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Training your dog to make better choices at a Memorial Day BBQ

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Memorial Day is right around the corner, and to a lot of inquisitive canines that means one thing – BBQs! Meat morsels and drippings … wonderful smells … gathering around the open fire and cooking just like the domestic dogs’ prehistoric ancestors did.

As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant , I think this is the perfect time to help set the stage for keeping inquisitive canines happy and safe while either attending or co-hosting a BBQ or other summer event.

Reward  for ignoring “forbidden items,” especially the BBQ! Say your dog walks by the BBQ and decides to stay away. Whether you’ve asked them to or not, they should be thanked. Say “thank you” with anything they find motivating, such as praise, petting, a game of fetch or tug, and even a yummy treat to make an impact.

Teach “down-stay” in one location: Train your dog to perform a settle down-stay on a bed, towel or mat. Reward for being on their “magic carpet.” If their nose starts to lead them toward the the BBQ, call them and/or ask  them to “leave it!” As soon as they reverse direction from the BBQ, reward heavily. Praise, petting, fetch, or a treat.  If they opt for pushing the limits, send them indoors, i.e. remove from the “fun.” After a minute or so, allow them to return to their magic carpet and reward them for being there. They should soon learn this distinction: “Hmm, if I stay on my magic carpet I get treats and I get to hang out. If I wander toward the hot thing with all the meat, I end up inside … that’s no fun.”

Dogs are very clever and soon learn what the better choice is.

A second helping of BBQ Do’s and Don’ts:

  • DO spend some time teaching and practicing safe BBQ behaviors with your dog before guests arrive.
  • DO arrange your dog’s environment. Maybe an outdoor enclosure or other barricade to the BBQ is necessary.
  • DO keep your dog inside the house or tethered to those who aren’t manning the grill, if barricading outside isn’t possible.
  • DON’T leave your dog alone with the BBQ – ever. Paws, muzzles, mouths and tongues burn easily and badly!
  • DON’T create an unintentional “time-out” by sequestering your dog to an area without anything to do while everyone else is having fun.

While teaching your dog to be the #1 BBQ Master, remember to combine the basics with an emphasis on rewarding any and all behaviors you want. Also keep in mind that dress rehearsals are key, especially since BBQs and all of the chaos of daily life can keep us preoccupied.

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

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