Whether or not you’re a fan of the show Survivor, you might have heard the show’s motto: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. That same motto could be applied to dog training, especially when you live with an adolescent, high energy, and/or smart dog. (Romeo qualifies under all three of those categories, by the way.)
“Outwit” seems applicable when our dogs seem to be outsmarting us at times. Sure, we might be the more intelligent of the two species. But aren’t there times when you feel as if your dog is outsmarting you? Dogs are great at figuring out how to get what they want, whether it’s sure-fire ways to get your attention by stealing the one thing you are most concerned about being destroyed or figuring out how to get the baby locks off the cabinets so they can dig in the trash under the sink. The baby lock thing was a specialty of my first Greyhound, Gunner. He would move the chair I had placed in front of the cupboard. Then he would remove the baby lock meant to keep toddlers out of cabinets. He could get those things off faster than I could. Then he’d dump the trash can under the sink and empty the trash all over the floor. Dog can be great problem-solvers when it involves getting at something they really want. We need to “outwit” them by staying one step ahead.
“Outplay” just doesn’t seem possible when you have a high energy adolescent dog. I could play all day with Romeo, and I guarantee you that I will tire long before he will. However, I can create ways to help him better entertain himself. Find it games with myself, food, toys or other fun things are always good. He waits while I hide things and then release him to “find it”. I also use a “find it” sort of game when I ask him to “bring me a toy” or “find daddy” and he’s off on a search. Chase games with more than one person or dog chasing Romeo helps so that we can work together to try to catch him – one of us alone never seems to be enough to be successful. Interactive toys that I hide food or other toys in so he has to work to get them out are always good. Training “games” that involve Romeo being more active than me are always good ways to burn off some of that “play” energy. Fetch, around, under, over, and other active cues he knows are best for burning off both mental and physical energy.
“Outlast” when it comes to our dogs is the whole idea of patience. Dogs learn quickly that in some households persistence pays off. If they just stick to it long enough, someone will eventually give in and give them what they want. Barking at you for attention. Nudging at you for petting. Shoving the ball at you to throw it. Dogs often learn that if they can outlast your patience, you’ll eventually give them what they want just to get them to stop what they’re doing. However, if you can outlast your dog, s/he will learn that persistence does not always work. If Romeo hits the end of his line when out on a walk, he can wait until the cows come home, but we’ll never proceed forward until he returns to me. I can “outlast” the best of them. Some people might call it being stubborn. I call it patience.
Who is better at “outwit, outplay, outlast” – you or your dog?