Brushing Up on Your Leadership Skills
There are always many opinions among dog owners about the best ways to teach and discipline their dogs. If something’s working you don’t need to fix it. But for what’s not working some things will have to change!
The biggest change some people will need to make is to understand that human psychology on an animal will not work. Even though you may not know it, your loving best intentions and/or remedial strategies may not be helping matters especially if you view your dog as a child or expect him to understand you as a child would, or if you view your dog as a companion and best friend who should simply know how to behave without being shown and who must fit in with your idea of what owning a dog means.
If you are prepared to change any bad habits, whether intentional or not, including your ‘for a quiet life’ approach to those annoying things your dog does, then you can get started on some exercises to do with your dog straight away.
Learn how to:
- teach your dog what to do so they are no longer lost or confused
- disagree with your dog without creating anxiety or any other negative reaction
- avoid making anything into a drama
- reinforce the good behaviour
- identify when it’s best to stop, re-direct, or correct misbehaviours as appropriate
- teach your dog through positive associations to know “If I do this, my owner is calm and happy”
- recognise when YOU are contributing to your dog’s excitement or nervousness or other inappropriate response
- stop taking anything your dog does personally
- find different approaches to help your dog socialise especially if they are frustrated at not being able to ever greet other dogs
- teach your dog to own his personal space and stand his ground when around other unsociable dogs without the need to retaliate or over-protect you
- feel reassured your dog will protect you and your property if required but stop your dog seeing some things or some people as a threat and therefore over-reacting
- focus on yourself and the way you act and feel around your dog so you can be their role model and lead by example
- teach your children to be your dog’s leader and enforce the same rules as you (and even a baby is to be respected)
Most advice should be based on how to have a healthy relationship with your dog and you will need help to devise an individualised plan for change according to what suits you best and to learn whichever techniques you are personally most comfortable with.
If it suits you better to use a clicker, a whistle, cheese or a squeaky toy then you can get help with strategies that involve the use of these training aids. Hopefully you can work towards eventually managing without these aids so you can manage situations if you have left the house without them.
Since your dog lives with you it is far better that you have a professional firstly demonstrate what is required of you, then teach you how to deal with your dog yourself rather than pass complete responsibility for this over to your dog walker, dog trainer, dog behaviourist or a specialist dog rehabilitation facility.
In extreme cases it may be that sadly you are simply not the best compatible match for your dog’s temperament and/or needs. If things have become desperate then The Dogs Trust may help you exchange your dog for another more compatible match according to your lifestyle needs.