Dogs are extremely conservative. They prefer to stick to their set routine: to take a walk at a certain time, to perform the same dance before each dinner, to sleep in certain places of the house every day… On one hand, dogs are resilient and adaptive, and, probably, this is why they have been our companions for thousands of years. However, they are not as flexible as people. Dogs adapt to change, but they seek stability and consistent routine. Lack of consistency is exactly what caused the majority of behavioural issues. If a dog doesn’t know what to expect and what is expected, because the rules are changing from day to day, he feels insecure. If people fail to set boundaries and consistent rules for the family, the dog will take on this responsibility. The trouble comes from the fact that the dog’s idea of proper rules and boundaries is not what people would consider suitable. Hence, growling, snapping, guarding, battles for sofas and armchairs, terrorized children and pulled backs and shoulders resulting from being dragged on a leash.
The solution comes from the same source as the issue.
Since dogs are very conservative and seek your guidance, they will gladly be rid of the responsibility of setting and maintaining rules. To be a follower is safer and less tiring. Most dogs would very much prefer to just have food, fun and safety, rather than being forced to become an adult. I often compare dogs with children, and this is not an exception. Think about the children, who are forced to take on responsibility when adults fail to provide guidance and care due to war, substance abuse, disability, mental illness or neglect. Such situations traumatise primarily because children are not ready mentally and physically to bear the same levels of responsibility as adults. They are meant to feel safe, learn and have fun. A dog is said to have intelligence of a three-year old. Would you let a toddler rule your household?
I’d like to emphasize that I don’t talk about dominance and pack hierarchy here. I am talking about the burden of responsibility, which is almost unbearable for a dog, and about the feeling of security that adults of the family must provide.
So, what exactly should the owners do? I’ve recently posted a set of rules – it’s a good start. The most important of them is about being consistent. Be consistent with what’s allowed and what’s not. Don’t spoil your dog and use appropriate correction techniques. If you don’t want your dog to be aggressive, don’t be aggressive yourself. Set a routine of sleep, walks, feeding, playtime and training and stick to it. You can see that it is all very simple and common sense. However, I thought that it is worth reminding, because so many dogs exhibit behavioural issues that result from the owners failing to stick to these simple rules.