When dealing with dogs, we must THINK like a dog. With dog behavior issues, it’s not what we do that matters, but how the dog PERCEIVES what we do. When we give our dog too much freedom – the freedom to patrol the entire yard or property while we are gone, the freedom to hike off leash without voice control, the freedom to roam about the house and explore with no restrictions, the freedom to sniff, pull, and investigate at will on our walks…we are sending a potentially dangerous message!
In a dog’s world, freedom is relative, and associated with power. What you are allowed or not allowed to do is directly related to your position in the pack hierarchy. The dog at the bottom of the social hierarchy has relatively little freedom. He cannot possess anything, as all resources are controlled by the Top Dog. He cannot eat when he feels like it, as the more dominant dogs eat their fill first, leaving him the crumbs, if any. He can’t even take a mate, as breeding rights are the exclusive property of the Top Dog. But he follows direction, is obedient to others, and happily accepts his place in the group.
The Top Dog, on the other hand, has unlimited freedom. When you are at the top, there is no one above you to say, “I don’t allow that.” If no one is controlling his behavior then he is, by definition, the One in Charge. His freedom is evidence of his rank. As Top Dog, everything belongs to him and nothing is denied him. He is free to go where he wants, do what he wants and have what he wants. Does your dog go where he wants, do what he wants, and have what he wants? Think about it. We assume we’re expressing love by allowing such unrestricted freedoms, but we may be instead, creating a monster.
When we give our dog unrestricted freedom, from his perspective, we are telling him that he is in charge and that he need not listen to anyone. Since he makes the rules – he need not follow them. When we ask that dog to do something for us, or stop doing something else, we will be ignored or worse – perhaps disciplined with a bite. Have you ever been ignored by your dog? Has your dog ever growled at you? Now you know why s/he’s exhibiting these dog behavior issues.
Control your dog. Limit his freedoms. Even if there is no practical reason to do so, do it anyway – because you can. For a happy, safe relationship with a dog, YOU must be perceived as his superior and the one that makes the rules. It doesn’t require yelling; it simply requires control and limiting of freedom.
- Instead of turning your dog out on the entire property or yard when you leave, build a nice dog run, and use it.
- When you walk your dog, do not let him roam ahead, sniff at will, and own the sidewalk. Limit his acceptable space to that beside or behind you. If you need help with pulling, consult with a good trainer. (I know one!)
- At home with your dog, do not allow him to leave the room you are in. (He can’t chew up your daughter’s sheepskin boots if he can’t sneak off to her closet). Something as simple as this sends a powerful message to the dog about who is really in charge in the household.
Limit your dog’s freedom and maximize your own control, and it will fundamentally change your relationship with your dog. Love him, but control him.
Wouldn’t having a dog that listens and obeys be a great way to start the New Year? You CAN do it!