Your Questions: My Dog Refuses To…..

Give your dog something to look forward to when they would otherwise feel like they are missing out

Hi Katarina,

I walk my neighbours dog and when I return him (he’s a lovely golden retriever) to the garage, he often doesn’t want to go in because, I assume, he doesn’t want to go home and hasn’t had enough walking time! So he’ll wait outside the garage and just sit there and refuse to go in. My dad thinks that maybe throwing chicken in there to get him distracted long enough to close the door would be a good idea, but I think maybe then it would be rewarding him for not wanting to go into the garage? What do you think?

Amanda

Hi Amanda, this is a common problem for a lot of people who would like their dogs to do something such as go outside, go in to their crate, go in to the laundry at night time and in to the car after a walk at the park. The problem is often that the dog puts up some kind of protest which makes it difficult to get what you want.

I like your Dads’ idea of using a reward to motivate your neighbours dog. Quite often the reason people think twice about this is for the very reason you outlined, “I think maybe then it (the food) would be rewarding him for not wanting to go into the garage”. So lets look at it another way and introduce some training in to the mix too.

Dogs, like us, learn through developing associations. Your neighbours dog has learned that going in to the garage after a walk stops access to the more interesting outside world, so it stands to reason he would not want to oblige. At the moment the association is a negative one, lets see how we can turn it in to a positive.

If you give the dog a good enough reason to go in to the garage at the end of a walk you will turn the situation in to a win-win, with both of you getting what you want. Dogs are always thinking, ‘what’s in it for me’, give him a reason to want to go in to the garage.

When you do this you do not need to worry about rewarding him for not going in because he will, therefore you are actually rewarding him for doing what you ask him to do. Dogs only have the ability to associate rewards (and punishments) with behaviour for a few seconds at the most, which is why timing in training is so important. As long as you can motivate him to go straight in to the garage he will not be able to connect any refusal with reward. Dogs are not conniving enough to think back for more than a few seconds and connect it to the current reward.

Your neighbours dog will however, because of an already learned association, balk at going in to the garage tomorrow, the best thing you can do is find the point where he normally refuses and start to show him the food before this point so he goes straight in to the garage without refusing. Make a big fuss and get excited with some food in your hand, run in to the garage and make a quick exit while he is busy with the food. Over time, if you are successful, the learned behaviour of refusal will disappear.

As the dog becomes better at going straight in to the garage start putting the direction on cue, you could say ‘inside’ or ‘in you go’ as he runs in to the garage to get the food. Over time you will find that you can give him the cue to go ‘inside’, then you can give him the food. Thus creating a behaviour on cue, this is what dog training is all about.

Here, I have talked about a specific scenario, however, there is no reason why these strategies would not work in other situations where a dog feels as though they are loosing out. You will need to be organised, if your dog does not want to get in the car after a walk at the park have some great treats waiting for him in the car, the same applies to being put away at night.

Amanda, it might be a good idea to ask your neighbour to leave some treats or toys stuffed with food for you to give to the dog upon finishing your walk, that way you do not need to be responsible for this, after all you are walking their dog for them.

Good luck and feel free to let me know how you progress.

Katarina

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2 Responses to Your Questions: My Dog Refuses To…..

  1. Dawn says:

    I am having kind of the same problem. At nite we put our dog in the garage to keep him warm. It is not new, as we did this last year and he was fine with it. However, this year he refuses to go in the garage. We have tried treats to get him in and he
    wont take the treat or budge. Its going to get colder and Im worried about him. What can we do?

    • katarina says:

      Hi Dawn,
      It’s a question of what’s in it for him? If he’s refusing to go in to the garage which he knows is for the whole night may be a big step down from where he has been spending time, possibly close to you or even inside, in which case the treats offer no incentive at all for him. Perhaps allowing him to sleep inside would be a good option especially if it gets that cold where you live. Otherwise try spending lots of time with him in the garage, feed him meals there, train there, play there and teach him to go in and out on cue. Garages can be pretty dingy and isolated places so set the garage up so it’s a cosy place not only for him but also a place you are happy to spend time in. Dogs being social animals always prefer places close to their family, see if you can start having him inside at night. The companionship of an indoor dog is so rewarding.

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