Psyched! We Aim to Please


That was me. . . reacting to Psych landing on my stomach in the morning.

It’s morning and he’s doing his normal routine: “YAY! You’re up now!” (never mind that I wasn’t before he flopped on my stomach) “Can we go out now? Can we get breakfast now? Can we play now? Can we go out now?  Did I mention going outside?”

If you’re not a morning person, imagine the peppiest, most cheerful person you can think of waking you up in the morning.  I’m a morning person and it’s still a little annoying. My typical reaction is one word: “Psych. . . “ He usually uses that opportunity to climb further up to lick my face in apology – not that it’s going to stop him from doing it again the next day.

That’s my been my experience with herders. They really REALLY want to please you.  If they don’t, then something must be wrong with them and they will try their darndest to fix it. Now, just because they have the desire to please doesn’t mean that they they all do it the same way.  Psych and Percy are polar opposites when it comes to trying to please me.

Percy is the kid in the classroom who watches the teacher’s (my) response as he’s writing out the answer to a question.  If I give any indication that he’s written something not right, he stops, apologizes, and erases EVERYTHING.  He wants to get it ALL correct or thinks it’s ALL wrong.  He looks for my approval in everything and is very cautious to do the right thing.  Any disapproving word, or body language, and he’s backing off immediately.

Percy 14 Psych on the other hand, is the kid in the classroom at the front of the class who, when you ask a question, jumps up and down in his seat with his hand up saying “Oooh! Oooooh! I know this one! I know this one!” then spouts off an answer.  If it’s right, he’s going to do a happy dance in the classroom.  If it’s wrong, he’s going to spend the same amount of time he spent answering the question apologizing and trying to actively suck up to the teacher.  He learns from mistakes, but he’s prone to making a lot of them before he learns.  When I first started to teach him that barking was only for legit things when he’s inside (please note that falling leaves do not count), he would bark continuously despite my telling him “no”.  When I corrected him by pulling him away from the distraction and making him concentrate on me, he still wouldn’t stop barking!Psych edit 2 You can’t treat any two dogs the same way, any more than you can expect any two kids to learn the same way.  A herding dog’s aim to please makes training them both enjoyable and challenging.  Being aware that lots of wrong answers or mistakes is part of that “attempt to get the right answer,” is important to recognize.  Patience is also a MUST.  Not that you shouldn’t do this whenever you train an animal, but be double aware of it with herding dogs who seem to be overly sensitive to cues and pleasing you.

I use this simple rule when training: make the right answer easy and the wrong answer hard.  Meaning that when I get the response I’m looking for, I treat and praise.  Fun and easy.  When I don’t get the response I want, I keep asking the question and they have to keep giving me answers.  It’s not as easy as the right answer.  Sometimes I have to ask in different ways, but it’s still not as easy or as fun as getting the right answer. Just remember that herders are learners regardless. Take advantage of that inquisitive nature and teach them something fun for you both.

Because they always aim to please . . . . . . and are always Psyched! Percy Tennis Ball

4 thoughts on “Psyched! We Aim to Please

    1. scaramouche239 says:

      Thanks so much! I don’t mind them barking to alert me of people or live things in my yard or coming down the street. I really appreciate the heads-up. Whenever they bark at anything from the window, I check outside. (It also works if/when they bark at my indoor cats, which is not okay either.) With Psych it’s really obvious when he’s watching the leaves fall, for example. His head moves up and down as he watches them. If I know for sure that they are barking at something that’s not a “live alert” (animal or human) I tell him “no,” bring him away from the window, and have him sit in front of me. If he is still barking and whining – which was the case for a long time, he does not get a reward or a treat and I continue to try to distract him by saying his name to get his attention. As SOON as he stops barking and whining he gets praise and a treat. (I keep treats everywhere). Now, all I have to do is say “Psych, No,” and he immediately distracts to me. We are still working on the whining part, because it’s all he can do not to bark at whatever he sees, but it’s a LONG way from the constant barking at EVERYTHING. Oddly enough, Percy has not had that issue. If he barks or growls, there is something out there. If Percy starts it, I don’t have to worry about distracting Psych. I hope this helps further explain! Do you have a dog of your own?


      1. maija says:

        Yes! We adopted Olaf who also is an especially excited barker as well. We do have additional challenges like frequent artillery fire living so near Fort Bragg but I am always anxious to hear what works for other people. I have to usually distract with tricks or a hide-and-seek game (all of which end with treats!)


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