Yuck. It’s April Fool’s Day.
I hate it.
Visiting online news sites with a cynical eye. Waiting for the “gotcha” in every conversation.
Seems like a good day to avoid human contact.
I’m glad Honey’s trainer gave me a reason not to join the April Fool’s “fun.” He told me: “Don’t fool your dog.”
It’s good advice.
Fooling Your Dog
Fool our dogs? What does that mean?
C’mon. We’ve all done it.
- Shaken the box of cookies to get your dog’s attention.
- Pretended to throw a ball and then laughed when he went running for what we had hidden behind our backs.
- Hidden a favorite toy under a blanket or pillow.
I don’t mean to say that playing games with our dogs is a bad thing.
But we must be careful not to break their trust in us. Because trust is the most important part of our relationships with our dogs.
Building Trust With Your Dog
I used to think that feeding, exercising, and sheltering my dog was enough. That’s not true for me any more.
Now I work to nurture a bond with Honey. To be the most interesting, fun, and trustworthy person she knows.
Yes, it makes training much easier. And it makes living with Honey more fun.
I no longer own a dog. I have a relationship with a beautiful creature who is very different from and yet eerily similar to me.
Sometimes we’re lucky to start with an advantage.
Some dogs, because of their breed characteristics, early socialization, or personality, have trust built-in. Think of that German shepherd who would die before leaving his person’s side. Or that amazing mutt who never wears a leash and yet walks right beside his person no matter what.
But if your dog has a more independent nature, you have to work harder to nurture trust. And the cost of fooling your dog is higher.
And trust is particularly important to build with a fearful dog.
My golden retriever Honey is a timid girl. It’s easy to convince her I’m trustworthy and fun on an off-leash walk. She constantly returns to “check in” with me.
It’s much harder to convince her to trust me when I’m leading her over grates in the sidewalk, near swinging objects, or down a swaying boat ramp. The last thing I want to do is damage her trust in me for a few seconds of laughing at my dog.
If you don’t mind, I prefer not to fool my dog.
How Not to Fool Your Dog
The rules for not fooling your dog are simple.
- If you promise food, give it.
- Let your dog in on the joke. If you pretend to throw a ball for your dog, don’t laugh too long before showing it and encouraging your dog to find it.
- Make hiding toys or treats a fun game for both of you. Start with a toy or stinky treat partially hidden and teach your dog to explore increasingly harder hiding places. It could be your own version of nose work games.
- If you click (even if it was a mistake), you gotta treat.
I promise you won’t miss out on too much fun. You’ll definitely improve your bond. And your dog won’t feel stupid like we do when someone “gets” us on April Fool’s Day.
A Magician Fooling Dogs
The following video is very popular. As you can imagine, I didn’t find it as fun as many people did (especially when I saw fearful Sälli).
But it’s an example of dog lovers having fun fooling dogs.
Watch it and tell me what you think.
Your Turn: What do you think of fooling dogs? Does your dog find it good fun? Or does he react poorly to it?