Dog tricks require dogs to perform from a “do this and I will give you a treat” standpoint. However, some behaviors you want from your dog require they feel good about doing a perceived scary thing. For example, most dogs naturally fear standing on something that’s slick (think wood floors,) or moves under their feet. It takes more than understanding how and when to pass out a treat for dogs to feel comfortable doing what you ask of them. It requires understanding dog emotions and earning that dog’s trust.
Working with Dog Emotions
You must have a mutually trusting and respectful relationship with your dog; and that can’t happen if you’re not a firm but loving parent that provides guidance. When you watch a dog perform a trick, notice how the dogs are always looking to the human’s hand for treats, including the human trainers behind the camera. That’s how most dog tricks are taught. However, if you’ve ever had a dog with fears, you know they won’t take ANY food when they are really afraid of something. As a matter of fact, that’s how you can test just how afraid your dog is of something. If they won’t even take a high value treat when you try to get them to walk down a staircase, then they are at a very high level of fear. They are REALLY afraid of that staircase. Treats won’t work anymore. You must use your understanding of dog emotions to undue that fear.
Dogs must be respectfully and confidently guided through the scary thing in order to realize nothing bad is actually going to happen. You cannot be unsure and start to lead a dog through something he is afraid of then stop in the middle because you feel bad; or you didn’t really intend to see it through. If you start, follow all the way through, without excitement, pity or anger. This shows the dog, “See, nothing bad happened. I will only lead you into safe places.” Repeat it over and over until the dog relaxes and goes without hesitation, and then always end with big praise and an awesome treat. Treat only AFTER the fear is gone. When you lead a dog through something, and release him from his fear, his trust in you sky-rockets and his confidence soars!