“ My dog is showing undesired / unwanted behavior, what did I do wrong? ”
Why is this the most important rule when owning a dog? Simple… Because a dog does not wake up every morning and thinks “Hmmm, how I can ruin my owner’s life today.” A dog does however wake up each morning with the attitude of “What worked before, will work now.”
So what does that mean? It means that when your dog does something, shows you something and behaves in a certain manner that he does that because you have either fed him the behavior, or have allowed him to do it to begin with. A dog is a fairly simply creature to be honest. They really are not that hard to get the hang of if you simply use common sense. That common sense tho? Hard and elusive for most owners. Why tho? Why is it so hard to be straight to the point with your dog? It is the easiest thing in the world if you just keep one thing in mind….
“Your dog is NOT HUMAN!”
That’s it! That is all you have to remember each and every time your dog does something you do not like or agree with. Treat it like a dog and it will respond like a dog. It really is that simple! Does it differ per breed? Sure it does. One breed needs more strength in actions from the owner then the other breed does. A working line Malinois or Dutch Shepherd per example, will have much more will and character to push you to your limits then an average pet dog, bred for purely pet purposes. And that brings us to the second problem with dog owners… Getting a dog that you should not own. What do I mean with that? Well… It seems to me that more and more people are getting a dog for the wrong reasons, from the wrong breed, with the wrong ideas about how it should be raised or what should be done with it. It has become a rule more than an exception to see an owner pop up somewhere with the question “My dog growls at people / My dog bites me / my dog snaps at me / my dog resource guards / my dog is starting to scare me / I don’t trust my dog anymore.” And this is just a small out take of what gets asked daily. There are so many more varieties of these questions that it makes your head spin. My first question to these people is always the same. “What sort of training does the dog get, or did he get?” And my most gotten reply to that is “No training, he is a family member and home protection.” So I sit there, biting back my anger, trying to find a way to tone down my reply to these people asking questions, knowing that they will not like my answers to them. My first answer will always be this…
“Want a companion and friend to train with, get a dog! Want protection? Buy a GLOCK!”
This is the new rage, a working line dog to protect your home, that plays with the kids, loves people, can sniff out danger, protects the baby, lays in the yard and keeps your family and home safe from all evil doers. In simple words “A killing machine that hugs trees in its spare time”
Now let me let all you first time owners, and new owners in on a secret… They do not exist that way. They do not climb out of the womb, salute and prepare to slay dragons for you. It requires work. Long and hard work. Time, effort, money, smart thinking, logic, patience, common sense, did I say time yet? A dog does not get born with all the commands logged into its brain. It does not know what you want and or expect from it. It is your task and responsibility to teach the dog that. Not to have him figure it out on its own. And trust me when I tell you this… the dog WILL start figuring it out on his own and you will not like what he comes up with! You need to lay down some ground rules for the dog to follow. No, not human rules… dog rules! Rules that make sense to him! You do not want him to bite you tomorrow? You do not allow it today! What looks cute as a pup, is not as funny in an adult dog. Your first thought when wanting to own a dog should be “Where can I find information on the breed I want, and are there trainers in my area to help me out.” You should prepare yourself for owning a dog. You do not bake a cake without looking up the instructions first, you do not buy a dog without thinking ahead either! Every single thing that your dog does that you do not agree with is something you created by not being clear to your dog in what you expect from it. Action is consequence! That is how a dog works. I do this, that happens, lesson learned. I eat the rug, I get removed from rug and given a chew toy, I return to eating the rug later. What did the dog learn? Rug means toy! I nip at my owner in play, I get redirected to a toy or tug. What did the dog learn? Bite owner means toy! You are not teaching him not to chew your rug, or your arm. You are only redirecting the problem but not fixing it. He eats the rug? NO, remove from rug, make him sit or give him a command to work with. He does what you asked? REWARD!!!! He goes back to rug? REPEAT! Rome wasn’t built in one day people!
Owning a dog is far more than just feeding it and walking it. It is a very long responsibility that is costly but fun! It takes up large amounts of time to train and teach the dog. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Show your dog respect… dog worthy respect. If it needs to be corrected? Correct it! There is nothing wrong with physical correction. It should however fit the crime. Anyone can abuse a dog, raising and training it are a completely different story tho. A happy and well balanced dog is a dog that knows his place. Why? Because you do not have to walk after it the entire day as you tell it to “ NO, leave it, stop, put that down, don’t bite me, let that go, don’t eat that, that is NOT a toy, move over, step aside, get out of my way.” This will drive you, and your dog nuts! He will never get the chance to mentally relax, always looking for verification with you. A dog that knows his place will not be under foot constantly. He knows what you want from him and does not feel the need to verify everything constantly…
What is the best advice I can leave you with? Think before you own! Do you really want a dog? It will still be there in 10 years! It will get sick, break things, have its own mind at times, need attention, love, training…. Does the dog you want suit your needs? Do not get a dog because it’s such a cool breed! Get a dog that suits what you are looking for! If you are looking for a family pet, for fun, but not too active, then do not get a dog from working lines! It will drive you, and your dog crazy! Get a breed that suits the low drive you are looking for. Just because you like a certain breed doesn’t mean you should own it! Too many owners have went before you too many dogs have paid the price by ending up in rescues, shelters or getting put to sleep. Think before you own and never forget that crucial rule number 1. Whatever your dog shows you in behavior is there because of you, not because of the dog!