Are You Playing Games or Dog Training?

By Adam Summerford

Bonding is very important with your dog. A strong bond is built with play, but it is important to make sure you are playing and not encouraging unwanted behavior.


  • Sit - rear on the ground long enough to get a treat.
  • Off - dog growls at you when you go to sit on the sofa.
  • Stay-Away - often taught to UPS drivers and mail-people.
  • Stay - your dog growls or bites if you or a guest moves.
  • Leave it - Dog growls or snaps at you when you reach for something he has.
  • Heel - Often taught to visitors when they come in or go to leave your house.
  • Look - Dog stops suddenly on walk to focus on something.
  • Come - Dog barks at something until you arrive.


  • Follow The Leader - your dog drags you down the street.
  • Hi There! - Your dog jumps on everyone that walks in the door.
  • Look Who's There! - Dog barks at doorbell and runs to greet your guest and you follow because he can't work the doorknob.
  • Keep Away - You trying to keep the steak on the kitchen counter and out of your dog's mouth.
  • Guess the Squish - Puddles or piles found late at night.
  • What's That Smell? - Hidden puddles or piles.
  • Hide and Seek - Your dog grabs your favorite shoe and hides it for you.
  • Chase - Similar to Hide and Seek but he taunts you with it in his mouth.
  • Tug - Dog has your favorite shoe and you want it back but he won't let it go.
  • Wanna Play - Dog brings you a toy from his stash.
  • Outside - Dog lets you know he needs to go outside. Followed by Guess the Squish or What's That Smell.
  • Mine- Dog growling when you get too close a toy or his food.
  • Fetch - Dog barking at pantry where treats are stored.
  • Open the Door - Dog barks or scratches at door to be let in.

Okay, those were all written very tongue-in-cheek but how many did you recognize? Those are all real examples of how people interact with their dogs. In these instances, the dog is in control of the situation. He initiates contact, rewards behavior and gives the owners boundaries that they can or cannot cross. And, although, we can agree some of the "games" are not fun in the human world, they happen every day because dogs think differently than we do.

Dogs have a different view of the world than humans. First and foremost, your dog is a pack animal. They have inherited drives and one of those is the need for leadership. He is born with the desire to listen, interact and look to you for leadership and it is your responsibility, as a good dog owner, to give him leadership. The moment you took him into your home, you started shaping his behavior. They are "shaped" by the reinforcement we give them.

How are you shaping your dog's behavior? Let's look at "reinforcement". It is an action, whether negative or positive, that strengthens a response to a stimulus. When training, we use a negative reinforcement to eliminate unwanted behavior and a positive reinforcement to get the dog to recreate a behavior. We see the positive reinforcement everywhere because it has taken over the dog training world with clickers and treats but it doesn't end there. We send mixed signals to our dogs with some of the games we play. It's natural, we don't mean to reinforce bad behavior with a positive but we love our dogs and want them to love us back.

Leadership is very important for to build a strong bond with our dogs. It instinctively gives them the structure they need. The leader controls everything in the dog world. In order to shape them into the well-behaved best friend we desire, we have to be aware of what we are reinforcing and how we are doing it. If you're at a loss, call a professional trainer to get help with any of these behaviors that might be causing you trouble.

Adam Summerford
Article by Adam Summerford
Written by Kalyn Trichell and Adam Summerford of Talk Dog Training and Coaching. Talk Dog Training and Coaching is a professional people and dog training service. We specialize at In-Home training. Coming into your home, getting the whole family involved to address all behavioral issues in the dogs' environment. We give you the tools and knowledge to have a well behaved friend for life.

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