Dream Dog Behavior – A Better Approach than “Nothing In Life Is Free”
You want your dream dog to have the best dog behavior, which means you need to learn the most effective training techniques that help you teach your puppy important skills and commands in a way that’s positive and fun for you and your pup.
In your research about dog training techniques, you may have heard about a method known as ‘Nothing In Life Is Free.’ It is based on the old-school belief that the best way to teach respect and manners is to make your dog earn everything in life – attention, food, treats, and more.
Maybe you’ve heard the advice that your dog should never walk through a doorway in front of you? That is an outdated idea that is no longer practiced by professional dog trainers. Toss that advice like the expired fresh veggies you bought when you were on a health kick. This outdated mindset can actually hinder your relationship with your dog.
Dogs have very little control in their lives. They are taken away from their mother and siblings when adopted by loving families, seemingly on a whim. They are forced to enter our human world, and they don’t even get to choose their human or their new home.
We already control so many aspects of our dog’s life from what they eat, to when they eat, where they can walk, how they can walk and so much more. Do we really have to control how they walk through a door? Nope.
In this blog, I aim to change the way you think about dog behavior and training and help you build a better relationship with your dog!
3 ‘Nothing in Life is Free’ Myths About Dog Behavior
Meal Time Behavior
Myth: A dog must earn all of their meals and you should make them work for it.
Fact: Food is necessary for survival. And making your dog wait a long time, do tricks, or hold kibble on his nose while you video it for Tik Tok is really only for human entertainment. It provides little value to your dog.
What You Should Do Instead: A better approach that is very useful to you and your pup is to use food as a motivator, not as a controller. We can use food as a positive reinforcement for cues and behaviors we need our dogs to learn.
It’s always a good idea to train your dog to sit and wait patiently for the food to be put down, instead of lunging, jumping and barking for it. Then use a piece of kibble to reinforce important mealtime behaviors like sit or down. This ensures your dog learns to stay calm at mealtime so you can safely serve his food.
Play Time Behavior
Myth: A dog must earn play time.
Do you always do every chore in the house before you sit down to watch TV? Nope! Sometimes we just want a break to relax, de-stress, and to do things we love without having to do all the unpleasant stuff first. Play time also helps us release excess energy so we can focus and perform our best. Dogs are no different.
Fact: There’s no reason to make your dog work for playtime. If we don’t provide our dogs the activities they love on a daily basis – multiple times a day – they can get bored and stressed. This leads to behavior issues like chewing on furniture or digging at the carpet.
Play, and enriching activities like sniffing, scavenging, digging, and shredding are natural dog behaviors that help them release excess energy, engage with their environment, develop confidence, and enjoy life!
What You Should Do Instead: Ensure your dog has multiple opportunities each day for playtime and exercise.
If your dog brings a toy over to you to engage you in play, take note. This common dog behavior is telling you that they seek engagement from you and that they need to get rid of some pent-up energy.
You may not always be able to drop everything to play in that moment, but you should pay attention to these cues and make a point of giving yourself and your dog a healthy break as soon as possible. This will really benefit your dog AND your relationship with your pup.
Engagement with Humans
Myth: A dog must sit and allow itself to be approached and greeted by visitors or while out in public.
You know those impressive dogs who sit and stay as still as a statue when guests arrive or while out in public?
Fact: As cool as that looks, the amount of self control required for a dog to behave like that is exhausting for our canine companions.
Do you love all people who are eager to meet and greet you? Do you always feel like meeting new people? Maybe sometimes, or maybe never. And the same is true for your dog.
Making a dog sit and stay when they don’t feel comfortable can actually lead to a negative association to people approaching. It is similar to making a child say hello to an approaching scary stranger. It can be too much to handle and leave a lasting impression that can lead to behavior problems.
What You Should Do Instead: It is important to teach our dogs not to bolt up to people to say “hi” or use their paws to meet and greet. But it’s also important to teach other humans to be inviters instead of invaders when it comes to your dog’s personal space.
That means we need to teach adults (and kids) not to immediately walk up to our dogs and touch them or stick a hand in their nose. This is invading their space. That dog can smell you, I assure you! No need to put your hand there!
You’ll also need to teach people how to invite your dog into their personal space by:
- Lowering their body posture (crouching down)
- Moving away from a dog with lowered posture (a dog that is cowering)
- Not making direct eye contact with the dog (because direct eye contact is confrontational in dog language)
- Turning away from the dog and moving away slowly
We want to give our dog some control in these situations. If your dog feels comfortable enough to sit and invites the human into his space, that’s awesome! But not all dogs want to say hi to everyone. Allow your dog to stand behind you or move away from people who are approaching when your pup is feeling uncomfortable.
It’s important to be your dog’s biggest advocate, and that includes speaking up when he can’t. He’s actually speaking very loudly with his body language but humans often overlook it and continue on with their desires despite the preferences of the dog. And this is a common reason why otherwise friendly dogs bite.
That’s not how good relationships are built. You can do better!
One Important Tip for Dream Dog Behavior
Reinforce the Behavior You Want Your Pup to Repeat
We want to get into the habit of reinforcing the behaviors we want to see more of.
For example, if you don’t want your pup to jump on your guests coming in the door, don’t give your dog attention when he’s jumping. Giving attention is a reinforcement, just like petting or treats or praise.
If we give reinforcement – even accidental – when the dog is doing something we don’t like, such as jumping or chewing or barking or biting, it will only teach him that he gets attention for that behavior, which leads to more of that behavior. This is not the cycle you are looking for!
In our online puppy training program, we teach our students the most effective and fun techniques to teach dream dog behaviors like greeting visitors in the home and so much more. We take a very proactive approach by teaching skills and working on positive behaviors before they’re needed. We call this pre-training.
Just like a ballet dancer needs to learn the skills and movements long before the show, you’ll want to work on teaching your puppy essential skills and positive behaviors in a quiet and calm area without the presence of other people. As your pup progresses through increasing levels of distractions you can eventually duplicate a training scenario that will resemble what it will be like when someone comes in the door. This is just like a dress rehearsal before the big show!
A Note About Dog Behavior
All behavior serves a function. Your dog’s behavior can tell you a lot about what’s going on in his mind and his world. If you are frustrated with your dog’s behavior, it’s possible he’s frustrated too. He just shows it in a different way.
A dog does not give us a hard time, they are having a hard time. Bad behavior is a symptom of poor communication and ineffective training. Understanding canine behavior is a science that takes time to study and practice.
Fortunately, you don’t have to become a professional dog trainer to understand your pup’s behavior. Our 30 Days to Puppy Perfection program makes it easy for you!
This online program teaches you how to build trust and increase communication, one step at a time, in small steps that are fun and easy for you and your puppy to understand. In this course we help you understand your dog’s behavior, learn how to communicate in a way your puppy understands, and build a strong relationship with your pup.
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About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.