As a dog trainer, I find myself having to say, "Get happy!" to my clients and they'll look at me quizzically and then suddenly break out in a big smile. Immediately their dog will start to pay attention to them and dance in front of them ready to work with them more.
What does it mean to "get happy" and why is it that dogs love it when we are happy?
Dogs are incredibly intuitive when it comes to reading our minds, moods and body language. They have been bred for thousands of years to be our loyal companions, protectors and best friend. They are protectors of our hearts and happiness above all else and lov
e it when we laugh and smile because it's a sign that we are having as much fun as they always have.
We can learn so much about being happy just by appreciating our dogs happiness in every moment, smell, activity and interaction.
I just wish that I could be as happy as my dogs are when it's time to play ball, go for a walk, eat dinner, greet someone new, play with a pal, cuddle in b
ed, roll in the grass, smell the flowers, run on the beach, etc. I really wish sometimes that I had a tail, so that I could wag a happiness flag for all to see!
What really makes me smile is when my dog Daisy is playing
on her back, rolling around with a toy held above her head with her two front paws, kicking her legs out every time she squeaks it. The harder that I laugh when she's kicking her legs, the more that she wags her tail and kicks
her legs out harder. Maybe our laughs are equivalent to tail wags? Whatever it is, her behaviors that are cute and silly are reinforced by my laughing, so she continues to do lots more leg kicking. She loves to be happy and I love it when she's happy.
All animals and people feed off of each other's happiness and respond to it with increased happiness.
Positive reinforcement training means that animals or people operate on their environment and get a response that increases or decreases a behavior based on whether or not the response is pleasurable or not. We reward good behavior with anything that the person or animal likes or makes them feel good- attention, praise, food, play or access to anything good. Just like animals we operate on our environment too. If you smile at someone, chances are your efforts will be rewarded by a smile back, which will make you feel happy or connected with that person, which means that you will be more likely to smile at more people.
You can train yourself just like you can train your dog.
Dogs have been trained to recognize smiles and laughs because they are usually attached to a reward- i.e pets, attention, a toss of a toy. When training your dog with the positive reinforcement method, you are enjoying the time spent working and playing with your dog, which releases good 'happy' chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that flood both of your systems and is read all over each other's body language. It is very rare to see an owner/dog duo using positive reinforcement methods who are not smiling and tail wagging. You will know that you've hit the nail on the head with your training when the both of you are smiling, laughing and being happy!
So start this new year off right, by getting happy with your dog and teaching each other a few tricks or two about being happy together!