An essential element of owning a dog, is to understand what your dog needs from you. As prieviously discussed, rules and discipline are vital in allowing your dog to understand how to live in our world. The next component we need to understand is trust and respect. Humans lavish love and affection on dogs and see them as needing love to thrive. The dogs though, do not see love in the same way as we do and that is why in certain cases, your dog won't come back to you or ignores your commands. If love was what they needed, surely they would fly back to your side whenever you called them so they could get their dose of love?
I would suggest that instead of showering love on your dog, you concentrate on what they need and you look for trust and respect instead. So what do I mean by trust? Your dog sees you as someone that they can trust because you supply food, water, a home, toys and treats. The dog sees you as a valuable resource who meets their needs and so they build a strong relationship from a trust point of view. 99% of dogs I see trust their owners and this is rarely a problem. When a dog doesn't trust an owner, this can have serious consequences and an example of this was a trainee dog handler who was on my course when i was training my Police Dog Max. This handler would be rough with the dog and whenever we did a training exercise off-lead, we had to form a large circle around them so that when the dog completed the exercise, he would walk away from his handler and no amount of calling or food would get him back. He would come to any of us in the circle, but would not return to the handler. The dog did not trust the handler and I believe it was through mistreatment at home. Dogs don't lie and always show their true feelings.
The Instructors gave him strong advice and by the end of the course the situation resolved itself and the dog worked with the handler for many years and I believe that he changed his ways and gained the dogs trust.
So, you have your dogs trust, now do you have his/her respect? I believe if you are reading this you have already answered this question. If yes, you will have a good relationship with your dog and will be able to ask them to do things and mostly have them comply willingly. If you answered no. Your dog can't be let off lead, won't recall or won't recall until they are ready. Runs off with other dogs or people and doesn't come back, steals things and runs off with them, steals food, won't stay when told, barks for things constantly, lies on the floor like a dead weight when they don't want to walk where you want to walk etc. etc. All of these things plus nipping, biting, growling and jumping up are all examples of a lack of respect for your position as leader of the dog.
Animals especially dogs, are programmed to look for leadership. Forget Alpha dogs and Wolves and the like, just think of your own life and who you would follow. My example I always give is imagine you are walking into an alleyway at night. In the alley are two youths in hoodies and the area has a problem with yobs harrassing or robbing people. You are with your friend and they turn to you and panicking, say "let's turn around, we're going to get mugged, I'm scared lets go back!" Or, you are with an SAS soldier on leave, who strides straight into the alley without hesitation and walks straight past the lads without a pause. Who would you rather be with in that alley?
I have never known anyone who wants the friend with them, EVER! Unfortunately I have some bad news for a lot of you, you are the friend. You are sending signals to your dog that you are weak and that you need protecting from the scarey things that are going on. This is why your dog barks at strangers and acts territorially and refuses to comply with your requests.
"So, how do I change this and show my dog that I am their leader," you ask? Simply act like one. Take charge and make the decisions that affect your dog. When they go out, how they leave the house, what they do when they walk, how they walk, meeting new people, new dogs, waiting patiently while you talk to others (at a 2 metre distance) waiting for food, being calm in the house. Greeting vistors politely and many more examples.
I will go through many of these in future blog posts but all you really need to do is step up and take control and act as your dogs leader, not seeking their approval. Once you have mastered trust and respect, you can give love to your dog, BUT ON YOUR TERMS! Don't let your dog demand affection, call them to you or go to them and give it when you decide. Don't let them jump on you or up you, if you want your dog on your lap or next to you on the sofa, call them up and show them that it is a priviledge for them to be with you and they will respect your position and want to share time with you.
I have found this to be true from looking after hundreds of dogs with my Lookafteryourdog home dog boarding service and earned the trust and respect of dogs that i had only briefly met before they stayed with me at my home. When you see the dog realise that you are the leader and that listening to you has positive effects for them and coupling this with rules and discipline so they know how to behave, even the most stubborn dogs will want to spend time with you and listen to you because of the trust and respect you have earned.
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