Hopefully I got your attention with that title because I’m serious. I realize that it must sound like a mind-blowing idea in the world of dog training. Up until recently, commanding and having the dog obey was the goal, right?
In my opinion, it’s far more effective training when a dog chooses a desirable behavior naturally. Before you scroll on and look for a different dog trainer, give me a moment to explain myself.
In acquiring a new skill, self-discovery is far more powerful than obeying direction. I like to remember the old days when I was shopping around for a preschool for my daughter. In my area, there were around 10 to choose from and I looked into all of them. The guiding principle of the one I chose was that play was the best learning tool for young children. When children play they are trying out different things and ideas. They are discovering the world through their own eyes, hands and hearts, ensuring that the things they learn become deeply rooted in their personalities. While this is going on at this school, several teachers and aides were rewarding the kids (with attention and praise) as they arrived at an idea which reflected truly understanding something.
Applying this theory to dog training, we can see that allowing a dog the grace of self-discovery while under our watchful eye is far more powerful than previous methods, and it happens in minutes.
The easiest example of this is teaching a “default down.” I think we can all agree that a lying down position is far preferable to a dog jumping on guests, barking at them, or worse.
The way we begin accomplishing the goal of teaching our dog to lie down to greet a guest is by always rewarding (typically with a small pile of kibble) the dog when they RANDOMLY lie down during a training session. Notice, I didn’t say reward them heavily after we tell them to lie down. This is because when dogs independently discover that lying down is the most rewarded behavior of all behaviors, they will do it more! What they practice the most is what they get better at.
There are several baby steps required to teach your dog to automatically lie down for any guest entering your home. This overview, however will give you an idea of how to start. Since we are all enjoying having family and friends visit us again, this is a common problem area for most pandemic puppies. Feel free to reach out to me if you would like a customized treatment plan to achieve this goal.