Train Your Dog, Build Your Bond

The Real Challenge is Deciding What to Do

Once again, it’s Train Your Dog Month. Should I teach Honey to pull children from burning buildings? Dance the Merengue? Climb a ladder?

She could learn all of those things. But I can’t teach them.

In past challenges, I tried to train Honey to ride in her Doggy Ride bicycle cart and to have more fun with grooming by jumping in and out of the tub.

Honey the Golden Retriever rides in her bike trailer.

Our first year’s challenge was to teach Honey how to ride in her bike cart.

This year, I thought of teaching Honey to use the nifty porch potty we won from Kol’s Notes. It would help us see if Honey is likely to potty on the deck of a sailboat if we live aboard some day.

But then I saw myself shivering in the cold coaxing Honey to approach a potty. Nah. The whole idea of the challenge is to improve my relationship with Honey. Not to find new ways to suffer together. So the potty will wait until spring.

And then I got it. Relationship. That’s the key.

With a foster dog in the house, Honey has

  • suffered shorter, slower walks
  • shared her toys
  • waited for treats while Ginny fails to understand the “sit” cue
Honey the golden retriever wrestles with the foster dog, Ginny the beagle.

I can’t believe a dog whose sweater clashes with the rug is biting my face off.

So no practical skill or lifestyle training this year. We’re just going to have fun. For the pure love of being together and learning silly things.

Honey has already started learning some fun tricks

  • pushing a door closed with her nose (can I get her to open it too?)
  • jumping up to touch a target with her nose
  • weaving between my legs

But what we do together isn’t important. It’s all about spending time together and giving Honey the chance to do something she loves—working for treats.

Join the Train Your Dog Month Challenge

I love reading about everyone’s Train Your Dog Month Challenges. You can find them in the linky tools here and here. I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year.

And it will be even better because Alfie of Alfie’s Blog and Kristine and Shiva (and the cat?) of Rescued Insanity are joining me as co-hosts.

Train Your Dog Month ChallengeSo figure out what you want to do. You’ll find 52 great cues to teach your dog here (they go from simple to more difficult). Grab a badge for your sidebar. And link up with us at the end of the month so we can see what you and your dog (or cat or ferret or bird or rat or even your husband—we’re ecumenical here) did to build your relationship through training.

From the linky list, we’ll pick one training team at random to win a $25 donation to their favorite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog.

And the most important thing to remember: do not stress out. The goal is not to teach a perfect trick. The goal is to use training time to build the bond with your dog.

Now get training. And build that relationship.

Your Turn: What have you trained your dog to do? What has your dog trained you to do?


Here’s the HTML code you can copy to put the badge in your blog sidebar (make sure you replace the “smart” quotes with “dumb” quotes before saving):

<a href=”” target=”_blank”> <img src=”″ alt=”Train Your Dog Month Challenge” border=”0″ />


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  1. We’re in – lots of things to train Jack to do, but we are going to seriously work on his recall. Maggie is tougher because she still has a lot of fear, so it’s hard to train her, but we’ll figure something out. Interesting your note about Honey building patience waiting for treats. That happens to Jack too – he has his basic commands and sits before I even ask him….Maggie takes her time and ponders whether she wants to sit and is there any danger in sitting and poor Jack waits and waits…I guess learning patience is good for an ‘exuberant’ fella like him.

    • Good luck with the recall. If we only teach our dogs one thing, that would get my vote.

      As for Maggie, have you trained her to go to a safe place, like a mat? When we had a fearful foster dog, we put a towel on the ground and trained her to “go to your place.” After she had it down in the house, I took the towel with us on walks. If I saw something potentially scary up the block (a person with a broom, a loud car, etc.) I’d put the towel on the ground and give her the cue.

      Eventually, she was able to associate the towel cue which was easy for her indoors with safety even when scary things happened outside.

      This tool was suggested by our trainer and I really helped.

      • She does associate her bed indoors with her safe place and interestingly, out of the house and yard she is pretty fearless – her inner dog takes over. We do have a ‘spot’ where we do training – it’s an area rug too big to carry around though…The thing with her is that before she does a sit or down she has to stop look around, figure out if there any potential dangers and THEN she’ll sit – she always looks behind her for someone or something sneaking up on her. I think she’d like a little bubble in the house. And now that she is injured, Steve has to pick her up sometimes and well…that doesn’t go over well. Something we will have to practice when she is better too.

        • Poor Maggie. I wonder if she was a Mafia hit man in an earlier life. That would explain her need to look out for safety before she sits down.

  2. Pamela, I haven’t yet figured out what I will be working with Delilah on this month, maybe not to jump up and take the butter? LOL But I do have to say, your captions on your pictures make me laugh, so thank you. That is a wonderful gift!

    • OMD, this is supposed to be a low-stress challenge. And you’re talking about teaching a lab not to counter surf butter? 🙂

      BTW, thanks so much for mentioning the captions. I’m so embarrassed by my bad photos that I try to make up for it with cute captions. But no one ever mentions them. So I wonder if I’m just making bad pictures worse with unfunny captions. :p

  3. Rooo this is gonna be a totally pawsome month! I’m starting my agility classes on Monday and my human tells me she’s gonna teach me some tricks to make me stronger and more agile, so agility training will be safer! *Waggy tail*

  4. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband:
    Here on the eve of the third running of this annual event, I find myself looking back and wondering if I have ever thanked my wife for not creating a Something Wagging Train Your Husband Challenge.

    • Hmmm, what a good idea. Now what would I train first? To stop eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon (the human equivalent of counter surfing)? Or to pick up your toys?

  5. Daddy and i are going to be working on me running with the bike:-)

    • Wow, I can’t wait to see this. I suspect Honey would like running beside the bike more than riding in the cart. But I don’t trust my bicycling skills enough to try it.

  6. Thanks again for including me in this! If anyone needs to dedicate some serious time to training, it is me. My single resolution this year is to spend more time with my dog and I hope this month will give me a great foundation. I can’t wait to read what everyone comes up with and hopefully get some ideas for myself!

    • I’m sure Shiva will love all the undivided attention. And, of course, the treats. Looking forward to hearing how your month goes.

  7. Ha ha ha! This is part of our blog post for tomorrow. Flattery is going to learn about the clicker and that it means good things, and Bunny is going to start learning “on it” to make some of our nursing home visits easier. I’m looking forward to it, especially since it’s going to be too cold next week to even think about venturing outside any longer than absolutely necessary!

  8. We’re in! In fact, I’ve been trying to write about it all day but keep getting distracted… as soon as I’m finished with this comment, I’ll finish my post because you just helped me tie a bow around it! 🙂 My delay was that I’ve been stumped with what to do with Emmett, but you’ve inspired me. I’ve been thinking in terms of setting up and completing a particular task rather than lifestyle training. I adore that concept! Thanks for the shove in the right direction!

  9. I’m on board! Or, we’re on board, I guess. With four dogs and a cat in the house it will be a busy month 😉 Not that it isn’t always. One boy is learning nosework, one is working on “stay,” our foster puppy mill dog will be working on walking on a leash and my crazy girl… what isn’t she learning? Looking forward to seeing how the month wraps up!

  10. Hello Honey!

    We have just discovered your blog and quite frankly – we love it! We (my dogs and myself) have a passion for training and are definitely in for the challenge! My dogs are each at different stages of training (my Westie being the most progressed!) and they all have some stuff to improve on! Especially my Shih Tzu puppy, Brooke! She needs to learn recall properly so that we can let her off the lead (we have started making progress and I let her off the lead for 15 minutes the other day!!! We’re very proud of her).

    Be sure to pop over to our blog!

    • Happy to meet you! And thrilled to see what you and Brooke are working on.

      Glad to know you’re joining the Train Your Dog Month Challenge.

  11. Pamela! I love your blog! I just found it after doing a search for how fostering affects dogs, since we just gave up our first foster and my dog is acting pretty glum. So happy to read your opinion that it builds resilience… I think you must be right! :0)

    Love the idea of a training challenge. You’ve inspired me to do the same with my good boy, Django. Thank you for writing!!

  12. Hello, I found your blog through Kristine. I plan to join this challenge, heaven knows training with a vizsla never stops. Actually I think it will just be good for her and I to work together more this year, we always plan to but things get in the way as I am busy with so many other dogs. Hopefully this challenge will keep me more accountable.
    I blogged about it already, but am new to the badge idea but I will try and sit down and figure it all out. But just know I am joining you all.
    This month we have been working on laying on a mat, the goal was to relax on the mat. But we are having some trouble on keeping quiet and relaxed.
    Thanks for hosting

  13. We participated but could not find the hop.Here’s the link to our post Golden Thanks


  1. […] This Way Comes has once more been generous enough to dedicate her time to promoting the annual Train Your Dog Month Challenge. As much as I may loathe resolutions, I do appreciate the theory behind the yearly event. […]

  2. […] and I are co-hosting a bloghop with Pamela over at Something Wagging This Way Comes and Kristin and Shiva over at Rescued Insanity, so all you need to do is figure out what you want […]

  3. […] For Emmett, I was stumped. I honestly hit the wall. He’s rock steady out and about. He’s not “perfect” by any stretch, but there’s nothing we need to desensitize him to, there’s nothing he needs to learn, experience, or do differently. This post sat in my drafts folder all morning because I just couldn’t come up with anything for him. Then, I had a complete light bulb moment while reading Pamela’s post at Something Wagging This Way Comes. […]

  4. […] your dog month here but nothing wrong with putting specific goals to a routine thing, might be fun! Something Wagging This Way Comes has issued a training challenge for the month so I will take her up on […]

  5. […] Wagging this way comes which looks like it’s going to be a great resource.  She has a Train your Dog Challenge up for 2014 which sounds like a great idea. So that’s where we will start, we will […]

  6. […] through “Train Your Dog Month” and working hard on the training challenge issued by Something Wagging This Way Comes, Alfie’s Blog and Rescued Insanity. So with only a couple of weeks to go, I figured I would […]

  7. […] is my goal to keep all this close to my heart as Shiva and I work on our challenges for Train Your Dog Month. Along with my talented co-hosts, I am keeping the focus on building our bond. Something Wagging […]

  8. […] and I are co-hosting a bloghop with Pamela over at Something Wagging This Way Comes and Kristin and Shiva over at Rescued Insanity at the end of this month. To join the hop, all […]

  9. […] January Train Your Dog Month challenge is a good excuse to start early to get her […]

  10. […] We are joining this post to Something Wagging Train Your Dog Build Your Bond […]

  11. […] working on learning some new things for Bunny and Flattery as part of Pamela’s challenge on Something Wagging This Way Comes.  I wanted Bunny to start learning “on it” so she could be a more effective nursing […]

  12. […] may have read a bit about the train your dog monthly challenge I joined, if not you can find info here. I still need to figure out how to link up with the other blogs, and add a badge to my site. Anyone […]

  13. […] us on our toes and help keep her mentally sharp.  So when the Train Your Dog Challenge, hosted by Something Wagging This Way Comes, Rescued Insanity and Alfie’s Blog came up, I wondered, just what exactly am I going to train […]