May 26, 2016

Sadly, Dog Obedience Training Can Only Go So Far

“My dog was trained but he still acts like a mad man.”, the woman on the phone was telling me. “He sits and stays and all that, but it didn’t make him connect with me.” I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Knowing how to obey commands has nothing to do with teaching a dog life skills and how to fit in with his human pack. There’s a misconception that a dog will behave as he “should” if he listens to obedience commands. We, at The Loved Dog, see things differently for a few reasons. Here are the main three:


  1. Lets first look at WHY dogs do the things they do? The reason dogs (and people) behave a certain way is because we are programed in our DNA to try and meet our Core Needs. Core Needs are not something we choose to have, they are not an option. For example, if a dog is super smart and curious and I put him in prolonged STAYs, or just yell at him NO, he will feel stifled and will find other ways to meet his need for Mental Stimulation. He can’t get rid of his Core Need for mental stimulation. This isn’t any different when it comes to kids in a classroom. If you have a kid who is interrupting the teacher often, the first thing they do these days is to see if he/she are bored. Often times they find that the reason the kid is being a pest is due to the fact that he/she is mentally under stimulated. We have all heard of kids who were considered trouble in class, and when they were moved to a more advanced class they thrive.  Why? Because their Core Need (in this case for Mental stimulation/Growth) was finally being met. So asking a dog to be in a STAY position for a long time when his Core Need for mental stimulation isn’t getting met, will not work and will put the owner in a constant battle with the misunderstood and frustrated dog. We have to find the Core Need that the dog is trying to meet and find solutions that are acceptable to us.
  2. The battle between Impulse and Mindfulness. When we find solutions that are acceptable to us humans, these are usually solutions that will NOT come naturally for a dog. Why? Because human society rules are often different than dogs’ society rules.  The solution that the dog will come up with to meet his Core Needs will be based on his impulses. For example, when he needs to go potty, he’ll do it where he’s at, because in nature there’s no designated bathroom area.  But we want to help a dog understand that there’s a better way that is not based on his impulses. It’s a Mindful way. In the same way that we teach a human toddler to say PLEASE instead of grabbing something (like an animal) from someone’s plate, we have to teach our dog how to be mindful.  The mindful solution will be for us to  take him very often to the designated dog bathroom area and reward him profusely with his favorite treats after he just went potty in that spot.  Teaching obedience commands does not teach a dog how to move Impulse based decisions to Mindful based decisions. We must teach a dog to not only obey commands but actually think for themselves, which is the same thing we do when we raise children.
  3. Then there’s the concept of Pain vs Pleasure; the reason we chose to wear that shirt and not another, or taking that route on our way to work and not another, hanging out with a certain person and not another, etc. This is because we all associate what we choose as something that would give us more pleasure or, at least, less pain. Dogs do too. The question we have to ask ourselves is, how do we make listening to us so much more pleasurable than anything else? We as dog pawrents have to teach our dogs, that our way of meeting their Core Need will yield a lot more pleasure than their way.

To summarize: we need to see what Core Need the dog is trying to meet, we need to teach her to find a mindful way to meet that need and we must make that option pleasurable. Now, if obedience can answer that need then lets use it, but if it’s meant to just to shut out the dog’s core need, that is not a long term solution that will work (without hurting the dogs’ emotions, the relationship between the dog and his pawrent, or being abusive).

Keep loving your dog 🙂 & contact us today for dog coaching!

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