What’s Rover Learning Today?

Dogs learn by observation.

Dogs spend time watching us, spying on us, and learning from us, even when we aren’t consciously teaching them. We are creatures of habit so we have routines that we follow. Rover learns these routines, usually very quickly. Dogs will respond to the sequence of events and they will also use the sequence of events to try and shape our behavior.

If I take Rover on the same walk every day when I get to turnaround point Rover knows it’s time to turn and head back. If I shave on the days I go to work Rover may start to show signs of separation anxiety even though I won’t be leaving for another 30 minutes.

When I open a certain cabinet there’s a very good chance I’m getting Rover a biscuit. Rover walks over and sits and waits for me to give it to him.

When I lock all the doors and pull down the window shades just prior to going to bed. Rover goes into his bed.

I’ve never consciously taught Rover any of those things. He’s watched me and learned my routines.

Sometimes, we teach Rover things we don’t want to teach him. If I take Rover outside with me and I dig in the garden, pulling weeds and digging holes for plants. What do you suppose I’m teaching Rover?

If I stop what I’m doing and immediately get up every time Rover indicates that he might have to go out what am I teaching him? Actually, what is Rover teaching me?

Rover sometimes will try and shape what we do. He’ll do this by trying to turn around the situations. Sometimes he wants to stay out longer so he may get a ball and offer to play.

Some dogs won’t come in when called if they know you are about to leave for the day.

Some of these behaviors are certainly cute and adorable and they make me laugh and smile when he does them, but I don’t want there to be any confusion in his mind as to who is in charge. If I do what he wants to do when he’s asking or telling me to then who’s in charge?

Who is responding to who is important to dogs. It’s part of how they figure out the relationship. They don’t get mad when you don’t respond, unless they’ve been in charge all along. If that’s the case then we are like disobedient children and Rover may get upset. Some dogs growl, nip or bite to reprimand us for doing what they don’t want us to do.

Most dogs don’t want to be in charge. They are born followers not leaders. They don’t want to be in charge and they are happiest when we are, but, they will test us to make sure we know the game. They know someone needs to be the leader and if it’s not us, it will be them. The easiest way for them to test us is by asking us to do things we like to do. How we respond can make a big difference.

What have you taught your Rover inadvertently? What’s he learning today? When you recognize his and your patterns of behavior and use those to teach him you’ll be on your way to a happy dog and we all know the rest...

Happy Dogs = Happy Families

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Suzanne May 29, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Very good article!
LWLiu May 31, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Nice article but it would be good to mention how you can use this knowledge in a beneficial way. For instance, when we were training our puppy (he's 9 now), I would always say out loud "Make pee-pee. Good boy." or "Make poops. Good boy." whenever he performed. As he got older, our dog sometimes got distracted by a sound or an intriguing smell, but as soon as I say "Make poops", he automatically does his business because he's been trained to do it and we don't spend a lot of time waiting for him for remember why we're out there.
Jerry May 31, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I'm 50 years old, and though it is a cliche'd, stereotypical name...I've never met a dog named Rover..until this aricticle..and have still to meet a dog named Fido!
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