When it comes to disciplining their dog most people either don’t discipline at all or use an unbalanced form of discipline. Even professional dog trainers can be at fault here depending on the method. Any child psychologist will tell you that raising a child that is a functioning member of society the adult/parent has to be both a nurturer and disciplinarian. Could you imagine raising a child on love alone? Most dog owners want a responsible, reliable pet but raising a dog, much like a child, we have to have respect and love.
A dog’s brain is hardwired to view the world through natural pecking order. When our dog comes into our home, our house is not a house it’s a den. The dog does not see us as a human, but a two-legged animal. What happens in a lot of cases is that there is too much love and emotion and not enough guidance and discipline. This throws off our pecking order and the dog becomes the alpha dog and pack leader. Our dog trusts us based on leadership skills, not the amount of toys, treats, or fun.
How do I achieve trust and leadership?
• Many forms of discipline are unbalanced. Hitting, swatting, screaming, shock collars, pinch collars (with the prongs), spray bottles, rolled up paper, ect. are all examples of unbalanced discipline and are harmful to the relationship between owner and dog. The only time we ever should put our hands on a dog is to express our love to them. These unbalanced forms of correction decrease the stability of the animal and break down the trust the owner should be growing. Staring a dog in the eyes also projects negative energy and can be intimidating for your pet.
• Dogs need corrections, or negative energy, and positive energy. We must be balanced. This is basic child psychology that a child has to be jollied out of a correction, so does a dog. When I give a correction, projecting a negative energy, I always use a positive energy to counter this. Where most people error is that they touch the dog; only use energy. There is a 5-10 minute window of time that if the dog touches you, or you touch him/her then you’re NO means nothing. A leash and a collar are tools! The ultimate goal is no leash/collar, but it is needed until you learn to play with your energies and learn to read the animal.
• Get on the negative energy and get off of it, and back to positive. Where many people mess up with their corrections is getting their emotions involved. The dog is testing leadership and seeing how well the owner will follow through. Always follow through, but try to stay calm and confident. A dog reads your pheromones, energies and body language more than anything. A dog reads human emotions as a weakness. Getting angry and frustrated does not help the relationship, but make sure to follow through with what you ask.
• Food treats and clickers do nothing for growing respect in a relationship. If I ask a dog to do something and I’m holding a treat- is the dog working for me or the treat? Same with a clicker. Every dog needs a leader, so the dog needs to respect you first and love you second. Love and emotion is usually not a problem!
• Ask the dog to do something and then correct it. Repeating ourselves is a weakness! Also, never use the dogs name while correcting. NO, SPOT, NO associates the name with a negative. If it is necessary for little Spot to come immediately for safety, the first word out of our mouth is his name. Keep the name positive.
Remember, dogs start looking for order at 3-4 weeks of age. When they come into our homes if we do not establish order, they will. Developing natural order makes every dog the absolute happiest. Being a balanced leader creates a relationship of trust and respect. This means more to your dog than any food treat. Natural order has nothing to do with a routine or a command.
Canine Behavior Specialist
Lauren Hood’s World of Dogs, L.L.C.