This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I see it over and over again: people looking to train their dogs and looking for one thing -obedience. They want their dog to listen when they say COME, SIT, STAY, DOWN and a litany of other “commands.” They expect that the dog should either already know the commands or should learn them very quickly, because …. well, I don’t really know why they should learn them.
The big problem is that more than 95% of people that are looking to train their dogs are missing one important component to dog training and that is a relationship. Their dogs could care less where they are, what they ask or anything else. The reason for this is because the human never formed a relationship with the dog, yet suddenly they wonder why their dog won’t listen. To which I always respond, “Why should he listen to you?”
The human ego is a funny thing, just because we think we are, we really think we are. If we think we’re in control, we expect others to see that same picture. The problem is, that picture is only visible in your head. So if you’d like to get that picture into someone else’s head as well, maybe you should do a little work to get inside the other person (or animal’s) head.
Dog training is not a complicated thing to do and there are many ways to do it. It takes a deal of finesse and a great deal of patience. If you want to train a dog, the first thing you should do is surrender your ego and get onto the level of your dog. If you can’t understand your dog with your big brain, how do you expect him to understand you? Simple, he can’t understand you – until you teach him.
This teaching comes through a relationship that is built upon everything you do with your dog. From the way you speak to him, how you interact with him, how you walk him, feed him and play with him. Everything you do will affect the way he sees you. The key thing I stress is making yourself important to your dog. That means not being a bully, but also not being a pushover. Dogs respect strength but that strength is a strength that most people fail to understand. The strength of which I speak is compassionate, understanding and fair. If you want your dog to relate to you, make yourself important. Spend time interacting with him, playing with him, teaching him, hand feeding him, but also give him his autonomy. Set fair rules and be clear. If something is a NO, then it should remain a NO. It is highly unfair to expect a dog to know that he can sleep on the bed when you feel like it, but he’s not allowed onto the bed any other time. It’s not fair for him to think that he can climb on your lap and eat off of your plate and then suddenly, when you change your mind, then the answer is NO.
For the most part, people’s relationships with their dogs is not much of a relationship. I can tell you that when my dog comes out to play and I throw his toy, he runs and gets it and brings it back to me to play with. When I’m talking to someone, my dog looks at me and wants to play with by me, not the other people. All of this comes from being fair with him, building a relationship everyday and teaching him to understand me.
So, if your big problem is that your dog won’t listen to you, why not address the relationship that you’ve formed with your dog instead of thinking there’s something wrong with your dog. Before you begin training and expecting things of your dog, work on developing a relationship with him that will inspire him to want to listen to you.