My younger boy Rizzo is one big fluffy black bundle of comfort-seeking Belgian Shepherd. When he’s not zooming around at full speed, he’s usually found some comfy spot and basks lazily in the joy of just being comfy. Normally, this is just cute. But when it’s time for me to go to bed and he’s sprawled out across my side of the bed, it can be a problem. You see, once he’s comfy, Rizzo doesn’t like to move.
When he was still a puppy, I would encourage him to move by giving him a bit of a poke or a prod to get him moving. Rizzo was amazingly resistant to that approach and he would pretend he didn’t feel anything and just lay there like a wet dish towel. One night my nudges turned to shoves and eventually I ended up nudging him off the bed onto the floor (after which he looked mortally offended that his dad would do such a thing to him!). That’s when my wife sleepily said “Hey, dog trainer. Maybe bring a treat next time.” Light bulb!
There was no reason for Rizzo to move any more than he had to when I came to bed. He felt he could resist my nudges even if he fell onto the floor. But there had to be a better way. The following night, I just waved a treat in front of his nose and said “Hup-up” and he happily followed me to the foot of the bed and lay back down to enjoy his treat and more sleep. We kept that routine for a couple of months and Rizzo learned quickly; he would hop up as soon as I entered the bedroom. Now I don’t have to reward Rizzo when I ask him to move. I still do occasionally because I want to make sure he still enjoys moving for me when I ask.
It was an important turning point. I could have been more and more insistent with my shoving. Effectively I would be annoying Rizzo into moving. But my wife was right, why irritate when you can cooperate? Teaching Rizzo that doing what I asked meant good things for him was much better than threatening that bad things would happen if he didn’t do what I asked. It worked immediately and it has established a good and useful habit. I can get Rizzo to move off sofas or chairs, from one room to another, any time I need him to get up and move.
I’ve talked to other dog owners who have problems with dogs growling or worse when asked to move. Remarkably, playing the “trade off” game for treats works quickly with most of these dogs too. It’s remarkable what you can accomplish by motivating your dog with a reward rather than a threat!