All training we do helps us build a better bond with our dogs if we are using positive methods, here are some especially good exercises we recommend for this.
Handling – this is important because we want our dogs to know that our touch and our movements that they may not be as used to are a good thing, this doesn’t come naturally for them, so we get to teach them! What a great way to bond, you will learn to notice little signals from your dog too. think about calming signals - lip licking, head turning, whole body turns, paw lifting, blinking, yawning( especially with that high pitched screech), and more! the book calming signals by turid rugaas is a great resource on calming signals. Watch for tension in the face and any freezing(stopping all movement) and move away APPROPRIATELY, we want our dogs to feel comfortable through out and we can work up to their more uncomfortable spots when they get more used to the exercise, you may also see some of what we call fool around, where you go to try the handling exercise and your dog gets the “zoomies” and will go right into a frenzied play mode, we also want to stop there, if your dog seems not stressed and is seeming to just want to play that is okay to encourage.
Handling exercise: bring out some good treats that will be high value to your dog, something they can lick is a great option so as to make it easier on you, such as a frozen peanut butter kong, or some cheese whiz or cream cheese, or just really high value treats cut into small pieces so you can feed your dog a lot, in a quick manner. Get a handful of treats or the kong of treats in front of your dogs mouth and get them to start eating treats, when they start to eat the treats, start to touch a part of the body, such as paws, belly, mouth, ears, tail, bum area, etc… if you notice discomfort on the dogs part at all , move away. Give them space, take lots of breaks when doing handling and focus on one area of the body at a time, make sure the whole time the handling happens that the dog is eating the food, we want the two things to be paired together, then we can progress to touching areas and then treating the dog afterwards, but we want to make sure te dog is comfortable with the handling before we move to that point. Try this also with things like hugging or leaning over your dog, even things like hands reaching, you can also do this wit the collar and harness so they are comfortable with those being handled as well. We don’t want to stress our dogs to the point of trying to snap or bite if they are uncomfortable, and if they do, we just want to practice only one more time with lots of food in the dogs mouth, going slow and breaking it down to the last step they are comfortable with to show them that biting or snapping wont work, but showing us their signals will!
Self Control – self control is a huge way to bond with our dogs, they learn that when they offer behaviours that we practice with them. That they get the things that they want, such as treats, toys, walks, play, even things like their breakfast and dinner, showing our dogs that they don’t just get free food keeps them from developing a lot of unwanted behaviours that can come with dogs and food.it is also wonderful for the DOG-HUMAN bond for the dog to see that their food comes from their owner and that there is a sure fire way for the dog to get that food, or that walk, or whichever part of their life they would like access to. It keeps them from practicing silly things like barking ir jumping at us for toys or food, or attention even, having your dog sit, lay down or give a high five before they can come up n the couch is also a great way to settle your dog before they come up to the couch(which is a place to settle)
Self control exercises:
● Food bowl etiquette – have your dog sit and wait until the food is on the floor and you’ve said okay before they eat, if they try and grab it, move the bowl away. Bring it down again and if they wait say okay right away, we want to start small and build up to longer waiting times, the goal is to be able to cue them okay, as a way of saying yes you can eat, and if we always release them before they eat, no matter how long they wait, we will get that success.
● Sitting at the door: for this we want to walk up to a door, start at a low value door and have the dog on leash, ask for a sit, yes and reward sit, then try to reach for the door handle, notice your dogs body, notice if they are getting excited, and try to release them by saying okay or all done, before they decide to stand up and go through the door themselves, we want to have them wait until they are released ultimately , but for now we want to start small, and release them before they release themselves, then eventually we will get the whole door open and then we can say okay and go through together. If they pop their bum up before they are released, say uh uh and close the door, re cue them in to their sit and try again, we want to work at their level but push them a little bit each time, we want to show them that they cant get through the door if they aren’t sitting and waiting to be released, and they ultimately will start to sit and wait because they know what the reward will be!
● Sitting or laying for food: having our dogs sitting and waiting or laying and waiting for any food they get is very important, they see that we give them good things, but that they have to wait patiently to have it, they cant jump, or try and grab it or anything or the food or treat or chew will go away, and we will say uh uh and then try it again after.
● High fives before coming on the bed or couch to cuddle: this is exactly how it sounds, to teach the high five, have some treats in a fist and present it to your dog, they will bug at it and lick and try to get the treats, until they use their paw, they don’t get the treat, one they paw your hand, then they get the food! Then ask them for this any time they are begging for cuddles or attention, or just ask for a high five before inviting them up on the couch, you can even cue the off, ask for the high five and then let them up again. This can also be done with sits, or downs, or any behaviour you would like your dog to offer before getting attention, because they will start to do it automatically once they figure it out!
● Ignoring jumping: the best way to teach our dogs jumping doesn’t get them anything, is to ignore the jumping, so when they jump, you will want to turn your back, stand up if you are sitting and cross your arms if your dog trys to bug at your hands once you are turned, if they continue to jump, leave the room for 30 seconds, we want them to see that jumping gets no attention ever! Once you’ve ignored the jump, you are welcome to turn back around and ask for a sit and at that point offer the dog attention. All attention is good for our dogs, even if we are directing negative attention at them, they just feel it as attention.
● Hug cue: this is how we show our dogs that hugging is okay when we have asked for it, but if we haven’t asked for a hug, any jumping should be ignored, for hug, you are going to want to say “fido hug!” And then pat your belly or shoulders to encourage them to come up, when they so, yes and reward with attention. Then make an all done cue, such as off or all done and every time that is said, hug is over and they need to have all 4 on the floor. But when we say hug. Its fair fame!
● Leave its: for this we start from a closed fist, to ensure they cant make any mistakes, and we present it to them and say leave it, they will bug at it and the second they stop, you want to say yes, take it! With leave it comes take it, we teach take it once, and only once. We don’t need to practice take it because they learn very fast that take it means just that, take the food, we build up from a closed fist, to an open hand and then to off the floor, and then to things dropped on the floor. This teaches our dogs that food is a no go unless we say it is okay. Remember to switch it up too, they don’t always get the food we asked them to leave, we may ask them to leave something they cant eat, but you can still reward from your bait bag, start in very low distraction areas and most importantly, don’t let it become a game, so if they go for the food, don’t move it, just cover it with your hand or foot and do your very bets to make it so they cant get at the thing we have asked them to leave, because that can create a dog who just tries to be faster then mum or dad!
● Drop its: drop its is what we want to use when our dogs already have grabbed something and we would like them to give it to us, we want to do a trade, trade the item they cant have, with a high value treat, this can also be practiced with low value food items, leading up to high value ones. To begin, you will say drop it and then offer your dog a treat instead of the item they have, when they go for the treat and drop the item, say yes and treat them, with either the treat trade treat or a treat from your bag if they already got e one used to ask for the drop it. This creates a great bond because we never have to be fearful of getting something from our dogs, because they will likely start dropping things the second you say drop it, even before you offer the treat to trade. These treats must be special and high value, because then we know that fido will drop anything that is less value to him or her! Do watch for body signals and calming signals, don’t push your dog, if they wont trade for a treat, try higher value treats or opt to just let him chew it, so long as it is safe, if you really feel you cant get the item, then opt to leave it and try again with a lower value item next time! And work up to that trigger high value item with time!
Play – play play play! This is so important to bonding with our dogs! Get your dog excited! Try to avoid the use of hands to rile our dogs up, because we want them to veiw our hands as calming, not as a source of arousal. Games like fetch, tug, playing chase in the yard, touch/TARGETING games, playing keep away with toys and more! Are great ways to have fun with your dog!
● Tug- Have a special tug toy that only comes out after the cue to begin is said, that cue can be anything like, “start” “tug” “lets play” etc… and you want an end cue too. Something like “all done” “ game over” etc.. once you have said the go cue, tug begins, you guys can win or let him win, have a bit of both, get excited have a lot of fun, watch for ay over arousal, but over all, just have fun! The biggest rule of tug is that if fidos teeth touch skin, game ends there, toy goes back into its hiding spot, you can take it back out and re cue the game after you’ve given you dog some time to calm down from the 1st game!
● Touch/Targeting – this is such a fun game, it works the dogs brain hard though, so remember to go slow with them and to give them lots of breaks! Take a piece of food in your open palm and cover it with your thumb. Hold your hand out and say “touch” when the dog hits their nose to your palm to get the food say yes and give them the treat. Keep practicing this with the treat in hand for a few reps and then take the treat out of your hand and ask her to touch but just with your open palm. When she bumps your hand with his or her nose, say yes and reward. The dog will learn very quickly how to “touch” on your palm, then we want to branch this over to other items, the way we do that is we want to have out palm as a target, so we will have our hand in the same spot on the wall say, and we will ask for touches, we want to practice this a lot before moving our hand away a little bit, and waiting to have our dogs frustrate just the littlest bit when they wont get the treat for touching the hand anymore, so they will try the spot on the wall, we then want to yes and reward that. This is a great way to teach them to jump on to things, go over things, and also to use bells to ask to go out!
● Hide and seek – this is exactly how it sounds! Put your dog in a stay, or have someone hold them, and then go hide, once well hidden, call your dog and have them find you, its great brain and body exercise and its super fun! It also teaches them out of sight recall, which is a skill every dog should have! Have a party when he finds you!