So your dog knows how to sit, down, stay, come when called, leave it, and walk on a loose leash. That’s great. Those are extremely important foundational behaviors that all dogs should know, especially when you ask them to. But, what about the behaviors that we’d love our dogs to perform on their own?
Generally, when we think about what a dog should know, we go to those usual basics. While knowing these skills is vital for your dog and you to have an enjoyable relationship, there are some skills that we tend to not think about, or overlook:
This is something that I put a large amount of stock in. It is extremely important for dogs to be able to self-soothe and self-settle. This means that a dog who is not being directly interacted with can simply hang out without trying to do a million things at once. You would be surprised at how few dogs have this skill.
There is a very easy way to work on self-settling with your dog: Put them on leash in the evening while you watch some TV, stand on the leash, and wait. When they eventually get bored, lay down, and give that heavy sigh, drop a few treats. Do this for about 10 minutes every evening, and you will create a much calmer dog.
Canine Constructive Problem Solving Skills
All dogs possess problem solving skills. They are actually extremely good at problem solving. In fact, this inherent skill is what creates a lot of problem behaviors in our dogs. Generally, our dogs solutions to problems involve things that make them feel good. These usually include digging, barking, and chewing on things. These are all self-rewarding behaviors as they release endorphins, and make our dogs feel good.
So how do we teach constructive problem solving skills?
Stop asking your dog for everything. Teach them to figure out what you want for themselves. You can passively capture some sits and downs instead of asking for them. To do this just hang out with your dog, and wait for them to offer you a behavior. Something they already know to start. Like sitting.
When they perform the behavior, click (or tell them good job) and drop a treat. For those who don’t know, you “click” with a dog training tool we refer to as a clicker in order to reinforce positive behaviors. After a while of practicing this, your dog will be throwing sits and downs at you like crazy! I promise it’s a much better alternative than having them bark at you.
The Ability to Ignore Other Dogs
This is more of a human created issue. As a species we are focused on being social. We tend to also point that focus on our dogs. We are very focused on dogs playing with each other and getting along. The problem with this is that not all dogs want to socialize.
Some dogs are aggressive or reactive, and some simply just don’t feel like playing with other friendly dogs from time to time. Having a dog who gets overly exuberant and bouncy about every dog they see, and rushes right up into their face, is actually not as great as you might think. This behavior to other dogs is considered what we as humans might call “impolite” or at least off putting. You know the person at the party who talks to everyone, but can’t maintain a conversation for more than 2 minutes? That’s this dog.
Instead of encouraging your dog to greet every dog they see, I recommend not allowing dogs to greet on leash. On leash greetings create a lot more tension (due to the leashes), and have more of a chance of things going wrong than off leash. This also doesn’t mean you should let your dog off leash when you see a dog you want them to say hi to. You should only allow your dog to interact with other dogs in appropriate settings. Dog parks, daycare, or scheduled play dates.
Ask For Help!
If your dog has trouble ignoring other dogs, hold your ground and wait for them to check in with you. When they do, make sure they know they’re a good dog! And treat. Ignoring dogs gets them lots of yummy things, and soon your dog will be trotting by the other dogs quite happily.
Are you struggling with any of these things with your dog? Or you haven’t quite addressed the whole sit, down, stay thing yet? No problem! Give our trainers a call and we can help you get started on the right foot. At DogBoy’s Dog Ranch, we love strengthening the human-dog bond through education, care, and play!
Smiling Dog by Marc Dalmuder
Smiling Dogs by Kat Martin