“Earn my Trust & Respect” – Creating Natural Leadership
Many dog owners experience a period of frustration after they have finished working with a trainer. Their dog is not listening all the time, their inappropriate behaviour has not fully stopped or the inappropriate behaviour has started up again. Some owners ask themselves “Why isn’t my dog better after working with a trainer?” The owner then gives up and decides the training did not work, when in reali ty the training has just not become a way of life for the dog with the owner.
The owner (not the dog) must follow through with leadership which includes structure and consistency so the training becomes an everyday occurrence and way of life for the dog. The training does not have an on/off switch. It’s an all day, everyday process and the dog cannot be forced into making the training a way of life under a certain timeline. How long it takes depends on whether the dog believes you are the leader and accepts it on their own. So let’s start by talking about leadership. What is it and why is it so important.
What is Leadership?
Imagine being forced to live in a new country where you do not speak the language or know the culture. It can be confusing, scary and easy for you to make the wrong decisions. You may shake someone’s hand, give eye contact or maybe you didn’t take off your shoes but unintentionally you have disrespected a culture and could be arrested for it. Dogs go through this everyday living with humans. They do not speak the language and do not understand the culture. They need someone to be a support for the dog to show them what is expected in this foreign culture.
To live in a peaceful and civilized society humans have leaders who make rules whether it be a parent, teacher, law makers or the government. This is the culture and way of life. If a young child wanted to run through traffic to cross the street, the parent would not allow it. If that same child went grocery shopping with that parent, would they be allowed to take every chocolate bar off the shelf? When it’s time for bed but the child wants to stay up late on a school night to watch TV, does the parent allow it? Of course not it’s a school night.
If a dog has no rules and the owner never follows through with appropriate corrections to show them right from wrong then the dog will not see the owner as their leader. Most dogs do not want to be the leader; they want to be the follower. That is how they are programmed. In a pack of dogs where there is no human interference there is a front (leader) and middle/back of the pack (followers). When a dog is lacking leadership they are forced to either take on the role of leader themselves or find someone else to take on that role for them.
Leadership is about setting and following through with rules (structure) and controlling resources each and every day. Dogs thrive on structure and consistency and will gain confidence in their role in the pack (follower – middle/back) and will look to their owner for guidance who they see as the front of the pack (leader). When the owner does this the owner has earned the dog’s respect.
Creating Leadership Starts with You
“Nothing In Life Is Free”
Nothing in life is free? That’s correct. Nothing. For a period of time you will control everything for your dog. So what are you going to control? You are going to control the dog’s resources! Remember you do this on a daily basis with your children and your own personal resources are controlled. This is very important for your dog’s physical and Psychological well being. Especially with dogs who exhibit symptoms of poor psychological adjustment.
Dogs who have their resources controlled, have clear leadership from their owners and are confident, well adjusted dogs who are happy and friendly. If there is no leadership your dog may withhold affection from you and then demand affection from you at other times. They may bark or growl at you, refuse to follow commands or not allow grooming. In some cases, dogs who are deprived of leadership, bite their owners and others. This happens because of lack of confidence in the dog and they are afraid or are trying to explain “their rule” to the owner.
Here is a great example of a dog explaining the rules to his owners when he bites the owner for trying to remove him from their bed.
“This is MY bed. I allow you to sleep here with me, but it is my bed. You have no right to remove me from MY bed. I have told you over and over again by growling but you didn’t listen. Now I must SHOW you by biting you. This is MY bed.” Fido, the Dog Dogs do not make good leaders; they are not programmed that way. By you taking on the leadership role for your dog you’ll see your dog start to be in a calm state of mind, become more affectionate and be happier.
What are Dog’s Resources?
Smelling on Walks
Let’s break these resources down one by one.
No more free feeding. In the wild food does not line up and wait to be eaten by feral dogs. They must work for it by hunting. The same is true with your dog. For him to truly respect you and food, make him work for his food. This is as simple as having your dog sit while you hold the dish, wait for him to give you eye contact, put the dish on the ground, not allow him to run up to the food but wait for eye contact again and then push the dish towards your dog and walk away.
You have now communicated to your dog that you own the food and you are giving him permission to eat the food but it’s your food. You also want to temporarily give no treats while you are training your dog. Your dog needs to focus on your and not get over exited and focused on food.
If you have toys all over the house, pick them up, put them in a container and put the box away, out of sight of the dog. When you think you would like to play with your dog and the toy, you initiate play and get the toy. You then decide when play time is over and put the toy away. You want to do this before your dog becomes tired of the toy.
Your life does not revolve around your dog. Your dog joined your family and his life rotates around you. You decide what you and your dog will do at any given moment, not your dog. If you want to sit and read a book or watch a movie and have your dog lie quietly beside you then follow through with that request and place your dog. Back tie if necessary and do not give in when the dog stands or tries to leave the area, or barks/whines. Your dog will eventually lay down and relax with you so that you can enjoy your time.
You decide where your dog will put his body. Do not allow your dog on couches, chairs or beds. Always walk ahead of your dog and sleep and sit higher than your dog. Position matters to your dog. Always enter and exit doors infront of your dog. Take the time to calm your dog and wait for eye contact before moving your dog out of doorways.
Crate train your dog. It’s not just for potty training a puppy and is a humane choice. Have your dog sleep in a crate at night and be in a crate when you are not at home. This will allow your dog to shut their brains down and have a great sleep. If you are not working with your dog have your dog in a crate or placed and back tied. This helps the dog understand that you control his space.
This is one of the toughest resources that most people find hard to control, but it’s so important because you get what you pet.
Petting a dog validates & rewards whatever behaviour they are exhibiting at that time. If the owner pets their dog when they are anxious, they will get an anxious dog. During a thunder storm where an owner picks up their dog and coddles it when they are shaking and fearful it validates that “yes, every time there is a thunderstorm I want you to shake and be fearful.” The same is true with an aggressive dog. Pet an aggressive dog, get an aggressive dog. Now if the dog receives affection when they are calm…you will get a calm dog.
As well, you do not want to pet your dog when they are staring at you, whining, barking or pushing your hand. Only pet your dog when they are in the right state of mind. “You get what you pet.”
Smelling on Walks
With smelling being how dogs see the world, wanting to sniff everything is part of being a dog, but it is a resource to your dog. Do not allow your dog to smell while you are on a walk. After your dog is walking nice on his leash, not pulling and walking beside you then allow him the occasional stops to sniff on your terms and when you want.
Once you have made the rules and control your dog’s resources it’s very important that you enforce them and be committed to them each and every day. You need to follow through with the appropriate timing of correction and give affection when the dog is in a calm state of mind and is following the rules. Be firm but fair with your expectations with your dog. Your dog may be confused for the first little bit but you will see him become far happier and confident than he was before training.
And finally, be aware of your dog’s limitations to set them up for success. Some dog owners have higher expectation on their dog’s abilities than what the dog is capable of. Every dog is different as all people are. Some people are social butterflies and some like to curl up by themselves with a good book. Some dogs like to run and play with other dogs while some dogs would rather hang out by themselves or with another dog and have a nap. A lot of owners think that all dogs should want to play and love all other dogs, people and children. This is not a reasonable request.
If a person went into a mall and said “hi” to every person they ran into and asked everyone to be their friend and invited them to come over for supper alot of people would feel very uncomfortable and the person would probably be asked to leave the mall. If this is something we would not do as human, why do we expect our dogs to?
Now, what is reasonable is when that person goes to the mall, they do not push people around or take their money and packages and they are respectful of personal space. The same is reasonable for dogs. The dog does not have to play with the other dog, people or children, but they WILL be respectful and as an owner it is their responsibility that the other dog, human and child does the same in respecting the dog’s space. Just because someone wants to pet a dog, should the owner allow it? YOU GET WHAT YOU PET, and if the dog is not approached with respect they can feel a lot of pressure and react to that pressure with fight, flight, avoid or acceptance.
“Dog Training Needs To Become A Way of Life For your Dog… EVERYDAY”
Debbi McArthur, founder of Prairieburn K9 Academy.