I recently returned from teaching a dog training workshop in Athens Greece. It was a great opportunity to bring more education to Europe about the appropriate use of remote collars and the possibilities they offer in dog training. It was also a great vacation in a fantastic country!
Since returning many clients here at That’s My Dog! have asked about our travels and how the trip went. We had many great adventures, but one thing that stuck in the minds of all of us were the number of stray dogs in Greece and their role in society there. Greece, like many countries, does not have an humane society structure in place, so there are about 300,000 stray running the streets in Athens. We saw dogs everywhere; the bus stop, outside restaurants, at the beach, in the alleys, in the shopping districts. It was not uncommon to step over a sleeping dog or two to enter a coffee shop or bakery. They were simply everywhere. Despite the vast number of dogs living on the streets, we never saw a dog fight or an act of aggression toward people in the 10 days we were there.
We often observed the way the packs respected their territories and the hierarchy structure that is in place. It is so evident the way these pack animals function and the simple rules they observe in order to survive. And it frustrates me a little to contemplate how much of that absolute truth has been lost in some of the modern dog training philosophies taught these days. Dogs do not walk around offering one another food to lure the pack to follow, nor do they *click* and mark moments of appropriate behavior.
Now please don’t think I am diminishing the value of learning theory or the usefulness of understanding how to shape behaviors or chain events to create complex behaviors. BUT it all starts with a respect that must be established and the dog understanding his/her role in the human pack. Leadership is an attitude, an attitude that can be easily adopted by any family owning a dog. It takes no highly specialize skill, but it does take education. We as dog professionals owe it to our clients to educate on the pack dynamic that dogs need to have in order to thrive in the environment we expect them to live in now-a-days. Unlike these dogs living on the streets, we now have dogs living in our homes with no real job to attend to and typically not enough exercise. Our dogs are treated as humans and we use them primarily as a means of emotional support. This is fine as long as we honor our dogs as animals first and understand THEIR NEEDS before our own.
What does all this mean as a pet owner? It means simple things, like teaching your dog to understand the need to yield space (move out of the way) to you and your family members. It means taking control of the food source in your home, rather than free feeding, it means taking your dog for a walk and having control of where the walk is going rather than allowing your dog to lead the way. These things are taught with a certain amount of force. Yes, that awful word that seems so forbidden in todays society. We have a very negative connotation about this word. But when I use the word force I am referring to this definition: Force: the power of a person to act effectively and vigororously, the power to control, persuade, influence, etc. I believe this is a neccessary word to bring back into the dog training vocabulary. The idea that force is not needed is silly. The sugar coating that happens when we pretend that a *gentle leader* or halti is without force. It is great marketing, but even a leash is a tool of force, removing food or a treat is force. It is not a bad word, so lets get back to using it in a productive way.
I believe everyone wants their dog to listen to them. This means some *force* is going to be exerted.
Three simple things you can do today to *force* your dog to begin respecting you and therefore listening to you.
1. Feed timed feedings. Put food down for 10 minutes, after that time frame pick up the bowl and do not offer food again until the next feeding time. Limit treats. If you control your dogs food source you become a person with leverage, you can now begin to make him work for it.
2. Insist your dog move out of your way. If you want the couch or chair, make him move off of it. If your dog wants to go outside, insist he move out of the doorway so you can either go out first, or make him wait patiently until you give him permission to go out. No charging out the door.
3. Make your dog come to you when called. Put a line on your dog when he is outside, call him to come. Don’t allow the freedom to run and ignore you. A line insures you can reel him in if needed. Reward when the dog comes to you. A paycheck is needed to have a happy, reliable dog.
Teaching your dog to listen and then insisting on it, keeps him safely in your care. It keeps the other members of society safe because you will not be allowing your dog to be a nuisance. It is okay to take charge and we can help you do it effectively and easily. Check out our new training DVD. The simple techniques give you control and yield a very happy dog! Order today 866-DOG-LADY or click here.