If you give me a tennis ball, I will do anything!- William and Jesse Nelson
In doing thousands of in-home consultation over the years, I have run into endless amounts of people who were convinced that their dog could not be helped. I am asked, “Is my dog broken?” My response is always the same, “NO!” When our dogs are acting out or responding negatively to normal stimuli in our lives, it usually doesn’t take me long to discover that there is not enough balance. In looking into this topic more deeply I want to discuss several areas that people often don’t consider or give enough thought into: Compatibility, physical and emotional stimulation, and structure.
Are you compatible with your dog? In our culture, especially in this day and age, it is a normal occurrence that we shop around. We interview more people for job positions, we spend endless hours comparing products on the Internet, we visit more car lots looking for the perfect vehicle, and we even rummage through hundreds of potential partners on dating sites! We have become more aware of our need for compatibility in our lives. The one exception in this awareness seems to be with dogs. Does a man believe that he could choose any random woman and create a lasting, healthy and happy relationship? No matter the circumstances or chemistry? Yet, every day thousands of us choose a dog within minutes of meeting and proceed to live in the fallacy that it will be a great fit. We believe that we as a superior species are able to make a relationship with any dog work. This is only partially true. You may make it amicable, but real compatibility is just like chemistry is with humans. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have similar energy levels? Do you like the same activities or have the same interests? Would I fit better with an indoor or outdoor dog? Is it a dominant or submissive breed, and am I a good leader or a pushover? Pick the right dog to start.
Do you complete your dog emotionally and physically? You may recall the popular scene from the movie Jerry McGuire where Tom Cruise professes his love to Renee Zellweger by delivering the iconic line, “YOU… complete ME”, after which she follows up with, “shut up… you had me at hello”. If only it was that simple. Unfortunately, most dogs are not as easily wooed as Renee was. A dog will take the more traditional path of desiring a balance of emotional and physical stimulation. What did you envision when you got your dog? Was it of your dog sitting around a card table playing poker with a Bulldog as the dealer? Did you see your dog lying on a shag rug in front of the fireplace? Your dog needs to be part of your life and included as a member of the family. Everyone in your home should be communicating with the dog. Remember to stimulate your dog with simple commands like “sit”, “come”, “wait”, and Fetch”. Make use of commercial time during your favorite TV show and teach your dog tricks. Start each day with a game of fetch or take your dog for a jog. I personally capitalize on our two structured feedings a day to have each of my dogs do a series of quick obedience skills with their food as the reward. This alone stimulates my dogs both physically and emotionally. Do “YOU… complete your dog”? This is where you may want to enlist the services of a reputable professional dog trainer to help you bridge your world with your dogs needs and desires. Call Got Sit Dog Training!
Does your dog know what to expect? Are you waiting for your dog to do something you don’t find acceptable so you can point it out, or are you taking the initiative to create a lifestyle that teaches them what to do? Almost all areas of your dog’s life could fit into this section, Structure. In a survey administered by a third party, thousands of new car owners were asked what they hated most when buying a car. The answer was overwhelming, “They didn’t know what to expect next”. After saying Yes to the purchase, the salesmen often disappear only to return and ask for your social security number and disappear again. Two hours later you were ushered into a small office and rushed into signing all sorts of foreign paperwork. Isn’t it possible that our dogs feel the same way? We can’t stop loving on them when we pick them up! But we drive them home, walk them into a strange environment, and leave them to make impromptu decisions without all of the information necessary. Then when they make the wrong decision, we jump on them like they should have known better. Instead, introduce them to your home and your property, your neighbors and the neighborhood. Be consistent with your feeding so they know when they will eat and who is responsible for the food. Give them their own bed and help them to feel comfortable in it. Have a kennel available so that they can have downtime and feel that they have a safe place of their own. Have an amply supply of hard and rubbery chew toys. Implement the emotional and physical stimulation into your daily routine. Help them to understand what is yours and what is theirs using positive reinforcement.
NO, your dog isn’t broken! Regardless if you and your dog are compatible or not, you can make adjustments in your life that nurture your relationship by being a reliable source of structure, and providing a happy balance of emotional and physical stimulation.
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