Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Training, Jasper, Pet Ponderings > How has your dog trained you?

How has your dog trained you?

IMG_9551A few weeks ago I asked you “What has your dog learned by watching other dogs and you?”

The responses were funny and interesting, and they completely reinforced my belief that dogs are waaaaayyyyy smarter than we give them credit for. We still have so much to learn about them….

One of the things I often ponder is what my dogs have trained me to do, like playing ball when they want or letting them outside for a potty break or cuddling when they demand it.  All three of my dogs have behaviors that indicate something they want.

Jasper will wave his paw in the air when he wants me to continue rubbing his belly. Daisy will pace back and forth, between her kennel and the living room, when she wants to go outside, and Cupcake will stand on her back legs and place her paws on my lap when she wants attention. All are behaviors that have worked for them in the past so they know it will likely get them what they want.

Of course, I really do know that my dogs haven’t trained me as much as I have trained them. By giving them what they want when they exhibit these behaviors, I am reinforcing in their minds that this is the behavior they must do to get what they want. It sounds like a circular argument doesn’t it? It is to some extent.

When Jasper wants to play ball and continuously drops it at my feet and I pick it up to throw it, I have told him that dropping it over and over again at my feet will get the desired behavior from me (i.e., me throwing his ball).

We dog owners all have these behaviors we do when our dogs give us a behavior or cue. They have learned from us what works because we reinforce it. Barking at something outside gets our attention, whether it be positive or negative. Jumping on us gets them attention too. Again, it may be a positive or negative response, but it IS attention.

One of the things Jasper has learned is that walks are really, really exciting. When we leash up for a walk in the neighborhood he starts barking and jumping and pulling. Up until last week, I was reinforcing his behavior by giving him attention (“Jasper stop it!” or “Jasper, no barking”). He had learned that barking, jumping and pulling were all behaviors that got him what he wanted… a walk through the neighborhood.

That’s when I realized I hadn’t been taking my own advice, the one I had been giving to clients for years – stop reinforcing the behavior.

So, last week I stopped reinforcing the behaviors by taking away the expected response (i.e., continuing on our walk).. Instead of responding to the Jasper’s behavior with the desired result (to keep walking) I just stopped and ignored him until he stopped barking. When he was quiet for more than 3-5 seconds we started walking again. If he started barking again, we stopped and went through the whole process all over again until he stopped.

It didn’t take him long to figure out that he wasn’t getting the desired response he wanted when he barked and jumped and pulled. I was training him what desired behaviors would get him what he wanted (i.e., walking quietly and without pulling =  moving forward and walking). we still have some work to do, but he is getting better about our walks.

I bet many of you have behaviors your dog has taught you to do too. What are you reinforcing with your dog? What behaviors does your dog do that leads to a desired response from you every single time? Have you tried changing your response? What happens when you do?


  1. April 29, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    My dog has trained me to give him a rawhide chew when he starts making really soft, whining noises from the comfort of his bed. That noise drives me crazy so I usually give in. But for the last week, I’ve been strong and resisted his tactics. He’s putting on weight and I’m being very strict about it now. May the best man, woman or canine win this battle!

  2. April 29, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Emmett has trained me to make him more comfortable. He loves dozing on the couch but hates laying on the leather. So, when he wants to get on the couch, he stands next to it resting his chin on the cushion… until I get up and spread a blanket out for him. Then he jumps up for his nap. I actually think it’s silly and cute, so I’m not working on it at all! With Lucas, we have a similar start to our walks as what you described. Just getting the leash out makes him crazy excited. So our new routine is to leash up, then sit on our front stoop until he gets bored. Then we take off on our walk!

  3. April 29, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    I had an epiphany this past week about what i was NOT doing that was training Jack. I’m in the midst of writing about it for our blog later this week – but suffice to say, I was re-enforcing his behavior not by doing something but by NOT doing something.

  4. April 29, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    I spend my time training my human to respond to my every whim. Not easy but we are getting there. LOL! Have a marvelous Monday.
    best wishes Molly

  5. April 29, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    We have mom pretty well trained to cater to our every whim but every now and then she gets some wild idea about changing our behavior and we end up caving in and doing as she wants. It is a life long procedure training each other to live happily together.

  6. April 29, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    The longer I live with Honey the more we mutually reinforce behaviors.

    Originally I trained Honey to lie on her pillow in the kitchen to get a treat. Now she lies on her pillow as soon as I start preparing food (although I did not specifically teach her this).

    In response, however, I start putting little morsels aside to toss to her on her pillow.

    We’re having an issue where she’ll stop and not move forward when she knows our walk is coming to an end. I don’t want to argue with her when walk time is over. But I will sometimes add a few more blocks on in response to her. I’m hoping that if I give in to her sometimes, she’ll learn that other times I have to end the walk when I say so.

    I’ll let you know how it works out. 🙂

    • April 29, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      BJ does a similar thing when we go for a walk. He knows our normal route and when he wants a longer walk, he digs in and refuses to walk. When I let the leash go slack, he pulls me in another direction to go for a longer walk. It’s quite funny and people on the street laugh. They laugh harder when I give in and go where he wants me to go.

  7. Kate V
    April 29, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    I still remember the night I realized that my collie mix, Cheyenne, has me well trained. We always go for one last bedtime walk, it used to be around 10 at that point. I’d say “the W word” (or spell it, or spell it backwards… doesn’t matter, they know it!) and both dogs would get very excited. Shiloh, my sheltie, races around, barking, swatting Cheyenne trying to get her to play. Cheyenne stares at me, eyes bright, ears perked, panting- smiling. “I heard it, you said walk, let’s go!” This was our routine, every night around 10, for a year or so. Then one night, Cheyenne had the same “let’s go, let’s go!” bright eyed look, staring me down. I got up, walked to the door, got them leashed up, and started outside…. and suddenly realized it was 8pm, I had been comfortably sitting on the couch watching my favorite show and had no intention of getting up to go walk them. She definitely has me well trained! (Shiloh’s a pro getting me to do whatever he wants with the chin resting on my knee, huge pleading brown eyes, and the most pathetic sigh that only a sheltie can pull off, as well!)

  8. April 29, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I love this subject. I could come up with a whole list of behaviours my dog has trained me to perform. She is a far better handler than I, that’s for sure. Her criteria is very clear and consistent and her timing of rewards is dead on! I have so much to learn… 🙂

    Great post!

  9. April 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Oh my gosh, what hasn’t my dog trained me to do. Home boy knows exactly how to bat those eyelashes, droop that bottom lip, and make those innocent lil sad puppy dog eyes at me to get what he wants. He’ll instigate to get me to chase him, regardless if I’m giggling at him or yelling at him. 🙂 I think he’s trained me more than I trained him!

  10. April 29, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Oh, there are plenty of them at my house! Sadly, I can train the dogs, but not the husband!

  11. April 29, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I’ve been training mom for more than 12 years and there is one thing refuses to obey. I normally get dinner at 6.00. Since i get hungry before then I begin to nudge her and whine at around 5 and run into the kitchen. I have not been able to train her to feed me early.
    She says I’ll be hungry later and I say, so feed me later too. I finally got her to give me a treat or a Greenie for a snack.

    Any suggestions.
    Licks and hugs BJ Pup.

  12. April 29, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    My dog Matilda has been sick, very sick, with Lymphoma. She wasn’t eating. I started cooking for her, and she’s been getting chemo, and is now doing great. Now she can get me to do anything she wants! She dances around at night, with her long legs flying, and barks this high-pitched bark, moving her head up and down like a horse… Yes, I do give her the duck breast chew that she wants!!!

  13. April 29, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    It is nice to know I am not the only one whose dog has trained:) I would like to think I have trained them to do more . . . .but I am probably wrong!

  14. April 29, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    I’d like to say it’s 50/50 on training each other, but with six dogs conspiring against me, I’m not so sure it is that equal. lol Love this topic and the last one about dogs training dogs.

    • Mel
      April 30, 2013 at 6:23 AM

      You’re just outnumbered! 🙂

  15. April 30, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    Love this! There’s a chapter about it in my book ‘The Heartbeat at Your Feet’ – I call it ‘sneaky training’. 🙂

  16. April 30, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    My dog trained me to give her treats on demand 🙂

  17. May 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    There are far too many to count or list here. They are very good trainers.

  18. May 15, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    This is indeed a great post. Thanks for sharing this and keep posting. This will help dog owners.

  19. Sonia Hagopian
    September 27, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    NEED HELP DESPERATLY. I rescued a dog at 1 who is now 7. He was stuck all day in a fenced off are with his sitter for the day. He would poop, pee and eat cabinets. He does NONE of that anymore since I was fortunate enough to bring him into my life. I have developed so many bad traits, due to my guilt. I want to cry EVERYTIME I leave for work. I have given up on a social life and going anywhere he is not welcome. I have a dog sitter who will take him for the day 1-2 times a week when I know it will be a long day/night at work. He NEVER does bad things in the house, but I know he barks a LOT while I am gone…..neighbors tell me politely. He is SO happy and excited when I get home it is the most heartfelt fulfillment! Because I am ridden with such guilt I over feed and over treat him. I cook for him and feed him UNSEASONED people food mixed with Zignature food, (chicken and sirloin$$) but he has gotten so bad he will wait till midnight when I am asleep to eat, if it the same thing 2 days in a row, or he just does not approve, he won’t eat at all. I have tried pulling his food and I have tried leaving ONLY his food but he is so suborn he will not eat and sit with his cute little heart breaking face looking at me and just refuse to eat. He had gone THREE days doing this and I just have to give in because I can not take it. I do not give him treats for good behavior (My VERY BAD) but I do give him a hand full of healthy dried organ treats, and these peanut butter bon bons(I know, BAD) that I get from a made in USA dog food no grain or fillers boutique. He has gotten a bit chunky and I don’t know how to stop….I don’t have the heart, to break his heart more than I do by leaving. Everyone says I am NUTS, he is a DOG not a human, but he is my unconditional friend. I AM SO TORN UP, I need help or I will NEVER date again and loose all my good friends. Someone must have an answer for me. He is also a leash PULLER, he is so excited to see other dogs he comes off as aggressive but he IS NOT. He has no social skills with any other dogs, even with going to the dog sitter. He sniffs butts and he is done with them. He will cry for his little girlfriend across the yard, but I bring them together and he wants nothing more than to sniff her butt and he is done. I NEED HELP. Someone please direct me on how to change all this, please.

    • Mel
      September 29, 2015 at 8:40 PM

      Sonia – Have you consulted a dog trainer? It sounds like you have several concerns that are hard to address in a blog response, but have you tried to find a positive dog trainer in your area?

      I was not certain what was your largest concern, but if a food issue, dogs are pretty flexible. They will eat eventually, even if the food they get is not what they really, really want. If you are concerned with bad behavior then I would definitely contact a trainer. I am sorry, but I think I need more clear information on what you see as the issues to be able to direct you to a place that can help you.

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