randomly reward your dog when you see him go to his mat without being asked.  This can be a good massage, kong time, bone time, yummy treat or a good scratch, whatever your dog finds rewarding.  I use this each morning as we enter the kitchen, each of my dogs will move towards their mat and I will eventually feed them while they are on their mat waiting patiently.  I no longer ask them to go to their mat, they know going to their mat predicts they will get fed, which is rewarding to them and nice for me not to have 12 paws under my feet!

2. Good things happen when you look at me!
Training your dog to perform a simple behavior is nearly impossible without first having your dog’s attention.  If your dog is not quick to look at you, teach your dog that looking at you is ALWAYS followed by a reward.
Again, begin with a handful of your dogs yummy treats and your dog near you, maybe on a leash if necessary.  Say your dog’s name, and when he looks at you say “yes” and toss him a treat.  Wait a few seconds and repeat, saying his name, and marking the moment his head turns towards you and rewarding.

Another game that works well to get your dogs attention is to simply sit in a chair with some treats in hand.  Toss a treat on the floor and when your dog eats the treat he will most likely look at you to see if more food is flying.  When he looks your way, say “yes” and toss another over his head.  When he eats the treat he will come near you again and you can smile and say “yes” when he looks at you and repeat the process.  Your dog will learn that looking at you predicts Good things happen, and will repeat the behavior.

If you are reading this Blog, then I assume you have a dog or are thinking about getting a dog.  My hope is that you are a positive influence in training your dog and not one who feels they need to dominate a dog.  Consider how effective science-based training is, and how your dog “feels” when you are training.  I hope your dog feels good when you are near, when he looks at you and when you reach to touch him.  If not, read more of my blog to learn how to train your dog while also having a happy, healthy and trusting relationship.