If you follow me on social media at all, one word you are probably sick of hearing is “advocate”. Have you ever stopped to wonder why I harp on this so much and what does it even mean anyway?
According to dictionary.com :
I often tell my clients to be silent leaders. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard dog owners give a command and repeat the name over and over again and then repeat the command. It’s something like “Fido…Fido, come. Fido, come. Fido…Fido, come!” Many times the owner gets frustrated and begins to yell at the dog and the commands get more and more chaotic. It sounds something like “Fido! Get over here! Ugh! FIDO! GET OVER HERE NOW!!” I don’t think it is intentional most of the time, but many people default to intimidation as a result of their frustration. I have heard it before… “If I don’t yell, my dog doesn’t listen.” If that is the case, there is too much chaos in your environment and/or your relationship with your dog. What do you think that does for your relationship if all you do is yell at your dog? If that is the only way you can get your dog to respond to you, then something has to change. Your dog obviously doesn’t respect you and demanding it certainly doesn’t help your relationship. Dogs have the amazing ability to bond with us and adapt to our environment but they do need direction. When you get frustrated it can cause some confusion and it places a gap in your relationship. Dog training is not just about obedience. I can make a dog sit with a leash and prong but I can’t ensure any kind of reliability if a dog thinks he can just blow me off. Obedience, however, is a great way to work with your dog to build your relationship. A quiet, consistent, patient, and firm leader is a leader worthy of respect. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that you will never say a single word to your dog. Of course you will. You will give your dog commands and let’s face it…there are times when you will speak to your dog. What I am saying, however, is cut out the excess and unnecessary words. For example, “Fido, come.” is all you need to say. “Fido” gets the dog’s attention and “come” tells him what you want from him. That is much more clear for your dog. The less you say, the better. The more patient you are, the better. Don’t let your dog take advantage of you but give him a chance to follow through. The more consistent you are, the better. Follow through every time and do not let your dog blow you off. Don’t forget to be firm but calm. Firm does not mean heavy handed. So build your relationship through obedience and practice being a silent leader. Until next time, go train your dog! 😉
Let me start by asking a question or a few…
How would you react if your dog was startled by some loud noise for example (maybe fireworks on The 4th of July or thunder on a stormy night) and frantically hid between your legs seeking some kind of shelter and relief from his fear?
Would you pet him and tell him “it’s ok” over and over again in a soft tone in an attempt to calm his fears? OR… Would you guide him out from under your legs, not giving him an opportunity to find comfort with you in that manner?
Most people would comfort their dogs, unintentionally nurturing their insecurities. It is often difficult to think of your dog as a dog. We are people and we know how to communicate as people. If we were dealing with children we would certainly comfort them in a soft tone and reassure them making them feel safe. Humans need that. Dog’s don’t. Dogs have a entirely different way of communicating and when we try to communicate with our dogs the same way we would with another human that is where we run into trouble. It causes gross miscommunication which leads to an array of behavior problems. People comfort people to help ease and even take away doubt, fear, anxiety, insecurities, etc.. Comforting dogs for the same reasons has the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve. Instead of relieving fear, anxiety, stress, insecurity, etc. we intensify it by helping them to stay stuck in that negative frame of mind.
The kindest things you can do for a dog that is stuck in a negative mindset may seem harsh to us. Do NOT comfort him or reassure him that “it will be ok”. Do not allow him to hide between your legs or jump on you or whine or anything else that displays him in a negative frame of mind. Correct him and do not reward him with affection in a frantic state. A dog that is fearful or insecure or stressed or anxious may not seem (initially) like he has too many problems but if you feed those things it will turn into bigger problems such as reactivity, aggression, guarding, etc… Even though initially they may seem like mild behavior problems any dog displaying any or all of the above is a potentially (if not already) dangerous dog. Don’t feed the beast. You can better love them with leadership and guidance.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “crate”? I think I have heard everything from “My dog doesn’t like it” to “It’s cruel and inhumane.” The most popular one is “I got my dog from the shelter and he has spent his whole life behind bars so I’m not going to put him back in a cage.” No disrespect, but I will argue that anyone who holds to these views is simply misinformed. A crate is a tool. Just like any other tool there is a proper way to use it. It can also be misused. Let’s address some common mistakes in using this tool.
Mistake #1 – Owner shoves the dog in the crate without ever properly introducing him to it. Now the dog is going to “freak out” because he is in a confined space but has not been taught why or what he is supposed to do in that space. A dog MUST have a proper introduction.
Mistake #2 – Owner uses crate for punishment. Now, I’m not opposed to using the crate as a management tool. For example, you have guests coming over and your dog is still in the habit of jumping on people then by all means crate him.
Mistake #3 – Crate is too big (potty training) – The reason a puppy goes potty in the crate is because it is way to big. If the pup has enough room to go potty on one side of the crate and sleep on the other it will take advantage of that. It should have just enough room to turn around and lay down. Once he is house broken he can earn more crate space.
So use the tool properly. Introduce your dog to the crate and make it fun. Dogs are den animals and they instinctively take comfort curling up in a small space of their own. The crate should be a safe place with positive association. Why do I advocate for crate training? For a number of reasons but I will give you a few:
Crate your dog! You’ll come home to a sleepy dog with your house intact.
Happy 2016 all! 🙂
* Hey everyone! This is an old Facebook post that many people seemed to relate to so I decided to post it here on my blog so that everyone could benefit from reading it.*
Hey all! I have a little thought/encouragement for you guys today. Lately I have come across quite a few people struggling with the same problem. Many of these people have currently lost a beloved family pet and then jumped straight into getting another dog. The problem is the new dog that they brought in is not the dog that they lost and they are severely disappointed. For the most part they didn’t give themselves enough time to grieve the loss of the previous dog and probably thought that getting a new dog would help them cope better during the process and heal the pain. The problem is they didn’t expect the new dog to be so different from the dog they lost. The expectation to a point is that this dog would be in some form a continuation of the other in terms of the way the dog relates to them. For example when my dog passes (Lord willing that’s a LONG time from now) I would want to get a dog just like her. The problem is there is no dog just like her. She is unique and that is what makes her so special to me. I also know this from previous experience in that Roxy is nothing like any of the dogs I have had in the past. I have to be fair when I get a new dog and understand that this is not another chapter in the book of Roxy. (By the way, all the books before Roxy were unique and amazing.) It’s a whole new book. A new dog comes with a fresh slate. All new problems, challenges, victories, and memories. A whole new relationship! We will always remember the ones we’ve lost. They are dear to our hearts and they will always be in our happy memories but to put the expectation on our new dogs to be an extension of another it’s not only unfair to the dog but we could also end up resenting the dog that we bring into our home. We had to invest a lot of work into cultivating our relationships with our dogs. With each new dog, we get to do it again and get to know another personality. Love each one for their individuality and they will return the favor.
This is a recipe for disaster…or is it? Harmony between children and dogs has everything to do with YOU! How many boundaries are you going to set (for both the child and the dog) and are you going to enforce them? How much effort are you going to put into the dog? How much effort are you going to put into the child? You must advocate for your child as well as your dog. Your child needs space and your dog must respect that, but your dog also needs space and your child must respect that. This is where a lot of the bites happen…dogs must give children space (and most everyone gets that), but dogs need space (most people don’t get that). Here’s the scenario: your dog is laying in the living room and your child goes up to the dog and starts cuddling it…the dog gets up and goes to lay in another spot (warning #1- I’ve had enough so I’m moving away). Then your child goes and starts grabbing it’s tail an the dog gives a little growl (warning #2 – I don’t like that). Then your child puts her face in the dogs face and the dog bites the child. No warning #3 just a bite. And this is where most people would put the dog down, but in actuality it was easy to prevent. Neither the dog nor the child can advocate for themselves so you have to do it. They can be brought up with a happy friendship if you simply put in place boundaries for both, and condition your dog and child, and NEVER leave them together unsupervised (no matter how much you trust your dog).
*disclaimer: not all dogs will get along with children and not all children will get along with dogs, but they should be able to coexist.
Jimmy jumps out of bed in the middle of the night, runs down the hallway and rushes into his parents arms. His heart is racing and he can barely catch his breath to speak. In an attempt to provide comfort his parents embrace him and rub his back in a smoothing manner as they softly explain, “It’s ok. It was just a dream…Monsters are not real.” They guide him back to his room and show him the foolishness of his fear and he falls asleep feeling safe and secure.
Jimmy is a child. All too often we treat our dogs as children, so lets take a look at how this plays out when we attempt to comfort a dog in the same way. Fido cowers at the foot of the bed after hearing the loud BOOM! of the fireworks on the Fourth of July. His owner begins to pet him and shower him with affection while speaking in a soft voice. She says, “It’s ok Fido. It’s ok baby. You’re fine…it’s just fireworks.” Although she’s attempting to comfort him, she’s just reinforcing his fearful mindset. Basically what she is communicating to Fido (without knowing) is “Yes. Good. This is what I want.”
Even though we may have the best of intentions, remember that we are communicating with another species. So when we try to communicate with dogs as if they are human our message gets twisted and the one that is delivered is extremely different than the one that was sent. It’s like playing a game of telephone. By the time the message gets to the last person it doesn’t even resemble the original. So the best way to communicate with your dog is to deliver a clear message that they can understand but the only way to do that is to treat them like a dog. 🙂
Upon adopting a dog, you embark upon a journey together. Along the way, there will be struggles, failures and successes. The failures can tend to get you down and make you wonder if you made the right choice in beginning this journey…you wonder if you’ll ever make it to your destination or if it’s too late to turn back but don’t let those failures dictate where your journey ends. Learn from those failures as they are a teaching tool and can help you find the right path to take…often times leading you to successes. Successes make it all worth it! Once you reach the peak of the mountain…grab a swig of water and brave the next one because there is always another hill to conquer. But make sure you celebrate and enjoy each time you reach one of those peaks because you put a lot of hard work and effort into getting there. If you are reaching those peaks – congratulations! It’s the most amazing feeling to have a reliable dog that you can trust. If you’re at the base of that mountain and feeling overwhelmed it’s ok. It’s only a matter of time before you get there. You’re effort will reflect where you end up. It’s a journey so enjoy it…all of it!! 🙂 #itsajourney
When you have a multi dog household there is no room for jealousy. If you pet one dog and another butts in and tries to get between you and the other dog that might be a form a jealousy but what it really is is bad behavior. It’s pushy and it’s bratty and ultimately your dog is just trying to get his way. Most of the time dog owners cave and then they put themselves in a defensive position trying to avoid the fight they are already anticipating. Now I never really understood football but I was a cheerleader so the one thing I had to know was offense and defense. If you are playing defense that means the other team has the ball. If you are on offense you have the ball. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? 😉 Why are you playing defense with your dogs? They don’t have the power you do. They don’t fill their water bowls…you do. They don’t feed themselves; you feed them. Take back the power and start playing offense. You pet whatever dog you want when you want without any comments (or push, bratty, jealous behavior) from the peanut gallery. Put yourself on the offense and take back the power (with lots of structure, rules, and boundaries) and you will see the dynamic in your household shift for the better.
When we go the store and we make a purchase that doesn’t quite work out we can just return it and get our money back. Many times we get caught up in the moment when we see a cute little puppy face and we think “how fun would it be to have a dog around…a loyal companion…”. So we get a dog that the whole family will love! Then reality sets in…this isn’t that dog I saw in the movie. This dog isn’t content just laying around…this dog isn’t a dog that I can trust to walk outside with me as I get the mail…oh no! THIS dog takes work and lots of it. This dog barks when people walk by, this dog jumps on me and bites my clothes…this dog is not the dog I wanted. Unfortunately people do return their dogs just like a sweater that they tried on and decided they didn’t like. Dogs are living, breathing animals and they require commitment. If you decide to bring a dog into your life make sure you are willing to do the work because the dynamic in your household will change. I guarantee there will be some kind of struggle with your dog even if it isn’t a huge behavioral problem you will have to put in the time and effort to get the dog you want. If you are not an experienced dog owner you will have to work harder to educate yourself. If you can’t afford professional help take advantage of the tools and information that is available to you. But if you are considering bringing a dog into your life make that decision with your eyes wide open and know how much effort you will have to put into that dog. That said make sure you get a dog you can work with. Do your homework. Do not take a dog that is way over your head. Don’t watch “Max” and rush out and get a Belgian Malinois. A Malinois is a working dog and 85% of people should not own one. Not because they aren’t great dogs but because you will be setting yourself up for failure and sentencing that dog to future in a shelter. They are better left to the professionals and the people who are experienced enough to handle them. If you are not ready to adopt a dog that’s absolutely ok. It’s better to leave them for a committed handler then to take them off the shelf and return them for store credit. That loyal dog does exist but you have to put work into bringing it out and shaping the behavior that you want out of your dog. There is a pure canine in there somewhere it is our job to find it! 🙂 When we reach that point in our relationship with our dogs that is so rewarding that all the struggle was worth it. Let’s find the pure canine in your dog! 😉