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  • Richard Chan

Don't just feed your kid candies

Before Buzo goes home, we are doing a lot of proofing of his behaviour in the house especially around the kitchen and dinning area to make sure he knows what the appropriate behaviours are. You can see he chose to just lay down as we ate and he did not bother us. Because he knew how to behave, he was allowed to hang out with us during dinner time and did not need to stay in his crate when we ate. A lot of behaviours are relationship based. If a dog gets lots of unearned affection he will naturally believes that he can do whatever he wants, eats whatever he likes anytime he feels like it. To simply correct such a dog without sorting out a better mental state and perception will result in a constant struggle which is unenjoyable and tiresome for both the dog and the owner. By teaching him to respect our space, and to observe our rules and boundaries, we can have a dog who automatically becomes more mindful of his decisions. He will try to think before he acts. This will result in a dog who is much more polite and respectful. Such a dog is a joy to have around. Affection is not bad but if it is unearned and is being showered lavishly upon the dog constantly, it will confuse a dog and cause an imbalance. In that sense, it becomes bad. Affection is like sugar. If a child eat too much sweets without other veggies and other nutritions, there will be lots of health related issues (e.g. obesity, cavity...). We are not being nice to our children if we do not teach them how to brush their teeth. We are not being responsible parents if we only give our children candies because we think that would make them very happy - even though in reality, it will make them overweight and really hyper all the time. Children are not happy if they are sick and get in trouble in school all the time. Although they may look happy when we give them candies, that is not really what gives them the happiest life. I have met a great many anxious dogs who are very confused and nervous as a result of receiving too much unearned affection on a daily basis. Dogs need to know black and white. That is how a working dog is wired genetically. They cannot do their jobs if there is no clear consistent direction. They will feel confused and frustrated. When we give too much unearned affection to a dog, there is no black and white as no matter what the dog does, it will result in lots of excitement and coddling. This over excitement does not help a dog feel that the owner has things under control. Everything is a big party. It is always soft talks, touch, hugs and kisses. This makes no sense to a dog and does nothing to help them to excel. Moreover, they will not feel safe around someone who does not appear to have things under control if the person is always petting and kissing him no matter what. They cannot trust someone who does not give them clear direction. They cannot respect someone whom they cannot take seriously. Usually, lots of misplaced affection is given in conjunction with too much unearned freedom. We should give our dogs freedom but it needs to be given in a way to set the dog up for success. If a dog is really into stealing food, allowing this dog freedom in the kitchen will only teach him bad habits and set him up to fail. We need to teach him what to do, and empower him with the skill sets to do those things before we give him such freedom. Freedom is to be earned and should be given successively. During the teaching stage, we should have means to follow through and control the dog in case something goes wrong, so we can guide the dog to stay on track and know what the right behaviour is and build those good habits through our consistent guidance. Giving our dogs proper direction and guidance is our responsibility. It is the job of a responsible owner. When we can lead, our dogs can follow. Many dogs are anxious because they have no one to lead them. They cannot follow their leader and relax. They are constantly trying to look out for themselves. They are constantly pulling, barking, lunging... Giving a dog lots of affection and freedom is not necessarily a nice thing; giving a dog discipline and guidance is not about being mean. It is all about what a dog needs at the moment to excel in order to reach his full potential. Our job is to do everything we can to give our dogs a happy life. A balanced dog who feels safe around us is much happier than a dog who keeps misbehaving because he is confused and anxious. To help a dog to be balanced and happy, we need a balanced assortment of direction, advocacy, guidance, and reward (affection, play, food...). These are all important elements to satisfy and fulfill a dog's in born genetic needs. Without providing our dog with this healthy assortment, it is like raising a child without giving him a proper diet, the dog will be out of balance, and we will live in constant conflicts with our dogs. We will need to constantly correct and avoid - and our dogs can never have the freedom they truly deserve. Please don't just give your dog "candies", they need their "veggies" and they need to learn how to "brush their teeth". A balanced dog is a dog who can enjoy freedom abundantly.


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