How I trained my dog, but he makes his own smart decisions

Koonie the American Eskimo dog

On a daily basis someone asks me how I trained Koonie to do “X”, and I have to disappoint them every time. Because I haven’t trained Koonie like you might see on some dog whisperer television show, it’s difficult to explain a straight forward process for anything that Koonie has accomplished.

Let me give you a specific example of a behavior that I asked Koonie to perform, and he accomplished the first time (though it took a few months to set the building blocks).

When I go to the Millstone, a little grocery market across the street from my house, Koonie will sit in front of the house when I say “stay”. He just sits there and waits. I didn’t have to train him, he did it the first time I asked.

Here’s what I did over 6 months to make Koonie patiently wait for me.

Develop bonds. We’ve spent nearly every minute together over 6 months. I take Koonie everywhere I go. If I go into the market, he’s learned that I always come back.

Develop trust. I trust Koonie just as much as he trusts me. When we’re doing an off leash walk and Koonie runs ahead out of sight, I know that he’s taking shade under a tree. We trust each other: he’s not running away nor am I. I take every opportunity to develop trust.

Build confidence. This has been hard road for Koonie. It’s a work in progress. Koonie is a rescue dog that I got December 15, 2016, and he came with a deficit in confidence. I’m learning different training exercises to build Koonie’s confidence, but it’s taking a lot of time

This morning he waited for me across the street from the store, but when I came out I noticed he moved around 20 feet, which he had never done before. Then I realized he moved out of the sun to the shade under a tree. Good decision!

One of the things that amazes me every day is how many good decisions Koonie makes. On his own, he makes decisions that I have absolutely no problem with and don’t need correcting. Even if I have a minor correction, I don’t often make it because it would be nitpicking.

How I trained my dog to be a great companion is pretty simple. I needed everything that I expected from him: patience, trust, and confidence.