I see a very worrying development taking place in the dog world. The lack of taking the lead with your dog and taking responsibility for its actions and behavior. Common sense seems to have gone out of the window and Medication or feeding treats have taking its place. I could state it differently and simply say that with the rise of Force Free training the use of common sense have been replaced by humanizing dogs. Anthropomorphism is at an all time high…
Catchy phrases like “ Hug out the fear – It’s all in how you raise them – Pain / fear / discomfort – Higher value treats – Corrections are bad – Redirect the behavior – The poor thing needs love – History of abuse” and my absolute favorite “ Needs medication “ are what it’s all about now. No more looking at what the dog needs. No more checking to see if the dog is doing well. Just a simple “You are not trying hard enough.” or “You are doing it wrong” when the application of Force Free training doesn’t give the result you are looking for. Balanced training is being used as a dirty word and all balanced trainers are abusers that beat their dogs daily and with gusto in order to get a dog to comply…
Nothing could be more wrong tho… Balanced training is nothing more than looking at the dog sitting in front of you and giving it what that particular dog needs in order to get through life as a solid and level headed happy dog. Unlike Force Free training, where one size fits all. I do not however want to dwell on the differences between Force Free and Balanced training since I could write pages or even books about it but the end outcome would remain the same, one group will never see eye to eye with the other on the subject.
Instead I want to talk about taking the lead with your dog. This is one of the most important things in a dog’s life. To have an owner to guide him over the rocky path of learning what it means to become a good dog.
There are a few rules in life that I have always adhered to when it came to owning and training dogs. Simple rules really.
- If my dog is showing behavior I do not like, what am I doing wrong?
- A dog that knows its place in life is a happy dog.
- What I do not want to fix tomorrow, I do not allow today.
- You can not correct a dog for what it does not know.
- Emotions have no place in teaching or training your dog.
- Take the lead or your dog will do it for you!
- Correct unwanted and reward wanted behavior.
As you can see, not many rules and simple ones at that. I will go through them point by point to explain what I mean and how they can help you to get a well rounded, happy and mentally healthy dog. Why? Because I see to much dogs on medications like Prozac to keep them in check when in most cases it simply is uncalled for or not needed. Medication for a dog is the very last thing you should go for, even when you have seen a vet or behaviorist for your dog’s problems. The first thing you should do is SEEK A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER! Preferably a balanced trainer. Why balanced? Because a balanced trainer will look at all angles and find what the dog needs whereas a Force Free trainer tends to look at things from one side only. The whole one size fits all training mantra of Force Free training comes into play here. A balanced trainer will work with you. They will look at your dog, see what triggers it, or what needs fixing and how to best fix it in a way that works best for the dog, and owner. Medication is hardly ever needed with dogs. But it seems to be the new thing because it is easy and means that owners don’t have to really look at themselves or have to put in the work for fixing the dog. Harsh of me to say that? Yep I guess it is. Is it true tho? In the most cases… YES!!! You train first, get second opinions on that training if you need to and if in the end you still get prescribed medications for your dog in order to fix its noggin…. Then you go for a second opinion on that as well! Do not make your dog medication dependent if you can avoid it! It is not a happy life for the dog. It does however mess with your dog’s head and often makes it even less manageable than it already was. I can not stress this enough… MEDICATION IS THE VERY LAST STOP!!! Not the very first thing you run too… Vets and behaviorists, in my eyes, have no place writing out medications to control behavior. They should stick to physical ailments and leave the training issues and behavior issues to the trainers.
Now, to get back to the 8 points I stated earlier. I will explain what I mean with each point in hopes that people will see how easy it actually is to have a good dog and how little work it can be to get your dog there.
- If a dog is showing a behavior that I do not like, what am I doing wrong? Answer is quite simple here… Any behavior your dog shows you is one that you have either fed it, or allowed it in the past, or have taught it without even knowing it. A dog does not do anything without reason. All you have to do is find out that very reason. Go back in your head, when did it start? What were you doing? What did you not do in that moment? Imagine a puppy that you just got a week ago. You grab the hose to water the lawn and the puppy runs after you nipping at the hose and hanging on to that hose. Makes you laugh, funny as heck, right? Now think about your puppy being an adult, with adult teeth, and each time you grab the hose he lunges at the hose and starts pulling while you are trying to water the lawn… how long before you get fed up and yell BAD DOG? Is the dog bad tho? Or should you have done something about the behavior the first time is showed?
- A dog that knows its place in life is a happy dog. Now this one is simple. Teach your dog rules and boundaries that it has to adhere to. Not giving the dog those rules and boundaries means it will keep trying to seek those very non existent boundaries over and over again. It will not learn how to behave and it will soon ruin your life, and probably your interior with it. A dog that does not know its place will look for verification all the time. It will become pushy and annoying and all it hears at some point in its life is NO, STOP, DON’T DO THAT, GO AWAY, GIVE IT, MOVE and whatever negative words you can think of in relation to your dog when it is being a menace in your eyes. A dog that knows its place does not get in your way, does not annoy, does not seek constant verification, does not seek constant attention, will be happy to just be with you. It will not be alert mentally 24 hours a day for your words of anger when it has to move over again or go away. It will relax mentally, which translates into relaxing physically, which translates in you getting a rest as well from the pushy dog.
- What I do not want to fix tomorrow, I do not allow today. Easy! Don’t want to say no tomorrow? Don’t say YES today! Every second in a dog’s life is a moment to learn! Look at your dog and its behavior. Any behavior it shows you should think to yourself, could this become a problem tomorrow or in future? If your answer is YES then you deal with it instantly in order to prevent it from growing into that future problem. Take point 1 as an example.
- You can not correct a dog for what it doesn’t know. Teach the dog what you want from it. Do not expect it to be clairvoyant or to speak your language. It does not work that way and dogs can not be corrected for what you failed to teach them in rules and boundaries. Again point 1 comes into play here. If your dog shows you behavior you do not like, look at your mistakes made, do not blame the dog. The dog doesn’t know any better since your lacked in giving it the proper guidelines.
- Emotions have no place in training and teaching your dog. They really DON’T! Do not get angry, stay calm, be assertive. Anger doesn’t teach anything but the wrong things. Frustration is the worst trainer out there, do not team up with it! Stay calm and in control. If you feel you are hitting a brick wall then take a break and try again later. Your dog will not learn from you being emotional. Well it will learn….. Just not what you want it to learn and trust me that is NOT a good thing!
- PATIENCE!!!! Can not stress this enough! Some dogs take two tries to to learn something and some take two hundred! Be patient, non emotional, and push through! It will happen! Some dogs are quicker than others…
- Take the lead or the dog will do it for you. Dogs need people to be in charge. BE IN CHARGE! As soon as the dog sees you fail in your leadership capabilities it will take over for you since you are not doing the job! If you take the lead, the dog doesn’t have to which translates in a mentally more relaxed dog, which translates in more rest for you…
- Correct and reward. Correct the unwanted, reward the wanted. Nothing easier than that! Always make sure that the punishment fits the crime! Correction is not a bad thing. It can be verbal or physical. It doesn’t mean that you swing the dog around the kitchen by its ears, it can be as simple as a firm NO!
Well that’s it really…. My shaky words of wisdom.. All based on personal experience with my own dogs, and other people’s dogs that I have worked with over the years. Does it make me an expert? Hell no…. I just apply common sense, look at what the dog in front of me needs and try to give it to the dog. So far, it has always worked out. I hope this helps some of you to figure out how to deal with your dogs when you have issues or problems.
Regards, Alice MacKenzie.