To live in harmony with your dog, move away from control. Control stifles individuality of expression and you will undoubtedly get backlash. Guide and educate your dog to be able to exhibit patience and use natural calm canine behaviours. Self-control, patience and turning the other cheek, is for any being paramount for survival and successful co-habitation.
Your dog is part of the family, as part of a family, they like children need to be guided into how to fit in, have boundaries to feel safe in order to be happy and relaxed. Learn to trust and be trusted. Feel safe, be respectful and be respected. Feel love and be loved for who they are.
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Co-exist in harmony with your dog
I ditched training dogs years ago. I now educate people to help their dogs fit into our world at their speed and with the understanding that it all comes in time, no pressure to perform or be an adult before their time. No pressure to engage with everything and everyone we meet. To this end, we grow together with our dog and truly connect mind to mind. For a dog to be happy being just themselves and not the need to interact with all and sundry.
For us to form a relationship with our dogs, built on trust and understanding
Expectations when living with a dog
Your first expectation when you co-habit with another species needs to be is to help them be themselves. To help them exhibit natural behaviours. Do remember that they will not be able to do some things you expect, e.g. To walk past another dog without reacting if you are too close to that other dog. Do not expect anything but forge forward and guide back to you if they present with over interest of fear. You have to be their guiding light of sensible, calm and kind to everyone and everything you meet so you, your dog and others are also happy and safe.
Paws For Thought
Ask what your dog needs as opposed to what you expect from your dog.
The sociable canine
Dogs are social, intelligent living beings. They watch and learn when we are not hands-on teaching. They learn how to win and lose, how to fit in or not, how to manipulate and teach us to bend to their wants.
Frequently we hear statements like ” My dog got his gold award but has separation anxiety and jumps at people coming into my house ” My dog was well socialised but lunges at dogs out on walks”. These are unsociable canines and those who have been given too much exposure to too much too soon. We need our dogs to ignore, walk past others with a real connection to you. In order to achieve this rather than meet every dog and person we pass, we need to pass them and show that ignoring is polite.
Ignoring keeps them and others safe. Do pick your dogs’ friends from a close-knit group. Those they can be with and not go over the top with activity. They can have fun, but when it gets too much they can naturally break off to calm the situation down. learning the sensibilities of winning friends as opposed to embarking on intense meets is the way forward.
Dogs who have known only control in their lives have never been allowed to think for themselves. Guidance in education is everything between dog and their human. This will enable them to be proactive as opposed to react when they meet new things and animals. A thoughtful, social canine does not plough, they assess and give a polite bum sniff etc ( handshake) and move on. So help them function the way nature intended. Calm polite and well versed in the canine language.
Traditional sit, stay and heel for dogs
Condition a dog to display a sit (for example when there is a knock at the door) we are taking away their natural language, their own natural flee and flight. Conditioning results in an unthinking act. Robotic in action and carries no emotion. You don’t need to understand the reason you just repeat the action! So it’s an act that requires no thought process once learnt.
Humans are control freaks, we mould these responses (IMO) into puppies too young to become the adults we want them to be. We teach them to be mini-humans. Learning has to be fun and with understanding, then the teacher’s goals will be achieved. It’s like the old school learning, rote learning of times tables, you do not have to understand the mathematics to regurgitate the answer.
Conditioned response training
Conditioned response training for police and service dogs, search and rescue, working dogs and dancing dogs etc. At home to just naturally live do we have to say ” At ease work over” We have to teach or condition a response to certain stimuli just because its a safer option in our world. However, making this the go-to teaching method for misdemeanours is counterproductive for real life.
Making this the sole method IME for bringing up a puppy, prevents them from being their true selves. Blanking natural communications and insisting on the way we do things is what results in undesirable behaviours. A cry to be heard.
Conditioned response teaching is useful for service and therapy dogs where we need to help them understand skills we need as humans.
Natural guidence in canine education
Teach dogs the way they naturally learn is the future. We all feel the need to fit into and be welcome within society, to love, have respect, be respectful, trust and feel safe with those around us. We need to achieve as close as possible to living naturally, with the ability to fit some square pegs into round holes,
Canine education needs to fall hand in hand with each individual being, their unique personality and indigenous character. To be able to express themselves, be understood for who and what they are is paramount.
Self-control is learnt by guidance through thoughtful exposures. When dogs and children are given options with helpful guidance in the right environment and understanding of who they are and how they learn as individuals naturally. They are then able to make an educated decision to then, present with acceptable behavioural choices.
Goals in dog training
These goals, we must understand are our own goals, the goals put on us by pressure from what’s expected by society. No dog or child enters this world with goals or understands why they are necessary. In some cases, these goals are way too ambitious for many individuals.
For many personalities of dogs to learn to sit or stay and heel in isolation is too difficult or pointless and stressful. It’s so unnatural. Conforming to our rules and regulations, our way. Where actually does this fit into nature?
Individual achievable age-appropriate goals and boundaries.
To empower dogs to be who they are. To be mindful of not crushing them into a world where we have so many expectations of what’s acceptable. To get them to do things our way when they have no or little understanding. Give them the tools to be able to express themselves in a mindful but canine manner. To be able to treat those they come across, whether human or animal in a relaxed respectful manner.
Self-control comes with a calm thinking dog. Dogs that understood for who and what they are. Guided through puppyhood to adulthood. Not trained or conditioned in a robotic manner.
Guide a dog towards self-control and happiness
Dogs, like us, learn best, in a safe environment with the right guide who understands how we tick. So, not surprising then that most of their best learning happens at home. This is where invariably they train/teach us to react to their reactions. Where they watch our every move and make their own conclusions depending on our response to any given (non-verbal) question they ask.
So cut out the middleman in all this and make is simple and straightforward so the dog then has to think more about actions and personal space rather than us micromanaging or controlling the dog in a situation.
When your dog is super excited to see you, help them gain self-control and give a more thoughtful approach by facing away and stepping in so the dog gets down. You call your dog when he respects your space. He’s learnt to self-control through guidance, giving him a choice to approach with more thought.
Understanding skinners study on operant conditioning
Prof. Saul Mcleod of Simply Psychology a psychology tutor and researcher concludes his paper by saying “Operant conditioning fails to take into account the role of inherited and cognitive factors in learning, and thus is an incomplete explanation of the learning process in humans and animals.
Using operant conditioning (reward after great choice or action) is important but as a stand-alone teaching method, for me, it is seriously lacking. We need to take into consideration and work with the emotional, cognitive and social intelligence of each individual. To Condition responses or multiple responses to a plethora of situations is controlling and brainwashing (synonyms of the word conditioning) and gives no room for self.
It’s about living together happily, understanding each other’s needs, how they feel, how your dog reacts to how you feel and language and individuality with gentle guidance to make great choices.
Without boundaries, we get lost, thoughtless and afraid. With too much pressure to be something we are not, we lose ourselves and self-worth.
Put some fun back into learning, put achievable boundaries in place and teach the way the individual learns, the way each species learns. Do not feed the information via dictation and printed sheets where no actual thought is required. Get them working it out for themselves by giving the right guidance in a low key environment. Live Naturally with thought, patience and respect.
Living together and forming a relationship takes time. Highs and lows through puppyhood, adolescence to adulthood is natural as they learn how to fit in and we learn what they mean by what they do. There is no rush to make the grade, any grade. Just fit in and enjoy each other’s company naturally.
About Caroline Spencer
Caroline has over 30yrs experience with dogs from gundogs to pet dogs. She has written “Why Does My Dog Do That? and Co-Author of “Parenting Your New Puppy” With Lesley Harris. Caroline also designed the Happy At Heel Harness to help educate dogs to stop pulling. If you’d like a consultation via Zoom or in-person do contact Caroline via the following email address for details email@example.com
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