I thought he liked it!

We do an exercise in our group classes to get owners thinking about what their dog does and doesn’t like in terms of praise and punishment.  Since we teach exclusively non confrontational and no pain based punishment, we feel it is really important that our clients realize the power they have in using other tools to get their dog to stop doing undesirable behavior.

We ask students to raise their hands as we run through a list of things the dog might like including different type of rewards like treats and toys and different ways to correct your dog ranging from scolding to more harsh techniques just so we can show owners what not to use.

Everyone agreed that their dogs liked playing, toys, food and treats even though they didn’t all like the same choices.  They all didn’t like being ignored or scolded, but then came the shocker.  We asked if anyone’s dog liked “being looked at sternly” and one client jumped up and said “MINE DOES”.  After we talked about it we realized the dog didn’t like it at all, but sat scared waiting for the owner to stop being harsh with the dog.  It was a learning experience for everyone.

Often we do things thinking our dog likes them and they really don’t.  I had a client who kept asking me to trim the dog’s nails.  It turned out all her friends were picking the dog up and giving it big smooch kisses, but the dog hated it and kept scratching them in the face to get away.  Probably one of the biggest reasons dogs don’t come when we call them is what we do when they actually get to us.

Every dog likes different things; in fact it might surprise you to find out what your dog really does like.  My own dog for instance really hates going on walks.  He loves going for rides in the car but he doesn’t like getting out of the car unless he is going back into our home.

Dogs will vary in what motivates them, some dogs like toys, some don’t, some like chicken and some like liver.  I had one client who said her dog would do anything for blueberries, so in that case they were a better reinforcer than treats for instance.

So think before you act and know why you are doing what you do.  The next time you go to do something nice for your dog, think does my dog ACTUALLY like that.  The same goes with how you punish your dog make sure what you are doing isn’t going to make things worse.  In my next post I will talk about why a dog might bite without warning if the growl is reprimanded right out of the dog.  In fact it happened yesterday.

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