Lackluster Obedience: Time to Teach a Trick!

Dinky’s recalls have slowed down and she takes her time getting comfy when I tell her to lay down. She hasn’t been defying me like a juvenile, she’s just been un-enthusiastic about work. If I call her and she takes too long getting her nose out of the grass, I give a gentle correction, but corrections aren’t going to make her want to work again. You can’t scold a dog into being enthusiastic!

So, Dinky is ho-hum. Alright, I’ve got tools for this.

First, I stepped back and checked our relationship. She’s on a lot of meds, hates getting pills, and it’s a little bit of a strain. I can’t entirely fix that. But, I can increase the other activities and time that I spend with her. I haven’t been bringing out the Nina Ottoson toys or playing other games with her as often as I’d like to, so we’ve been doing those nightly. I’ve also been thinking of other games we can play. I just want her to have fun playing games with me.

Drilling obedience in this case would be counter-productive. I want Dinky to work with me and have fun—tricks provide that. It’s not important how fast she does a trick or that she does it every time I ask, so we can relax and have fun with a trick and laugh together. It’s not quite the same as teaching heel.

So, with the super-duper-always-cheerful tutelage of Kate the Wonder Trainer, Dinky and I began working on spin, high five, and a few other tricks. I take Dinky out in the front yard and it’s our time together. We play and laugh. I ask her to do something and she does it (a great habit), and she gets rewarded for it. She pays attention to me and gets rewarded for that, too.

I always take Dinky’s ball out with me. I ask her to do four or five things, then I throw the ball a few times, then I ask for more sits, spins, and high fives. It breaks up the repetition, gives her physical exercise, lets her move around, keeps her guessing what I’ll ask for next, and keeps her focused.

Dinky needs the mental stimulation. She has a daily quota of “thinking time” that needs filled, and if I don’t help her fill it, she has to go think of and find things to do on her own. When she goes off on her own, she’s disconnected from me and uninterested in what I’m trying to get her to do. When Dinky’s needs are met, her desire to wander off is reduced, she has a longer attention span, she is able to focus on my requests, and will sit when asked. It would be the same if I had a high-energy dog, we’d have to burn off the excess energy before we could work on training.

I needed the reminder to have fun with Dinky and it worked. We’ve been laughing a lot. We’ve been playing all sorts of games, making a game out of everyday things, spending more time together, and enjoying each other. She’s eager to run see what fun thing is going to happen when I call her.

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