With RESPECT, PATIENCE and CONFIDENCE…
All Else Will Follow.
The Relationship You Build With Your Dog
Is Only As Strong As Its
These words are more of a vision than a mission statement, but regardless, they are the building blocks with which Fearless K9 was born, and continues to operate on. In order to be successful you need to have patience, confidence, and above all respect. So what I am talking about is an attitude. A way of thinking every waking moment of your life. One which is grounded and unwavering in these three principles, but ever evolving and changing to meet the demands and challenges life has to offer. This is especially true in dog rehabilitation and training.
Respect is one of the most important factors, yet one of the most elusive in the world of dog training. Respect is something you have to make the decision to give, and once given, it creates a relationship and bond that can never be explained to someone without it.
Respect opens up the door to so many possibilities. This simple word is the difference between a relationship filled with behavioral issues and one with happiness. It’s the difference between successful obedience training and one where you are told your dog is untrainable.
Respect encompasses a much larger area than most people realize. I know you can look at the trainer who is harshly over-correcting their dog and tell yourself that they are not showing respect for the dog. But have you ever given thought to the other end of the spectrum? What about the trainer who only rewards the dog for doing good behaviors and ignores the bad indefinitely? The analogy that usually makes sense to people is: If you raised your children by only praising and rewarding for good behaviors and never holding them responsible for the bad, do you think everyone involved would lead a happy and harmonious life? When explained in these terms, many people begin to see how this could be a disservice to all parties involved. In this scenario, more often than not, a dog gets bad habits that at best are annoying and creates a relationship of stress and confusion for the dog and owner. In the worst case scenario, the dog forms aggressive tendencies, bites someone and the dog is put down by no fault of its own.
Even in obedience the respect for the dog should override a command if in conflict. Let me give you an example of what I mean by this. You have been working on your down command with your dog all week and are very excited to show a friend of yours who you have a competitive relationship with. He showed you last week how his dog will down on command and stay there indefinitely no matter what. That’s what you have also been working on, so you give a friendly “challenge” to him this week to see whose dog is better. You’re all excited and know your dog will perform for you without fail…you have this! The day has arrived and you are both outside with your dogs ready to start. You’re friend goes first and tells his dog down. She goes down but pops right back up. He gives the dog her ‘no’ command, but she still won’t go down. He then gives the command one more time with a correction and the dog goes down slowly, but remains in the down. He turns to you with a big smile on his face and says you are up. You turn to your dog and tell him down. She starts to go down but pops right back up like the other dog. You give the dog the ‘no’ command, but she won’t go back down. You are about to give the command again with a correction when you notice your dog is standing in a puddle of 32 degree water and when you look over at your friend’s dog, she’s still crouching in the same 32 degree water all because your friend wanted to prove to you that his dog is OBEDIENCE TRAINED.
So here is the fork in the road. Should you make your dog listen to your command? If she doesn’t, isn’t she ignoring your authority? Absolutely not! The only thing you prove by making your dog listen to you in that situation, is that you are willing to disrespect her with an unwarranted correction for showing self-preservation.
This is where respect for the dog and confidence comes into play. You have to not only be able to recognize the situation for what it is through the knowledge you have hopefully acquired by working closely with your dog and a trusted trainer, but be able to have the confidence in yourself, your dog, and your relationship to know it’s okay. That’s the difference between having a relationship built on mutual respect as a fair leader, and having one built on the primitive idea of, I’m your master so you better not disobey me!
I strive to teach owners how to be this kind of leader, one that has gained the mutual respect of their dog. One where the dog wants to work for you, not have to work for you or suffer the consequences. If you don’t have this mutual respect for each other, then you are in a constant power struggle. The kind of relationship where the dog knows who its master is or who the alpha is, usually does not have respect for, or from their dog. At best, the dog is usually showing self preservation by walking on eggshells, which too many owners and trainers interpret as respect and successful obedience. When owners start talking in these terms, it generally is a red flag and is causing, or not allowing the behavioral issues to be corrected. A lot of the time it isn’t even done in a malicious manner. The owner was just never taught that respect is a two way street and truly thought they were doing what was best for their dog. Unfortunately, this kind of relationship often leads to the use of multiple, harsh corrections which then leads to one of tension and anxiety for both dog and owner. Patience wears thin as this seemingly endless cycle continues with a frustrated owner and a dog becoming fearful, aggressive, or both. It finally ends when the dog is sent to a shelter or euthanized because the owner is told their dog is untrainable.
This is why I feel so strongly about respect. When you understand the true meaning of what it is to show respect and begin to receive it in return, it gives you the confidence and patience to follow through with your training. The communication and bond you build with your dog will be evident to anyone enviously watching.