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If you have kids or have worked around children there is always talk about empowering the child, to give them choices, and let them think for themselves. This concept is also very effective when working with other social animals other than humans as well.
It is known that all social animals look for acceptance by their peers and the ability to be part of a team or network. Dogs are amazing in the fact they have been living alongside humans so long that they look to us as their family, network, or team. They rely on us to help them solve problems but we have forgotten the other side of the equation. Where dogs get to return the favor and help us to be successful and thrive.
We should be empowering our dogs and even if we don’t need them like we used to we should still pretend that we rely on them. Giving them a sense of place and acceptance as part of the team.
How do you empower your dog and help them find meaning in their lives?
The simple answer is you spend time with them playing a variety of games. Set up situations that allow the dog to make choices and help make the right choice the easy one. You can guide their decisions but let them make them on their own.
Always work in a controlled environment or on a leash until your dog has earned the privilege of being off leash. Keep in mind that when working on a leash you need to keep it loose. You want to try not to pull them into make a choice but give them a loose leash and the freedom to make good decisions on their own.
Occasionally, you might need to step in and use the leash, treats, or toy to rescue the dog from making or almost making the wrong decision. Your goal is to minimize the amount of time you have to do this but know that when things don’t go as planned you have a lifesaver in your back pocket.
The most important part for you the human end of the leash is to have a solid understanding of dog language and know the signs of stress. This helps you judge how the dog is doing and adjust the environment or the situation to help make their job just a little easier.
At no point should you need to “correct” your dog’s behavior or punish them for making the wrong choice. If you do find yourself needing to restrain your dog or then keep in mind that it was your fault and make a note on how you can set the situation up next time to help them pick the right option. Accidents happen when you work with animals and we are not perfect.
What you don’t want to do is punish the dog with fear because this takes away their choices and leads them to confusion and eventually shut down.
Sadie is a loving, athletic and social girl who is approximately 2-3 year old. She weighs around 75 pounds and is a shepherd mix. Sadie was rescue in Houston, Texas after giving birth to 11 puppies. She was a great mom and took great care of her pups. She was well socialized around other dogs, small and large, and with people and respectful children while in Texas. She came to the Pacific Northwest with one of her pups and is currently being fostered in Portland, Oregon. Sadie was made for the Pacific NW because she loves to be outside and would be a great running, hiking and camping partner. The best home for her would be one where she has a fenced yard to romp in when not enjoying the outdoors with her family. She loves car rides - oh how she loves car rides! She would do well as the only dog and as a part of a pack as she has loved sharing a home with her 8 month old daughter, Isla too. They are incredibly silly and playful which makes for a great deal of entertainment for observing humans who can’t help but smile seeing all the fun being shared. Sadie is smart and has been very trainable. She is responsive and obedient with all the basic commands and enjoys training time. She also loves to cuddle! Sadie is waiting to hear from her forever family. And her foster mom is happy to share more about her and arrange a meet and greet too!
Let me start by saying there is a huge difference between dog training and dog handling or management. Management is your best friend, it should be your go-to strategy that allows you to have a functioning relationship with your dog.
Training is the actual act of teaching an individual concept and educating a dog.
In my experience as a dog trainer most dog owners really only want to manage their dogs they are not interested in taking the time to school their dogs in good manners. Yes teaching anyone anything takes time and energy. If you don't have time and energy you should be managing your dog.
The following tools are tools that are typically used to manage dogs. Let's get one thing clear these tools do not "fix problems" or "teach behaviors". If you want lasting real results you may need to make some adjustments in your behavior before you can expect the dog to change his. Teaching (or training) is a two-way street that never ends.
Also, note not all tools are created equal!
Tool #1: Choke Collar