Have you thanked your dog today?
She signaled to her Great Dane to go down; he obliged and she immediately said "thank you." "Good" I told her and reached my hand out to give her a celebratory handshake. She'd told him to down many times and he had done it many times; but this time was different. With a puzzled look on her face she reached out and shook my hand as I said "thank you for thanking your dog." We both smiled and I explained. When you thank your dog for doing something you have asked them to do you are in a good place. Your mind is positive; far from a place where too many people's heads were at just a few years ago and may still be today. A place where it is do it or else way of thinking.
It is not the actual words that are spoken; it is your mindset that is important. When you thank your dog for doing or not doing something that you have asked; it typically comes without thought. This in itself is positive; you are truly thankful that they have obliged and acted on your wishes. Sure there are times when you will ask your dog to comply with some sort of behavior and it will be a "because I said so;" situation. We are after all the rule makers.
Dogs tend to listen and comply far better than humans do. How often do your children jump up and do whatever you asked them to do immediately upon asking? Not so much right? But if and when they do; we thank them, correct? Just last night I asked my husband if he could grab me a Skinny Cow Drumstick from the freezer; he did and I thanked him. It would have been very rude to have not; very unappreciative of his obliging behavior. So when I ask my dogs to go lay down and they do; I thank them. When Luke sees me digging in the garden and decides that the activity of the day is digging; I quickly ask him to STOP. When he does I thank him; and tell him that he is just the best boy. It is pretty amazing when our dogs stop doing what they want and do what we want them to do.
It is especially amazing when a dog obliges us without force or bribery. Throughout my years of group training; I always made a point of praising those who thanked their dogs. I didn't want to hear it each time they asked their dog to do a behavior but at least once throughout the class I liked to hear it. It simply meant that they were in the right mindset for training. It may seem like such a small act; "thank you," really? But I never asked for anyone to say it in class; I just made a point of congratulating those who did. Before long everyone was in the right frame of mind. Educating your dog should never be done in an angry state of mind. If it's not enjoyable why would your dog ever want to be a part of it?
Most dogs enjoy being praised; puppies enjoy it but opt for a food reward over words in the beginning. As your relationship grows and your connection to one another strengthens; praise becomes a very desired feedback. When I use praise I use it in accordance to the behavior given to me. Let's say Luke is running free at the park; he sees another dog across on the other side and decides to go. As he sets off I call to him "NO." A word I save for each individual dog's worst offense behaviors. Telling him "NO" is a complete contradiction to what he wants to do. He jams on his brakes; looks at me and I praise him immediately, his body posture changes. I then call him to me; he looks over his shoulder at the other dog, I give him a reminding ah ah.............Luke come. At that point he usually opts for the lavish gushing that he is going to receive and bounds in at full goofy speed. He gets a big "thank you;" along with "you are the best boy in the world," stuff that makes him googly happy.
Thank you is a small phrase but packs a powerful message.