Tag Archives: dog training

Is your dog annoying, too?

We’re going to do some myth-busting today. Despite all the training we do, the fact that we compete in Obedience, Rally, and Agility with our dogs, the fact is that our dogs are just as annoying as anyone’s.

There, we said it.

Annoying as all get-out

And we’re not alone among dog trainers. One of the best trainers we know, a woman who has earned multiple Obedience Trial Champion titles, has a dog who walks on her dining room table. While she’s eating. 

Let’s face it – dogs are annoying! No matter how well trained they are, no matter how much we love them – they get on our nerves sometimes.

It’s kind of like having kids. You always love them, but you don’t always like them too much. 

Tripping hazards

Our dogs’ favorite trick is blocking doorways. We don’t have any herding-type dogs, so the obsessive need to always control our exits and entrances has no basis in instinct. It’s just annoying. And the worst part is that, just as you’re stepping over them, they stand up. Which rarely ends well. Either we lose our balance and crash into something (like a doorframe), or we kick the dog. The whole “love them” part usually takes over and we crash rather than kick. 

When we start wearing shorts in warmer weather it’s completely normal to have “bruise inventory.” 

“Oh, that’s a nice one! Purple and green! How’d you get that one?”

“I have no idea.”

“Does it hurt?”

Pokes bruise. “Yes. Yes, it does. How’s yours from the other day?”

“Yellow now! Healing nicely!”

How much do you care?

Could we change the behavior and train them not to lie in doorways? Probably. Our dogs are certainly used to learning new stuff and love the training games we play.

Will we do it? Probably not. Because, just like every dog owner, our dogs are trained to our level of comfort. The things that are most important get trained. The things that are just mild annoyances, we don’t bother with.

We’ve all heard the advice to “pick your battles.” And that’s exactly what we do. We don’t have any wide, open spaces in our house. So, wherever the dogs are, they’re in the way. When we first bring a puppy home, everyone adopts the “puppy shuffle” way of walking – not lifting our feet so we don’t kick the puppy. There’s just nowhere else to go.

Annoying but cute

Other “naughty” behaviors fall into the “annoying but cute” category, so we wind up laughing rather than getting upset or “un-training” it.

Annoying! French Bulldog Torque's helping himself to a drink

Like Hope’s Torque thinking he has to sample any beverage, preferably adult, that Hope sets down on her side table. After the vet assured her that a few licks wouldn’t do any damage, Hope has just taught him to back off when she says “That’s all!” He thinks he’s getting away with something and, in all honesty, we do find it amusing. We’ve also switched to glasses with wider bottoms so his efforts don’t tip them over.

Fran’s little Boston Terrier Simon loves to eat stuff in the yard. It made Fran a little crazy, until she noticed that he was specifically targeting dandelions, which are actually pretty good for him. We don’t allow any chemicals in the yard, no fertilizer, weed killer, or pesticide, so we know he’s eating organic dandelions. And, like all our dogs, Simon’s learned that he gets what he wants when we get what we want. As long as he comes when called, he’s allowed to “graze” on his favorite dandelion treat.

What annoying things do your dogs do? And how often do those things make you laugh? Let us know!

What dog tricks does your pet know?

We’ve never met a dog who didn’t know at least a couple of dog tricks. “Shake” is the one we’ve seen most often from our four-legged customers, but almost every dog has a little repertoire of behaviors they know and love to show off.

Granted, most dogs know we’re incredibly soft touches and they’ll be getting rewarded mightily for their performances – but that doesn’t lessen the joy they have doing them, or the joy we get seeing them!

Speaking of joy

And that’s what playing training games with our dogs gives us – joy every single day. Most days we only play for a few minutes before work, so that we can start our day with a smile.

Tango, a Brussels Griffon, tapping a drum in his dog trick
Tango (Fran’s Brussels Griffon) is learning to play his drums!

And we’re not talking about the competition training stuff we do. We know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. We know we’re weird and we’re okay with that. 

But everybody loves teaching their dogs tricks. And everybody’s dog loves learning them! Even if you have absolutely no experience in any kind of dog training, you and your dog probably figured it out together. And it works. 

Get a Trick Title! 

You don’t have to go anywhere, attend any classes. Now Trick Titles are winnable via video and internet! We know it may not be something that was on your radar before – but if you’re spending lots of time at home (like most of us) and you’re getting tired of television (like most of us) and going a little stir-crazy (like most of us), it’s something to think about.

Earlier this year, when we lived in a different world, Hope earned her certification as an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator. Along with that, she can teach the Star Puppy Classes, and be an Evaluator for the Trick Dog Title. 

Stop saying “no!”

Before you get all “Oh, I can’t do that!” – yes, you can. As a matter of fact, your dog can probably already do almost enough of the tricks for the Novice Trick Dog title:

  • Get in a box
  • Sit in a box
  • Balance beam (walk on a board a few inches off the floor)
  • Bark on cue
  • Crawl
  • Fetch it (and bring it back)
  • Find it 
  • Get your ____
  • High Five
  • Jump
  • Kennel up
  • Kiss
  • Push-ups
  • Shake hands
  • Touch it
  • Tunnel

A dog has to complete just 10 tricks to get the title!

Something to do

Aren’t you just itching to try some tricks? You know your dog can do that stuff! Check out our video “fun with a box.” It’s really where all the fun training starts. Teaching your dog anything all boils down to learning to reward the good stuff and ignore the rest. Get a box. And get our Trick Training Log. We developed all kinds of training logs so you can keep track of where you are in your journey. 

And when you’re ready – get in touch! Hope will be absolutely delighted to evaluate those videos. If you’re not ready, get in touch for some help. We’ll be happy to guide you on this fun, new adventure!

Generally speaking, dogs don’t. Generalize, that is

Dogs don’t generalize. Not situations, objects, behaviors, nothing.

There’s a saying in dog training – every dog’s a trial champion in the kitchen. And that pretty much sums up the entire difference between people and dogs. 

Brain differences

Hope came up with a pretty good analogy explaining this to her obedience competition students this week. When you learned how to use a fork, you knew how to use a fork. No matter what the fork looked like. Or what it was made of. Everyplace you ate a meal, you still knew what a fork was for and how to use it. That’s “generalizing” the behavior.

Dogs have to be taught to do that. Not use a fork. Generalize behaviors for all places and situations. Just because your dog knows how to “sit” on command everywhere in your house doesn’t mean he’ll know how outside. Or at the vet’s office, park, training class, pet supply shop. 

Not starting from zero

French Bulldog Torque can generalize "sit" in different places
Torque sitting at home. And at an agility trial. He generalizes “sit” anywhere we go.

Dogs will pick up on the similarity pretty quickly. But it stymies people at first when they stumble across this fundamental difference between people and dogs. Just today, a young couple was telling us that their wonderful, 12-week-old puppy knows how to sit, stay, lie down, even “give paw” when they’re at home. But when they took her to the vet and tried to show off her skills, she knew nothing. 

A puppy that young doesn’t really “know” any of the behaviors reliably, of course. Instead, she knows that when her people act a certain way and make those sounds, she’ll get a treat if she does something. So she does something. (By the way – whenever we think about what dogs hear when we talk, we get a mental cartoon of the Peanuts gang listening to adults. Don’t you?)

Analyze your own behavior

Chances are your dog is picking up lots of cues from you to indicate which “thing” you want him to do. At some point they do recognize actual words you’re using. But, especially early on, most of the information your dog understands comes from body language. If you always hold the treat in a certain hand and use a gesture when you say “sit,” all of those things are part of the dog’s understanding of what you want.

Competition obedience requires that certain commands be either word or gesture. Not both. And some dogs are better at understanding voice commands, others prefer the visual. When we first discovered this with our own dogs, we thought it was fascinating that, once again, dogs are just like us! Some people learn better by listening, others by reading. 

Generalize can spreads like crazy

Once your dog understands the concept “here is the same as home” the notion will spread fast. Dogs can learn to generalize. Most times you don’t have to re-teach the idea for every behavior. As long as you stay consistent with your words and body language, your dog will understand what you’re asking. But be sure to remember the treats

Dog barking making you crazy? Change it!

Dogs bark. Unless you have a “barkless” breed – barking is what they do. It’s how they communicate. It gets them the attention they want. And it’s their instinct as part of “protecting” their territory.

But your dog’s barking can also be incredibly annoying and inappropriate. Like when they have to let you know about every leaf blowing down the street.

Change is possible, but not easy

No one ever told us that it’s simple to get the things we really want in life. Changing your dog’s barking behavior is no different. It’ll take some time, some patience, and persistence. And you’ll have to accept that the longer it’s been allowed, the longer it’ll take to change. Habit, not love or gravity, is the most powerful force in the universe.

The first thing to look at is how you’ve reacted to the annoyance of your dog barking over time. If you’ve always yelled at your dog to “shut up!,” chances are he thinks you’re barking too. He may think the two of you are having a lovely conversation. Dogs don’t really distinguish between kinds of attention – as long as they’re getting some, even if it’s negative, they’re probably okay with that.

What’s first

So, if you can’t yell at your dog to be quiet, what do you do? 

Come up with something else:

  • Turn away from your dog and speak in a whisper
  • Leave the room
  • Squeak a toy and toss it the other way
  • Ask your dog to do something else – sit, down, spin, any “trick” he knows
  • Close the drapes/blinds

That last one is a biggie if your dog is one to sit by the window or door and comment on everything happening in the neighborhood. It’s the first step in modifying behavior – take control of the situation and shape the situation so learning can happen.

What’s next?

Once you understand what’s going on, how your dog is manipulating you (we’re all well-trained by our dogs!), and what you can do to change it, you’re on track for a happier, quieter life for everyone. 

We’ve recently been going through this with Hope’s yard-barking French Bulldog, Torque. We have neighboring dogs that bark at ours. One even charges the fence. Torque became pretty obsessed with “patrolling” the yard, looking for the interlopers. He even began barking to lure his “enemies” into range.

Unacceptable barking

Keeping Torque on leash and just managing the situation wasn’t improving it. We want to be able to enjoy being outside (after the weather warms up – January isn’t ideal). We want our dogs to be able to wander the yard, sniff around, be dogs, without annoying us and the rest of the neighborhood.

French Bulldog barking at fence

The key to changing the behavior is figuring out what’s more valuable to the dog than being “naughty.” It’s easy in Torque’s case – he loves toys. He also loves treats, and he adores training sessions with Hope.  Because Torque gets super-excited with toys, Hope opted to use treats to teach him better neighbor-manners.

She felt very brave, taking him out without the “security blanket” of the leash. Sure enough, Torque took up his station staring through the chain-link fence into the next yard. And gave a bark. And Nikko, the Husky who lives there, appeared around the corner of the house. 

Of course Torque spotted him, too. And started barking. Hope moved into his line of sight and quietly said his name. As soon as he glanced at her, he found a treat in his mouth. Surprise! Good boy! Hope moved so Torque, facing her, was angled slightly away from the fence. He turned a bit, then back and barked. 

Again, Hope moved so Torque had to see her. He looked at her and found another treat in his mouth! Good boy! And she moved away from the fence, talking to him and keeping his attention. 

Just then Nikko “woofed.” We think he realized he was losing his audience. But by that time, Torque realized that he was in the middle of a game with his “mom,” and chose her. Win!

Not fixed yet

The behavior isn’t “cured” in one session. It will be many more before we can be sure that our dog will “mind his own business” in the yard rather than looking for trouble. But it’s a start we can build on. 

As with all behavior modification, it will be a “two steps forward and one step back” progression. There will be days when we don’t feel like doing it. And days we don’t have the time to work on it. That’s okay. We have a start, and a plan. 

Help is available!

If you’d like more insight and help understanding your dog’s behavior, be sure to check out 2-Minute-Trainer.com. As a member of our group you’ll learn how to meaningfully communicate with your dog and live your best lives together.