Train Your Dog for Happiness?

We train our dogs for many reasons. Not the least of which is to keep her from being a nuisance. But I’ve found an even better reason.

Training makes my dog happy.

What makes your dog happy?

Ho hum, we’re going for a walk. What else have you got for me?

Training Lights Up My Dog

People who meet Honey at the door mistakenly think she’s a very happy girl.

She isn’t. It’s just her extroverted nature coming out.

Most of the time she’s quiet, thoughtful, and calm. She’s rarely giddy or exuberant. But when I get out the clicker and some treats, her eyes light up. She bounces on her feet. She’s happy.

Does training make your dog happy?

Look at me with my paws up on the bench. Now this is fun!

Why Training Makes My Dog Happy

I’ve tried to figure out why training makes Honey so happy. At first, I thought it was all about the treats.

But it’s more than that. Because she doesn’t respond the same way when I give her a treat in the kitchen for no reason.

Scientists studying dog emotions and cognition might disagree. But here’s what I think is going through Honey’s mind when we’re training.

Anticipation

We all talk about how dogs are so present in the moment. It’s true. But Honey’s memories of past fun make her excited about what’s coming next.

Mastery

When I’m first trying to capture a new behavior, Honey is antic. And confused. She doesn’t understand what I want.

But once she makes the connection and figures it out, her expression changes. Knowing she’s mastered something makes her very happy.

Collaboration

Wolves hunt in packs. Their near relatives, dogs, collaborate more successfully with humans than any other species on earth.

I think that working with me to meet a goal is ingrained in Honey’s DNA. And I think it makes her happy.

Treats

And yes. Of course, there are the treats.

Honey loves food. It makes her happy.

Does training make your dog happy?

I’d look much happier showing off my trick if my paws were better groomed. This is so embarrassing.

Pamela Sees the Light

I used to think training was only for teaching a dog good behavior. I didn’t understand why people taught their dogs to roll over and play dead.

But over time, I’ve seen the light.

Train Your Dog Month ChallengeI’ve certainly enjoyed what training with Honey has done for our relationship. And I’ve watched with joy to see the fun things other people are training their dogs to do.

I’ve especially enjoyed reading the entries in this year’s Train Your Dog Month Challenge. And I continue to be inspired by my co-hosts at Alfie’s Blog and Rescued Insanity.

We’re down to our last day in the Train Your Dog Month Challenge. So if you did something cool with your dog in January that helped you build your bond, share it here.

Saturday I’ll announce the winner of the prize, a $25 donation to their favorite pet charity and a fun box of goodies.

Make Your Dog Happy

I have a list of things that make Honey happy:

  • long walks
  • cuddling on the couch
  • snacks
  • training
  • snacks
  • meeting new people
  • squeaky toys
  • playing with other dogs
  • oh, and snacks

When I start the day trying to figure out what I can do to make Honey happy, my day goes better. It’s even worth not getting something else done to fit a happiness activity into our day.

I want you to be happy too.

So make your own list of things that make your dogs happy. And go do one. I guarantee you won’t find anything else likely to make you happy with so little effort.

Your Turn: Does training make your dog happy? What goes to the top of his happiness list?

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Comments

  1. I need to make a list of my two pups’ favorite things. That’s something that Ian Dunbar suggested in the video I just reviewed, a top ten list of things your dog loves so that you can use them as real-life rewards!

  2. This is a fabulous post and so right on! Whenever I open the drawer where I keep the clickers, the boys rush over, wagging with bright eyes. I know how much FUN they have when we train, and fun is happy! I’m going to work on a “happy” list for each of the boys. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. If I might so bold as to suggest, maybe Honey enjoys bonding with the people she cares about. :-)

    Delilah is super crazy about the food, if there was any reason in the world that she wanted to train, it would be for the food.

  4. I always think it is interesting to see what “unusual” commands people teach their dogs for their own situations. Our favorite is obstacle when on a leash. Mom says that word and we take note that there is a tree or something we are about to wrap around and go the other way to avoid that happening. Simple, but extremely helpful.

  5. Onyxx just wants the food. Mr. N, I think enjoys the mental challenge and working with me. Plus I think he’s a show-off.

  6. Margaret T says:

    I think all my dogs have enjoyed the undivided attention. Plus, the pay-off was fun and/or tasty!

  7. Honey’s list sounds like Moses’ and Alma’s, which would go something like this:
    – dinner time
    – attention
    – walks
    – cheese
    – swimming
    – peanut butter
    – fetch (Alma) / tug (Moses)
    – bully sticks
    – off-leash park

    They’ve got it good – guaranteed at least 3 every day.

  8. I would training definitely makes our dogs happy. Any time they have our full attention, they are happy, truth be told. Going to new places and seeing new things also makes them extremely happy!

  9. I think it’s all about the individual attention each one gets and learning something new. I too have really only used behavioral training and realized my dogs really don’t know any fun tricks and neither do I. I’ve never really understood doing tricks. With all that has been going on I didn’t have any time to teach something fun. So I’m asking for help in my recent post. Come on by if you got one!

  10. BD and Mity both go crazy when they get the chance to do some training. It is such a joy. I am now wracking my brains for new tricks to teach. When they learn something new they are both so funny, Mity will pull out all the old tricks to see if any of those will get the treat (he is food obsessed!) BD will try a couple of things before giving up and standing and barking at me!

  11. If training isn’t fun, then it is time to reconsider the training method. Maya and Pierson love training. And I love training them. And you’re right, it’s not just about the treats. They love doing a trick or obedience that pleases me. They love the reward of a happy ear scratch or belly rub just as much as a reward of a treat. And it is so rewarding to connect and have a common understanding.

  12. Yes! Training *definitely* makes our dogs happy. And better behaved. Which means they get to go more places. Which makes them even happier. It’s the best snowball effect ever!

    For the service dogs, training is a necessity, of course. But our own dogs line up with their paws in the air when it’s time to train. And I love it even more because *they* love it.

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