At K9 Balance, our goal is to communicate with dogs as clearly as possible in a way that makes the most sense to them. We strive to be as gentle as possible and as firm as necessary while guiding and teaching the desired behaviours we/our clients would like from them.
We have a very balanced training philosophy and focus a lot on relationship based training. This means we work with the dog in front of us in whatever way works best for them. We work on building a relationship with gentle leash communication and often hand feeding in the beginning, we get to know the individual and help them get to know and trust us. If they love food, we will use some food to reward as part of the training process (we do not allow dogs to become reliant on food! Your dog should come when called whether you have food or not – that’s where having a solid balanced relationship comes in!). If they love tug, fetch or just some freedom to sniff things, we use those as rewards. As we go through the process teaching them what we want from them, we then get to the part where we have to correct certain things like trying to go after other dogs on a walk.
Leadership is almost always the thing we see missing in people’s relationships with their dogs. Often people have the impression that being the leader, correcting unwanted behaviour and providing structure is or requires being mean or causing pain or fear. This is not at all the case. There should be no emotion involved in corrections or discipline. Providing leadership is giving clear guidance and direction with a level head, calm confidence.
All animals including humans need guidance, rules and consequences. If we do not provide this for our kids or dogs, nature has a way of providing far harsher consequences then what we would/will. Dogs need to know what is expected of them in all different situations as well as trust that you can help them when they don’t know what to do. Whether they’re fearful and submissive or more confident and controlling, they need leadership to help them be calm and content and know how to deal with our confusing world (since we don’t want them making their own choices to respond with their natural instincts in many scenarios).
What we really want is for us to be the reason our dog wants to listen! We want to be their best friend while also having their respect and trust. There is a balance for this and it’s a beautiful thing when you find it!
Corrections as mentioned above often get a bad rap. But especially when we start guiding our dogs right from the get go, they do not need to be anything harsh.
They can happen in many ways, a simple ‘no’ with a firm voice can be enough for some, spacial pressure (ie. moving your body toward a dog that is trying to go through the doorway without receiving the ok), a finger poke, a small leash tug, a spray of compressed air (the sudden noise is surprising and interrupting), a tap from an ecollar etc. The level of the correction depends completely on the individual dog as well as the intensity of their behaviour. Do not confuse corrections with abuse. There is a massive difference, and intent of the human is generally what will determine the difference. A correction should be quick and matter of fact, no emotion involved. If you are angry and aggressive, then you will often get either fear or aggression coming from the dog and rightfully so.