People like rituals. We have holiday rituals and religious rituals, seasonal rituals and daily hygiene rituals (hopefully). If my dogs are representative of the species in general, I’d say dogs like rituals too. Some rituals make our lives richer and easier, others can get us into trouble. That after dinner cigarette ritual can make quitting tough.
I have created a number of rituals that I practice with my dogs. And as with people, many of their favorite rituals involve food. We have door and gate rituals. When a door or gate is opened treats are passed around. After we’ve stepped out, treats are offered again. Most of the dogs are quick to remind me of this, watching me after I’ve taken a few steps to be sure I haven’t forgotten.
When leashes are taken off treats are handed around. When leashes are snapped on, treats are handed around. Early on in our woods walk there is the ‘hunt for tossed treats’ ritual which also happens to be where the dogs who need to be leashed up when we head off the trail, will be on our return. Dogs who don’t need to be put back on leash are welcome to join us for a bit of food. One of Sunny’s favorite rituals is the daily frisbee tossing my husband engages in on his return home from work. It almost balances out the fact that the scary monster man is back.
All of the rituals I create for my dogs make my life easier. Gathering up my dogs at the end of our woods walk is easy because most have stopped to give one more search to the area where treats were tossed at the start. If I need to leave the house to meet the UPS truck at the end of the driveway I can get out of the door without a crowd of dogs attempting to dash past me so they can tell the dreaded brown truck and driver to bid a hasty retreat.
Call it training if you like, but don’t tell my dogs.