You can and should, have the best relationship possible with your dog.
It’s my job to teach you how to do just that.
As a teacher, outlines and the framing of information into understandable chunks and concepts is key. Having been working with pet dog owners for many years, along with substantial experience in the field of education, I have had great success helping dog owners make sense out of life with their dogs.
All of dog ownership falls under the steadfast support of 3 Pillars.
This is it folks.
I can’t call it my “secret”, because, well, I plan on telling everybody I can all about it!
JUST 3 WORDS
I have identified what I think are the three most important “big” ideas in owning and interacting with a dog. Literally EVERYTHING else falls directly under each of these. I refer to these as The 3 Pillars to Dog Ownership.
It’s more than just 3 words though.
The ORDER is important.
Skip one, or move them around, and it’s not the same.
It’s nothing fancy at all, and that’s appropriate because dog training and living with a dog in general is anything but fancy. That’s where so many people make huge mistakes. Humans have a frustrating tendency to overdue the wrong things and completely ignore the incredibly powerful, yet simple necessities.
Ok, enough, you want to know what they are….
MANAGEMENT – RELATIONSHIP – OBEDIENCE
Told ya it wasn’t fancy.
If you can grasp and apply those concepts, in that order, and see how everything you do with your dog relates to them, you’ll be in good shape.
VERY good shape.
THE MAIN IDEA
So here’s the deal.
Everybody’s first reaction AFTER they have a problem with their dog is to jump right into “obedience training”.
I get it, I really do.
That’s what I did, and I failed miserably.
Living with a dog is so much more than obedience training. That’s why I put that at the end of the list.
While there indeed is a lot involved with obedience training, and significant instruction is required, looking there first is putting the cart in front of the horse.
You can’t successfully obedience train your dog until you develop and maintain the appropriate relationship with them. Relationships is where most people go tragically wrong with their dogs. With that being said, even “relationship” isn’t the first pillar to address. Management of the untrained dog is key in order to create an environment that is conducive to building that relationship in the first place.
You can’t effectively obedience train a dog you don’t have the right relationship with, and you can’t build the right relationship in an environment not created to help that happen in the first place.
Management, then relationship, THEN obedience training.
What does management mean in this context?
Its the nuts and bolts of life with your dog. This is the logistics of how your dog’s daily life plays out. With my clients we address this first pillar by going through a LONG list of questions.
Where will dog the dog sleep?
What part of the yard will be for poo and what part for play?
What will be the first room they have free access to?
Where will you do your training when you’re ready?
These are only a FRACTION of the things one needs to think about BEFORE bringing the dog into their home. Unfortunately, many folks don’t, and I don’t get there until after things are a hot mess.
The idea of having a “management plan” in place is super important because you must remember, a dog has no clue how to safely exist in a human home. Puppies don’t come preprogramed understanding how much you paid for that couch, or that the remote control may smell nice and enticing from our greasy fingers but its NOT for chewing. All of these things are very specific lessons that must be taught to the dog. If you put a brand new dog or puppy in the living room, on day one, think about what that will look and sound like.
It will look like chaos, and it will sound like ” no, no, no, no, no, get off that, NO, STOP, NO, oh my god NOOOO!”
Is that a good way to START a NEW relationship?
There are numerous things you can do in the very beginning to limit the number of issues that would require the shouting of frustration fueled expletives. That is why planning for the puppy or dog is so important. People vastly underestimate how much work a new dog of any age actually is. We must not forget the age old rule, first impressions matter!
If you bring the dog into a home with no planning, no rules, no structure, no expectations, that’s exactly how the dog is going to see it. A year from now, when your house is destroyed and you have no control over the dog, you reach out to a trainer as a last resort when in reality, it should have been the first step.
Your dog’s management is the foundation of everything.
Their life must be planned, structured, and organized by YOU. You are the owner and you are in control of their lives. The next problem comes from people simply not knowing HOW or WHAT the dog should have or need. That is what my book Operation Dog is all about, and that is also why it’s FREE. That information is simply way too important for me to charge for, people NEED it so they can help their dogs. (Click HERE to get your copy if you haven’t already signed up).
Here is an example of how management works in a very common situation.
Every time I play with my puppy they keep nipping and biting me!
When people talk about their puppy always biting them the first thing I do is look at the management of the situation and interactions. If I know that biting is a natural way for a puppy to initiate play and interaction, and I also know that when they first come out of the crate they are hyper and want to play intensely, the last thing I do with a puppy fresh out the crate is get on the floor and try and interact! At that point, I have set the puppy up to fail as they have not yet learned not to bite, and they are in a state of mind and in an environment where the likihood of biting is very high!
First take the puppy outside for a potty break and romp in the yard.
Then I look at how the human wants to interact with the puppy. Again, if I know biting is a first choice for a puppy, then sitting down with nothing appropriate to bite on is a mistake! Then its just my hand and a happy puppy mouth.
Use a tug or appropriate play item to become the focus of the nipping…NOT YOU.
From there that toy will become a major way for the human and puppy to appropriately interact.
That is just ONE example that is based strictly in the pillar of management. Manage the environment so that the untrained dog isn’t set up to fail.
From there you can focus on the next pillar.
This is a tough one for many people.
It didn’t always be like that though.
As our culture changes, so does the way dogs are viewed and interacted with.
Our culture is DEFINITLEY changing, and dogs are having more behavioral problems than EVER as a result of it.
The relationship a growing number of people have with their dogs is dysfunctional and directly contributing to the problem behaviors they are experiencing. From the dog who “ignores” its owner, to the dog who poses a threat to others with dangerously aggressive behaviors, relationship issues are almost always at the root of the problem.
Now this is where it gets even more problematic. The dysfunctional relationship that I have seen countless people build and foster with their dogs is not what you might think. I am NOT talking about physical abuse! Quite the opposite, and that’s why its a challenging problem to solve as a person coming into the situation.
More and more people are getting dogs with little to know objective knowledge on dog behavior, dog psychology, dog ANYTHING. They know the dog must be fed and they think that the only other thing the dog needs is to be their personal cuddle machine.
Guess what……THEY’RE WRONG..
Now this is where I COULD go down a very deep and dark rabbit hole delving into human dog relationships, but that’s not what THIS article is all about.
Here’s the deal though….
Your dog needs you to lead them, teach them, guide them, support them. Affection is what most people SMOTHER their dogs with, and think that’s all they need to give. Then the behavior problems start and they can’t figure out why their dog won’t listen to them.
Your goal AFTER establishing an appropriate management plan that has a good daily routine and environment that is safe for the pup or dog to learn in, is to start building a relationship of quiet, calm, trust, and leadership.
Control all resources of value to the dog and ONLY give them in exchange for the dog doing what you want.
Read that last sentence again. No…read that last sentence TWICE.
It’s really that important.
The relationship you build with your dog is going to determine how everything you do together is interpreted by the dog and how the outcome will be. You can still give affection, just don’t offer it FREELY. Every time the dog comes to you, then give it, but don’t go over to the dog and lavish affection upon them. That’s what needy people do, and needy people don’t earn a lot of respect as much as you might not want to admit that publicly.
The truth isn’t always socially acceptable to talk about.
Dogs from sketchy pasts end up in really dysfunctional relationships because “loving” people try and compensate for the dog’s rough times by showering them with affection and empathy, two things that will derail your relationship with them faster than a speeding bullet.
Those are things that the giving of makes the HUMAN feel good, but it’s not what the dog needs at that point. From there the relationship goes sideways and behavior problems or lack of control is likely to follow in the future.
For the purpose of this article, understand that first you create a good, safe, conflict free routine and learning environment. Then while in that environment (management plan) you work to establish and build a quality relationship.
Then you can worry about what everybody thinks you should begin with……
Once you have a relationship of leadership and trust, you can worry about the details. Obedience is to me, those details.
I’m not going to write another thousand words here to explain how to train your dog. I have other articles for that as well as my coaching services themselves. I work with people in person, and online instructing them on exactly that.
I will say this.
In the beginning keep it simple. Every day, about 3-5x for no more than 3-5 minutes, work on teaching your dog some very basic behaviors. Don’t overdue it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, ask for help.
You thought there would be 7 more paragraphs on how to train your dog?
If that’s the case then you most certainly need to read the first 80% of this article again because you missed the point.