Dogs and humans are very social beings. We are not meant to live solitary for a long period of time. As soon as a pack of dogs, or a group of people share a room, a social order starts to establish itself. Social order means that there are leaders and followers, and there are stronger and weaker individuals. In general, a social order creates stability and as the word says: order. Fights only occur when younger individuals challenge existing leaders. That is why consistent guidance for dogs is so important.
To transfer this fact into a family with one or more dogs, we have to make sure, that we are the leaders over the dogs. I need to emphasize now that dogs feel happy and secure when the human shows himself as a guide. A good leader is kind, but firm when necessary and most of all extremely consistent, which means he consistently allows certain things or consistently does not tolerate certain things. A good leader knows what he expects from his followers, and therefore becomes a guide. The word leadership somehow has a meaning of dominance, whereas the word guidance to me tells in a kind and adequate way what is right and wrong.
The following sentence is one of the most important messages I want to leave you with:
Your dog will feel extremely comfortable when you show him clear daily rules, enforced with consistency so it always knows what to expect of you.
Showing clear limits never involves any physical dominance. There is no need to physically force a dog or to give unreasonable corrections. Being a strong fair leader will result in a healthy happy relationship.
So, before you start educating or training your dog, be very clear what you expect from him and vice versa what he can expect from you. For instance will you allow him on the couch ? If not, make sure you do not allow him on the couch at first attempt, and every time after, and very soon he won’t do it again. If your dog tries to jump on the couch the first time, gently lead him down along with a firm ‘no”, that is all it takes. If on the other hand you do allow your dog on the couch, you always have to allow him there, changing your mind every week will totally confuse your dog. That is what I mean by “consistency”, have clear expectations and always follow thru. At the beginning It will take some time with a puppy or a new dog, but will very soon pay off. Be aware that if you allow a certain habit, in the dogs mind it means that what worked one time can be repeated.
Let’s go thru some examples:
3.1. Jumping up on people:
Personally, I don’t believe in allowing any dog to jump up on people. There are several reasons why: Even though a puppy jumping up may look really cute, later on in life when matured this habit can develop into disrespectful and even dominant behaviour. Even the tiniest dog excitingly jumping up on you will never learn to stay calm when greeting. Matters worse, bigger dogs could knock over a person, a child or an elderly and cause harm. Any dog jumping up with dirty paws will be annoying to guests or yourself when you come home dressed up. Can you see how wrong it would be to then blame your dog? Therefor be always very clear on what you want to allow and what not and be consistent in enforcing it.
In general, it is quite easy to control this behaviour, especially with puppies. The simplest solution is to avoid paying any attention to a dog that jumps up. Turn around, walk away and don’t talk or touch, or even look at the dog. Any attention from your side will re-enforce the excited state the dog is in at this moment. As soon as the dog stays off, give calm attention, praise, maybe even give a treat. The dog will quickly learn that greeting people only happens when all paws are on the ground. Be cautious not to use the command “down”,, since this is meant for the dog to lie down. Be very consistent with all commands. Make sure that everybody who comes to your house is not responding to your dogs jumping up, prancing or barking. A good routine is to make the dog sit before greeting people. Doing this repeatedly your dog will gladly make the first choice to sit when greeting people.
An unhappy and useless solution would be to lock the dog away when people are coming. Isolating the dog from being with who he likes most could have a negative impact on his social behaviour.
3.2. Entering or leaving your house:
In the dog pack structure the leader always walks in front, the follower follows. We will cover this more when talking about the walk. I think it is a good habit to make sure you always go thru the doorway in front and before your dog. You can easily establish guidance this way. You will also avoid the bad habit of the dog bursting out the door. It is a good training method to make your dog sit and wait in front of the open door. Again, consistency is of utmost importance. The same applies to coming home. You want to be the first entering the house. You will instantly establish yourself as the pack leader, and you will avoid that the dog enters with dirty paws, or that he pushes over a child.
This exercise will very soon create a well-mannered dog. I would like to emphasize here that this applies to small dogs as well. Small dogs often show very bad behaviour, because owners don’t think it’s necessary to educate a small dog.
3.3. Begging for food
To me our dogs have no business around the dinner table. If you consistently never feed your dog from the table, he will never start to beg, or large dogs won’t lay their slobber mouth on the table. Teach everybody in your household, that giving your dog food from the table is off limits.
This has more advantages: Often our food contains salt and spices which are not good for our dogs, neither are any type of sugars. Further a dog should only get a treat when he shows proper behaviour. When you give him a treat, make him sit and patiently watch you, we will cover that more in depth in the chapter about feeding.
Be consistent in how and when you treat your dog with food.
Being consistent will pop up in my posts all the time, lol. I hope these three examples gave you an idea about the importance of being a steady guide for your dog.
3.4. Nudging for attention
Dogs seek our attention and in general we love giving attention back. But if a dog disrespectfully demands your attention, simply ignore it, and give attention on your own terms. Disrespectful would be; pushing, mounting, nudging with the nose, excessive barking and jumping. Remember that somehow you may tolerate and get used to these behaviours, but as soon as you have visitors, this can be very annoying. Sadly, the dogs will be blamed and negatively commented on, even though this is the owner’s responsibility.