Today’s article is a little different. This one is written by my wife Leila. A conversation she had on the phone with a dog owner affected her quite deeply and she wanted to be able to share her thoughts about how she felt. So here is her article.
Whenever I first speak to a prospective client on the phone, I begin with finding out how the owners feel about their dog and what their expectations are for the dog.
There are usually 2 things that I hear.
First: I love my dog a lot and I would do anything for my dog. He’s my baby and I just want him to be happy.
Second: This is a nice dog BUT, I’m really tired of him peeing and pooping everywhere and he’s gonna have to go if it doesn’t stop.
Although they sound very different, they really have the same mindset problem at the core. Trying to train our dogs, without first considering how we might be affecting them, with our behavior and reactions (conscious & subconscious) does not work well. How our own understanding or lack … might be causing or contributing to the dog’s good, as well as bad behavior.
Let’s break this down
We get our dogs because we love them and we want to make them happy. Since the majority of the people who talk about the first issue are women it is really very easy for me to help them sort this through.
I’m guilty of the same thing.
Knowing this, seems to give the ladies who call the office a sort of “permission” to honestly talk with me about their dogs and what their dogs are doing that is difficult or impossible for them to deal with.
They’re torn because they love their dog and to them, that means they will and do, give their dog everything to make it happy. That’s what I did with our lab Sammy, especially after 2 major surgeries before he was a year old.
I know exactly what these ladies are going to say because I’ve said it and I’ve done it. And that is what makes it possible for me to help them make a shift in their mindset in their relationship with their dog. I have been just as guilty as any other woman out there who adores/worships her dog and dotes on them like crazy.
My price to pay?
Sammy became territorial of people coming into the house when I was there and with me on walks. Once Jim got through “reminding” me what he’d been trying to tell me about letting Sammy lead the relationship, my AHA moment came when I realized that all that doting etc. was not as much for Sammy as it was for me – it made ME feel good.
That realization made my mindset shift easy. As I said above: “Trying to train our dogs, without first considering how we might be affecting them, with our behavior and reactions (conscious & subconscious)” is self-defeating.
If I truly love my dog, then I need to give my dog what MY dog needs. I still adore Sammy and I still love on Sammy, but now I’m leading the: when things happen, how they happen and where they happen, instead of Sammy. And Sammy, well Sammy settled into that role real quick and loves it.
The second issue is usually, not always, but usually is said to me by a man. Men like things to get done and get them done quickly and they are much more comfortable with leaving the love and affection out of the equation when it comes to the dog.
They just want the problem fixed and they really don’t care how it happens. Therein lies the problem with this mindset.
Sometimes that means “shipping the dog off so someone else can “fix it”, sometimes that means being harder on the dog because the dog seems “to respond” faster to sterner training, instead of through a process of learning to understand their true nature and positive healthy reinforcement. Dogs are aware of how we feel about them. This mindset increases the amount of stress the dog feels.
The sad part about this is that this type of training is not the result of mutual respect and trust between dog and owner, but one of the dog being controlled by fear of consequences, this can in turn make the exact behaviors they are trying to fix actually get worse.
So what’s the answer?
It’s really quite easy. Both of these mindsets can easily be changed when owners understand the way the dog sees and lives in his world. Once they understand how to take the way the dog thinks and make that work for the dog in our world, by teaching the dog the ground rules, the struggle goes away. They can see themselves training their dog and being successful
There is no need to make your dog into something different. There is every opportunity to simply take that wonderful dog and allow him to be great in our world.
We can honor the way our dog thinks as it relates to his world, yet still train and help them be successful at living in our world with honor and grace.
Try it; you’ll both be glad you did.
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“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8500+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step way to teach your dog how to be a great family member.