In this post I’m going to cover a bunch of moments/issues/behaviors that typically undermine the relationship between us and our dogs. Many of these “moments” can seem benign or inconsequential, but depending on your dog and his state of mind, these “moments” could spell big problems.
Before I run down the list (and it is by no means comprehensive…if anyone has any other suggestions I’d love to hear them!), let me quickly explain/define what I mean by mixed messages and missed opportunities. In this context, I’m calling a mixed message anything that might confuse your dog about where he sits in the pack, and what position you, as his owner wants to play in his life.
Example: Dragging you around on walks and pulling you wherever he wants to go is, in my view, a mixed message…it tells your dog “I’m not looking to play the role of authority figure/leader in your life”. Someone who is an authority figure/leader wouldn’t allow that kind of behavior/interaction.
By the same token, choosing to allow this behavior is a leadership opportunity missed. Instead of teaching your dog about what is appropriate behavior and who you are in his life, you simply allow the behavior and the message to your dog is loud and clear.
So, (in no particular order) here are some of what I consider mixed messages and missed opportunities:
-Pulling on leash/walking unstructured
-Sniffing and peeing at will without invitation
-Bolting in or out of crates
-Bolting in or out of doors
-Not waiting to be fed/not using release/not waiting for patient behavior
-Having free access to toys/chews/bones
-Owner not starting and stopping game time/playing
-Having free access to the house
-Not being told where to be or what to do (sit/down/place etc)
-Being on furniture (beds/couches etc)
-Allowing your dog to demand attention
-Allowing demanding or neurotic barking/whining
-Unearned or excessive affection
-Not immediately correcting unwanted behavior (removing the dog or removing the item form the situation rather than correcting the dog and allowing the him to make better choices)
-Allowing pushy, snotty behavior towards other dogs (especially possessive/guarding/bullying)
-Allowing nervous aggressive behavior around other dogs
-Allowing a dog to run away from or avoid fear/anxiety inducing situations Or allowing a dog to engage in fearful anxious behavior
-Using weak, uncertain, tentative approach when dealing/training/correcting a dog who is in a strong or intense state of mind
-Using angry, frustrated, tense, freaked out approach when dealing/training/correcting a dog who is in a strong or intense state of mind
-Allowing overprotective or possessive behavior of you
-Allowing overly or excessive territorial behavior
-Allowing your dog to practice negative/bad habits in your absence
Once again, these “moments” may or may not cause problems to appear. It depends on your dog’s state of mind. There are lots of dogs that you could break every one of these rules with and never have anything worse than an ill behaved dog. But, if you’re one of the many clients I see, where the wrong K9 state of mind meets up with the wrong human approach, these missed “moments” can be catastrophic. The results can be heart break, re-homing, surrendering, and sometimes life ending. If you’re struggling with serious problems, these mixed messages and missed opportunities are most likely to blame.
And one little extra bit of info: the very beginning of your relationship is the most important! Even if you don’t intend to practice all of these rules forever, if you at least start off with things on the right foot (the second your dog comes home), you have a much better chance of not seeing things turn ugly down the line. My advice is it’s always easier to lighten up later and be taken seriously than it is to attempt to re-negotiate a leadership position after starting soft and easy.
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