Go on a date with your dog?

What the? Did you just say go on a date with your dog? What does dating and dogs have in common you might ask.

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to speak and present at the New Zealand Kennel Club alongside Forrest Micke and Brent Dry. We spoke and taught on a number of subjects and topics, but one received and created a lot of excitement and conversation among everyone..

It was one of the analogies that I use regularly that really seemed to resonate with all of the participants during our visit to Wellington. I was talking about teaching and empowering your dog using engagement in training.

I said “When you first start building your relationship with your dog, no matter how old they are; you should look at it like a first date!”

Think about it, if you go on a first date with someone yet you pay more attention to the other people or things in the environment, not your date, effectively ignoring the one whos company you should be engaged in, what are the chances of a second date?

You want to make the first date one to be remembered and leaving an element of excitement and “wanting” for more IE the second date. I know personally that if I was out with Zooka (my dog) and he found sniffing the ground and paid more attention to the rabbit pooh that is laying around more exciting than me, I’d be gutted. That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy a good sniff, in fact I’ve written another article on how this can be really rewarding for your dog, you can read that here in my “Let your dog sniff” post.

The fact is when I’m wanting Zooka to engage with me, I need to ensure that I am interesting and that he see’s this as an opportunity to gain reward through behaviour, not just that I am the person that is at the other end of the lead.

So what are some of the tips for a good date (dog or otherwise)

The Date; Is there Interest?

Be sure the activity you engage in is of interest to your date. There’s nothing worse than having to force yourself to pay attention and focus on what’s your dates saying if it’s boring you to pieces. It flows so much smoother and encourages mutual interaction when both parties are interested and see the benefit and have fun.

The Conversation; Is it Rewarding and Reinforced?

Now be sure not to get this aspect wrong. As science states; a reinforced behaviour is more likely to occur again. Whilst we have been told our entire lives that it’s the thought that counts, make sure you put the thought into it or this saying doesn’t count!  A reward is only a reward if it is perceived as a one by the recipient.Think about it, if you were out on a first date, you can forgive if the food was crap with poor customer service during dinner as long as the conversation is good and you share a laugh with each other, there’s a good chance of a second date; but what if we flipped the situation around? Would you want to go on a second date if the food was amazing with the finest of dining experience, yet the conversation was as dull and stinky as your 1 week old gym socks forgotten about in the bottom of your bag – I’d say not. So make sure there is fun as this is a natural reinforcer of behaviour.

End of Date Etiquette. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Now this saying has been around for as long as I know. Why would your date continue to show a high level of interest, make any extended efforts to show their value if they have already had access to every single one of their needs and wants for minimal action or effort. You’d be better served to dangle achievable carrots and rewards based on increased performance and effort.

dangle a carrot

Dangle achievable carrots to reward increased effort and actions

So if you consider the above tips and include this in your interactions and training with your dog (and your dates), you should see increased performance and engagement. Remember that you want your date to be keen for the next date and opportunity to have fun with you.  So try approaching your next training session as a first date and consider what they (your dog or date) would like to do, use this to your advantage and strength and they’ll be dying to go on another date with you.

I hope you enjoyed this insight to our workshop and one of The K9 Company’s great and fun ways to approach your dog training. I would love to hear your thoughts and how you ensure a definitive second date.

A big thank you to those that made my visit to Wellington such a success including the New Zealand Kennel Club, Karen Sadler from Agrade Animals and of course Forrest Mick and Brent Dry.

I look forward to visiting and seeing you all again soon.

x Cat

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