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Dogs are Active, Thinking Partners

When I do a dog training lesson, I have to arrive with a certain energy - we can call it enthusiasm. I want the dog to know that I am excited about his every success, and make the training fun for the dog (as well as the owner). For example, when reinforcing (rewarding) with a treat - instead of putting it into the dog’s mouth, I might toss it, so he can chase it. Then I know he’ll reset, and come right back to me for more. This makes it his idea to do the next exercise - not mine. The dog has control.

When you take turns leading and following, it makes dog training like a dance. It’s like a tango - we have a connection. Every time the dog decides to chase the treat and come back for more, or look at you before you ask, or set you up to do the exercise again, he’s leading, and adding energy to the exercise. And we follow, only to lead again. The dog is following because he wants to - not because it’s his job, or because he’s the dog and I’m the master. Because it’s fun!

Often, the owners, who are just trying to remember all the steps and get everything right, will get a little stressed. They start using a vocal tone that sounds like a command, and I’ll tell them, “Use your community theater voice!” and they laugh and start singing the cues - and the dogs respond! They perk up and start paying attention. The owners smile. And the dogs laugh.

This is the way dogs become active, thinking partners. They’re not just standing there, waiting to follow a command. They’re thinking, “What can I do next?” And when they are thinking, they are remembering, and they are looking forward to the next training session. I love this.

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