Let Them Stop and Smell the Roses







Morgan (14)-M

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

The language still used today when referring to dogs and training is still quite archaic and often times indicates an almost slave-master relationship. The dogs and clients I see don’t view their animals as such; they view them as family members so why would they refer to them that way?

I understand that in order for humans and their companion animals to live harmoniously together there are certain things that are not acceptable in society such as dog bites, dog fights, darting out of doors into traffic and pulling us down the sidewalk to mention a few. However, more often than not I am seeing dogs that are merely sniffing the grass (what their senses are telling them to do) or standing vs sitting (oh the horror!) and the other end of the leash is harshly giving them whiplash while the words Stop! Enough! Let’s Go! are bleating toward them. They aren’t moving fast enough, staying focused or listening to our commands. I can’t imagine the pressure an animal must feel to try and decipher what humans are asking from them when it changes from day to day, their tone of voice varies and pressure on their collar is being applied at the drop of a hat. Why do we feel as though we must control every aspect of our dogs lives? There is a very real fear many people have that their dogs might be scheming to take over the household, which we know is not going to happen.

Our Roles Are Very Clear

Dog is dog, human is human. There is no mistaking one for the other. Make no mistake, dogs KNOW we are the ones that provide access to everything wonderful in their lives. We give them yummy snacks, take them on trips to the beach, ensure they have soft and comfortable sleeping spaces and care for them when they are hurt.

But, what if we encouraged choices?

The choices I am talking about are not dangerous ones that will affect their health and well being negatively, they are choices that give them confidence and build strong relationships with their humans. Instead of obeying their master we can encourage them to choose desirable behaviors that are paid by the things they desire to have access to whether it is food or environment. And let’s face it… dogs want to be paid in THEIR currency, not ours! Do you think they would make those choices more often and we would have to stop commanding them to do things? Yes, indeed.

Here's a list of ideas:

  • When our dog chooses to give eye contact on a walk, pay with snacks or access to sniff the grassy area nearby.
  • When our dog chooses to offer a sit in front of a closed door, pay with access to outside. Many times waiting for our dogs to offer vs. commanding them will yield that very sit!
  • If there is a dog friend nearby while out on a walk and your dog offers polite behaviour, pay with access to that dog.
  • If a stranger asks to say hello to your dog and they show polite interest, pay by allowing them to go to that stranger to say a quick hello for some friendly pats.
  • Dinner time? Hold the dog food bowl and wait for a sit. More than likely your dog will choose to give that sit for payment of their meal! Key here is that they are choosing vs us commanding.

It’s time to let our dogs stop to smell the roses and for us to help them become confident and well mannered pups by encouraging good choices.

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Positively Expert: Renée Erdman

Renée Erdman is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and behaviour consultant focusing on the emotional needs and welfare of dogs and their guardians. She resides in North Vancouver, BC Canada where she runs Bravo Dog (www.bravdog.ca), her pride and joy.


4 thoughts on “Let Them Stop and Smell the Roses

  1. Mar Merkel

    Yep, I agree. It is one reason why I made a conscious choice (after reading an article with similar sentiments) to use the word CUE vs Command. After all don't you "cue" or ask your husband/kids etc to do things vs COMMANDING them? Goose / Gander! 😉

    Also giving my dog a choice and teaching him a "which way" cue on walks to allow him a choice of which way he wanted to walk (east/west etc) I think helped his confidence for going on walks. He was previously very fearful of walks/

  2. JudeThree

    it's a dog, not a human baby. Too many issues with people thinking their dog has human emotions and needs, they are dogs and have dog needs,

  3. Chris Hagen

    It has nothing to do with thinking dogs have human emotions or needs. We are going off of the science of animal emotions and needs, and yes they are different in some ways, but in others way similar. Animals who have less choices and less control over their lives are more stressed.
    Maybe you don't care to learn and understand what "dog needs" are and to satisfy them, but some people do.

  4. Regina Phalange

    I let my dog pick our pathway through the neighborhood 90% of our walk. He knows all the streets and we have several destinations he likes to visit. He will very firmly head in different directions depending on his mood that day. He knows where the traffic lights are so we can cross the busy streets and knows where to turn to head back home. He's amazing and has a vast understanding of the layout of our neighborhood. He's so cute when he wants to turn at a corner - he starts to make the turn, stops and looks back at me to make sure I'm agreeing with his choice. Like I said - amazing!

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