Obedience is not the answer to your problems?
Obedience…such a commonly used word when we talk about the way we train our dogs. We have been brainwashed to think that obedience is the only thing we need to worry about. The end all be all to training. They must obey, they must sit, they must lay down, they must do what we say. They must do so willingly and with positive reinforcement only, but also without an expectation of reward. However, dogs are sentient beings with emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Why as humans do we think we are superior and need to control our dogs? Because that is what obedience is all about, control. If I say sit you must do as I say and sit because I feel the need to control you and make decisions for you despite how you are feeling about the situation.
Lets unpack why an obedience based training mentality is not ideal and actually not needed.
1. Obedience does not change the way the dog feels about the situation. Take for example if your dog is reactive on leash and it stems from fear, so you ask for eye contact from your dog and you enforce the rule that when we pass a dog you must give me eye contact on demand, in no way does this change the way the dog feels about passing dogs while on a walk.
All it does it put blinders on your dog. Your dog is still afraid of and would still react if it was allowed to look at that other dog. In the training world this is called teaching an “incompatible” behaviour. So that means you teach the dog to do something else so that it can’t do the behaviour you don’t like. This does not change the emotional state of the dog and rather only suppresses the behaviour. As trainers and owners, we should be looking for ways to help support our dogs, lift them up, help them feel better in their own skin. Instead of focusing on obedience alone to solve all our problems.
2. The second reason being that we should not feel the need to control another living being. I am not saying you can’t teach your dog to sit when you ask them to. It is more about the mindset behind the WHY you need your dog to sit. When someone wants to focus on obedience, I often as why? Why does your dog NEED to sit before crossing the street? Why does your dog NEED to sit before you give him a treat? Most people cannot answer this without a “because I said so” type answer.
Of course there are a couple of life saving commands that all dogs should know and respond to like “come” and a solid “wait” for safety around doorways that lead to the outdoors. However, this need to command our dogs “because we said so” is pointless and unnecessary. What it comes down to is that we are using control and commands based on our desire to be in charge and need to have our dogs listen to what we say.
3. The third being that when a dog is performing obedience commands they are not in free behaviour. What does that mean? If I have to tell my dog to go to “place’ because that is the only way he can handle certain situations then my dog is not making the choice on their own but rather only behaving because I have told them what to do. I don’t see the need to micromanage our dogs.
Not only is it exhausting for the human, can create conflict for the dog, but also we have to think about what our dogs would choose to do if we didn’t tell them what to do. Meaning if the human isn’t there to tell the dog to go to place, what would the dog do? What if someone else is watching your dog and they don’t know how to enforce the command? We want to teach the dog how to be well behaved and make good choices so they can live in our human world without having to be micromanaged all the time. Not only will you enjoy your dog more, but we will remove unnecessary conflict from your relationship.
When it comes to training, we should focus on relationship, teaching our dogs how to make good choices without being told what to do, work on how to be calm when they don’t necessarily want to be, and how to feel better about situations that make them uncomfortable. Let’s worry less about being in control and more about the animal in front of us that we consider family!
What is puppy socialization? Recently I shared an article explaining my hate for dog parks. OK, hate might be a strong word…more like my strong dislike for dog parks. If you read the article you will understand why I dislike them so much (if you did not read it here it is http://www.kdmathews.com/-bark-blog/just-say-noto-dogparks).
When people get a new puppy or dog, everyone says “oh you have to socialize them right away”. Somehow, somewhere the definition of socialization turned into taking your dog to the dog park to be around as many dogs as possible regardless of their temperament or disposition. Don’t get me wrong, I love the IDEA of the dog park. Dogs, off leash, enjoying the company of other dogs and people. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Unfortunately too many dogs who shouldn’t be at the dog park frequent on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most dog owners have no idea what to look for in a dog who should or should not be freely socializing with other dogs. Unfortunately, not enough people are advocating for their dogs (and maybe they just don’t know how or that they should). Unfortunately, this leads to dogs being bullied, dog fights, and dogs who were once confident around other dogs leaving fearful and insecure. Just last week we were training our dogs outside of the Grimsby Dog Park and saw a dog fight break out within 10 seconds of one dog entering the park…not to mention the over adrenalized dogs running around in pure chaos, the humping (ohhhh the humping…non stop humping), and owners off in their own little world chatting or on their phones.
So now that we’ve cleared up with a brief overview as to why I do not like dog parks and why they should not be your “go to” for socializing your puppy or dog…you’re probably still wondering what the heck you CAN do to socialize your dog! Socialization needs to be productive and positive. Yes, getting your puppy around other dogs is important but it needs to be around the right dogs. One bad experience can affect your puppy for the rest of their lives. Most dogs who are reactive or dog aggressive were not born that way. More often than not, there was at least one bad experience that caused the behaviour and many owners can pin point that experience. The risk of taking your puppy or dog to the dog park is far too great and is not worth the potential consequences. Take your puppy or dog to group training, find a trainer who holds socialization classes, or find some friends or family with a nice balanced dog. However, getting your puppy or dog around other dogs is not the only component to socialization. Most behavioural issues come from fear, lack of confidence, lack of trust in handler, and not learning to follow. More important than letting your dog play with other dogs, is to expose them to as many positive experiences as possible in a variety of different ways. If you want to ensure you have a confident and happy dog who can go places with you then you need to take your dog to different places, let them explore different sounds and smells, touch and feel all kinds of surfaces. Here are some examples of what you can do:
- Take your dog to different dog friendly stores (most banks, Lowes, TSC, Rona, and many more).
- Using a long line (or off leash if your dog has a solid recall), allow your dog explore parks, trails, fields etc.
- Find any unique surface and encourage your dog to explore it (bridges, jungle gyms, tarps etc).
The benefits of giving your dog plenty of exposure to these different situations will in turn produce a confident dog who can handle most of what life throws it’s way. If you only take your dog to the dog park for socialization, you can expect the one time you decide to bring your dog into a new situation he will be anxious, misbehaved, and it will not be enjoyable for either of you.
If you need help socializing your puppy or dog please contact us for a FREE evaluation at 905-869-1170!
Canines In Balance
Happy New Year! Have you thought about your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Maybe your dog needs a resolution too? Pulling on leash? Jumping on guests? Excessive barking? Begging at the table? Not listening? If this sounds a little too familiar then it might just be time to make a joint resolution with your dog. While we hope training becomes an all year thing for you and your dog, why not take this opportunity to start the year off right? We have a variety of options when it comes to training to suit the needs of everyone. Whether you are looking for group class, private one on one training, or want us to do the training for you at Day School, we’ve got the solution to help you get your dog’s issues under control. Our gentle and effective training methods actually work! Just check out what our clients have to say here!
Not sure you want to commit to training just yet? Here are some FREE easy dog training tips to get you started on your own!
Adult Group Dog Training & Group Puppy Training
We now have two locations for Adult Group Dog Training and Group Puppy Training classes to serve you better! DogDen in Burlington on Monday and Wednesdays, and Temple of the Dog in Beamsville on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
We’d love to hear about your dog training goals! Contact us to reserve your spot in group class or to book a FREE evaluation for private training!
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