I came across something amazing on the internet today. A picture with a simple message written on it.
Want Today’s WiFi password?
Following that question was a short list of chores that I’m assuming the children within the house had to complete if they wanted the all important WiFi password.
This brings upon a certain point that is quite easy to make in dog training. If your dog enjoys something, he shouldn’t get it for free! Many people hear this statement from dog trainers and think they are trying to be mean, but actually it’s the exact opposite.
Dogs have natural work ethic
You see most dog owners don’t realize that their dog likely has tremendous work ethic already. Many dogs truly enjoy working or having a job to do, but by allowing a dog access to all the things he enjoys for free, we are not allowing him to showcase that work ethic.
Think of it this way. Many people know that person who must have a job or something to do, not necessarily because they want one but because they need one. I see this very frequently with the baby boomers who have retired. These people are so acclimated to having a job and a purpose that the sudden shift into retirement has a profound psychological effect on them if they don’t have activities or things to fill the time that would normally be filled with work. My theory is unless you can fill your 9-5 with an activity that you can do daily, you’ll fall into this psychological hole pretty easy after some time.
Without knowing it, we’re forcing our dogs into retirement far to early by removing the ability to work for the things they truly want. Things like food, toys and even our affection. Affection might be strange to lump into this category, but I’ll tell you from my time as being a dating coach that many people—even if they believe they were meant for each other on the first meeting—love the first part of a relationship to be interesting and a game of chase. If things are just easy from the start, it becomes boring fast for most younger people.
So what is the solution? How do we fix this problem of early retirement in our dogs?
There’s a handful of things that I normally tell people when they ask me about this question, and one of the first two things I implement is working for food and play. It makes me sad when I see a dog who has learned to self-satisfy on a ball or tug toy because that means he’s learned to do it himself because the human likely won’t. It’s about the same as a kid playing by himself. Though it’s possible for the two not to be attached, I would much rather make a social event out of both food and play rather than allow it to exist alone.
Think of it this way. Would you rather play basketball alone or with friends? Would you rather eat your favorite food alone, or with a group of people you love? Play and Food are both social events that need to be observed as such before they can be used effectively.
So instead of putting food down on the floor and letting your dog pick at it, pick it up and get him working for it. Pick up your dog’s toys and only bring them out if you’re on the other end of it. This makes some people feel guilty and if that’s you, I have to ask how frequently you’re playing with your dog now. You wouldn’t feel guilty if you made a point of playing and interacting with your dog more.
Trust me, a pizza party with games will always be more fun with friends than alone and if your dog enjoys something, there’s a strong possibility that getting him to work for it will increase his appreciation and enjoyment for whatever that thing is.