Be a Thinker, Not a Stinker

                                         by Nancy vonKoehnen

“Be a thinker, not a stinker.” – Apollo Creed


My nephew has this automatically added to his emails & it made me think about dog training this week when I communicated with him about a family visit.

It may be because of a minor conflict one student’s dog just had.  It might be because I’m trying to get my nosework students prepared for upcoming nosework trials.  Maybe it’s because I’m working hard on making sure my dog and I are prepared for our first higher level nosework trial this fall.

Whatever the reason, I wanted to write about this concept…be a thinker!  Whatever you do with your dog, please take the time to think ahead of time.  Dogs LEARN every day!  Dogs LEARN every minute they are with us!

Does your dog want to go outside?  Think about how this can be an easy training time giving the dog what he wants!  I use dog giving me attention before he goes outside but it could be a sit.  I just got up from my chair & walked to the door to give my dog what he wanted.  So why shouldn’t he give me something I want?  Something we need to practice for freestyle and rally competitions = attention with him looking at me!  But for you, this could be a sit so your dog doesn’t rush the door trying to get out before you open it.

My dog often puts his head on my legs at night as I sit to watch TV.  I put a name to this behavior (as I like to name everything my dog does!  Who knows when these things may come in handy!?).  This is called ‘chin’ by me but is offered freely by many dogs who want something.  Trav’ler wants to get into my lap.  Altho he’s a full grown Golden Retriever, I had him in my lap working on name recognition as a puppy traveling home from the breeder where I got him out of state.  He remembers being in my lap when he was only 8 weeks old but now as a 73 pound dog, he still thinks he should sometimes get into my lap!  OK – I admit that I DO sometime let him get into my lap.   BUT I do WAIT for him to give me attention so he can earn what he wants!  (Attention is my default behavior for him!  Why not have him want to give it to me rather than me have to management him all of the time at competition & ask for it?  Much easier for him to just offer it freely!)

I keep a journal as regularly as possible because I also compete in rally, freestyle, rally-free, and nosework.  When I write in my journal what I wanted to do, what I accomplished, and what was successful that day, I also write out things that I should work on the next time I train.  I try to THINK ahead!

I challenge you to also think ahead.  No matter what you do with your dog.  How can you add some brief connection with your dog so that your dog is the best dog ever – for you, for your family, for competing?!

Think about when you take your dog for a walk.  Think about when you take your dog for a ride.  Think about feeding time.  By adding one little training moment with your dog, you can add so much value to what you want from your dog – even if it’s a better connection between the 2 of you!

Think ahead also for what you might encounter on a walk or going for a ride.  How can you prepare to help your dog be the dog you want during these times?  Take some treats in your pocket for a walk so you can reward your dog for making the right choices & walking on a loose leash or not visiting with a dog you pass if you want him to walk on.   Take some poop bags in case on a ride, your dog decides he has to potty.  Treats will come in handy when your dog is on leash.  Poop bags will make you a more responsible dog owner!

Enjoy your time with your dog….but think about your time!