The coolest thing about my job as a dog trainer is that every dog is different. There are those dogs that the usual routine doesn’t work for. Then we have to get creative. Some of those challenging canine pupils have helped remind me that sometimes, you just have to get silly.
Most pet owners quickly realize that their emotions are contagious. This can make changing behavior and training challenging for a new dog owner who is confused about the technique – now both dog and owner are confused. Fortunately, once you become aware of this, the solution is simple, blow it off and act silly. Laugh, be happy, training a dog isn’t a chore. Change gears, make funny noises, sing a goofy song. I promise, your dog won’t think less of you.
Acting silly can be especially helpful for fearful dogs, or for convincing dogs that hey, this really is a fun thing to do. With puppies, acting silly is a great way to build confidence and get your puppy to follow you around. It’s easy, in an enclosed space, use a happy tone of voice and encourage your puppy to follow you around.
You do not have to be super loud, crazy or hectic to be silly. You just need to convey happiness, fun and joy to your dog. Your version of silly may not look the same as the other person’s and that’s ok. The important piece is whether you feel happy and your dog feels it too.
For some people acting silly can actually be hard. Set yourself up to be relaxed when you practice if this is the case. Realize you probably won’t master this in training class or a public venue so practice it at home. Think funny thoughts, do funny things and go with it. You really need to feel happy as you do it. May be using a fun dog toy will help you get into it. Dogs are masters at reading our emotions! I know this sounds goofy but this is an important skill. All the great dog trainers I know of are naturals at silliness and they can do it anytime, anywhere. You’ll see silly playful behavior at many competitive venues by top performers – often just a few minutes before they get in the ring and right after.
Now am I saying acting silly is all it takes to fix hard core issues, absolutely not, but it can make a big difference. Also all too often, silliness is completely forgotten about…and what’s the fun in working with your dog if you aren’t actually having fun!