Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dog Training And Emotions

With positive dog training, the idea is to teach your dog by rewarding the behaviors you want. The reward can be anything your dog desires. Most common, practical and straightforward reward is food. Other rewards can be used, such as affection, play or romp in the woods, depending on the circumstances and the dog. I know of a dog for whom the highest reward is to have his muzzle nibbled on.

This is, clearly, not a photo of Cookie doing a play bow.
I still have to get a photo or a movie of that somehow.

Positive emotions are at the foundation of good dog training.

What makes a reward a reward?

The happy feelings it brings.

Cookie loves our training games. She looks forward to the sessions and gets quite excited every time. I use treats and praise generously. I enjoy doing this with her because I can see that she enjoys it. We have a great time.

How much my emotions play into hers?

It seems that our happy feelings feed off of each other. One thing in particular made me realize how important my emotions are to Cookie.

To keep things fun and interesting, we work on different things and throw in a new trick every now and then.

I decided to try to teach Cookie to play bow as a trick.

I chose a time when I knew she was likely to offer play bows to solicit play from me. There are times through the day I KNOW she's going to do that. I had my treats ready and when she offered a play bow I marked and rewarded.

To encourage another play bow, I crouched down, stuck out my tongue and panted (I did that before to indicate I was ready to play with her; you see, I'm trying to speak dog--it does work, btw). Worked like a charm. Cookie did a play bow and I marked and rewarded.

Took all but couple of repetitions and Cookie started offering play bows.

I was so excited. To me, this was so special. Then we played, of course.

Every time I asked for the play bows and got them, I was beside myself with excitement. Don't ask me why but this particular trick just makes me so happy.

Fast forward a little bit and Cookie now offers play bows every chance she gets.

So much so that I often have a hard time getting her do other things.

"Cookie, sit."
-play bow-
"Cookie, come."
-come and play bow-

I know that when I ask her to sit I should only reward when she sits. But how can one not reward a play bow? Because I still think it's the neatest thing ever.

So I have to be really careful now how I do things in order to get the actual sit or other behavior I want her to be doing.

The only thing that makes the difference between the play bow and any other ticks is my emotional response.

Cookie always gets a treat and praise for every trick. I am always happy and excited doing these things with her. But, apparently, the play bow makes me more happy than anything else.

And so Cookie wants to do play bows for me all the time.

Nothing made me truly realize how important emotions are in dog training than this experience.

Did you notice the role emotions play when training your dog?

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 


  1. One thing that I've learned is that if I'm frustrated, our dogs can't learn what I trying to train them, but when I'm having fun, they learn so fast!!!

    1. Even though everything else the same (as far as you know), right? Interesting; would confirm the idea that emotions are really important.

  2. I have written about emotions in training (I have taken several weekend workshops on the subject) and how to positively train a bow. (Once you get Cookie to stay in the bow, you can get great pictures- Wilhelm is best at his!) Training things your dog wants to do or that come naturally are always the most fun! You should join the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop on July 7th!

    1. The bow turned out to be the easiest trick to teach. Gotta work on her stay in it. Would love to join that hop, if you remind me.

  3. Not only do I notice them, it's actually the first thing I use in training. Emotion/acting/relationship first, other tools second. In a blog post I refer to this as "acting", because often we have to mask our real emotions in order to get what we want out of the dog. For example, I'm usually harried running to the front door when the mail carrier arrives, or anxious when I don't know who is there. I need to pretend to be very calm and in control because my dog Mort is fearful and a bit territorial of the door. But making sure I act that way has made a big difference in his behavior and training around the door without always needing to utilize management tools like the crate or him taking food to a different location. I love emotion in training. Happy excitement is such a great way to teach and learn together. My dog training instructor John Rogerson always said "If I can't HEAR you, you're not dog training!" (and he was always talking about using happy, excited, positive voices with the dogs we were training)... I loved that, and try to carry it with me all the time.

    1. That's great! And I'm happy to use this quote for my hubby, because at the reactive dog classes I think they can hear me at the next county. At least that's what hubby says.

  4. Haha!!! Oh John Rogerson would have adored that at our course. :) Oh by the way, we have our Tues Training Tips Hop (both of us hosts are big fans of relationship/emotion training) if you want to add it there: