Lessons Facility Owners Should be Teaching Their Clients
By Laura Pakis
As a professional dog trainer, I regularly work with dogs and owners to resolve their dogs’ behavior problems successfully. Over the years I have seen some common patterns emerging as far as problem behaviors among dog owners. While I believe dog professionals are making headway in owner education, there is still a lot of conflicting information and a good deal of ignorance when it comes to dealing with dogs. My list, although simplistic, is to draw attention to some lessons we should be teaching our clients.
1. Avoid anthropomorphism: Humanizing the dog
We’ve all done it, and as humans, we just have a propensity to treat our dogs like humans. So what’s so bad about that? Well for one, dogs are not human! They do not think like humans and do not behave like humans. They are excellent manipulators and will take advantage of any situation that will benefit them without ever feeling guilty about it. When owning a dog, it’s important to recognize the signs of anthropomorphism. Dogs need plenty of exercise, structure, and love. If there is inconsistency in any of these lifestyle components, odds are you will end up with a dog taking advantage of you, and behavior problems will ensue.
2. Stop making excuses for a dog’s behavior
Most of us have a dog for companionship and the unconditional love they offer, but it is not a reason to ignore setting boundaries or correcting bad behaviors. Although many owners feel if they discipline their dog, their dog will dislike them or become some kind of robot, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Once a dog understands that there are boundaries as to what is and is not appropriate, the dog’s ability to love actually increases, because it thrives on knowing what is expected of him. Discipline does vary from one dog to another depending upon a variety of factors, but to ignore discipline is to invite problems that will go unresolved for years. Just check the shelters and rescue groups to see the number of dogs surrendered because of an unresolved obedience or behavior problem. Sadly most of these problems could have been avoided if some discipline was exercised.
3. Watch out for giving a dog TOO much love
How can a dog owner give their dog too much love? Basically, this is one of those situations that need to be considered in terms of understanding there is a difference between humans and animals. A dog will always give unconditional love, even to an abusive owner. Being human, we feel inclined to reciprocate with the same unconditional love. This reaction is one of the biggest factors that contribute to an unruly or misbehaving dog.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show our dogs affection. Dogs learn by association. If your dog only associates you with love and no boundaries or restrictions, your dog will control you, your home, and everyone else in it. A little discipline and structure goes a long way in communicating what is appropriate. Praise and affection should be done in connection with your dog complying with a request. The dog associates this love with obedience and will be more likely to follow your lead.
Being a dog owner isn’t just fun and games. Our furry friends are complex beings who think and act differently than we do. Dog owners need to be responsible for their dog at all times, and that job is easier to accomplish if we can help them avoid making mistakes that can affect their dog’s behavior.
Laura Pakis is an experienced certified professional trainer and owner/founder of Acme Canine. Laura is well known throughout the canine community for quality dog care, high standards, and professionalism. Published author in several national and local magazines, invited speaker by the media and pet equipment companies for canine expertise, Laura Pakis assists dog trainers worldwide with improving their training techniques, people skills, and business knowledge. She has been nominated for the Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award and Worthington Chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year Award. Recently her business was singled out from among several thousand contacts at more than 700 Angie’s List recommended businesses; reflecting the skills, talents and professional reputation Laura has and continues to build in her growing business.