When I take on a new rescue dog or whilst working with clients, I’m always keen to note what behaviours come along with the scent or sight of their rewards.
What behaviour does the scent of food cue for your dog?
Looking back through an old training record the following took my eye:
“Scent of food causes manic sniffing, rather than focus”
This was an observation from a training session with one of my dogs just after she had arrived from the rescue charity.
When I take on a new rescue dog or whilst working with clients, I’m always keen to note what behaviours come along with the scent or sight of their rewards. I’ll be curious about:
What have they already learned? What behaviours have been practised in the past?
What behaviours are safe to take forward into the dog’s future?
What behaviours are unsafe and how can we ethically stop or diminish them?
You don’t need to be working with a rescue do to ask these questions. We can apply this curiosity and analysis to any dog at any stage of their learning.
“What behaviours would you like to teach your dog to do when food is around?”.
From my experience these are behaviours from dogs that I would label unsafe:
Jumping onto a person, making contact with a person’s body
Tearing clothing, particularly pockets
Grabbing and tearing food containers
Fighting with other dogs
Safe behaviours include:
Paws in contact with the floor
Enquiring for information on how the reward will be delivered
Traditionally dogs were taught to ‘sit’ whenever food was around. This can be an effective safety behaviour, but can cause some dogs stress or interfere with our training plans further down the line.
Sit behaviour is emotionally incompatible to the situation – when dogs are stressed, worried, anxious, fearful they will prefer to stand or lie down. Sitting under these conditions is extremely difficult and risks affecting the relationship between dog and owner.
Sitting is painful for the elderly or arthritic dogs. Having to perform a painful behaviour before being able to eat adds to a dog’s stress.
Sitting is unnatural for some breeds. Is your dog a natural sitter? Will they sit without you? Will they sit by choice? If not, there will be a reason, it could be pain, muscle structure or a preference for another behaviour such as standing or down.
Sitting can be incompatible with some dog sports, grooming, vet checks. Having a dog that learns to stand as a default and then sit when asked will be much more useful going forwards.
Get to know your dog and work with their natural tendencies.
From my training with Kay Laurence, I begin a training journey by strengthening a behaviour I call ‘cue seeking’. You can read more about the process here
Can I help?
If you feel your dog is struggling with their emotions or confidence, a 1:1 session would give us time to talk about what is happening and put some tailored strategies into place. work-with-me
Not sure if a 1:1 is for you, get in touch to discuss further email@example.com
If you are the owner of a rescue dog and want to learn how to build an amazing relationship with them, then my online course could be the perfect learning resource for you.