Nicco brought up a really interesting issue in this post – Nice Dog Training – When Did Being Nice Become Bad?.
Here is what Nicco said –
Nothing wrong with being nice to people and dogs. Being the educated dog owner that you are though, I’m sure you’re aware that there are certain things people do that we consider respectful to one another but don’t have the same meaning to dogs. These are things like allowing your dog on the couch or your bed without your permission, letting the dog rush out the door before you, giving in to a dog’s persistent demand for attention, moving out of their way instead of making them move out of YOUR way, etc, I could go on forever.
The dog may not be trying to dominate your household, but what we see as being “nice”, the dog sees as winning small battles. A training book I read called “Training the Hard to Train Dog” describes these battles as small points that the dog wins. The more points he wins, the more control he gains over the house. Again, it may not necessarily be a dominance thing, I think it’s more of a survival thing. If this were nature, he would be exploring all of his resources to maximize his chances of survival.
So the point of my rant is, it’s great to be nice to a dog, so long as it’s fulfilling for a dog and not indulging him. Again, being the responsible owner that you are, I’m sure you’re not letting your dogs run wild around the house, but there are certainly owners who make the mistake of being “nice” in human terms, and they’ve lost control of their dog.
I think Nicco brings up some really important and interesting points within dog training.
1. All dogs need some discipline and structure
A dog owner should have sufficient control over their dog so that the dog does not become a danger to himself and to the people and animals around him.
2. What rules to institute with your dog?
Some dog owners do not allow their dogs up on furniture. I also have the no-getting-on-furniture rule for both my dogs. One of my dogs is a three-legged dog and I do not want her stressing her joints from furniture jumping.
My other dog, the Shiba Inu, likes getting into mischief, and frequently causes some kind of chaos when he gets onto furniture. Therefore, the no-furniture rule is a good way to curb his inappropriate behaviors.
However, not all dogs need this rule. I have seen dogs who get on furniture and behave like a perfect Lassie. I think the important thing is to tailor your rules to fit your dog’s needs. We should be consistent but flexible.
3. Battles and winning points
Finally, this whole notion of battles and winning points is also very interesting.
Personally, I do not see interaction with my dogs as a series of battles. Rather, I see us as working together to achieve a lifestyle that suits us all.
For example, my Shiba Inu likes playing with my other dog inside the house. I let them do this in most areas that are dog safe. However, they are not allowed to play on the stairs for safety reasons.
When they do that, I tell them to stop. If they do, they get rewarded. If they don’t, play stops until they cool down.
With dogs it is almost all about shaping behavior and communicating with them in a consistent manner so that they can understand you. If play always stops when they rough-house on the stairs, then they will naturally stop playing on the stairs because that gets them bad results.
There are no battles – instead, there is a cooperative learning process. There is no winning and losing, because by working together, everybody wins.
I only control and manage my dogs as much as is necessary to ensure that they can live a good, happy, and long life – this includes taking their safety and health into consideration.
When my dogs win and are happy, I win and am happy too.
Sometimes, I also indulge my dogs by giving them a lot of tummy rubs and yummy healthy chicken. I don’t think there is anything wrong with indulging a dog – that for me, is part of the fun of dog ownership.
I think problems only arise when dog owners do not communicate with their dogs properly – i.e. they reward the dog for inappropriate behaviors, and do not communicate to the dog what is desirable and what is undesirable.
Mis-communication, I believe is at the root of almost all bad dog behavior. The other part has to do with not fulfilling the dog’s needs.
This whole notion of winning and losing, I believe, is unnecessary and creates an antagonistic relationship with our dogs. Ultimately we create the strongest bonds with our dogs by working cooperatively with them to achieve common goals.