What does this concept have to do with dog training? Well, if you ask me it is the root of training and a philosophy for a harmonious life.
All too often people are concerned with being ‘alpha’ or ‘dominant’ and forget to be in love with their dog – didn’t most of us get them as companions anyway? I agree that boundaries and leadership are important, but it is only one part of a healthy dog-human relationship.
I often ask people to put themselves in their dogs’ shoes, so to speak. While it is often not a good idea to project human characteristics onto our dogs, we should try to see things from their perspective. Try this exercise.
Ask yourself the following questions and then try to answer them from your dog’s perspective too:
- Can you reliably predict the moods and behavioral patterns of your companion? Are they stable?
- Are expectations clearly communicated? What about things that are discouraged?
- Do you know what will happen if you let your companion down? How do you feel if you disappoint them?
- Do you trust your companion? Would you help them in some way if you could?
- Can you provide for some, if not all, of the needs of your companion? Do you want to?
- Are there boundaries in your relationship?
- What about ‘me’ time if you want or need to be alone?
The answers to these questions will range greatly; there is not one set ‘right answer’ for any of them.
For balance to be achieved it is more important to have consistent boundaries and expectations with a reliable reward system; this will deter the owner from getting into a dominance struggle which in turn creates a negative cycle of bullying that does not propagate a healthy relationship. Don’t get caught up in the hype of simply being the boss, take the responsibility of being respected and appreciated, which you don’t get through intimidation. If you realize that you could do better holding up your end of the relationship please don’t hesitate to ask for tips on how to improve!
Krystal Ellingson CDBC CPDT-KSA
Krystal Ellingson CDBC CPDT-KSA, is the founder of Speak Dog, the first dedicated ‘positive’ dog training company in the Tri-City area where she lives. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with both Knowledge and Skill accreditations with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers along with a list of other credentials, certificates, and affiliations.