Despite working cooperatively together for thousands of years and selectively breeding them for a broad spectrum of shapes, sizes, temperaments, and abilities, we still fail to fully understand and communicate clearly with our dogs. Dogs have retained a good deal of their original instincts and innate forms of communication. By denying this we do a disservice to the dog. By acknowledging it, but not honoring it, we do a disservice to the dog. We have a responsibility to understand their perspective.
We have a responsibility to learn how to communicate with them in a manner that they understand, and teach them what is acceptable or unacceptable by providing them with meaningful feedback in both situations. Otherwise, in the case of a dog with behavioral issues, we risk condemning them to a life of constant rehoming or worse yet, the shelter and potential euthanasia. The dog without behavioral issues still potentially has a lot to gain from some basic training—mental stimulation, confidence building, engagement, and probably more family outings. Training is freedom!
Dogs Are Individuals
My philosophical framework in dog training, whether it’s behavior modification or obedience training, is the same for all dogs. I believe in telling the dog “yes” and “no”. It isn’t fair to expect much if you don’t give the dog that information. That being said, the methods used depend heavily on the dog as an individual—and dogs are individuals! Some dogs do not value verbal praise or physical affection, so those would not be effective rewards when training a behavior with that dog. It is imperative to pay the dog with something that they value to reinforce and increase behaviors.
All too often we inject our own idea of what is valuable and we hit a wall because the dog does not agree. The same applies when we correct a behavior that we dislike. The personality of the dog, as well as numerous other factors, such as how the dog feels physically on a particular day or in a particular scenario, can impact what the dog responds to, and how they respond. We need to adjust accordingly in order to be effective, and also fair.
Accountability is Compassion
This is where most people struggle. Many of us fail miserably at holding our dogs accountable for their behavior. It’s not for lack of trying, we just don’t know how to do it—or maybe we are afraid of damaging our relationship, or hurting our dog’s feelings. I am of the opinion that if our dog engages in a behavior that is dangerous to himself or others, is going to limit his freedom or inclusion in activities in some way, or elicits anger or frustration from us, we are absolutely 100% obligated to provide that dog with the information they need to make better decisions. Therefore keeping him safe, enabling him to live a better life, and improving the quality of our relationship. Don’t allow your dog to do things that you hate. It will sabotage his life and your relationship. That is not compassion.
If you have tried using well-timed cookies or teaching your dog alternative or incompatible behaviors (i.e. “sit” to stop jumping) to stop unwanted behaviors and it isn’t working, you are not alone. Unwanted behaviors usually need to be addressed directly. Then you can reward better choices to solidify new habits afterward. Yes, there could eventually be a natural reduction in the bad behavior over time by increasing a preferable behavior, but that can take a very long time, and the old behavior still remains an in tact part of the dog’s repertoire, and will likely still be practiced. You are telling your dog what you like, but not what you don’t like. You are withholding information from your dog.
I can help you with this. Your dog is just doing what works—change that and change your life.
Make Today The Day!
Our dogs are valued members of our family. We want what is best for them. It brings me so much joy to help people bring the best out of their dogs. Whatever it is you want, it is all within your reach, and you’re improving both your life and your dog’s by making it happen. I’m happy to assist with puppy raising, improving manners, brushing up on basic obedience, rehabbing reactivity, or eliminating problem behaviors. We can put together a plan that is acceptable to you in terms of cost and time. Call or e-mail for a free consultation with no pressure or obligation. Training is freedom!