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?