STORIES, ADVICE, REVIEWS, NEWS
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.