Value = Love

Does your dog value you = Does your dog hate you?

Big question, right?

It’s at the root of so many of the struggles with dogs and relationships that we’ve come across. It’s the question we have to think about when there may be a recall problem, struggles with chase, lack of focus or even lack of self-control.

Here’s the thing - it’s not a big question.

It should not be an emotional question.

It’s a matter of fact.

It strikes a nerve, right? You immediately jump to questions of whether your dog loves you, appreciates you, maybe even likes you? But actually, it’s just a matter of logic, a matter of science.

If your dog values chasing the squirrel over interacting with you, then what’s the outcome of the situation where both of those things are on offer?

How about if your dog values playing with other dogs more than recalling to you in the dog park? What’s the outcome to that one?

We know the outcomes… we have all been there! Here’s the important bit though, your dog likes you, your dog loves you, in fact, your dog absolutely adores you. You cannot and should not let this affect your relationship - it’s just a matter of value.

Where the value sits is completely changeable. Where you are now is not where you are going to be in three weeks time, nor is it where you are going to be in 3 months time! YOU have so much more control over your destiny than you think.

Every day your dog wakes up with a full pot of value - whether that is the food they like (even their daily food ration), their favourite activities, their favourite games, and we can 100% influence where that pot of value is distributed. A bit like a 100$ bill (or whatever currency you use), you can split it however you like, $10,$20,$1.

For example, you could pour the value into a metal bowl and deliver it to them twice a day and build value in the approaching the bowl activity. How does your dog respond to seeing the food bowl?

You could pour the value into nagging you to go for a walk, by presenting the leash to them and heading out when they do it.

You could even let them decide how to get the value without any involvement from you, maybe by them helping themselves to a super tasty sandwich you prepared on the kitchen counter

Or enjoying a game of chase together after they found a super fun new toy (insert fragile item) in your handbag.

You could spend the value this way. You could also not.

You could start to become PROACTIVE rather than reactive and think - where do I want to put the value? How do I want to split the pot of value that my dog works up with every morning?

Do I want to put that pot of value into focus on me, perhaps? It’s something we do massively with our dogs, and you can check out five of our favourite games to do this here:

That’s cool, right? And you are really cool for being the awesome owner that gets that they don’t hate you, they aren’t trying to get one up on you (in fact, they aren’t even aware it is a win-lose situation) and that they absolutely adore you and couldn’t imagine their world without you!

So how might you want to spend the value? Well, you can’t go wrong with developing focus, and it doesn’t have to be boring:

  1. Think about proximity! Rewarding your dog (whether that is feeding, playing, promoting access to exciting things, etc.) for just being close is powerful. If the value is being spent near you, your dog is going to see that as the place to be. Do this everywhere and anywhere and suddenly you start to compete with the squirrel, other dogs, and other people.
  2. Me Tricks! These are tricks that involve YOU and being CLOSE! For example, you could train your dog to weave through your legs, circle around your body, jump up on you (if that is what you want) or, what we really love, stand between your legs. This behaviour we call “middle”, and it’s a real lifesaver. It’s an immediate safe-place, a way of managing your dog is scary situations, and is just about as close as they can be. You can learn the simple steps to train middle in our F.O.C.U.S. eBook - it’s free and is one that I can’t recommend enough for those of you really wanting to commit to spending your value wisely and reaping the rewards:

  3. Consider what you DO want and where to spend the value becomes easy! The human brain is geared towards the negative. It’s geared towards identifying flaws and problems and this generally allows us to survive - think the rustling bush is something to worry about and you escape the bear, think it is the wind and, well, you are dinner. This mindset, however, isn’t all that useful in training our dogs. Dogs do well when they know what we DO want - but we have to know that first and then the choices we want to reward are easily spotted!

Anyway, that’s all for now - your dog likes you, loves your, adores you so don’t forget it and just think on where you are spending your value.

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Positively Expert: absoluteDogs

Tom is a veterinarian, clinical behaviourist and companion and sports dog trainer, providing a unique perspective on all things dog.


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