Honey is a damn good dog. Certainly the best trained dog I’ve ever lived with. But she’s not perfect.
And after seven years training her, I’ve discovered the secret that would make her perfect. Do you want to know what it is? It’s to not let people mess up her training.
Keep The Humans Away From The Dog
Honey walks beautifully on leash. She stays close off-leash. She sits, lies down, and stays on cue.
But if you want to see her misbehave, just dangle her two favorite things in front of her nose: treats and human attention.
In fact, if I could keep all other humans away from Honey I’m sure she’d be perfect.
Of course, no one would be around to appreciate it.
Puppy Training Good Intentions
When Honey came home with us, I had big plans for her.
I wanted her to be nearly as good in public as a service dog. For that reason, I decided to never feed her human food from the table.
Why start off by teaching a dog to beg?
Seven years on, what do you think Honey does when we’re eating?
I’ll give you a hint. There’s a big drool stain on the boat carpet next to our dining table.
Why do you think that is?
Here’s another hint. The big drool stain is suspiciously close to where my husband sits to eat.
You’re smart. You don’t need me to spell it out. You already know why Honey begs.
It’s because I couldn’t keep one particular human away from her.
Humans On Shore Leave
Our live on the boat takes us to popular tourist areas. We can’t walk ten yards in St. Augustine, Florida or Jekyll’s Island, Georgia without some vacationer who left their dogs in a kennel coming running up to us.
“Can I pet your dog?”
Or even worse, “Can I give your dog a treat?”
That dog-loving human is a dog trainer’s worst nightmare. Because what they teach Honey is that if she wiggles around and gets over-aroused, she’s going to get some attention.
And even better (from Honey’s point of view), some bacon.
Finally, I’ve had to start disappointing people. I don’t allow them to pet Honey until she sits calmly for the attention. And I no longer allow any strangers to give her treats.
The last thing I need is for my overenthusiastic golden retriever to bounce a small child or somebody’s grandmother into the water because they wanted to offer her a treat at dockside.
Training The Perfect Dog When Humans Get In The Way
I’ve thought about this a lot. And I’ve come up with a few secrets to keep humans from getting in the way of training the perfect dog.
Just Say No
I’ve gotten very good at telling people, “No, I’m sorry. You can’t give Honey a treat. It makes her too excited.”
Sometimes the person insists on giving me a little something for Honey to have later. Then I use it for a training treat when she behaves calmly or follows a cue.
Pick Your Battles
The human-who-will-not-be-named and who sits on the boat beside a big drool stain on the carpet gets a lot of gratification from sharing little nibbles with Honey.
I’m obviously not going to retrain him to “neglect” Honey when she’s obviously starving.
But I can channel the feeding in a new direction. Since I’ve asked the human-who-will-not-be-named to only feed Honey when she’s lying down calmly, she has been acting much better around the dinner table.
Redirect The Human
Redirection works with strangers too.
Yes, people find it gratifying to feed Honey. But it’s even more fun when she gives them a big “high-five.”
I haven’t done a lot of trick training with Honey. But I’m very glad I taught her to “high-five.”
No one has ever complained about not giving Honey a treat or a big squeeze once I tell her to tap their hands with her paw.
I guess Honey won’t be perfect as long as humans aren’t. And I can live with that.
As I said, she’s a smart and talented girl and I’m thrilled every day to have her in my life.
But if I feel an urgent call to train her to be perfect, I know the secret.
I just have to sail off to a remote island where there aren’t other humans to mess up her training.
And then if she isn’t perfect, I know it’s all my fault.
Photo Credit: The image of Honey and Mike is by Alice G Patterson.
Your Turn: How do you deal with humans who hinder your training goals?
We are pleased to be joining the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier, Wag ‘n Woof Pets, and Travels with Barley. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Training the Humans”. How do we get strangers or even our own family members to help and not hinder with training?”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not!