5 Great Things I’ve Learned About Dogs (and 5 Great Teachers Who Taught Them)

Once we get beyond what to feed our dog and how to exercise her, we still have lots to learn. Who are our teachers?

Here are just a few of my teachers and the lessons they’ve taught that enhance my relationship with Honey every day.

Use one special word for calling your dog and always partner it with exceptional treats. (behaviorist I met over 20 years ago whose name I’ve forgotten)

To make sure Agatha and Christie learned to come every time we called them, my teacher suggested we use the term “come come.” It’s not used commonly in speaking so it won’t get overused and ignored. Always provide really excellent treats and only use the phrase when you absolutely know your dog will come to you.

It works.

Who cares if your dog walks in front of you, behind you, or beside you? It’s only important that she realizes you’re connected to each other and that she doesn’t pull you down the street. (Kelly, visiting behaviorist at local SPCA)

Boy, did this take the pressure off! And it helped me think about what I really wanted from Shadow–to not be pulled off my feet on icy sidewalks and to return from a walk without bleeding hands. I never did get a good “heel” from Shadow but who cares? I never needed her to do that anyway.

Golden Retrievers, in particular, are so social they shouldn’t be left alone for long. Take Honey to work with you. (Beth, Honey’s breeder)

I always came home at lunch for Shadow. But she was 10 years old and pretty content sleeping alone.

I got permission to bring Honey to work with me and I really think it shaped our relationship in a special way. And socialized her to a very high level.

If you watch dogs greeting on leash, you’ll see that they wrestle and move together in a circle. If the leash holders move in a circle too, the dogs won’t get so tangled. (Rebecca, behaviorist and trainer at local SPCA)

Duh! This is so true. But I never realized it until Rebecca mentioned it. I always stood stock still and then had to wrestle with tangled leashes.

Surprise your dog on walks. Don’t become predictable by always doing the same thing. You want to be the most exciting and interesting thing to your dog on a walk. (Victoria Schade, author of Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship)

I’ve always realized that walks are for our dogs and not for us. So I’ve been content to wait during long sniffies and have always tried to pick routes where I know there would be interesting smells. But Schade brings this idea to a whole new level when she talks about incorporating surprises into your walk so your dog is always waiting to see what you do next.

Now, when we approach the front door, Honey never knows if we’re going in or heading in another direction on our walk. She doesn’t know if we’ll be going to the waterfalls or walking through the neighborhoods. Sometimes our walk will include agility moves.

Because of this, Honey’s always making eye contact on our walks–wondering what we’ll do next. And I have a lot more fun too!

What lessons have you learned over the years? And who were your teachers? And are you teachers for others?

One last thank you to Gina Spadafori over at Pet Connection whose post about guest puppies got me thinking about the things we have to learn with a new dog and the teachers who share them.

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  1. You have some very good ideas, there! We’ve been lucky with our dogs being very well-mannered and social for the most part, and we’ve had some creative solutions to some of the problems we’ve encountered. It’s good to think about these things from time to time.