What dog behaviors should I encourage?

Most owners know that they want their dogs to SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME, HEEL.  When it comes to general behaviors, owners have little idea of what behaviors they even want to encourage, let alone how to accomplish the encouragement.  By contrast, ask an owner what they are trying to stop, and there are multiple answers.  Even the most mannerly dogs' "rap sheets" tend to be read out when meeting other dog people.

As positive trainers, it is our responsibility to model the behavior we want to see in other humans.  A small step towards teaching other owners what behaviors they should want is to identify the behaviors our dogs are good at. 

What to look for

No matter how tiny a moment of these behaviors you see, if you reward them, you'll see more! 

  • Attention/eye contact
  • Quiet
  • Curiosity
  • Relaxation
  • Shift of focus
  • Ignoring/tolerating
  • Yielding to the desires of another dog or human
  • Sharing
  • Respecting a dog's or human's physical contact boundaries
  • Fair play
  • other stuff you like

How to encourage behavior you want

Make your dog a mooch!  You want the dog to believe that engaging in these behaviors often makes food and other good things come to him.  You can mark the behaviors with "good" or clicks, but food talks, so you can also say nothing as you deliver a scrumptious edible, as long as the dog is still engaging in the behavior you want when she realizes goodies are coming.  Whatever your dog is doing when he realizes the treat is coming is what he thinks makes the treat come. 

Yeah, my dog thinks she's mooching by being quiet and laying around.  I'm not going to tell her different!