WHEN LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH
If love alone could fix our dog’s issues, wouldn’t we all have the most well behaved dogs in the city? That’s what I tell my clients. Often they come to me with the best intentions for their dog, their heart is in the right place, they shower their dogs with love, attention, affection, the best food, the best snuggles, the best dog bed, the best toys!
But to no avail they have found themselves to have lost control of their dog’s instincts and are frustrated that their dog won’t listen to them reliably. Does this sound like you? Not to worry – youre not alone. This scenario is so common today that I have lost count of how many client consultations I’ve gone to where this is the case. I walk in and see the floor covered in dog toys, dog beds, and chew bones. Meanwhile, the client’s dog is out of balance and displaying unwanted behaviors – over excitement, jumping on me as I arrive, or worse, non-stop barking and lunging and protecting everything in sight, and sometimes nipping or biting. In either scenario one thing is common, the owner has lost control of their dog and is lacking in leadership. I always reassure my new client we can fix this and that the shame and embarrassment they are feeling will go away – that is – if they are willing to change and try something different.
I watch my clients cringe when I suggest structure, rules, and boundaries in their life with their dog. It sounds so drastic at first to an owner who has given their dog complete freedom to roam and do as their dog pleases anytime of the day. Quizzical looks come my way when I suggest structured feeding times, walks, and even a crate for bed time. A crate? Isn’t that like a jail sentence to a dog? All of these responses I am accustomed to. I know with my experience, working with and fixing so many unstructured and undisciplined dogs, that this exact thing the human cringes at (structure and rules) is the exact thing the dog is longing for.
Over hundreds of years, dogs have relied on a set of rules and structure to their day for their survival. They need one strong leadership – a being that can consistently be fair and implement a social structure that makes sense to their lives. For humans, this sounds punitive. Being told what to do is not something we take lightly. We save that for our work relationships as we let our bosses guide us and direct us so that we can collect our pay checks and earn a decent living and go after that promotion.
For our dogs, to have no structure or rhythm to their day is pure torture. It causes anxiety. They can’t figure out what comes next or who is in charge. Most often the dogs I see that are stressed out, fearful or aggressive, have come to take on a role in their home as the leader of the entire household. It’s unfair to ask a dog to manage the household responsibilities for us. But in essence, when we don’t ask our dogs and train our dogs to respect spaces in the house like the doorways, or earn rewards like food or toys, we are essentially telling them they are in charge. This is a powerful position to give a dog. Leadership to a dog involves directing and protecting its pack. And size does not determine pack leader status. I’ve seen 3 pound Chihuahuas be the pack leader of an entire busy family household!
When I say love is not enough, I simply mean affection. Affection is not enough to train your dog into good manners. When I was a kid, a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae was the ultimate reward. However, I only got that reward after a trip to the dentist. It allowed me to appreciate that I had to do something to get that sundae. It wasn’t an everyday ritual for me. It had a privilege to it. I had to earn it. If my parents took me to McDonald’s every day to show me they loved me and wanted me to behave at the dentist, I probably would have continued to kick and scream and misbehave at the dentist as there was no structure or reward given to me for my good manners.
When I go into homes and see a virtual dog Disneyland of toys, treats, and bones lying around, the first thing I do is take everything up off the floor and make the dog do something for the toy. A simple sit and watch me command can earn the toy back. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But I need that dog to see that all good things come from me and only get dished out when the dog has complied with my request. This order makes sense to a dog. This helps the dog build self-esteem and provides opportunities to strengthen the relationship and bond people can have with their dogs. The same applies to the feeding ritual. For owners who leave their dogs food down all day, it tells the dog there is nothing really important worth working for here. And it takes away the opportunity to have the dog associate you with the highest reward in its day, a meal! The one who controls all resources in the home is deemed as the leader.
I can no longer count how many clients are shocked that structure makes their dog happier! I get emails from clients proclaiming how amazing it is that their dog adores its crate! That they don’t whine when they sleep in it, that they are happier they have their own space and they enjoy working for their rewards.
Go ahead, try it. Start by asking your dog to sit and wait for its dinner, toy or treat. Start right away. Watch and see how much more your dog will respect you, and enjoy the process of earning everything it gets. You will feel happier knowing your dog is fulfilled, and you will start to get control back in your household and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Want to learn more about how to implement structure in your routine with your dog? Need more hands on help with training techniques and implementing new rituals to get rid of those pesky nuisance behaviors for good? Try a private training program to maximize your results in a short amount of time. If you want freedom from stress, worry and eliminate unwanted behaviors permanently, contact Drew at Canine solutions for a complimentary phone consultation. You will be amazed at how after just one session the relationship with your dog will change.