I have a challenge for you. Can you name all of the things that make your dog wonderful? Why do you like these things about your dog?
My dog has many wonderful traits. Here are just a few.
Chance is funny and she likes to tell us jokes in a very dog-like way. She is curious and loves to explore. She will chase with gusto—a ball, Frisbee, anything that moves. She is thoughtful, can tell time, and will express her opinion. These are just some of the ways she is wonderful.
There is another way to look at my dog’s wonderful traits however—as behavior issues. Seriously. My dog steals things (these are her jokes—you can see the laughter on her face!). She will sometimes explore where she should not (and that has lead her into trouble a time or two). If given the opportunity (which we are careful not to do), she will chase cats, bunnies and even the occasional deer. She’s been known to bossy bark if we are not on schedule. Don’t we know that it is time for dinner, or time to play, or time to go to bed?
Of course that doesn’t mean we haven’t trained for and overcome most of the challenges. My dog has learned to express her opinion (that it is time for dinner, for example) through calm actions. The calmer she is, the sooner we feed her. Bossy barking makes us walk away. Stealing socks and hats got us to clean up our house; “stealing” her toys out of the toy basket makes us laugh and play.
Plus, these same wonderful traits/behavior issues have also given us tools in our training toolbox. She loves play, and playing with her helped this once suspicious feral dog learn to trust. The opportunity to explore or to chase a ball can be a powerful reward for a job well done.
So try it: name the wonderful things about your dog. Then, for a solid week, focus on those wonderful qualities. If you are having behavior challenges, actively reframe the “problem,” looking for the “wonderful” behind it. Try to see how those wonderful qualities can be used to assist with training. Try to see who your dog is, and what makes him or her tick. By focusing on the wonderful qualities in your dog, you may just see some positive changes in your partnership.