Thursday, January 12, 2012

It shouldn't be you vs. your dog

I cringe a bit when I here terms like "alpha" "submission" and "dominance" used when talking about dogs. Those terms are grossly overused IMO and it makes the dog owning experience sound like an owner vs. dog battle.

If a dog has a good leader (YOU) those terms pretty much become a moot point. Leadership isn't about proving that you're the boss, it's about providing what your dog needs and teaching your dog what you expect of it. If your dog doesn't want to do something it's usually because they don't understand, it's uncomfortable for them or YOU haven't made it a good thing to do!

Dogs are opportunistic and do what they're allowed or what they're trained to do. It's that simple. Yes, some dogs have stronger personalities and need a stronger leader, but they're still a dog. You're still the one with the bigger brain, a greater capacity for learning - and thumbs! If a dog is failing, or misbehaving it's most likely because of human error or because a dog is just being a dog and hasn't been trained otherwise.

The whole dog owing thing should be enjoyable (well, at least 90% of the time - I still don't quite enjoy the occasional chewed up sock, cleaning up dog puke and the like), not a battle.

So if you're caught up in being the alpha or getting your dog to be submissive, stop. A good leader isn't constantly worried about being the leader. They're too busy providing leadership (and exercise, training, etc). You don't have to prove you're that leader if you're actively taking the leadership role.

If you focus on what your dog is doing wrong, that what you're going to see. If you figure out what you want and train towards it (making it rewarding for your dog!), the battle fades away and enjoyable teamwork emerges.

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