Trainer Trisha’s post made me think about the things I have learnt about dog training. I was lucky to begin my journey into dog training, when the harsh and often cruel methods were no longer taught. I wanted to write “no longer used”, but it is not true. Choke collars are still being sold, and I still hear about people giving advice based on the old-fashioned ideas of hierarchy and “what wolves do”. I often face the challenge of persuading the owners that their relationship with their dogs should not involve concepts like “domination” and “punishment”. Relationship with a dog is about leadership and guidance, not dictatorship and competition for the “alpha-male” status. Would you really compete with a creature that is, let’s be honest, intellectually inferior to you? Our dogs look up to us. They want to please us and make us happy, because it makes them happy.
The most important thing that I have learnt is that dogs don’t misbehave because they want to be mean. They misbehave because we taught them so.
I have mentioned that Milo’s behavioural problems are to the most part a result of these old-school methods such as choke collars and severe punishment. I didn’t know then, but when I look back at what was going on, I feel terribly sorry for him. He lost his trust in people almost completely and it took us a long time to earn it back. Although he still has some bad habits learnt back then, Milo is the most affectionate and loving dog. Every time he shows his trust and confidence in us, I am sincerely flattered and amazed. I am greatly touched, when he lets us clean his ears, when he asks for help and when he is worried, if he lost sight of us during walks. I think: “Wow, how did I manage to earn it?”.
After all, this feeling of being needed, trusted and loved is the very reason why we want a dog companion, isn’t?