Let’s talk about Conversation Starters?
Is your dog having a conversation with you or with the environment?
What are Conversation Starters? A Conversation Starter is any easy, well rehearsed behavior that your dog can do in any environment. Ideally this is a behavior that has a clear visual cue, since we know that physical cues are so much stronger than verbal cues. Some examples are “paws up”, “nose touch”, “it’s yer choice games”, “middle”, “magic hand” or any trick that your dog REALLY REALLY loves!
Why do we need Conversation Starters? They are invaluable to connect with our dogs in any new environment or stressful situation, so we can regain their focus and engagement with us. They allow our dogs to feel confident and calm. With the help of a Conversation Starter, our dogs can say “This is cool, I’m with you!”
How does it work? You have to develop one or more behaviors or tricks at home first, then take them into the front yard, then out and about on a quiet walk where there are no distractions. It’s important to practice them at first when there is no urgency, using some of your dog’s daily food allowance. By following these steps you’ll have some great behaviors your dog will be able to do no matter what the circumstances and those can be a life saver!
When do I need conversation starters? I like to start (and end) my training sessions with a conversation starter. Starting a walk into the neighborhood with one or two conversation starters is another great way to take off on the right foot/paw (rather than your dog being all excited about the walk and ignoring you completely for the first 10 minutes). It only takes a few minutes to do this every day and it will make a huge difference for your relationship. While waiting at the vet’s office is another great example for where to use Conversation Starters … there are many many more.
This video shows how to teach the “Nose Touch”, a quick and easy conversation starter that you can use anywhere:
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