Recently, I am frequently accused of being NICE to my dogs.
I have also been accused of being NICE and overly polite to people.
This made me wonder … When did NICE become something negative that we accuse someone of?
Ok I admit it, I am nice to my dogs. I try to be nice to them as much as I can, so that they get to enjoy a good quality of life. They must follow certain rules for their own safety, but by working with me, they get paid with a variety of “good stuff” throughout the day.
I guess I just do not see why I should use negative techniques such as poking at them, pushing them down, or growling at them. Negative communication does not work well on people either, so being ‘nice’ is actually effective for both dogs and humans.
Why is being NICE so bad?
I suppose it comes from a misguided belief that if we are NICE, people and dogs will somehow disrespect us, and crap all over us. If we are nice, our dog will win, and then we will be an awful dog owner.
I do not think we need to cultivate an antagonistic, winner takes all relationship, with our dog. It is healthier to foster a more cooperative relationship – where the both of us work together, and the both of us win. After all, our dog is not an enemy that we must defeat, and keep defeating over and over again.
Rolled into all this, is the notion that using food in training is wrong, bad, and bribery. Somehow the dog’s only motivation should be to do ‘everything’ out of love, and only love for us.
I truly do not understand this.
I respect my dogs and trust them as independent, thinking entities. They have a variety of motivations for doing the range of things that they do. Some of these motivations have nothing to do with me at all. They are not robots or slaves who follow my every whim, and my every command. Most of the time they are motivated by their own needs, as we are.
All dogs need short term motivators to reinforce good behaviors, or ‘punish’ bad behaviors. A short term motivator can be a reward stimulus such as food, toys, affection, and freedom; or an aversive stimulus such as slaps, electric shocks, jabs, and hanging.
Short term motivators are necessary for shaping a dog’s behavior.
Both the nice way, and the not-so-nice way, can help a dog learn if properly implemented.
I choose the nice way – I admit it. In my world, nice it not bad, or wrong. When I say that someone is nice, it is not an accusation but a compliment.
Have a nice day 🙂
Hi, Nicco… Where were you seven years ago? I sure could have used your thought process back when I first adopted my darling Belgian Malinois. It took a long while for me to figure out what I was doing wrong with her (because let’s face it, it’s not the dog who’s bad… it’s the lack of proper training for the dog that breeds bad behavior) but I did finally get it. Lexi is the first Belgian Malinois I’ve ever had and I didn’t do the necessary research on her because the place I got her from had her listed as a German Shepherd mix… pooh on me, I guess.
What it comes down to is that you are absolutely right about polite people behavior being inappropriate for your pooch. Once I stopped letting her go first through doorways and insisting that she be obedient before she got food, attention, and play from me my whole household changed. Almost overnight. She’s incredibly smart and it didn’t take her long to figure out that Mama was through horsing around.
The main thing I guess I wanted to say is that it’s so important to not give up on your dog, as so many people tend to do. When you take a dog into your home, you are willingly adding to your family. Would you throw your child in a cage, simply because you never taught them social skills and manners? If you’re not in it for the long haul, please do not get a dog. Try a fish.
You bring up an interesting topic of discussion –
“what we see as being “nice”, the dog sees as winning small battles”
This is so interesting that I decided to make a blog post about it 🙂 I included your comment in the blog post. Hope that it ok.
Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic. I look forward to hearing your further thoughts on it.
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 was thinking about this yesterday. Yuki is aggressive.. or ‘alpha’ when it comes to meeting other dogs. we hold her down on her back when she (tries) ‘attacks’. She met my uncle’s multipoo & he ‘poked’ her a lot. Honestly, poking her (which we have also tried) doesn’t work on her! Anyway, I say, go ahead and be NICE to your pets! People have different ways of teaching their pets. Do what you feel is right 🙂