Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Far too many times I see a lopsided, domineering, bordering on an almost abusive relationship between owner and dog. And no, I am not referring to the owner on this one, I am referring to the dog.
Often, new owners, experienced owners, or those just caught up in the love, treat their dogs as precious babies, catering to their every whim, grovelling at their feet, giving them everything they desire and more, dropping their lives for the life of the dog and essentially being trained by the dog. In turn, unknowingly, the dog becomes the domineering, abuser in the relationship, demanding everything, using intimidation, acting out, in the least, just being a plain pain in the butt, or at worst, being dangerous to those around them.
Dogs don't do this on purpose. Yes, some dogs are born with higher drives, more demanding tendencies, more dominant natures with harder personalities, but dogs don't knowingly abuse you, they don't treat you badly out of malice and they don't act out to get back at you .... they just do what works.
And if what works to get them what they want is being demanding, being a brat, using aggression, acting hyper etc. then they will keep on being that way. Usually these sorts of behaviours stem from the owner giving the dog attention at the wrong times, typically when the dog is "being bad". For example; the dog is acting crazy, bouncing off the furniture, grabbing clothing and being a nuisance. The owner, frustrated, says, "fine, I'll take you for a walk". With the walk being a reward, the dog is essentially reinforced for acting in an inappropriate fashion because it gets him outside where he probably wanted to be in the first place.
When people hear the word reward in reference to dogs, typically they think of a treat or a game. Reward does not always have to be food or a toy. Reward can be a touch, a look, a spoken word or it can be an event, attention (both negative and positive), a good feeling, something the dog finds fun (that we may not) etc. Reward is what the dog finds rewarding/feels good in that particular moment. So if it feels good to be free of the dropped leash, and run away from the owner that is desperately trying to call them back, that event is rewarding and thus will be repeated. If whining and carrying on gets the dog loose from the crate, which in turn feels good and is what the dog wanted, that behaviour is rewarding and will be continued.
With owners inadvertently or unknowingly rewarding inappropriate/bad behaviours, the dog will continue to act this way, for no other reason then it works or it feels good. Owners need to be aware of all the minor unwanted behaviours that they might be reinforcing, on purpose or not, make note, and change the way they offer their dog attention, food, play etc.
Those who give the dog everything, who treat the dog as an infant, who dote on their dogs hand and foot, will almost always reward inappropriate behaviours and create bratty dogs who, because they get everything for free, do not need to respond when owners require them to. They get constant attention and the owners voice becomes background noise, similar to the adults on Charlie Brown (if you're old enough to remember that - all that the kids heard was "wah, wah, wah, wah" when the adults spoke). Owners reduce their value to their dogs by giving them everything for free. They reduce their reward potential if the dogs get attention/treats/play for nothing at all, and it makes owners jobs a lot harder when it comes to training or just simple asking for appropriate behaviour around the house.
If owner treated their dog like a business partner, a 60/40 split on the part of the owner, they are setting themselves up for much better results then they would if they treated the dog like a baby or child. A business has rules, has boundaries and limits, a business has to be run in a particular fashion, and in business, nothing gets handed to anyone for free. Business owners have to work to achieve, and the business partner has to work along side the owner to achieve as well. Your business partner can be your friend, your business partner can be your family, but your business partner is never an infant or small child. You don't (or we hope you don't) give your business partner everything they ask for, or give in to their every demand, especially if you are holding 60% of the company. Bottom line is you are the decision maker, but your partner has an important role to play and there is mutual respect, admiration, co-operation and work load sharing.
If you have to baby your business partner through every move, they they aren't going to grow on their own. If you have to hold your business partners hand for every decision, they will not learn from their mistakes. If you have to constantly be in touch with your business partner because you can not survive without them, then the company is destined for a bumpy road ahead. If you have to change your life to please your business partner, that relationship will sour.
Now let's put that in perspective with the dog/owner relationship. If the owner does everything for their dog and gives them all that they want, all of the time, the dog will never grow, will never learn to "be" on its own, will never build confidence and will never achieve. This puts a large strain on the relationship, as you are now bending to their every whim, and this adds more stress to a situation that might already be stressful enough. This is where dogs start to "take advantage" and abuse, in a non-humanistic sense, those who are giving them everything, all of the time. However, if the owner requires the dog to follow certain rules, to work to achieve what they want, not give in to their every desire and expects the dog to play an active role in "building the business" the owner will acquire both mutual respect and add more value to themselves in the eyes of their dog.
It doesn't take much. Simple little changes. Some house rules. Less attention. Less background noise. Required work for what the dog wants. Reward what you like. Ignore or correct what you don't like. Time spent together that is not snuggling and baby talking, but rather fetch, tug, a walk a hike, training etc. Mutual respect - respect the dog for what he is, not what you want him to be, and he will respect you and your rules. Don't treat him like a baby, treat him like a dog. There is nothing wrong with being a dog. A dog is not a child, nor is she human. A dog is a family member, a friend and a creature that deserves a lot more then owners treating her like something she isn't.
So, keep this in mind. If you give in or give attention to the bad, you reward it. If you hand out freebies all the time, you spoil. If you don't teach, you don't allow learning/growth to occur. If you cater to all desires, you create an entitled monster. If you have no rules, chaos will ensue
But, if you teach, growth will happen. If you create clear rules, stress is reduced. If you create value in yourself, respect is earned. If you require things, discipline will be learned. Bottom line, if you want respect, you must earn it, and its a two way street.
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Monday, December 19, 2016
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
We are currently filling our list for our Thursday evening Basic Class starting in January. Class will run 7-8pm, for 7, one hour sessions. Cost is $230 plus HST. Class will begin mid-month. We currently have three spots left. Please email us ASAP if you'd like to be included on the list.
Smart Dog Basics group class will help teach you how to gain control of your canine companion under distraction with all of the basics of obedience - come, stay, sit, down, stand, heel, leave it, off. We work on engagement with your dog, focus and attention, and we offer the only video homework options in our area! We also save time for question and answer including topics like house training, crate training and other "typical doggy issues". We want our students to succeed. This is A MUST for all dogs, the most important class that you need to take! If you want a dog who listens to you, responds under distraction, and is a joy to be around, this is the class you want. This is a one size fits all class, all ages, all breeds and all sizes welcome!