Should l do this with my dog?
A lot of people have asked me “should l ... with my dog?” Should l let my dog play with my aunt’s dog? Should l take my dog to my son’s rugby game? Should l let my daughter’s friend play with my dog? Should l go to the dog park? Should l leave my dog at the day care? I like to answer these questions by asking the following two questions:
When you do these things: —Are you teaching your dog you are the most relevant and trust worthy person in the world?
—Are you encouraging your dog to focus on you, listen to you, and desire you more than anything else? The first question is important because when the answer is “yes”, it means you are teaching your dog to look to you for direction and protection; if the answer is “yes” to the second question, it means you are teaching your dog to engage in you at all time, even among lots of distraction or stress. Leadership is essentially about direction and protection; without leadership, there can be no trust nor respect between the dog and the owner. If you are doing things that do not encourage/reinforce/reward the dog to look to you for direction and protection, you are devaluing your leadership. For example, if you allow your dog to go play in an off leash area with a bunch of random dogs who keep bullying your dog, or if you keep allowing a child to pester your dog’s personal space at all time even when the dog is clearly not happy about it - what are you teaching your dog? Are you telling him he can trust you to protect him at all time? Are you teaching him he can look to you for direction and when he follows your direction the other party will leave him alone? No, you are telling him the opposite. You are telling him you are not able to protect him, and following your direction ends up causing him lots of stress. Engagement is very important because if your dog does not desire you more than anything else, he will not listen to you, he will not really care about what you want but only what he wants. You will not have a dog who pays attention to you under distraction and you will not have a dog who can stay calm when he is stressed. For example, if you take him to a dog park, and he is so over stimulated once he gets there he totally ignores you and starts acting like crazy, are you teaching him to focus on you at all time? Are you showing him you are the most desirable being in the world? When you finally try to catch him so you can go home, are you letting him know that being with you is better than anything else? No, you are teaching him the opposite.
You are teaching him ignoring you will result in a very rewarding experience. The other dogs and other distractions are much more desirable than you. When he sees you trying to catch him is when all the fun ends. Being with you is certainly not as much fun as being with these other dogs in the dog park. If you keep rewarding your dog for ignoring you and devaluing your leadership, you should not be surprise when your dog does not listen to you, does not trust you, does not respect you, and does not care about what you want. That is why these two questions are very important. If you want a well behaved and well balanced dog, instead of just doing what makes you feel good emotionally, please think rationally with your mind - not your heart - and ask yourself these two questions before you do something with your dog. Thank you.