Letting Your Dog Make Choices

I had the privilege of working with Amy Herot in late June. She is one of the NACSW founder’s.  

Training secrets is the theme for this week’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! 

My training secret? – work on giving your dog choices.

Let Your Dog Make Choices!

The Whole Dog Journal’s article that I swear improved my relationship with Walter is all about making choices.

First read this article in WDJ – I’m going to share some highlights and how these tips improved my relationships with all three dogs! Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA – writes frequently for The Whole Dog Journal and other training outlets about positive training methods. What really stuck with me was what I wasn’t doing enough of for both Sherm and Walter. I think some of Walter’s reactivity is due to the fact that his life was tightly controlled by me… he doesn’t get to run off leash unless we’re at the beach or somewhere it’s safe since he can be reactive on leash with other dogs and off leash with larger dogs charging up to him.

Pat talks about promoting choice and empowerment with our dogs.

  • Do you let your dog choose the way when you go on walks? I do this on every walk now with the dogs – when we get the end of the driveway I let them decide which way to turn and this is how we walk at the end of the day!
  • How about you pick! Up on the sofa? Inside or Outside? Which food bowl? Puzzle Toy? I actually filled a bowl with Yaks and Walter picks the yak he wants which he LOVES.
  • Do you want to work? If Walter is agreeable when I ask him to work on a task – like go to your mat, then we continue. If he’s reluctant than the activity stops. Or I initiate a new activity.

Overall – the goal is to increase their behavioral health. Pat explains, “perhaps we can help our dogs be emotionally healthier by finding ways to give them ore choices in their world.” YES! Try this and comment on whether it works for you all.

Positive pet training hop jpeg

I’m so excited to join the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little TerrierWag ‘N Woof Pets, and Travels with Barley. Please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. The theme this month is “Training Secrets” – join us!


There are 12 Comments

  1. Thank you for this information. I do try to let my dogs make choices and typically when walking a “client” dog, I follow his or her lead more so than with my own animals. I assume each has preferences that I’m not familiar with and go from there. After reading this, however, I think I could do much more in allowing my own pets to make choices.

    • Absolutely! As soon as I started to see articles from Pat Miller and others about choice – I quickly realized that may help Walter break out of some patterns -just setting down a container of yaks to chew on and have him choose was fun for him. A lightbulb went off immediately. See where they lead you and it may be the path you go down repeatedly but I find my dogs typically start out the same way and then follow their noses. Which must be a nice rbeak in routine! Thank you!

  2. Beth says:

    Barley and I don’t do much of this because does better when she has clear instructions on my expectations. She is so dependent on me that even if I try to let her pick a direction on a walk, she’ll look both ways and then sit until I tell her where we’re going. I’m ok with that because Barley usually makes terrible choices when left to her own devices. With Rye, I will let her choose directions on a walk if we’re out on a trail and she’s nervous–she seems to gain more confidence when she’s decided which way we should go.

    • Sherm can be like that –he’s one of those dogs too that really need some direction and guidance. And Sherm can also make bad choices. I laughed when reading that part of your comment. I think hiking this way makes a ton of sense – on a trail to your point. Really appreciate your comment and points too. This is so dependent on the dog.

  3. Jen Gabbard says:

    I love this tip, and I do think it’s such an important part of the relationship we build with our dogs. It improves communication, and for Laika I’ve noticed it seems to really boost her self confidence. And for the daily walk letting her decide where to go keeps it interesting.

    • It absolutely boost Walter’s confidence – and I find that Walter has his own path that he likes to follow – and it wasn’t the path we were going down when I was leading. He almost never leads us home 🙂

  4. Janet Keefe says:

    Around the house, they almost always get their choices…where to sleep, when they want to go in or out. Cricket gets to choose when we stop playing ball, unless we think she might overdo. But I’d like to try giving them a choice of which way to go when walking and see how that works!
    Great post and thanks for joining the hop!

    • Thanks so much for coming up with such a great theme for this month! I’ve been loving all the posts. See what you think about the outside choices and let me know if you think that makes a difference!

  5. Pamela says:

    Love Pat Miller. And yes, I believe that allowing Honey to make choices helps our relationship.

    Because we live on a sailboat, there are times when Honey just doesn’t get what she wants. So when it’s possible, she gets to choose as much as possible.

    • Thanks so much! What’s great about where you live is Honey gets to make a lot of choices other dogs don’t so it’s constant enrichment! Even though there are times she doesn’t get to do what she wants –she’s on a life adventure!! Every dog wants to be Honey.

  6. I definitely let the dogs choose where we head on our walks but I hadn’t really thought about other ways to give them choices. I do pay attention to when they are reluctant to work on certain training exercises or, in Piper’s case, when she doesn’t want to get in the car but I love the idea of creating more opportunities for them to pick activities, treats, toys etc.

    • The best thing we do is the tupperware container full of yaks or toys -and then Walter spends an hour choosing which yak to chew on and very carefully 🙂 dumps them all on the floor! It’s hilarious!