dog problems

Is your dog your best Friend?

Now there are people who one day dream of having a (human) child and look forward to this being a BFF relationship.

Many people reading this who are already parents might say that being your child’s best friend may happen SOMETIMES but most parents will agree there are many other priorities to being a responsible parent.

Responsibilities are work, they mean that you may have to not always be the best friend, not always say yes and depending on who you are raising, say no quite a lot.

It may not make you popular all the time, but the result will be that the person or dog you are guiding will learn to take responsibility too.

They will learn to regulate their emotions because they will have learned impulse control.

Taking responsibility is contagious.

A puppy of say 20 weeks in my program becomes increasingly adapt at getting me to say yes by offering trained behaviours over behaviours driven by instinct and impulse.

Whilst of course they make mistakes, often a simple NO REWARD MARKER is effective at seeing them offer a different behaviour that will hopefully give them access to reward IF THEY HAVE BEEN RAISED TO UNDERSTAND THIS SYSTEM.

Management strategies help give me and the pup some down time where the pup is not offering behaviours endlessly and I am not held accountable to notice every good choice and reward it.

This helps us value the time we are together and helps the pup learn to relax, switch off and be ok on his or her own.

The best friend puppy raiser may avoid management in place of freedom, they may just give everything to their pup regardless of behaviour as they want to develop and maintain that BEST FRIEND relationship.

I see people daily who love and adore their dog, yet their dog is deaf to them any time there is something mildly interesting in the vacinity.

They will wave arms and hand fulls of super tasty food, cooing with high pitched voices and perform at their highest level only to remain ignored by the dog.

Does this dog see them as the BEST FRIEND? Is this how you feel your best friend should respond to you?

If this is you, ask yourself would you do this to get a persons attention?

You have given your all, you give for free and your always nice but yet your dog has zero respect for you, why?

If you give everything away, what left do you have to reward with?

More things the dog can get freely?

Perceived value

The value of anything is based on how much it costs, if your free, your attention is free, your love is free then I guess your perceived value is zero.

Excuses or your just not that valuable?

When I explain this to some people they will often say things like :-

“Oh he never does this at home, I think he can smell the other dogs, he is normally perfect”

And maybe he is, but the strength of a relationship is the average of all the interactions, not just the best one when it doesn’t really count.

Self respect

For your dog to respect you, first of all you need self respect. This may simply start with rules and boundaries, consistent things you will allow and reward and things you will never allow or reward.

Have standards for yourself and your dog will develop those too.

Your dog will ultimately learn that there are behaviours you will accept and reward and those you won’t and with consistency you will see a shift.

Maybe you are the person that holds out a piece of food when you call your dog, are you just saying “I know you have no value for me but will you come for this food?”

This is called using the food as the cue, not the reinforcer, so it will never get better than this.

So, the way I treat my best friend is to teach him or her how to behave in a way that will make us both happy.

I put so much time into my dog already.

I hear you and I have met literally hundreds of thousands of dog owners in my life who do the same with dogs that are unreliable, disrespectful, poorly behaved and disconnected from their owners.

The time your putting in is going into the wrong end of the relationship.

When I talk about socialisation, I call it effective or ineffective socialisation, this means that just having your dog meet a thousand dogs may not deliver a nicely mannered social animal.

You could end up a dog that is overstimulated by dogs.

Time must go into elements such as how and when to reward your dog, communication skills, management, teaching impulse control and understanding limits and boundaries, and yes some obedience too.

This way, training will be effective and results will come, we do this at K9Pro HQ day in day out and the results in the most reluctant dogs are no less than outstanding.

I never use punishment and my dog still doesn’t like me?

The fact is that the general public dog owner is being fooled into an ideology that will and does end in disaster.

People are fooled into thinking dogs can be trained by the magic Positive Reinforcement quadrant only but this is simply impossible unless you are completely ignorant of how the other three quadrants are defined.

You may simply allow your dog to play with other dogs a lot and one day not allow your dog to play, this is negative punishment.

Repeated you can plaster your dog with food treats and if playing with dogs is more valuable than food, this will be seen as negative punishment being applied by YOU and will kill your recall.

All whilst your saying you never use punishment.

You may brush your dogs coat or clip her nails and if your dog does not like this, it will be experienced in the positive punishment quadrant.

So whilist many people may be unknowingly using various punishers there is no gain as your not applying them to a behaviour you are trying to extinguish.

Many dog owners will have heard the rule “never punish your dog after recalling them”.

So you agree and vow never to hit, chastise or correct your dog after they have come to you. But you happily attach the leash and leave the park right?

The park is rewarding right?

Withdrawal of reward is negative punishment so it fact you probably do punish after many recalls.

It has been said many times “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” and I can tell you that the world is full of people with a little bit of knowledge about dog behaviour and training.

Hence we live in a world where the majority of dogs cannot be walked off leash as they will be uncontrollable, dogs that when let off leash come only when they feel like it, dogs that chase people and other dogs aggressively no matter what their best friend (owner) wants.

At some point these issues may grow to a point where the owner can’t tolerate it any more and as their dogs best friend they jump on the internet to ask the masses, remember those with a little bit of knowledge, the dangerous ones, how they can fix these issues.

It begs the question, why would you entrust the well-being and future of your best friend to possibly well meaning (and sometimes not), inexperienced, unqualified internet specialists?

Many people feel better sharing burdens and that’s perfectly ok, but taking internet advice as fact and trying the DIY approach with serious problems such as aggression is really not a path you should consider if you really care for your best friend.

Often a client is telling me how they have addressed the problem behaviour based on advice they have been given, and what they have been doing is soemthing I would never recommend in this case.

When dogs come to us for rehabilitation, know that it is hard work, even for us, know that we may have a good change in behaviour in a short period of time but the complete rehab process can be months or more, so tackling this task without professional help and support is going to be a very steep hill to climb.

One you may be inclined to give up on.

If you seek professional help be aware that one of the greatest challenges you will need to overcome is to change the way you behave towards your dog.

You will need to become a leader who can help your dog make good (different) choices in the face of distraction and stimulation.

You will need to keep this up for quite a while too and hopefully it will become your lifestyle.

I have never come across a dog I could not train, but I have certainly met many humans that would not change either willingly or subconsciously.

Invest in yourself, respect yourself and insist your dog does the same, when he or she does pay like hell!

If you feel that to achieve this you need to be mean, or harsh on your dog, this is not what I am suggesting at all, sometimes it is as simple as setting a few rules that you will not budge on.

1.Take control of your dogs rewards and issue them only when your dog earns them. Take all or some of your dogs food out of the bowl and put it in a treat pouch and “tip” your dogs good choices throughout the day.

2.Cue your dog to give a known behaviour such as sit, THEN when he or she does pull out food or a toy and reward vs. letting your dog see the reward first.

3. Recall your dog only when he or she will come, this may mean using a long line to ensure every recall cue you give ends up with the dog at your feet.

Herzhund Vader Long Line until recall solid

Starting with three simple rules will show you just how trainable your dog is and how well he or she will respond to structure.

Educate your best friend, teach him or her how to be a great dog that is comfortable in the world, has fair expectations and is driven to cooperate and respond to you.

As always feel free to share or comment!

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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One comment

  1. Very insightful post.

    ‘If you give or offer everything for free’ your perceived value is ‘zero’. This really applies in the Human world too. Seldom is a great worker acknowledged, respected, and looked after. They get lumped with extra work, the tasks no one else will do, and cop the brunt of frustration when things go wrong. All while others get away with a lower standard of behaviour, performance, and skill.

    Using solely and only ‘Positive Reinforcement’ is akin to spoiling a dog or child. They don’t develop a sense of what is socially unacceptable (or conscience), and they never have to take responsibility for their judgement or actions. What happened to the good ‘ole “Yin and Yang”? Positive without negative, is completely unbalanced, and in the real world would put a stop to all we know as physics, chemistry, and biology. We can’t have hot without cold, and our nerves would not function properly or our light globes turn on without the Positive and Negative components. The result of the unbalanced nature of some dog training, can also be seen mirrored in stunted personal growth in many Humans. The authors of “South Park” hit the nail on the head with their “Dog Whisperer” episode.

    I always laugh to myself when people say …“this is an Adult learning environment”… I know they mean to suggests that the ‘Adult’ should be able to focus, listen, concentrate, interpret, analyse, form logical arguments, and memorise. But seldom these days does this occur, as it has become harder to educate adults to a point of frustration, exhaustion, and ineffectiveness. Contrast this to children who are more inquisitive, curious, enthusiastic, motivated, experimental, and experiential. Given that many adults have become egocentric, hypersensitive, and defiant it sheds light on why it’s harder to train/educate dog owners, than it is the dogs themselves.

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