by Dave McKague
My Dog Teaches Control
The public wants dog owners to control their dogs. With its leashing and muzzling laws, the Ontario government certainly wants "pit bulls" under control.
But how exactly do you control a dog? And what exactly is control anyway?
If we are to live at all, we certainly need to be able to exert control over our environment. In fact, a quick look down the list of all the things that cause us problems gives us those things we cannot control.
To get anything done at all, and to do it safely, we need to be in command of the tools we use. Simply walking down the street demands that we be in control of our bodies. We would certainly hope that the drivers with whom we share the roads are in control of their vehicles. The skill of the professional athlete that we revere is in fact a demonstration of a high level of control.
What we may be less willing to acknowledge is that, for families, companies, and society to function, people need to control others and, in turn, to allow themselves to be controlled. Chaos would result at intersections if we did not allow the traffic lights to control our movements. If a house is to be built, trades persons are coordinated and their activities directed by plans and supervisors. Coaches and trainers direct the professional athlete.
Because it is so often associated with punishment, control gets a bad name. If the government wants to control something, it usually passes a law that provides only for penalties; in fact, our laws are essentially lists of those things for which we can be punished. Parents and bosses often fall into the same way of thinking and penalize in an effort to control behavior. Yet punishment should be the absolute last resort and is, in fact, an admission that we have not been effective in our efforts to control.
Our objections to being controlled usually occur when punishment is the only method used or when the rules are not consistent. A child gets upset and confused if behavior tolerated on one occasion is punished on another. A boss who only criticizes and does not praise soon finds himself vilified by staff who themselves become less and less willing.
Simply put, control is the ability to start, change and stop. The more precisely we can do these, the better we are in control of our environment.
Dogs innately need order and consistency in their lives. Being social animals naturally living in packs, they establish a hierarchy among themselves. There is one leader the Alpha dog to whom the rest submit.
For dogs living in our human "packs", a natural hierarchy is formed. They expect the humans to be the leaders. Dogs feel secure and are happier when the hierarchy is thoroughly established and direction is positive and precise. In order to control our dogs, we must be willing to be the Alpha leader. This does not require that we punish the dog, but merely that we establish positive and direct control. Consistent leadership. No wishy-washy maybes.
You dont want your dog to jump up on people? Then it must never be allowed, even if the other person does not object or even encourages it. Unacceptable behavior always has to be unacceptable.
Your dog does not come when called? Let her know that that is not acceptable and do nothing else except get compliance. Do not allow yourself to be distracted and permit your dog to get away with disobeying a command. Done even once, you are inviting future behavior problems with your dog.
All training should be consistent and one thing at a time. Once a command has been given, assuming the dog knows what is expected, it needs to be completed before any other direction or activity takes place.
And remember, once your dog has obeyed a command, no matter how long it took or what hoops you had to jump through along the way, make sure you let your dog know you are pleased that she has done so.
Be the Alpha leader with your dog. Be simple one thing at a time. Be calmly assertive. Be positive. Be direct. Be firm. Be insistent. Be consistent.
The reward is a happy, secure and manageable dog. And, as we consciously practice control with our dogs, we may discover that other areas of our lives with which we were having trouble start improving as we learn how to gain control over them.
From "Be the Pack Leader" by Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) " my three-part fulfillment formula for any dog:
in that order!"
Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:
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