Choice Dog Training
As with everything in life, trends appear, stick around or rapidly disappear. Lately, a new dog training trend focuses on giving dogs choices during the training process. This “trend” puzzles me a bit because choices should be a part of all dog training. Dogs deserve choices, and sometimes dogs find choices more rewarding than food. Below, we show you the easiest way to train a dog through choices.
How Choice Dog Training Works
Dogs should be allowed to make choices during training sessions and in life. At first, this concept scares most pet owners and a few dog trainers alike. However, giving dogs choices actually speeds up training when dogs learn they’re able to control their environment.
Making choices in situations is super empowering, and giving dogs the ability to make their own teaches them to trust their pet owners completely. As humans, we must honor our dog’s choice and not push the issue. This is where pet owners become concerned and confused, as they’re envisioning dogs walking across kitchen countertops or running freely through the neighborhood. Nope, you’ve envisioned the pendulum swinging too far.
Instead, you reward your dog for making the right choice, which increases the likelihood that your dog’s certain behavior will happen again.
Giving Your Dog a Choice
Participation is a huge choice that most dogs don’t enjoy. Many dogs don’t have a choice, and are forced to participate during vet visits or petting from strangers. Some dogs dislike having their nails trimmed, and will growl whenever someone reaches for or touches their feet.
Example: Dog Dislikes Nail Trims
The first step is to acknowledge whether or not your dog is worried about nail trims. Then, teach your dog that touching his feet and trimming his nails make hot dogs appear when he chooses to participate.
Sit on the floor with diced up hot dogs in your lap. Click and reward your dog for walking up to you. Yes, hot dogs are encouraging your dog to walk over to you, but we want to reward dogs for choosing to walk toward us.
Reward your dog a couple of times for walking over to and standing near you, then reach toward his paw, but don’t touch it. If your dog pulls his paw away, sit still and return your hand back into your lap. It’s no big deal. At first, your dog might look a bit confused because this might be the first time he’s given a choice.
Some dogs may back away, and that’s fine. If your dog chooses to walk away, at anytime, honor your dog’s choice. Wait a few seconds, and reward him when he chooses to walk toward you again. Remember, you’re holding something he wants (hot dogs).
Reach for his paw again. Click/treat when he chooses to stand still (doesn’t move backwards or pulls foot away from you). Practice 2-3 times, and then end the session. Continue to practice slowly until your dog allows you to touch his paw and eventually trim his nails.
Honoring Your Dog’s Choices
When pet owners honor their dog’s choice, something magical happens. Dogs learn that they’re able to stop something scary without becoming aggressive. Also, they learn that their pet owner won’t force the issue. This is empowerment at its finest, and it will positively change your dog’s behavior.
Forcing a dog to comply gets you nowhere and actually stops the learning process. This type of dog training has nothing to do with “everybody wins a trophy” phenomena. Instead, it’s based on learning principles, consequences and scientific data.
Choice dog training is the easiest way to train a dog, so why not use it?