It is not because we don’t love our dogs! We love dogs more than the average person, that’s why we do what we do and why we’re so passionate about educating people on their needs.
There is a huge crisis when it comes to dogs and behaviour issues. Dog bites are higher than ever. 20 years ago we did not have near the amount of issues with dogs as we do now. Why is that? Personally, from well over 10 years experience as well as lots of research and discussions with many other trainers, it is largely to do with the growing humanization of dogs.
While we LOVE our dogs and yes love them like family, we understand and respect them as DOGS first. Dogs, canines, apex predators with a large part of DNA that matches wolves and other wild canids like Dingos.
There is a large group of animal welfare extremists that have been led to believe that aggression is caused by using certain tools like prong collars and that people that use these tools that they don’t believe in are abusive and cause dogs to be aggressive and/or fearful. While yes, if you’re abusing a dog you can certainly make them that way, correcting bad behaviour does NOT equal abuse!
Somewhere along the way, people who witnessed people taking things to one extreme (aggression/abusive) decided and started preaching that everyone who ‘disciplines’ their dogs are cruel and inhumane. This is so far from the truth. Does disciplining your children when they’ve hit someone or stolen a candy bar make you an abusive parent? No, it most certainly does not.
Abuse comes from the intent of the human, if you are full of anger and touch your dog at that time, that is what will make them fearful or lash out aggressively. If you are matter of fact and calm, they simply stop what they’re doing and look to you for further direction. Now, many people have taken things to a whole other extreme, ‘killing with kindness’ I describe it as. Tons of love and affection and no rules or discipline which in majority of cases leads to completely out of control dogs which in turn get sent to shelters, bounced around on re homing sites before being euthanized. There are a lucky few who have an owner that loves them so much that they reach out for help from an expert and do the work they need to do to get things back on track.
Specializing in aggression and other severe behaviour issues like fear, I frequently see the same things. The majority of aggression and bite cases we see are not at all because the dog was abused. These dogs were well loved, so loved that they received only love and no direction, rules or discipline. They receive regular vet care, get the most expensive food, beds and toys and are groomed regularly. These dogs are often overweight because they are fed so much because lets face it, everyone enjoys feeding animals, for some reason it makes us happy to give them food because they like it. But how is that good for them? It’s not good for us to be eating fries everyday or more calories than are meant for our body type/size.
Dogs still have many primal instincts and some more so than others. We all know a dog that didn’t really require training to be a pretty well behave laid back dog but that’s not normal. Most dogs have some strong instincts, some are breed related like herding dogs often have issues with wanting to nip peoples ankles or chase after moving vehicles. One thing that ALL dogs have programmed into them is to travel and follow their leader and work to find their meal. But so many dogs not only don’t get regular structured walks, they don’t have any task at all and they eat 2 free bowls of food a day no matter what.
Another huge issue is the expectation that all dogs should be friends with all other dogs. What?! Why?! Again, these are pack animals, they are used to being in a pack and an outsider is not welcomed. Now, don’t think I’m saying that we shouldn’t be socializing dogs, that is not what I’m saying. I’m just reminding you that many dogs will still have this instinct, especially guard breeds.
Dogs are being taken to dog parks for their exercise and are learning their dog behaviour skills there where they are so frequently encountering dogs with poor/rude play behaviour. *see our dog park post for more detail on this*
Dogs in Europe are a great example of what we should be able to have, they can be off leash all over, they’re allowed in restaurants etc. why? Because they are treated like dogs not people. They are not expected to be best friends with every dog they meet and they’re not even allowed to just go up to other dogs. People do not randomly approach someone else’s dogs, their space is respected. Dogs are loved but respected as dogs and therefore get way more privileges than dogs in North America.
Dogs are not humans. Again, I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t love them like family, we certainly do! However, their needs are put first, cuddles and freedom come after it’s been earned.
Dogs around here are so spoiled in the wrong way, strollers, sleeping in your bed, free food when they’ve done nothing for it (not saying they have to do all kinds of work for it their whole life, but doing something and understanding that you are giving it to them especially in the beginning of your relationship is extremely important), freedom to do what they want whenever they want… and then people wonder why they got growled at the day they finally said no to something or tried to physically move/manipulate them in a way they didn’t like.
If you’re struggling with issues whether it’s aggression or rude behaviours like jumping on people or ignoring your commands, try removing all the freedom for a few weeks, get them into a structured routine and make them do things for their food. If they can’t be supervised, crate them, when they are out, have them doing something, have them ‘place’ (stay on their bed), then free them to come and get attention from you. Have them sit and wait and give you eye contact before going out doors or getting food or toy. Have a leash on if your struggling with a behaviour where the dog does something away from you (running to the door to jump on a guest) so you can easily get control of them.
We share our lives with natural predators. We can’t be mad or confused when they act as such especially when they haven’t been appropriately taught to respect humans (or other dogs/animals) not just love them in the ways that make us feel warm and fuzzy.
So, to sum it up, when we’re seeing/hearing the term ‘fur baby’ frequently it’s going hand in hand with humanized spoiled brats for dogs, which often gives people bad impressions of certain breeds as well. We cringe because it too frequently means that the dog is not understood at all and is being treated like an infant. If you’re going to relate them to some type of human, it should be more like a 5-12 year old child. They need love but they need structure, rules and boundaries and they need discipline, freedom must be earned as they prove themselves to be well behaved.
If you truly love your dog & want the best for them, what they need most should come first, routine, structured walks everyday, play after that, then food and affection.
Research breed tendencies, make sure you’re getting a dog for the right reasons, not just because they’re cute
and be ready to seek professional assistance right away when they come home to prevent major issues from popping up and costing thousands instead of a few hundred.
Spoil them by giving them lots of exercise, the most natural food possible and putting their needs before the wants. Spoil them with a cushy bed and a fancy collar. Just don’t forget that they are canines.