I occasionally run across the sad scenario of one family member standing to the side watching the others engage and teach the family dog. They sometimes say to me, “Our dog doesn’t like me.”
Dog's Eye View
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Now, there might be many reasons why the dog doesn’t engage this family member. Unfortunately, there may have been negative associations with this person such as being teased or hurt. I’d stay away, too, if I was a dog. However, there may be more to the story.
On occasion, I’ve observed one family member purposefully keeping the family dog training in their own sphere of influence as a matter of pride, boasting that they’re the only one the dog will work for. But sometimes the “odd man out” avoids contact with the dog for the simple reason that he or she doesn’t know how to interact with the “family” pet.
Education can be the key to this problem.
I experienced a graphic example of this a few years ago in one of our dog training classes.
A man brought their family pet, a cocker spaniel named Jeffie, to class. The husband was working Jeffie with success. The previously out-of-control spaniel was beginning to learn new skills, settle down and become a model citizen in the class room.
Toward the end of the course, this man’s wife began to come to class, too. She took me aside and confided, “Jeffie doesn’t like me.” I was surprised to hear this as I thought all was well at home.
She had not taken part in the initial training sessions with Jeffie, so she’d missed the communication and bonding taking place through the process. Since we primarily use positive reinforcement training, acknowledging each good behavior and rewarding the effort, Jeffie was looking to his “trainer” for communication.
This has the effect of not only giving the dog instant positive feedback about what he has just done (he’s right) but also increases the interest in the person who is delivering the treat. Interest soon turns into attentiveness and then into a shared bond of learning and relevance.
I demonstrated this to Jeffie’s “mom” and within a few minutes, he was bouncing back and forth between husband and wife, performing many very useful doggie skills like sit and settle down. It seemed as though Jeffie might be saying to the man’s wife, “Oh, I get it; you’re part of this game, as well.”
You know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This concept is true with the family dog, as well. It didn’t take long before everyone in this little family unit was smiling and taking part. A little education and support was all that was needed. Jeffie gets it that mom is part of his team.
Sandra Kruczek is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer at Total Teamwork Training for more than 25 years and can be contacted at www.totalteamworktraining.com.