There’s Money In Dogs… Well, Sort Of

Let’s talk currency: Dog currency.

Dog currency is different from people currency. Dog currency is all about roast beef, interesting/gross smells, interesting/gross tastes, brain-hijacking sights (people, other dogs, cats, will-i-have-a-coronary-barking-at-this-squirrel) and the like.

Your German Shepherd is no dummy; far from it. German Shepherds may be better than some other breeds at tuning into your wants and needs, but don’t be fooled — they’re still operating on the monetary system of What’s Important To Dogs.

What this means is that you must find ways to operate on the foreign exchange rate! The simplest way to do this is to find out what your dog really, really likes. What’s your dog’s equivalent of hitting the lottery? Frisbee? His tennis ball? A soft liver treat? Boiled chicken?

Once you have this figured out, you’re ready to deal. Create a short list of 5-10 things your dog really likes. These things don’t all have to be food. Does your dog dance around when you get out his leash? Then add walks to your list. Is he crazed by the sight of his tug toy? Bingo! Once you’ve made your list (it’s OK if you make it in your head), begin to think of some polite, mannerly behaviors you’d like to encourage in your dog.

Maybe you’d like…

  • To remain upright as your dog plows through the door to go out.
  • To throw the ball without your dog grabbing your hand.
  • Your guests to enter the house, sans mugging.

In each of these scenarios, we’re going to do a little planning ahead. First, ask yourself what you would like to happen instead of the current behavior. Too often, owners just say they want the dog to “stop doing” whatever it is they don’t like. That’s people currency. Your German Shepherd, brilliant though he may be, deals in dog currency. So having a picture of the behavior we want instead of the behavior we don’t want is the first step.

Next, ask, What is it my dog wants? Usually this is pretty easy to figure out (answers to the above: To go outside, To possess the ball, and To be close to the guests).

Now we have a simple formula we can apply to help us deal in dog currency.

(Behavior I don’t want) = (Nothing dog wants), but (Behavior I do want) = (What dog wants)

So, for example:

(Dog crowds and pushes as you go to the door) = (Door remains closed), but (Dog sits politely) = (You reach to open door)

And another:

(Dog jumps on guests when they come in) = (Guests ignore dog, who is now on a leash), but (Dog keeps four feet on the floor when guests come in ) = (Guests talk to, pet or toss treats to dog)

Pretty cool, huh? Happily, we know something our German Shepherds don’t: hot dogs are cheap!

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