It happens all the time and you’re not alone! You submit to their sweet face drooling while waiting at the pantry door when their clock tells them its dinner time. You give in to that happy tail wagging back and forth by the leash sitting on its hook. You pat the couch as confirmation when they step one paw up onto it and give you the dopey “you wouldn’t really make me sleep on the cold hard floor, would you?” eyes.
Happens all the time. They’ve trained you.
Everything in life is training; we’re all doing things every day that train our brains to respond to positive outcomes that we like. We like to see our dogs happy, of course. So it begins, that each time your dog exhibits one of those responses, we oblige, they’re happy, and the night goes on. This is all fine and good until it starts to annoy or frustrate you. For example, the dog waits at the leash hook, but it just went out 20 minutes ago…now he’s learned that he just wants to go out, get some fresh air and chase the butterflies so he’ll just wait here moping, maybe vocalizing until you oblige and take him on another walk. Then bam. Reinforced and the behavior continues.
Here’s another common example which goes for any animal. Say you have a horse and you’ve noticed they’re not eating their hay as much, so you’re worried. In order to get them to eat, you start giving yummy things like carrots, celery, fruit, etc. Look at that, miraculously eating. You continue putting hay out everyday, waiting a bit then replacing it with the good stuff and what do you have? A trained human and a smart horse.
Our family chocolate lab growing up would wait for you to stand up from the couch just so she could grab the TV remote or your cell phone and follow you with it until you gave her a treat. More often than not my mom caved in and reinforced her. Trained.
Mammals predatory nature instinctively tells them how to survive. If you decide to give in relentlessly to their gimmicks, then lo and behold you’ve been trained my friend.
Here’s how to fix it.
Remind them you are the human! ALL good things come from you when and how YOU want them to. This has nothing to do with “dominance” or “alpha” style training, it’s just the facts. 99% of beings of any sort crave structure. Give them a regular schedule, give them proper outlets, and give them what is required for ethical survival. Try switching up their routine, change up meal times, or put their walking on a strict schedule. Pay attention to what behavior it is and feed off it! They’re brining you the TV remote? Maybe they like to retrieve; get off your butt and go play some ball with them.
Uh Oh. My Dog Trained Me.