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Contentment Training

by Bailey Coldwell


‘Sit’


‘Down’


‘Place’ 


‘Stay’ 



These are just a few of the common cues that we recommend your dog learns to do. 

If you have a membership for Baxter & Bella, it is safe to say that you have amazing training goals with your dog. We often bring home a new dog and are immediately thrilled to start teaching the dog many tricks and behaviors. But did you know that training doesn’t always involve us always giving our dogs direction? We want our puppies to grow up and become dogs who don’t always need to be told what to do. We want them to be able to simply offer good dog behaviors. So, how do we do this? 


We want our dogs to be able to fit into our lives versus change our entire lives for our dogs. Therefore, we are going to want to start to notice and acknowledge their offered good behaviors while we are doing our day to day tasks. 


Think about your normal schedule. You want to think about your eventual goals for your dog to be doing while you are living your life. If you like doing puzzles, we want your dog to know what to do while you do puzzles. If you do dishes every night, we want your dog to know what to do while you are washing the dishes. If you work from home, we want your dog to know what to do while you are on phone calls or answering emails. If you binge watch your favorite tv show every night, we want your dog to know what to do. 


So, what do you want your dog to do?


It is always easier to notice the bad than it is to notice the good. Try to shift your mindset so that you are noticing good behaviors. Here are some examples of behaviors to reward that your dog is naturally offering: 


  • Laying down.


  • Looking at you, but not doing attention seeking behaviors such as pawing at you or barking at you. 


  • Sitting. 


  • Sniffing around, but not getting into anything.


  • Chewing on a toy independently.


  • Simply not doing a bad habit they are stuck in (ex. If your dog is alert barking, reward them for hearing a sudden noise and not barking).


Do we have to reward our dogs every time for these behaviors? No, that would be exhausting. You just want to make sure we are acknowledging the good, way more times than we are noticing the bad. 


Just like how what you like to do for fun might differ from what your best friend likes to do, the term ‘reward’ can look different for every dog. Here are some examples of rewards that we can give our dogs for offering good behaviors: 


  • Treats and food. You can toss small pieces of treats at your dog. You can also give them a lick mat, kong, or other food puzzle as a distraction if you are not able to be rewarding them as frequently as they need. 


  • Verbally praising your dog. 


  • Physically rewarding your dog.


  • Offering to play with them.


  • Bring them outside.


  • Give your dog a toy or a chew. 


When you are giving your dog these rewards for offering good behaviors, you want to deliver the rewards in ways that are beneficial for your schedule at that time.  


If you are rewarding your dog and want them to continue being calm, be calm with your delivery of the reward. Pet them slowly, talk to them in a quiet tone, toss treats without making a big deal about it, etc. 


If your schedule allows you to do something more active with your dog, then reward them in a playful way.


When you first start contentment training, you might have to be rewarding the dog very frequently. Even every few seconds. You might reward your dog for good behaviors and then they immediately go back to the unwanted behavior. It will take time for the dog to understand what they are actually being rewarded for. So if your dog is calm, we can reward them. If they start barking for attention, for example, ignore them. Keep repeating this process and you will start to see that we are able to reward them less and less frequently. 


If your dog ever makes unwanted contact with you or is destructive, we can try to redirect it 1-2 times. If the dog keeps doing it, give it a break in a crate or a pen. We can’t ignore behaviors like jumping on us, biting us, or chewing on furniture because they can be self-rewarding if the dog is able to do them. 


While you are teaching your dog contentment, it is helpful to give them fewer options. We do this by giving them less space. Putting the dog on a leash with you, in a pen, or in a small room with you works well. This makes it much easier to reward good behaviors, prevent unwanted behaviors, and interrupt unwanted behaviors. Over time, we are able to give more freedom as the dog shows contentment. 


Another tip for teaching contentment is to get your dog used to slightly different routines. Dogs don’t generalize well. This means that when things are suddenly different, it can be hard for them. I like to purposely mix schedules up to help my dogs adjust better when life is slightly different. For example, I feed my dogs anywhere between 6 and 9 am and pm, not at a fixed time. I don’t give my dogs the same amount of exercise daily. I don’t walk them every day. I will change where their crates are located in my home or I will change up crate times. My dogs see a variety of safe and healthy dogs, as well as people, instead of the same ones all the time. I bring them on different trails to explore instead of the same ones. I feed them out of different bowls/puzzle toys. I wake up and go to bed at different times.  I have them stay the night with other people. When first making a change, it can be a bit weird for them. They might bark, chew things up, have accidents, or otherwise act stressed. But the more we practice, the more content they will be with change. 


With all of this being said, you still want to make sure that your dog’s basic needs are being met. You will want to make sure they receive mental stimulation, physical stimulation, affection, potty breaks, and proper food and water throughout the day. How we deliver these needs and the quantity of these needs can vary. 


Teaching contentment to dogs is important. Change is out of our control in our human lives. We get offered different jobs, we move locations, we get sick, we go on vacations, we bring new people into our lives. Even though change can be hard, for both dogs and humans, we all have to experience it. Teach your dog to be content regardless of our unique lives.


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3 Comments


twoduffers47
twoduffers47
Jun 21

I am finding with summer it is harder to complete the lessons. We work daily on what she already do just to keep them current for her. The only one she doesn't know is place as we have not taught that. She is good at staying for about 15 minutes. We are so happy with her learning and enjoy this program immensely.

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Best article ever!!’ My puppy has just turned two and settles more often than she used to but it is still very hard at times!! I will try more of these ideas

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Great ideas! Thank you

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