Your Dog Is No Different!
Most of us have made mistakes in our lives. Most of us have broken the rules, either because we wanted to, or because we didn’t understand them. Who hasn’t become stressed and snapped at someone they love? And sometimes it is great to run into an old friend, but sometimes we all like to be left alone. We can all have moments when we are frustrated, tired, or just not the best versions of ourselves, and your dog is no different!
We expect our dogs to come into our world and be better behaved, happier, and friendlier than we ever could be. We expect them to never break the rules, without even being taught them. We expect that they never make mistakes, and if they do, we interpret it as dominance. We would likely view the person interpreting the rules in his own way as the class clown, rather than the “alpha male.” Your dog is no different.
Teach your dog the rules in your world! This means actual training; reinforcing certain behaviors, and pairing them with cues that are easy to remember and maintain. You don’t have to teach a bunch of tricks, but you should have some communication that your dog understands to help him do the right thing. It is really unfair to think of a prong collar or choke chain as a training tool; it is a punishment tool. Some of you might be offended by the use of the word punishment in these circumstances and you might want to replace it with something like “correction,” but scientifically if you are using the tool to lessen a behavior; it is punishment, PERIOD. If you use one of these tools and tighten the choke or prong when your dog does something wrong, it is like your dog is playing a game of hot and cold, but when his behavior is cold, he is punished with pain. Can you imagine playing that game as a child and walking in the wrong direction only to be shocked or pronged? I don’t think you would want to play the game very long! In fact you might sit down on the floor and not want to move: your dog is no different.
Imagine you are starting a new job, and you go in for your first day, and your boss completely ignores you. You might ask a few questions, but no answers or instructions are given. You decide you will turn on your computer. It boots, and you click on an internet browser window; your boss walks up behind you, and smacks you on the back of the head, and says “no!” She then returns to her seat and continues ignoring you. Next you open a text document and begin to type a list of questions for later. You type three questions out and begin to type the fourth when your boss is standing behind you again, and, smack! “NO!” She returns to what she was doing. What is your next move? Do you continue to try different things at your job that might result in another smack? Do you quit and walk out? Do you sit paralyzed at your desk for fear of what could happen next? All would be normal responses for a human: your dog is no different.
If you haven’t taught your dog to walk without pulling, but instead you let him begin to pull and then, BAM! You jerk him back with a prong or choke collar; it is the same as the boss in the above analogy. Your dog has no idea why this harsh correction happened, and depending on the dog his response could be to continue to try different behaviors, he could turn and snap at you so you drop the leash and he can run off, or he could just sit down and refuse to move out of fear of what could happen. It is not a constructive way for you to learn: your dog is no different.
If you would prefer that on your first day at a new job your boss shows you what is expected of you, and then rewards you with raises and promotions for your successes, and exceeding expectations; then teach your dog this way! Show your dog that you want him to walk beside you, and reward him for doing so. You will not only find that he learns what is expected of him quite quickly, but it will also build a stronger relationship of trust and understanding. We all know what it is like to work for someone we hate, but hopefully we also all know what it is like to work for someone we respect, and I think if you reflect on the boss you liked, you will remember a relationship of learning, trust and consistency: your dog is no different!
Dogs move into our homes and we behave in very inconsistent and unpredictable ways, and many dogs do just fine. We can punish them, jerk choke chains, pinch prong collars, shock them, smack them, lock them in bathrooms and crates for hours, and when you come home your dog will still wag his tail and be happy to see you. Your dog lives life to fullest, and loves with all his heart. Your dog forgives instantly, doesn’t judge you, or hold grudges. This is why dogs are different!