Thoughts of a Dog Therapist – It’s Only a Bad Behaviour If You Don’t Like It

I realised something over the Christmas period that absolutely horrified me to start with. My dog has turned the training tables on me and has complete control over me in certain situations but I’m ok with it!!
Surely someone who has studied dog behaviour for 12 years and now practices as a therapist for dogs shouldn’t be able to say that??
Well yes actually I can!

Bella has got a few habits that to most trainers and possibly other pet parents would be terrible and if I’m honest I have thought about correcting it myself recently, but I have decided that I don’t want to.
I like the fact that she’s got this cheeky personality and I’m fine with these little things that she does.

Whenever I do a training consult I always tell people that a behaviour is only bad if you don’t want to live with it and yet here I am thinking about changing Bella’s behaviours because of what other people might say or think.

This doesn’t mean she isn’t trained, we had her toilet trained in two weeks, she has perfect recall off lead now and tends to pretty much stay with me throughout a walk. She just gets a little preoccupied with smells sometimes and has to catch me up but she is always within sight and keeps her eye on me.

So what do I mean by she has turned the training tables? What I mean is she has taken the things I’ve taught her and started to use them against me!
She is really food orientated and will do anything for the tiniest crumb of a treat. I love this about her and it has made getting her to do her required physiotherapy exercises so easy. It’s also made teaching her other things really easy and within an hour I had taught her to give me her paw. I thought that if she’s happy to do this and got used to me holding the paw and playing with it afterwards then this would make things like nail cutting easier. I also used treats to teach her to stay with me on walks and to come back instantly when I called her, or to drop and leave things that she shouldn’t have.
However Bella seems to think that she’s the one that has trained me!

She thinks that she has trained me to give out the treats or the fuss every time she hits me with her paw. I now get hit whenever she wants a cuddle regardless of anything else I may be doing, and she doesn’t give up. For example if I’m washing up she just sits next to me and hits my leg with her paw over and over again until I reach down and give her some attention. She does the same if there’s certain foods about. She loves cheese or raw eggs and if I’m standing doing anything for myself or Kev with these foods she’ll sit next to me and hit me over and over again as if to say ‘look Mum I’m giving my paw I really want some of that food please’.
When she does these things, as much as I tell myself that this is terrible behaviour and I shouldn’t allow it, and I never actually feed her any of the food I do find it really funny and absolutely love the cheekiness of it so I continue to let her do it.

She also thinks she’s trained me to give out the treats on walks. She will actually run off to a certain distance and then run straight back to me and sit down waiting for a treat. She even picks leaves and things up in her mouth, looks directly at me and drops them again and then comes over for the treat. She doesn’t realise that she’s meant to wait for me to ask for these behaviours. She creates the opportunities and offers the behaviours constantly to get more treats and guess what….. I just laugh, rub her head and give her that treat because I love it.

For me if the behaviour isn’t a problem then why worry about it? There have been times when she’s tried the paw giving when I’ve been sitting eating my dinner and I corrected that instantly because to me that’s bad manners, but in general the things she’s doing are harmless and if I do give out a treat I just make it a smaller one so she doesn’t gain weight

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