Most people don’t realize that dogs come to our homes knowing entirely different rules than the ones we like. Things we value – like polite greetings, calm behavior, leaving our food alone – just don’t make sense to dogs. In their social world, enthusiasm and grabbing food that’s right in front of them are both normal and logical. So are chewing, barking, digging, and chasing. Even biting is a normal dog behavior, to your dog. They just plain don’t understand our human expectations and etiquette.
Can you see what this means? Unless you teach him, your dog WON’T know better. Vets and qualified behaviorists are clear now that the outdated “alpha dog” training model, which was based on dominance and punishment, should not be used. Those concepts have been disproved. Corrections like collar jerks, shocks, and alpha rolls may stop a behavior in the moment, but they can have serious negative consequences. They build anxiety, which can lead to aggression and destructive habits. And they don’t teach your dog anything that you want him to do. They really only teach him that you are to be feared. That’s the wrong message, and it’s downright dangerous.
Even if you aren’t using punishments or corrections, your dog needs help to understand your world. He is a master observer, and he will learn your habits with no difficulty (including some you don’t know you have). But without training, you’re asking him to play an unpleasant game of blind-man’s bluff. He is sure to make mistakes and misjudgments – and he’ll be slower to learn things you want him to know. For example, if you see him eliminating in the house, and you get angry about it (even though it’s your fault that he’s inside, since he does have to go), he might not think that he should go outside next time, but instead that he should hide from you. Your closet might become his preferred hiding place for eliminating. Yikes.
Please don’t hold your dog responsible for living under your rules without explaining them to him. Spend time showing him what you want him to do instead of punishing him for what he does wrong. Teach him a few basic skills, like how to focus and give you attention. Like coming when called, sitting to greet, settling, and going to a mat. Like how to feel comfortable when being handled for grooming and vet visits. By doing this you’ll be giving him two great gifts: fantastic skills to use every day – and confidence. You’ll have the most popular dog on the block. And your best buddy will love you forever.