When people complain about certain behaviors in dogs, they are often citing the exact behaviors that make the dog a dog. To cite a particular case, I had a client who was concerned about her dog biting other dogs when these dogs came up and growled, lunged-at and even bit her dog. As ironic as this sounds, it is not an isolated incident. Over and over I hear of people wanting to change core behaviors in dogs that just “can’t be changed” or “shouldn’t be changed.” Take for example barking, dogs bark – it’s as simple as that. You can’t make them speak or meow or whistle… so they just BARK.
The sooner people get in touch with the behaviors and characteristics that make a dog a dog, the sooner we can strengthen our inter-species bond.
Let’s look instead at things we can do with our dogs. For example, if everyone would train their dogs, or at the very least teach them basic manners so that their dogs didn’t exhibit bad behaviors, most every dog could live a happy life. However, we see all too often ill-behaved dogs that cause trouble for other dogs. If a small dog lunges and barks at a large dog it is totally acceptable (to some people). In fact if that little dog runs up to and bites the larger dog it’s not really seen as a big deal. However, if the big dog decides to “defend himself” or stand his ground he is seen as a dangerous or aggressive dog.
See: online dog training
Well, I’m about to differ. Bad behavior comes in all sizes and it’s imperative that all dogs are taught good manners. The reason for this is that bad behavior in one dog can trigger bad behavior in other dogs. Just like you may be a good person, but if someone runs up to you baring a knife, yelling and screaming you might feel compelled to punch him or her in the face in order to protect yourself. This would hold true if the person was small or large, young or old. Since dogs don’t see things in size and threat levels like we might, their instinct to respond is hard wired. They will defend themselves, and that “defense” might involve biting the dog that is lunging at them.
Can we un-train this? The answer is kind of. But more importantly the question I ask is: Should we un-train this?
I’ve seen trainers attempt this re-training through the use of muzzles and electric collars and serious compulsion / corrections. Although I am not averse to using corrections or compulsion in training (when necessary) I am strongly against it when it comes to trying to train the dog out of the dog. Dogs that play rough can be taught to play nice, dogs that act out can be taught manners, dogs that are overly dominant can be taught to lighten up, however teaching a dog, through force, that he may NOT defend himself when he feels his life is threatened (or even if he feels as such) is WRONG. Not only will this rarely work and cause ramifications later on in his life, the most important thing this abusive training does is demolish the relationship between the dog and the human.
This relationship is paramount to everything that I believe in and everything I stand for. Dogs must be made to feel safe in order to be trained. They must have a bond with their human and if you don’t want your dog to act aggressive, a good obedience understanding with you is paramount. This is something that you teach your dog through training and most importantly through a fair relationship with them. We teach our dogs that we will help them, teach them, and be there for them, even protect them. If we are not there to protect them, we must be fair and allow them to protect themselves. No dog should ever be taught that he is not allowed to protect himself if we can’t do it.
This reminds me of the sad helpless dogs that I see in animal abuse videos that are tortured by humans inflicting all kinds of harm on them. Anyone who hurts animals or trains dogs in an inhumane way has no place in my life. This includes people who frustrate dogs and don’t give them a fair chance at understanding what is expected of them. And it is my goal to find these people, expose them and bring them to justice. Dog training is about relationship first and foremost. It is also about understanding what dogs want and need to survive and thrive.
So when someone asks me for this crazy type of training, my answer is simple: “I’m sorry, but I can’t train your dog not to be a dog.”