Dogs are like toddlers. They need structure in their lives. They look to us as their caretakers and providers. In many ways they want us to help them make the right decisions and help manage their behavior.
We need to become their benevolent leader. This stands in stark contrast to the traditional view of having to be the dominate leader in the house for fear if we don’t our dogs will take advantage of us and become the dominate or “alpha” dog. Fortunately science has shown us that we don’t need to worry about our dogs trying to dominate our households. This is an outdated theory that still maintains a following among traditional dog trainers. (For more information on debunking the Dominance Myth – see the position statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists)
What dogs are looking for is for us to give them clear and consistent guidelines to follow. Knowing how to act and what to expect is so important for your dog but this doesn’t mean that our dogs need to follow a strict routine either. In fact, varying your dog’s routine will be more stimulating for them. For instance, instead of feeding every day at a certain time before you go to work, you can varying their eating schedule and sleep in on a Saturday morning because your dog isn’t expecting their food at a specific time. Varying your routine can also be one step in helping your dog avoid separation anxiety since you don’t have a standard schedule they can anticipate and get anxious about.
Taking a positive training style is also important for your dog. Instead of trying to correct a “bad behavior” science has shown that you can be much more effective rewarding the behavior you do want. The bad behavior will be eliminated if your dog isn’t receiving any kind of reward for doing it.
Consistency is also very important. Everybody in the house should be following the same general structure with your dog. This is important so that your dog knows what to expect with everyone in the household and not just from you.
Our dogs look to us to help them make the right decisions. Let’s work with them in a positive way to help them make the right choices by reducing their opportunities to make a bad decision.
In keeping with our holistic approach to pet care we advocate the use of positive reinforcement and the use of classical conditioning practices. We do adhere to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) of leadership as defined in the Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals (link here) and the American Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) on Dominance and Dog Training and on Dominance Myths and Dog Training Realities.
We encourage the focus on positive reinforcement through the use of clicker training as science has shown this to be very effective in building and enhancing the human-canine bond through training.
To find a clicker trainer in our area please to our Resource page of our website.