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Dogs And Leadership

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 24 July 2014

It may come as a surprise to you that most issues people have with dog behaviour are the result of the way people behave around those dogs… what kind of leadership we provide is so important, just as it is with children… if we ‘neglect to act’ or ‘act to neglect’ then we should not be surprised by the consequences! When dogs don’t see the leadership they seek or see weakness in the ‘leader’ they will assume the mantle…

As that well know phrase says (attributed to Mahatma Gandhi), “You must be the change you want to see in the world!”

So if most of the issues people have with their dog’s behaviour are the result of how people behave around those dogs, what does it ACTUALLY mean to “be the change you want to see” (Ghandi) in relation to your dog?

Whether someone is a dog owner or not, dogs pick up on emotional energy and can sense the ‘energy’ of what is going on with people — that is the way they are made. But that doesn’t mean they always get it right. For example, ‘energy-​wise’ excitement and fear are actually the same feeling… and this may explain why when a child is frightened of a dog and squeals and runs away (not to mention flailing arms and legs), the dog will probably take that as a signal to chase and play!

[This, by the way, is one of the most important things to teach a child — if you are afraid of a dog, FREEZE — DON’T RUN!]

Most behaviourists will agree that if a dog doesn’t sense a leader, then they will assume that role.

Responsible breeders and owners will always seek to socialise puppies and young dogs in all sorts of situations where there are distractions or exciting things going on around them; the aim of this is for the dog to stay calm in the face of whatever is going on around.

Training here, as always, is best using positive reinforcement to reward your dog when they pay attention to you and they respond calmly to whatever else may be happening. Needless to say, this training takes patience and may take a lot of time but is very effective with most dogs. The importance of this socialisation cannot be over-​emphasised — it is the foundation for a well-​balanced dog.

What kind of leadership we provide is so important, just as it is with children. If we ‘neglect to act’ or ‘act to neglect’ then we should not be surprised by the consequences! In other words, it is best not to reward bad behaviour and to seek to correct it as soon as possible.

Not only that, it is important that EVERYONE who comes in contact with the dog on a regular basis (especially if they are involved in any aspect of ‘caring’ for the dog) knows, understands and practices the same training with the dog or they will get confused and not understand how they are supposed to behave.

In addition, if we want a well behaved child or dog, then we need to be an example of the behaviour we want — if we behave aggressively or with fear then we should not be surprised when in some way or other our behaviour is reflected back… we understand very well what happens when we give attention and act with love and understanding — don’t we?

Although we cannot discount that there are differences in personality and temperament, the behaviour of our dogs and children is for the most part in our hands… in fact, as in all aspects of our lives, in order to reap the rewards we seek we must first put in the appropriate effort… and be a great role model… so that those we are aiming to ‘teach’ get the best example.

If you try to train a dog when you are upset or angry, beware what you are actually training may be the opposite of what you want… if you want a dog to stay calm, then it is advisable to only train when you are calm, and banish all thoughts of what might happen or what may have happened in the past.

If you want a dog to change their behaviour — then it may be necessary to change yours!

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Be Safe With Your Dogs!