Relationship Gaps And Unforeseen Consequences


By Sean O’Shea

What most folks don’t get, is that everything with your dog is connected. Every allowance or permissive moment, opens the door for another, seemingly unrelated behavior. They don’t realize that over-indulging your dog with love, freedom, and tons of unearned affection, creates perceptions about you that can lead to other issues. That everything you do or don’t do is giving your dog information about who you are and how he should respond to you. That you’re constantly dropping clues to your dog about what opportunities are available, as well as creating openings for instability.

When your relationship with your dog is lopsided, unbalanced, and based far more on “love” and spoiling than it is rules and structure, you’re going to have problems. (I think we all get that by now.) But the interesting part is that you never know how that information of permissiveness, allowance, and lack of accountability will show itself.

You think the spoiling might lead to begging or barking at you, but instead it leads to resource guarding. You think that allowing the pulling on the walk might lead to barking at other dogs, but instead it leads to growling and snapping at guests in the house. You think allowing jumping, barking, and craziness in the house will just lead to bad manners, but instead it leads to separation anxiety.

While the origins of these serious issues might seem dramatic and improbable, I can assure you we’ve seen them all in action. We’ve seen relationship gaps create what seem to be amazingly disconnected issues. The thing is, you don’t get to choose how your behavior (or lack of) affects your dog’s. You don’t know what’s going to come out the other end of a relationship that’s short on leadership, rules, and accountability, and long on chaos and permissiveness.

Oftentimes it makes clear sense. The behavior you think you’re possibly creating (and are ok with) is what you get. But just as often it’s not. Often the dog’s individual psychological makeup and personality create an outcome you’d think was totally unrelated. But what happens is, your dog’s personal insecurities, temperament, genetics, and attitude become a giant mixer – a mixer that combines with what you add to it. You both add your parts, stir them up with daily life and repetition, and voila, you get some nasty behavior that SEEMS totally unrelated. But it’s not.

We see so many dogs with gigantic laundry lists of issues. From annoying stuff to super dangerous. And the funny thing is, our program almost never changes. But all these dogs, with all these different issues, using the same program, transform. Do we sometimes need specific protocols for specific issues? Of course. But by and large, a simple program of believable leadership, non-negotiable rules, dependable structure, and accountability for poor choices are what make 95% of the changes.

Do you know how many resource guarders stop guarding once they experience a few rules totally unrelated to their guarding? Or how many territorial guys stop being territorial once believable leadership is in place? Or how many separation anxiety dogs relax and stop freaking out once they learn that structure, rules, and accountability are prioritized over freedom and affection?

Leadership gaps, rule gaps, structure gaps, accountability gaps – accompanied by permissiveness, affection, and freedom are the perfect recipe to create all manner of dog behavior problems. The thing is, you never know which ones.

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  1. Rachel said:

    This is a great article and very helpful. Would you say inner pack aggression is also related to the lack of leadership and rules? I have 4 dogs, Rotwilier, Gsd, South African Boerboel Mastiff and Rottie Sheppard mix. Ive raised them all from puppies we live in Kenya, Africa as missionaries and they are our main source of security. I’ve worked so much with all of them ie, leadership, rules and so on. They are super well behaved, amazing in fact! But now I have 2 that want to kill each other????? Can I reverse this behavior? Is there hope of a normal life again? I know I must have gone wrong somewhere just not sure where? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!
    Thanks, Rachel

    • We tackled your challenging situation on Q and A a while back. Hoping things are improving.

  2. Critter Sitter Pet Service said:

    Awesome post Sean, I cant wait until you release your book! Thank you for sharing all of this wonderful knowledge and wisdom with others. It has changed my life. I’m saving up for T3 and I can’t wait to meet The Good Dog Team. You’re all amazing!

    • Thanks so much!! And we should have the book available Feb/March!! We’d love to see you at T3. Take care! 🙂

  3. I had no idea that some of the things that I do with my dog are actually teaching her other things that may not be good things. I recently completed a dog training class and learned maybe more about myself than my dog which is a good thing and I know I can teach my dog if I am patient, consistent and do not give up.

  4. As always good solid advice from Sean.
    FYI it’s worth following him on FB too for some good tips

  5. David said:

    Sean! Another great article! What is your YouTube channel??

  6. Jessi said:

    First time in your blog. I really liked it. Thank you for all your good tips and knowledge. It really helps!

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