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Key Components of Training: Pt. 3

I want you to ask yourself, "What kind of relationship do you have with your dog?" How would you describe it? Really think about that. It isn't just a simple answer, good or bad. In your relationship do you feel like there is respect? Trust? Communication and understanding? Friendship? Value? Harmony or is it chaos? Frustration? Stressful? Overwhelming?

Relationship is our 3rd key component in training. You have to have a level of relationship to work with your dog, and the better your relationship, the better your training will be and creating a well-balanced dog in your life. I am not talking about an "I like my dog and my dog likes me" kind of relationship. When it comes to having a relationship with your dog, the two most important elements to have is respect and trust. It's not about love. If you love your dog truly, you must set aside the emotion of what we think "love" is and provide a healthy relationship that our dog needs us to be which is a leader. A leadership position allows your dog to thrive and live in a healthy state of mind and environment. Not, "my dog feels loved". They need to feel safe and secure and know their expectations and role in their pack.

Whether you have 1 dog or 5, you are in a pack. A dog pack always has a hierarchy, which is vital to having a harmonious life. It is your responsibility as a dog owner to be a leader in providing that structure, guidance, and accountability to help your dog live happily and peacefully in your home and in the community.

If you look at a wolf pack, there are different levels of hierarchy. As alpha, they are responsible for protecting the pack, making decisions, and leading their pack to the resources for survival - food, and water. Becoming alpha or a leader to your dog pack doesn't mean you're pinning them to the ground and constantly physically being aggressive to establish your role. It means you're providing structure, information, and rules, and then applying accountability, reward, and meeting their needs.

Too many times I see owners think coddling their dog, stroking/petting, giving kisses, telling them "it's ok" and giving "free" treats, is going to help their dog through behavior problems (including fear and insecurities, and reactivity) and return getting their dog to love and respect them. This isn't how it works with dogs. Coddling and spoiling will either reinforce fearful tendencies and/or create a pushy, spoiled, and disrespectful dog. Dogs look for leadership. Very rarely does a dog actually want to be alpha and in charge. This is where you come in, to help them understand what is expected of them. Fulfilling this role for your dog will tremendously help your relationship not just in training, but overall.

Give your dog instructions and guidance.

Give your dog structure and accountability.

Reassure your dog you are in control of situations so they can trust you and avoid reacting with unwanted behaviors such as lunging, barking, snarling, biting etc.

Have fun with your dog. Praise and reward your dog. But remember it is even more important to provide those needs your dog is looking for as a leader of your pack. Providing a relationship between you and your dog that is based on respect and trust will in turn help your dog want to train and follow through with behaviors that are taught.

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