What I’ve unintentionally trained my dogs to do

Serious sentinels

We’re always training our dogs, even when we think we aren’t.

I should repeat this line to myself daily. Dogs learn through repetition and reinforcement, and they are probably inadvertently training us more than we are training them. Because I allow myself to be inattentive and lazy, I have permitted our dogs to practice some less-than-great household habits.

Open door policy

Here are some (undesirable) things I have unintentionally trained our dogs to do (or: A Lesson in How Not to Train Your Dogs). Pyrrha and Eden have learned to:

  • Claw at the outside door because it means that Abby will come open it quickly and be grumpy about it, because we’ve scratched all the paint off and the door now looks like someone was murdered outside it, and she just can’t take it anymore 
  • Come running when they hear the sound of plastic packaging being opened
  • Expect help with a trapped/lost food toy when Abby comes in the room
  • Whine for assistance when a beloved ball is lost under the sofa for the millionth time
  • Flip out when the coat closet door is open, because that is where the leashes live
  • Flip out when a particular cabinet door is opened, because that is where the food lives
  • Bark at the neighbors because it’s super fun and makes Abby really irritated and yell-y

Just to name a few.

I’ve been thinking lately about how I need to really work on these behaviors, in a more concerted way, after watching a video from Kikopup about why letting dogs freak out about meal time is really a major step back in their training. It’s such a simple and true concept, and I’m not sure why I never thought about it before.

So, consider this my promise to myself, and to Pyrrha and Eden, that we are going to team up and start working to erode these oft-practiced behaviors with some switching up of routines, preventing these bad habits from being practiced in the first place, and teaching some incompatible behaviors with tons of positive reinforcement.

What have your dogs unintentionally learned? What have they trained you to do or expect? 

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6 thoughts on “What I’ve unintentionally trained my dogs to do

  1. Oh yes, unintentional training!

    Miss Elka will wake from a dead sleep on my bed to come running downstairs if she hears tupperware rattling, or the specific type of ziplock bag we keep our cheese blocks in. And she does exactly the same thing if a ball or toy is under the couch, whine about it until it is rescued. Sometimes there’s a delay on this, though; she’ll start whining at a couch for no reason, and it’s only when we lost patience that we realized a toy is under there. Perhaps she sticks them there on purpose to “cure” for a certain amount of time?

  2. We know almost the entire police force in our city, and on occasion, they will stop by to say hello. Our dogs now will go nutso and bark at ANY police vehicle that passes the house! They stand in the front window or front door and will be wagging their tail at the police cars as they pass. We get a kick out of this every time they do this. I wonder if they can read “POLICE” on the sides of the cars! LOL

  3. We also have a problem with the dogs barking at passing neighbors out for a stroll. If you figure out a way to stop this behavior, let me know! Emma also barks at us if she wants us to pay attention to her and throw her toy. I try not to give in until she’s quiet, but I don’t always follow through.

  4. Sentry Stop That pheromone spray worked wonders for our two German Shepherd kids. Their barking became constant with each car drive into a populated area. They barked at people on the sidewalk, a horse or a cow in pastures, other dog’s, fire hydrants, you name it. After asking them to stop the bad behavior and not achieving the desired result, I would spray as directed. After two such spraying event’s all bad behavior ceased. I believe in this product. However, I have several friends who have purchased and they did not receive the same favorable results. They have entirely different breed’s also. A winner for us. And as we need to, we play the “spray” card by merely mentioning spray and bad behavior stops before it starts.

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