Since reading an article by Beverly Cuddy on Lennox and some of the associated comments a few weeks ago, I must admit that one weighed heavily on my mind.
In part because I’m now struggling to find the article, and because I found the sentiment in the comment completely abhorrent, I’m loathe to copy it here, so I will paraphrase. The comment was written by an adult male who said he would only ever have small dogs as pets. His reasoning was that if the dog “attacked” anyone, it would be easily kicked to death.
There was obviously something driving this train of thought in his head, but what was it? Are dogs really unreliable, not trustworthy at all? Perhaps they want to take over the household, or worse – the world? Perhaps, what this person really fails to appreciate is that the most important part of a dogs temperament and behaviour is formed by how those around him treat him.
Aggression begets aggression
Perhaps this person takes it upon himself to ensure his dogs know he is “alpha” by hitting, poking, slapping, and kicking them. Perhaps they are regularly forced on to their backs and held down until they stop struggling…or rather while they learn that no matter what they do to show their fear, they will be ignored. And this person really wonders why his dog may one day “attack” someone? Words fail me.
Dogs deserve our understanding
Dogs, like children, adults, and other mammals, thrive when raised and treated in a kind and compassionate manner, and are taught things in a way that aligns with the scientific principles of learning. That might sound daunting, but it isn’t – in fact it couldn’t be simpler!
Any behaviour that is found to be rewarding is repeated.
Consider this: your dog picks a pair of knickers out of the laundry hamper, you don’t want him to chew them, and you’ve not taught him a “drop” or “give” cue, so you move towards him, and he moves away from you. Repeat that a few more times, and add a bit of speed, before you can return the knickers to the hamper. “Wow,” your dog thinks “that was a fun game of chase!” Next time he wants to have some fun with you, your dog will want to see what other delights the laundry hamper holds!
But, consider instead, every time your dog lays quietly in his crate, on his bed, the sofa, or the floor when time you’re busy; you quietly praise him, and maybe give him a treat, or a stuffed food carrier toy – is his ‘chilling out’ behaviour going to increase or decrease?
It really is that simple!
Whether it’s your dog, or a friend or family member remember to reward the behaviour you like and want repeated (with something the doer finds rewarding!). As long as it’s safe to do so, simply ignore any behaviour you don’t want; if it’s not safe to do so, or you don’t want something damaged, redirect the unwanted behaviour and then give praise for taking up your suggestion.