As a professional dog trainer I have had the opportunity to be around thousands of dogs and owners in their homes and observe how they relate to their pets in the most intimate ways possible.
Despite the wide range of dog breeds and owner lifestyles, the one constant which never changes is that everyone just wants their dogs to be happy.
But what constitutes a happy dog?
Is it the dog with the most bones? The pooch with the biggest yard? Or is it the dog who expresses his “excitement” the most?
Happiness is a constant goal dog owners strive for universally. But as you can see, the means to making your dog happy varies greatly. An entire industry has built around this ideology. However, in most instances most of these will never help a dog obtain canine zen through their external approaches.
Because I live in Los Angeles I service a great deal of celebrity and wealthy clients who can spare no expense for their pets (I once had a client who spent over $400 dollars per day on a personal chef for his dog!) I have observed that many dogs living these “rich and famous” lifestyles are some of the most problematic cases or least happy dogs I have ever seen! This is because their luxurious lives never gave their owners the opportunity to look within the human/dog relationship and address their dog’s internal needs at the source versus trying to negotiate with the problem through external routes to happiness (endless treats, misappropriated affection, plush lifestyle, etc.). But if I don’t buy my dog a gold bed or give them filet minion every day how can I help them be happy?
I have noticed an uptick in severe behavior problems such as dog aggression and anxiety even in the past 10 years because the lives we have created around our pets have become so technology based they cannot keep up and are getting overly stimulated by what is going on around them. This is combined with an overly validating society we currently live in where every indulgence and impulse is met at our whim. Because of this, many people place these values on our dogs and are seeking a quick fix to resolve a dog’s problems that feels good and takes the easy route.
Even many popular approaches to dog training try to address a dog’s problems in a certain “positive” way because it feels better emotionally for us to feed into a dog’s excitement (over-stimulation is root cause of most behavior problems) or avoid the problem and indulge in treats (many reward based dog trainers make this mistake) than taking the time to train, lead, and create a calm-structured environment for a dog that is satisfying for them. I tell all of my clients this is not an easy task. It takes time and consistency. Like starting a new exercise regiment or trying to quit a bad habit, it requires great emotional and time constraints initially to make a lifestyle change but in the long run, the satisfaction is worth it! And this leads me to my point.
Happiness is not supposed to be a constant string of distractions and indulgences that feed into a dog’s every impulse.
This is the greatest mistake we even make for ourselves. Happiness is found in the contentment and satisfaction of serving a purpose for a greater good. (This is why people who do charity work speak about feeling happy from doing it).
For dogs, it is the satisfaction of having a regular exercise, socialization, and training plan in place which allows them to feel they are serving their purpose as working animals, getting the proper associated physical movement, and being part of a pack with a specific role versus not knowing what to do at every turn and getting rewarded for it to suit our own human emotional needs…See the difference?
Brett Endes (The Dog Savant) is a Los Angeles-based dog trainer and behavior expert who has 22 years experience working with severe problem behavior and rescue dogs. Brett is a graduate of the State University of New York and is the owner of Ican! K9, a state of the art training, boarding, and aqua therapy facility in L.A. He is known for his unique personality and effective style of dog communication he has developed by his years of work as an applied canine behavior expert. Brett lives in Los Angeles with his daughter Skylar and their Rottweiler Boo. To learn more about Brett visit www.dogtrainingla.com. Please forward all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.