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Monthly Archives: September 2016

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By Sean O’Shea

Relationships are real things. You and your dog have one. It might be healthy, balanced, and awesome, or it might be toxic, disrespectful, and disheartening. Or maybe it’s somewhere in-between. Whatever it is, it’s been built by your interactions. What you’ve allowed. What you haven’t allowed. What you’ve asked for. What you’ve reinforced. Who you’ve been and how you’ve behaved.

Everything you’ve done has been information your dog has used to determine your relationship. All this information has told your dog who you are and what role you wish to play in his life. It’s also informed him about the rules of life. What is and isn’t okay, what is and isn’t expected. It’s created the framework your dog makes all his decisions from.

While trainers can teach your dog commands, manners, and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, your dog is simply too smart and too emotionally evolved to take that information as universal. Just like you know who means business and who doesn’t in your own life, so does your dog. Eventually, if you don’t keep up the work, if you start to slack, your dog will see the cracks. He’ll realize there’s two sets of rules: the ones he knows, and the ones you actually enforce. And he’ll choose the latter. Not because he’s a bad dog, but because he’s opportunistic…just like you and me.

Like us, when authority and rules are foggy, or not consistently enforced, we tend to take advantage of them. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s always consequences – or the possibility of them – that tends to keep us on our best behavior. The more predictable and dependable, the better our behavior tends to be. And of course, the less predictable and dependable, the worse our behavior tends to be.

Our dogs are reading us. All the time. What are we enforcing, what are we allowing? They’re taking this information and deciding what needs to be adhered to and what doesn’t, who needs to be listened to and who doesn’t. If you ask for less than what the trainer asked, you’ll get less. If you ask the same, you’ll get the same. It’s in these moments that you create your relationship dynamics.

And while us trainers can build the foundation for the new, more healthy patterns and choices to stand on, it’s only you – the person your dog lives with, the person who enforces the rules, structure, and expectations daily – that can make these changes permanent.

We can only give you the tools to start you on the path, we can’t build the relationship. That part, the hard part, is up to you. Your dog is too smart to have it any other way.


 

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By Sean O’Shea

While typically we associate the abuse of dogs with denying them food, shelter, or physically harming them, the abuse I see in my work is far more common, insidious, and acceptable.

Why insidious? Because it’s abuse that is shared under the guise of love, caring, or just a lack of knowledge.

So many owners mistakenly associate leadership (creating a framework of rules and expectations), structure (daily habits, routines, patterns), and accountability (consequences for breaking known rules, or making poor choices in general) with being mean, nasty, and harsh. These owners just want to love their dogs – which is code for selfish/lazy behavior.

But here’s the thing, the only mean, nasty, or harsh thing is denying our dogs the framework and foundation they need to thrive and lead healthy, happy lives.

Owners who decide to forgo leadership, structure, and accountability are basically sentencing their dogs to a life of stress, anxiety, worry, over-arousal, uncertainty, pressure, and way too much responsibility.

And the dogs we see that live like this are every bit as abused and unhealthy as the more obvious and accepted forms.

What would you call constant stress when it’s avoidable? Constant anxiety when it’s avoidable? Constant worry when it’s avoidable? Constant over-arousal when it’s avoidable? Constant pressure when it’s avoidable? Constant responsibility when it’s avoidable?

I’d call it abuse.

Of course no one is hitting the dog, starving the dog, or leaving the dog out in the snow. These dogs likely have the best food, tons of “love”, and a nice cozy bed(s) to sleep on. And yet, they’re emotional wrecks.

If we allow dogs to be emotional disasters (which looks like chronic barking, possessive behavior, separation anxiety, hyper-reactivity, growling/lunging at triggers, maniacal on-leash behavior, maniacal indoor behavior, aggression etc) when we have the ability to change that and offer them something far better, isn’t that abuse?

If we allow our dogs to suffer when there are methods, approaches, and tools that can change all that, isn’t that abusive? Isn’t allowing suffering the same as causing suffering?

Now, if you’re hard at work with a challenging dog, or you’re working on turning a toxic relationship around, this isn’t aimed at you. You’ve got my full support. But if your dog is a wreck, and you prefer the easy, comfortable, lazy (or worst yet, chosen ignorance) approach to “dealing” with this, then this might be for you.

Abuse comes in many packages, and the package that is most pervasive isn’t the horrible, nasty, or unbelievable – it’s the every day, socially acceptable, loving, spoiling, allowing, permissive stuff that’s doing the most damage.

Remember, love isn’t about doing what’s easiest and most fun/comfortable/emotionally enjoyable for you. It’s about doing what’s best and healthiest for those in your charge – even when it’s hard or uncomfortable.


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking, game-changing dog training book The Good Dog Way: Love Them By Leading Them is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE BOOK TEASER!

TGDW_BOOK.PNG