There are many theories about dog training, but most experts agree that dogs respond best to reward-based training. New research shows that dogs can learn to “please their owners.” When starting to train your dog, think of it as increasing attachment between you and your pet. You see this type of attachment when your dog is very happy to see you after a long day away. This same emotion can be used to help your dog learn good behavior.
One way researchers have seen that dogs can increase this attachment is by simply letting them win when they play games with their owners. In the study, dogs played tug-of-war with a person, over and over. When the dogs were allowed to win the game, they were more interested in playing with that particular person. And best of all, the dogs who were allowed to win did not exhibit any unwelcome dominant behavior—they simply learned to attach more to their playmate.
These types of interaction leads to a sense of “working together,” which in turn can help your dog become more confident and obedient. Playing this type of game is also a good opportunity to teach your dog that at the end of the game, he or she should drop the rope at your command. If your dog knows that you will continue the game if he obeys, then you’ve rewarded the good behavior with an activity that your dog wishes to continue.
You know your dog best, so if you engage in this type of play and you notice that your dog becomes fearful or overexcited, it might be best to take a break. Occasionally, a dog will not enjoy these types of games, so pay attention to any negative behavior it might cause. But if you can set some firm rules for play and your dog enjoys the attention, it can lead to better behavior and a happier relationship.