Did You Train Your Dog or Did Your Dog Train You?

Dogs are truly amazing creatures. I believe their intelligence is far greater than we might give them credit for. I am truly shocked by some of the things my clients have taught and trained their dogs to do.

One client has their dog trained to walk the horses back to the stall and close the door after they have been brushed. Are you kidding me!

Another client has a special hand shake routine with his dog. It’s incredible!

Even more impressive are the military working dogs and law enforcement dogs that are trained to find narcotics, explosives, and even people. That is mans best friend in full force.

Why is it is possible to train them to perform such amazing acts? It can be summarized in one word, REWARD. When you find what motivates your dog (a certain treat, a favorite toy, a game, going on walk, etc) you can teach them almost anything. If you reward them with what motivates them, they are more likely to repeat that behavior in anticipation of receiving that reward.

Being a veterinarian, I definitely hear my fair share of dog stories. There are countless stories where clients will say “When my dog does this, I know that means this”. My response is usually “It sounds like your dog is training you”. Of course we all laugh and then the client says “Psshh no way doc. I’m the top dog in the house”.

Let’s look at a few scenarios that may shed some light on this subject. Are you ready? This could be an eye opening moment for you.

1. You spend more money on your dog than you do yourself.

This one hit home with me when I was in veterinary school in Illinois. This Texas boy was not prepared for the brutal winters in Illinois but can you guess who had more jackets in the closet? Yup, the dog! My mother in law sent my wife and me a care package after we moved to Illinois. The only items in the care package were for the dog. Geeh thanks maw in law!

Girls ask yourself this question, “Does your dog go to the salon more than you do”? While your style may be lacking, Fluffy is picture ready at all times.

Do you spend more on your dog’s food than your own? You probably feed your dog the highest quality food you can find but you go home and heat up some Ramen noodles for dinner.

Some of you might be saying “Doc, that doesn’t mean my dog has trained me”. I would simply say hang on, we are a long way from the end here.

2. How you spend your free time is focused around your dog.

When you plan to meet up with your friends, do you check to see if the place is pet friendly? No way would you ever consider leaving your dog at home by themselves. The thought of leaving them home alone is enough to change your mind about even going in the first place.

3. You respond to your dog’s commands.

It really is cute when your dog brings you the leash in their mouth or when they ring the bells on the backdoor to let you know they need to go outside. Odds are you drop whatever you are doing and take them on a walk or bring them outside. Your dog may even have different barks and you know what each of them mean. When you hear one, you know that means they want this. When you hear another, you know that means they want you to do that. They have learned that you will respond a certain way when they perform a specific behavior. Those tricky little mutts!

4. You only get a small portion of your king size bed.

Do you really think that you are letting your dog sleep in YOUR bed? Ha! Your dog is letting you sleep in THEIR bed. How many times have you been pushed to the edge of the bed barely hanging on? You would not dare move for fear of waking your dog. I would bet you have even gone as far as sleeping on the floor or couch to let them have the comfy bed.

5. You have to S-P-E-L-L out words.

Do you have to spell out W-A-L-K or T-R-E-A-T to avoid any overexcitement? The reason you do this is deep down if you didn’t have a treat to give them at the time, you would feel like you are letting them down.

6. Your dog has social media.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, there will be no denying it if you fall into this category. Is your own profile picture a picture of your dog? Does your dog have more followers than you on Facebook or Instagram? There are studies that show pet owners are more concerned about how many likes or followers their pet’s social media pages have over their own. If you spend more time updating your pet’s social media pages, you are GUILTY! You have been trained. The best thing to do is just admit it.

At the end of the day, pampering our pets makes us feel good and gets us present in their life. Pets are not viewed just as pets anymore. They are members of the family. Ultimately it is our job as pet owners to care for them and give them the best life possible. If that means putting them in a silly coat when it’s cold outside, you better believe they are going to stay warm. On behalf of the dog lovers out there, we need to come to terms that we have been trained. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM


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