After our last weekend’s workshop with Nelson Hodges from Canine content, I had some serious thinking to do and closely analyze what is going on even in my own household between my and my dogs.
What we tend to forget is, that dogs can only be dogs. They can only understand and communicate “dog”. Yes they are extremely smart and are able to learn the meaning of words in our language but they can’t respond back the same way. They also can’t understand that certain things are appropriate for humans but not for dogs….again, they can only be dogs.
By not learning the dogs language or by ignoring subtle cues from them, we create a whole lot of confusion, lack of trust and misunderstanding and therefore become a really weak leader in the eye of a dog. No wonder dogs don’t want to listen to us! Stupid hoomans!
So how are we negatively affecting our dogs?
Inconsistency in all areas! Whether it is following through with commands or your intent or emotional inconsistency in certain instances.
Change in pattern:
We constantly change how we react in certain situations. For example, if you have a reactive dog, some days you are prepared to take on the passing of other dogs with all your confidence but on another day, you are dreading it or you feel concerned. Your emotions are inconsistent but also your pattern on how you approach the situation changes. This can be applied to many other scenarios as well and it leads to a lack of trust in you from your dog.
Lack of intent :
Do you really mean what you ask your dog to do? Are you prepared to follow through and does your body, emotions and your whole being tell what you ask and show your intent of following through?
Being emotional or emotionally unstable:
We are moody living beings, we are affected by many things in our lives which again makes us to be a very weak leader. Sometimes we mean things, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are easily agitated and get emotional for no reason. Calm, assertive and stable emotions is what dogs look for in a leader.
Encouraging or accepting behaviors from our dogs that in the dog world really are not appropriate (lack of speaking DOG):
This one can be huge. Many people understand that it is extremely rude for one dog to rush up to another dog straight into their face however, we like to get in our dogs faces and rub them with a funny squeaky voice, kiss them etc. By doing such, you are literally using dog language that in the dog world is extremely inappropriate. You are letting your dog know that it is okay to be rude, because hey, you their owner, is just being a rude bully to them in that moment so the dogs will simply translate this as an appropriate behavior in the dog world and become a rude bully as well...which may get them in trouble.
Again, this can translate to many other situations on how we treat our dogs.
Not being in the moment:
We are likely the only species that doesn’t live in the moment. When you walk your dog and you start thinking about what you have to cook for dinner etc. you are not in the moment and you are creating a certain amount of stress and tension which leads your dog to feel some sort of stress at it is confusing to them. This can increase problem behaviors such as leash pulling etc. The leash is a direct connection to your brain which will transfer all your emotions to the dog.
“If you want to know how you are doing, look at your dog!” – Nelson Hodges
By failing in some or all of the mentioned above, we become weak leaders that are not trustworthy in the dog’s mind. A dog will never follow a person 100% and take them serious and accept their directions if they are not trustworthy.
If we could erase all those bad traits and behaviors we have, we would have very little problem dogs in our society.
Dog training will help you get better communication skills and control and help you in ways where our “being human” fails us but it doesn’t fix the relationship. Control is what we have to give up and learn to embrace the dog's universe but also respect them for the sensitive, sentiment beings that they are and respect their language.
It all comes down to relationship and trust.
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”