As a dog owner I see dog’s understanding more than we give them credit for, they know when your upset, angry or any emotion. They learn to respond to that emotion with a response, this can be sitting by your side, moving further away or a whole host of different behaviours.
As a dog trainer and behaviourist I know dogs understand more than we realise. They know how to not only comfort us, but also manipulate us into giving food or praise. We might think we train them, but in most cases they train us to react in a certain way. To start shouting at them when they are barking at the door, to us its trying to silence them, to them we are joining in to back them up.
Dog’s were bred to be our faithful companions and working counterparts. They are intelligent almost to a fault. The deserve our respect as much as we demand theirs.
I always tell dog owners that dog training is all about respect. The dog needs to respect you enough to do as you ask, simple things such as sitting at the door, or not pulling on a lead. It’s not about alpha or beta, or dominance. It’s about respect. Respect me enough not to pull, and I’ll respect you enough to go of lead and not disappear.
Remember that a dog needs access to water, the correct nutrition, exercise and social interaction to put it into simple terms. Things like off lead running, treats and play with other dogs are not 100% needed for dogs to live. They are privileges, and they come with an earned respect.
Now respect is earned not though terror, fear or even treats. It is about the bond that is created while training and learning together. It is getting things right, and the dog trusting you to steer it right when things go wrong. You train as a team, you train as a pair and in the end respect appears. The bond can be built with any dog, young or old, rescue or puppy.
So many people expect their dog to respect them, just because they are a human and they own a dog. Dog’s respect those who show it them back. No one earned real respect though intimidating others, so why would your dog respect you for it?
I work not only with my own dogs, or even just other peoples dog. I work with dogs abandoned by society , known biters. Dog’s who often lost respect for their owners and turned on them as the only way to gain respect. It wasn’t genes that made them do it, the “He was born that way” line never applies. He was forced to do that to get his point across because no one was listening, no one was respecting him enough to listen to why he wasn’t doing as he was told, or was chewing, or was snapping at them.
These dogs have to learn to respect once again, a mutual respect between dog and handler. Some take days once they see they no longer need to display the behaviour, some take months to gain that mutual respect back. Dogs are more than possessions, or tools. They think and act, but these actions depend 90% on what we are doing, or what someone has done to them.
My dogs don’t work for me because I make them, they work for me because they want to. They want to make me as happy as I make them. They enjoy their jobs, be that defending me, searching for drugs or just walking at heel working with other dogs in a consult. They want to work for me, because of our respect and bond. How many dog owners out there can say they truly believe their dog is doing things for them, and not on their own agenda?
Respect your dog, and your dog will respect you. Earn it, don’t demand it.
Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB NTIPDU MGoDT
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour