Was That Treat Worthy?

Dogs meditating next to me

I loved Alice’s comment on an earlier post. She joked that her dog tricked her into taking her to the vet so she could get the usual reward of a hamburger at the drive-through afterward. It does seem like some dogs train us easier than we train them.

Does this sound familiar?

“I wanted to teach my dog to relieve herself outside. So when she did the right thing, I gave her a treat when she came back in. Eventually, she learned.”

Oh yes, she did.

Because now you have this:

Dog whines to go outside as if she’s been holding it for days. Once outside, she just stands there nonchalantly sniffing the air for a second or two. Dog whines to come back inside, and stares at her cookie jar.

Woe to the human who fails to give the expected treat. She will simply whine to go back outside as if to say, “You messed up. Let’s try this again.” And again, and again … What do you do to get her to stop whining? Give her a treat.

Habits and agendas can quickly turn against us. Your agenda is to teach your dog something. Your habitual response is to treat her. And now you have a cookie monster on your hands.

So how do we get everybody – dogs and people – to break their habits and regain some peace?

Rewarding dogs offers a convenient, safe place to practice being mindful (one of many practice opportunities with dogs, in fact), especially of our habitual adverse response to discomfort—and let’s be honest, a constantly whining dog gets annoying.

Next time you find yourself reaching for the doggie cookie jar, stop and ask yourself if she really did something to deserve that treat. Something extraordinary. Like ignored distractions and came to you when you called her. Or after a walk. But if you just want some peace and quiet, is that the best way to get it?

Instead of giving in, ignore your dog’s pleas to try again by putting all of your attention into another activity. Be as persistent in that as your dog is in trying to get you to hand over the goods.

Eventually, your dog will learn again. Only this time it will be to stop expecting treats. Then treats will be something special again. And you will have turned an annoying situation into an opportunity to practice staying calm and focused.

Now that’s treat worthy.

Thanks for stopping by.

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About Christie Green

A student of martial arts since 1995, a writer since 1999, and an animal-lover for all of time
This entry was posted in A Mindful Life with Dogs, Mindful Dog Training Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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