Before we actually train a dog, we must think about how we are affecting our dog’s personality through our attitudes and behavior toward them.
For instance, a person may always have a prejudice against the intentions of all dogs if they had a bad experience with their childhood dog. Similarly, a dog may prejudge people as unpredictable and aggressive if that is what they learn through the family that raises them. The way we raise and interact with a dog, will not only affect our relationship with the dog, but will also set the pace as to how dogs perceive people in general.
Although genetics and early socialization play a large part in a dog’s temperament, general shyness toward people, fear biting, fear aggression, and resource guarding are just some of the many problems that can be exacerbated through aggressive interactions with our dog.
The right attitude will help your dog to naturally gravitate to your guidance, while the wrong attitude can have the exact opposite effect and cause all kinds of undesirable side effects in behavior, even if all your dog knowledge and training techniques are dead on. This is why attitude is located so low on our training foundation. I cannot stress enough, that before you attempt even one hands-on exercise, you must develop an attitude that includes these four simple concepts:
Respect – Dogs are living creatures that experience discomfort, pain, and fear. Just like all animals, they deserve to be treated with respect. From a training point of view: Yelling, striking, temper tantrums, prolonged punishment, and grudges are foreign to the natural behavior of dogs and should never be included in our interactions or training with them. Although we share some of these behaviors with other primates, they are not understood by the dog and can severely damage the relationship between a dog and human.
You will see as you learn this method, that there is no place where even a raised voice is necessary in training. Yelling is only acceptable in rare unplanned emergency situations, to startle a dog when there is absolutely no other alternative – such as a dog slipping away from you and running toward traffic before he is properly trained. Otherwise, yelling will have no place in formal training or interaction with your dog. There will always be a better way. Commands should be calm even when our student is disobeying.
If you reflect on your past interactions with dogs and you find that you have relied on mainly intimidating techniques when frustrated… do not beat yourself up over it. We are all primates, and that is what we naturally do in default mode. Before I worked with dogs full time, I worked with Chimpanzees and other primates. My experience, made me realize that our tendency for tantrums, grudges, and intimidating tactics are very primitive behaviors that we inherited through our ancestry as primates ourselves. Watch a documentary on Chimpanzees and observe how they interact. Then, watch a program on any canid. You will see a big difference. Dogs do not exhibit these behaviors. When there is uncertainty or challenges to their simple rules, conflicts are settled almost instantly, with the least amount of force, and there are never any grudges afterward. That is what they understand, and we must stick to that rule.
Calm Confidence – It is unnatural for a dog to be at ease taking direction from someone who does not portray an aura of calm confidence. Although you may need to practice calmness, confidence will come naturally with proper knowledge of the task at hand, understanding how to succeed, and a little hands-on experience. For example, if you are training a potentially aggressive dog you should know exactly how to avoid and safely react to a dangerous situation before it occurs. Or, if there is a stray dog, of questionable intentions, approaching you and your dog, while out on a walk, you should have a plan in mind, beforehand. Relaxed muscles and relaxed voice are critical for this state. We are trying to mimic the vibes of a confident, natural leader in the dog world. These are the types of dogs that make the best leaders, and this is the attitude your dog will look to follow.
There is a big difference between a dog who is scared of their “master” and a dog that confidently follows their benevolent leader.
Patience – There are few quick fixes or shortcuts in dog training that do not violate the value of respect or compromise quality of results. When you take your time and do not adhere to deadlines, every healthy dog can be trained.
If you are reading this, you have already made the initial effort to do the right thing for your four-legged companion. You never want to make shortcuts in training at your dog’s expense. Every dog learns at a different pace, and steady progress is your goal. Never skip steps in training plans. It will only set you back. Every experienced trainer will guarantee that fact.
Poise – Maintain mental balance while interacting with a dog. If you are in an unbalanced mood, the dog will sense it and will also become unbalanced. For example, if you are angry, the dog may become nervous or defensive even if your anger is directed elsewhere. Also, a poor mental state will cause poor judgment while training. It makes it harder to stay within the guidelines of patience, calm confidence, and respect…basically a trickle-down effect. If you are unbalanced, it is better to skip a training session than risk a bad one. Check your mood and balance yourself out after an argument with a loved one or after a bad day at work. When you feel OK, take a deep breath, then start your training session with your furry buddy.
One Last Point – About alpha rolls, scruff shakes, yelling, harsh tone of voices, neck jabs, chin slaps, or any kick or “tap” with the leg, etc…
These techniques are unnecessary. All dogs can be trained without these methods.
These methods are dangerous when dealing with an aggressive dog and may trigger aggression toward the handler.
Physically intimidating methods may also destroy a working dog’s potential to stand up to a grown man, when necessary, by expecting them to submit to these actions from a young age.
And most importantly, once a dog learns that humans will use their hands and feet to cause pain and discomfort, they will always have this in their mind when someone steps near them or reaches out to them for any reason. Just because the dog may tolerate these actions from “dad”, doesn’t mean the dog will not react first with aggression when it guesses that “mom” or “baby” is about to do the same thing.
All hands on training going forward must lay upon this correct attitude as a base to succeed.
I encourage you to watch this related video before moving forward: