As much as we often wish that our dogs could speak to us, we need to use other methods to understand what they are trying to communicate. Consent Training is one method of understanding our dog's cues and training them how to say yes or no to certain requests.
Consent means that we give permission for an action to occur. In order for our dogs to give consent they need to 1) have a choice provided, 2) understand what that choice is, and then 3) tell us what choice they have chosen. That is a lot for us humans and dogs to communicate with each other! Consent Training provides opportunities for us practice giving choices and to understand our dog's cues so that we know when they are consenting.
In our relationship with our dogs, we have a lot of the power. We decide when and what our dogs eat. When and where they walk. Where they sleep and so much more. And most of the time they are happy and willing to comply. However, when we provide more balance to the relationship we help build a well-bonded one. Dogs who are provided opportunities to make choices are more likely to trust us, be happier, and have less behavior issues. Consent Training is especially helpful during activities that make our dogs fearful such as going to the vet or getting groomed.
Gaining consent for petting is one of the easiest ways to start with Consent Training and to understand our dog's cues. Simply start petting your dog and then stop after a bit to gauge their reaction. Do they nuzzle up for more? Roll over on their back for a belly rub? Or do they walk away or seem uninterested? Also, pay attention for times when your dog comes to you sit on your lap or nudge you for attention. That is the ultimate consent for wanting some love and pets!
The Bucket game was designed by Chirag Patel as a way to teach dog's how to consent to specific activities. It works well trips to the vet or to get groomed. This one will take some time to teach so start now for a future appointment and wait to implement if that grooming is scheduled for this week.
The idea behind teaching "place", is that your dog has a safe spot to retreat to when they get overwhelmed. They can then choose to re-engage on their own time. Start by teaching your dog to go to a comfortable place (a mat or their bed). Then let others know that when your dog is in "place" they are not to be bothered unless they leave their place.
Each of these ideas provides you and your dog opportunities to work together on consent. Think of other ways you can read the cues your dog gives for when they want to play or be left alone as well as when they are feeling afraid. What are other ways you can provide choice and train your dog to communicate their preferences?