If you’ve watched Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer” or any of his newest creations you’ll have heard his motto, “I rehabilitate dogs and train people…” I hear it all the time when working with clients, “You’re training me, not the dog!” This is 100% true and there’s never been an instance that that did not apply.
Whether the goal is reliable Obedience or Behavior, the relationship between the owner(s) and their dog is critical to making progress. This may require making changes in the household and for the most part, these changes are for the life of the dog and any other dog that may be brought in. This does require time as the dog will have built an association by the time I come in so here are 3 common dog owner habits that have a negative impact on their dog.
3. Too many treats – I’m not too fond of buying dog treats as I rather just give my dogs real bacon instead of “bacon” flavored ones. That has never made sense to me unless the dog has some sort of digestive issue or there are other health issues that don’t allow for the ingestion of human food, but if it’s good enough for me, why not my dog?
I like to look at treats as candy or sweets to a kid. It’s something we give to them occasionally, but not on a regular basis because that will lead to cavities or obesity. The same goes for dogs. Many people do not account for the food their dog already gets and they pile on the treats if forms of chew bones, jerky, and small treats. All this food leads to an overweight and unhealthy pooch.
2. Too much affection – This is a tough one for all of my clients. Almost everyone’s reason to get a dog is for companionship. Add in the variable that the dog was most likely rescued from a shelter, and we have an owner that feels guilty and wants to give their pup(s) the best life ever.
I have nothing against that, but too much affection can lead to a host of issues like resource guarding the owner, separation anxiety, perpetual excitement, and not taking the owner seriously when told to perform a command. This is just the effect that too many treats, coddling, and love can bring into play, this doesn’t take into account the host of issues the dog may have already has which can turn into a disaster of a cocktail!
I show my affection to my dogs in a different manner. I spend time taking them on hour to hour and a half long structured walks with breaks of free time, keeping them up to date with their vet visits, feeding them some of the best dog food, and rewarding them with affection when they’ve done something good. I’m not much of an advocate for unearned affection as that’s what creates an entitled and spoiled dog.
1. Not enough structure – Many times when I come in the issue isn’t always as severe as other trainers may make it out to be when it’s about behavior and for the friendly dogs, it’s just bad manners. A majority of the time a dog’s behavior is rooted in the lack of consequence for undesired behaviors. This leads to a dog that has ego issues and feels it can do whatever it wants.
When doing an assessment of a dog’s behavior I look at what’s going on in the home and don’t always target a behavior directly. A lot of reactivity issues can be addressed simply by adding in consequential styled obedience that puts the dog into a different mindset. Once they understand that there are repercussions for their lack of compliance they start to think very differently about the dynamic between themselves and their owner, which can lead to the reactivity dissipating. If not, then we address the reactivity directly!