People often apologise to me about the way they are treating their dogs. It’s usually one of the first things they say to me.
“It’s probably my fault – he or she is my baby”
Well I am not about to let everyone off the hook, but here’s my message to all you dog owners out there beating yourselves up.
My best friend is a childminder and we often find ourselves comparing notes. Before you ask, she doesn’t use leads and her kids don’t wear collars or ID tags! When you are out shopping and you see someone’s kids racing around the aisles pulling things down and yelling when they don’t get their own way, what do you think? Do you think ‘Oh look, they are treating their kids like a child?’ No! Would you let your kids behave like that? Most people would say, No.
Anyway my point is, why should that be any different with dogs?
I don’t let my kids behave in a way that would upset other people when we are out. I make sure they mix with enough other kids and adults of all ages to learn the social rules. I show them what I would like to do and yes on occasion they have rewards removed (punishment) for not following the rules. I also don’t feel guilty when I am giving them a treat for good behaviour and I don’t always give them the same reward. I don’t always buy them a chocolate bar and I don’t ever consider a bit of bread to be a reward! Sometimes we go out and do something fun or sometimes they can play with their pals, and so on.
Why shouldn’t we be treating our dogs in the same way?
I could offer my dogs a bit of their normal dinner as a reward but it wouldn’t be surprising if they turned their noses up at that! If I always gave them freedom to play with their doggy mates after dragging me across to them, they are getting a free treat for very little. That’s pointless as well. If I tell my dogs to do something that they have learned and they don’t do it, I withhold a reward from them BUT if they do something and I haven’t yet taught them what I want them to do – and I punish them for that -then, that is totally unfair on my part.
My dogs aren’t perfect and neither are my kids and neither am I so yes I accept there are going to be times where I am tearing my hair out wondering what to do. Nevertheless I do treat my dogs like my kids and I am really glad that I do.