We should teach our dog what boundaries are. It is for their safety and safety of the environment they are in. We should be able to communicate effectively what we want our dog to do. However we should understand that our knowledge of what cue/signal means (what we expect) is not necessarily same for our dog.
We expect by default that our dogs should behave in nice manner all of the time, no matter what.
We want them to understand the whole package: for how long, in which ways we want them do to something, how to act in all circumstances and to be able adjust accordingly, even to our moods.
So yes, controlling the behavior of our dog is very important. But we should at some point put boundaries to our boundaries and understand that our dogs do not have same concepts of how they should behave as we do.
We people sometimes take things too literate and do not include common sense in equation.
For example when we want to teach our puppy or energetic adolescent self control we MUST take into consideration that at some point training can become very frustrating to the dog or even cruel. For any dog actually.
Example would be teaching dog to sit before we put down the bowl of food. HOW we teach it and what our goal is (duration of sitting) can make a huge difference. The end result of dog sitting and waiting is not important as much as how does dog feel while experiencing that.
Gradually elevating level of difficulty (bowl going towards ground) with less valuable food at first (dogs will tell us if it is of high or low value for them), non competitive environment (no other pets, children nearby) and reading your dog’s body language should be foundations. Only when your dog can sit without any frustration for few second our goal should be met.
But as I said we sometimes take it too literary so some people ask of dog to sit in front of their bowl for minutes, even 10 minutes – now that is going towards cruelty. Why? It is not natural or healthy for dog to look at his food (especially when very hungry) and not being allowed to eat it. It has nothing to do with training or teaching him a lesson. It is about exhibiting our power over a resource which is not necessary. Dogs will NOT respect us MORE if we ask of them to sit like that. They will be frustrated and confused.
Goal of teaching control is to make everyone’s life easier, to have structure and clear communication. That is it.
Same goes for other behaviors like teaching sit, stay, go to mat etc…
What if the surface is not comfortable for dog, what if he is tired, or is in puberty and concentration is low, what if it a puppy that NEEDS to play and explore world and is having trouble being still for longer period – list is long…
We should put more sense in what, why and for how long we ask our dogs to perform something. And see if they are ready for it or not yet – and than adjust our approach to their level of capability.
If we need them to do something for longer periods, and reasons are important because of OUR lifestyle, than we should put even more effort in trying to prove our dog that it is such a lovely thing to do, even though he might not be on board as much.
There will be many situations like that; sometimes it is hard in real life to balance wants and needs of both us and our dog. But in that case we should do our best to get them on board…not just expect that they have to.
Basically, we should be careful in drawing the line between setting boundaries in productive way and over controlling animals in a way that is not natural or is frustrating to them. They will always tell us when we have crossed it, it is up to us to listen and help them do what we want. We should be reasonable in our requests.
Jelena Kallay – Vagabond Positive Animal Communication
Dip. Animal Behavior Technology, Dip. ABT – CASI
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program, KPA – CTP