I am always a bit puzzled by the expectations many people have of their dogs. Often we expect dogs to know what we want, to be there for us, to behave in a well mannered way etc. That is all great, nothing wrong with it. The question is how do we go about communicating this? Are we clear? Are we consistent? We have high expectations of our dogs but what do we put in to support our dogs in understanding what we want. There are many parts to this, but today let’s look at one key element – SELF CONTROL.
Dog Control | Self-control
Why self-control? Because as far as I can tell self-control is the best form of control there is. The dog can control and monitor its own behavior based on what it learns. Sounds like a fantasy? Luckily it isn’t and it is not complicated either. But the key lies with us, our behavior and to what degree we can control ourselves. It is not a one way street. We need to lead by example in order for them to relax and control themselves.
Dog control via self controlFor example we need to control when we interact with our dogs, because if we do engage at the wrong time, e.g. when a dog is anxious, we reinforce that behavior & state of mind. Applying self-control on our end is a key ingredient to be a calm and consistent leader & to teach your dog self-control.
This morning I worked with two Labrador crosses and their owner. At the end of the session both dogs were lying calm and relaxed on the floor. The change to when we started was apparent as both of them constantly tried to get in my and the owners space. In a short while they learned a lot of self-control. But this only happens if the dog learns that certain behaviors do not bear any fruit. Once they figured that out they try another behavior and maybe another till they start to control themselves. That often means they calm down and settle. Simply because the other behavior did not work.
Dog Control | It starts with us
I find it really fascinating that many people expect their dogs to change their behavior without changing their own! How should this be possible? Communicating goes both ways. If you want your dog to change, then you have to change! We need to be at least that fair. We need to take responsibility for our and the dogs behavior. And yes, this means that we sometimes have to mind our own business and not engage with our dog even if we would want to – simply because we would discourage self-control in our dog by rewarding the wrong behavior.
Many people tell me how much their love their dog, but when it comes to them needing to hold back what they want at times they struggle to do it. This is not loving the dog, this is being selfish and needy. We can learn so much form our dogs, especially from the ones who are a bit more challenging. The question just is if we are up for it, if we have what it takes and if we are willing to learn and grow with them.
Does your dog know self-control? How do you teach it? Share your story below!