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Don't fight with your dog

21.01.2022 19:10

There is lots and lots of advice on how to live with dogs, how to train them, how to be a "good leader". Often contradictory. For me, the most important one is the only one. Don't fight. Don't fight with your dog, don't try to trick him and don't discuss too much.

Try to think of someone in your life who has been a good leader for you. Someone who taught you, inspired you and who you felt comfortable, free and happy to work with. For someone it was a parent, for another a favourite teacher, a tutor, a leader in a club or at a children's camp... Think of him or her and tell me what he or she was like.

I'd venture to guess he was calm. He wasn't a temper tantrum, he didn't swear for every stupid thing, in fact, he didn't swear at all. He could laugh and he was fun to be with, but when he said something, it was valid. Not because you were afraid of him. Not because he threatened you with punishment or punished disobedience. Just because he said it. You knew he didn't say things he didn't mean or that weren't important. He wasn't sending you to bed to get a break from you, but because you and he were tired and needed to sleep. He didn't give you assignments that were too hard so that he could then berate you for mistakes. But he gave you tasks that were so hard to show you that you could do much more than you thought. And he supported you in doing them. He led you to new activities, new skills. You were eager to learn from him and looked forward to each lesson.

And he certainly never argued with you. He didn't try to trick you. He was direct and fair, and you always knew where you stood.

Sometimes he was angry, too. But he didn't get angry for no reason, and he didn't stay angry for long. He was fair and he could admit his own mistake.

And he didn't argue with you. He didn't try to provoke you or trick you. He didn't fight what you wanted, or what your nature was. Instead, he looked for compromises and ways you could both be happy.

And that's exactly the kind of leader your dog deserves. I have to say, it really saddens me how many times people come to me trying to trick a dog into something and wondering if it's not working. How unfairly they treat him and think he won't notice.

If you're reading these lines, you're probably not a person who wants to take out your frustrations on a dog. Who wouldn't take a dog as a partner and a friend. Yet very often we don't treat them that way.

If a dog does something you don't like, what do you do? Do you punish it? I can't count the number of times people have asked me about the proper way to punish a dog. But only a really small number of people will ask how to actually teach the dog. Like it's all his fault. As if all the responsibility is on him and they have no choice but to punish him. Yet they themselves have not accepted the responsibility to teach the dog the right behavior. They didn't think about the fact that any mistake is primarily their fault, not their dog's fault. They overestimated him, they didn't assess the situation, they didn't teach the behaviour well enough. Or maybe they just didn't accept that we all make mistakes.

Please don't fight with your dogs. Look for common ground.

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