The Old Trainer: Dogs train humans to get attention, affection they need

12/20/2013 9:00 PM

12/20/2013 9:23 PM

D ear Old Trainer: I love the idea of teaching Gracie, my 6-year-old Yorkie, tricks using reverse training, but I’m not clear on your example about the dog at the park. I want to try it with Gracie, but I don’t recall seeing her do anything where I could use that tactic.

– Jean

Independence, Kan.

Dear Jean: You’ve probably used reverse training and not realized it. Dogs have lots of spare time, and they spend it training their human to pay attention to them. Here are a couple of examples.

Spot raises his paw to get Billy’s attention and Billy says, “Oh, you want to shake.” He says it a few more times and pets Spot when he does it. Spot sees he will get loved on if he raises his paw when he hears the word and, like magic, learns a new trick. Spot trained Billy to shake hands; Billy supplied the name for the trick.

Amy and Rover are playing when Rover gets excited and barks. Amy says, “Hey, I think you want to talk to me. Speak, Rover.” When Rover barks, the girl praises him and loves on him. In a few days Rover learns the command. He taught her to communicate with him. She named the command.

Gracie is sure to do things to train you to notice her – raise a paw to beg, climb on your lap, follow you to the car. When she does, apply a name to the act and you have a new trick for the two of you to enjoy.

In a pack, the leaders train the other dogs. It is part of the DNA of every dog, and they train their humans the same way humans train their dogs. See the next letter for another example.

Dear Old Trainer: I am worried about Ava, my 5-year-old silky terrier. She was always a good eater, but lately she ignores her food. She has a good appetite and will eat what I am eating, but won’t eat her own food. I am 71 and she is my only companion, so I want to take good care of her. What should I do?

– Gloria,


Dear Gloria: First, don’t worry about Ava. She is just training you to give her your food instead of dog food. Dogs train their human all the time.

And it is fine to feed her table scraps if you prefer as long as they contain the protein she requires. If you want her to eat dog food there are two things you can do:

•  Get a second dog for you and Ava. Having a second dog works wonders in getting a reluctant dog to eat. If you don’t feel like getting a second dog, then try the following.
•  Feed her in the same place, at the same time, each day. If she doesn’t eat within a few minutes pick up the food and don’t feed her until the following day.

Large dogs should be fed once a day, but with a dog as small as Ava you have a choice. You can divide her food into two portions and feed her once in the morning, once when you have dinner. Try it both ways and see which works best.

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