Negotiating with a Dog - Part 1

Negotiation is the heart of collaboration. It is what makes conflict potentially meaningful and productive for all parties, writes Chris Voss in his book: Never Split the Difference. Wonder if he has a Dog. He should.

Chris was an FBI and NYPD hostage negotiator. And so are you when you are trying to get your Dog to surrender a shoe, pair of underpants, or the remote control. You can pretend you are the Boss all day long but, the question is what will it take to PEACEFULLY retrieve your property your Canine or Feline has taken as their hostage?

Building trust rather than explaining value is another Chris quote.

Explaining the value of a TV remote control or a vet bill means less than nothing to them. So as my Jersey friends might say: fuggeteboutit - because in the heat of the moment – while thinking about a doorbell, rabbit, neighbor, sock – consequences and assigned values are nowhere to be found.

Negotiation is a process of discovery. (ibid) Discover your Animals’ highest rewards:

Affection. Kind voice. Play. Rarely, rarely, rarely do I use food = maybe with ferals or hard to reach so I can introduce myself and my voice = but always sprayed first with our COURAGE and TRUST. Why? Because usually that is what that personality needs: Courage and Trust!

Building trust is everything and it requires consistency. When trust has been established; your requests can be heard and met. Dare I say - every single time. Their actions will become predictable, the outcomes positive, and that means FREEDOM FOR YOU!!

Stop yelling at the visitors at the front door even though you have explained (often quite loudly) that they are not the enemy? Angrily apologizing when they drag you down the street to what interests them at the moment? Or play tag with the remote?

How do we know they are listening and understanding this art of negotiation?

When they offer us a reward. Whether by doing as we have asked like relinquishing the remote, shoe, etc. Or not acting out quite so badly for quite as long. AKA: The Try! Or bringing us something physical like this NYC shelter Dog bringing me his favorite toy - even though I had asked nothing of him. He offered first!

Emaciated as he was, he was not looking for food. He wanted nothing in return - maybe recognition and affection. It had to be all voice for him and body posture on my behalf because he was in quarantine. But he got my message! Look at those eyes.


Rewards come in all shapes and sizes. A moment of silence. Offering a paw. (If the paw is pulled in across the chest that is reticence. If it is forward and a bit extended = that is an offer!) Bringing you a toy or a treat – even if it is possibly something funky they found in the yard! Be grateful for the offering!!

Next blog – will offer single solutions that have broad impact on daily habits. In the meantime, discover THEIR highest value REWARDS are and maybe how you can increase those. Here is a partial 'List of Habits' = Our behavior chart.

Also, answer this question or just guess = WHAT is in it for THEM? A particular behavior like barking, pushiness, running away. What is the pay-off?

Is it fun or is it taking the house hostage?