Leadership is recognising and honouring the fact that your dog is an animal with their own needs…not a human, not a baby, not a toy and not an outlet for your boundless love and attention. If you go down that road it’s a fast track for uncomfortable, anxious, unhappy dogs and stressed owners who are scratching their heads wondering why their dog exhibits behaviour problems.
You know the saying, “Man cannot live on love alone” ? Well neither can dogs!
Just like we need to set boundaries and rules to raise polite, well-mannered and respectful children, we also need to share boundaries and rules with our dogs to help them be the best versions of themselves they can be.
We want our dogs to look to us to guide them through this world and all the strange stuff that dogs don’t understand. To know that even when times are tough and they’re afraid, they can trust us and know that it will be ok.
Leadership is about giving our dogs the guidance that they need in their lives to make great choices. Providing them with the confidence that you are someone they can depend on to take care of them and guide them through some of the scarier times they may encounter (whether that’s a plastic bag blowing in the wind or a fireworks party).
A Leadership vacuum leaves your dog afraid, anxious, confused, making bad choices and often displaying problem behaviour that we don’t want.
So, how do we fill that void? Firstly, you recognise it and that makes you a great owner! You’re already on the right track and will be solving these problems in no time!
Secondly, you work towards the middle. Find balance. A balance of affection/attention with structure/discipline. (Yes, that’s right, it’s OK to tell your dog NO sometimes.)
My friend Sean once described this perfectly.
It’s about being as believable in your discipline as you are in your affection.
We like to use a really simple strategy to keep our dogs engaged and working with us and for us, using obedience commands in exchange for food, play and other valued interactions.
When your relationship is in balance, your dog is balanced and we’re all about living life in harmony with our dogs.