Obedience training is one of the top concerns and priorities for most dog owners. Considering that dogs are highly dependent upon their owners for their every need and the fact that they are usually very involved in their owners’ lives, it is understandable that their ability to understand and follow basic directions is immensely important and helpful. However, the way in which obedience training is carried out can have a great bearing on its overall success, as well as the formation of a healthy dog/owner relationship.
Fear vs Respect
There is no denying that dogs sometimes frustrate their owners, especially when they participate in unwanted behaviors such as household destruction or indoor eliminations. However, there is a marked difference between training your dog through fear versus training your dog through respect, and the most desirable results are often achieved through the latter.
Fear is commonly defined as an emotional response to some situation that is perceived as dangerous or harmful. Fear carries with it a physiologic response of distress, apprehension or alarm. It could even be considered as the “unthinking” response to a situation, wherein there is simply a reaction rather than choice.
Respect, on the other hand, is commonly defined as an attitude of esteem, admiration or deference toward someone. Unlike fear, respect is based in thinkingness, wherein a specific choice is made to respond well toward someone or something.
Put quite simply, fear and respect are two entirely different things. Considering that respect will garner a more controlled and desirable response from a dog than fear will, it is obvious that one should use those obedience training techniques that will bring about respect and trust. The next question then is how?
A dog can be taught to respect and obey their owner through four key actions:
1. Consistency in training. However you train your dog, it is important to be consistent. If, for example, there is a certain behavior that you don’t want your dog to perform, like barking or jumping up when you first walk in the door, it is important that you are consistent in not rewarding this behavior. The biggest rewards a dog can receive from their owner include being looked at, talked to and pet. Consistency will rapidly teach your dog what is desired and what is not permitted, without causing any sort of fear.
2. Establish boundaries. Your dog needs to learn, preferably at a young age, that you are the rule-maker and that they cannot simply do whatever they want, whenever they want. Insist that they remain off your furniture, and even put them in their crate on occasion to demonstrate to them that there are boundaries they will have to learn and respect.
3. Be calm and persistent in teaching your dog the rules. It is your job to teach your dog what is and what is not acceptable. If you take him somewhere and he goes wild, ignoring you and every attempt you are making to gain his attention, he is clearly not ready to be in that place. You can teach him by refusing to return to that place until he has learned to respect and listen to you, and by continuing to work with him at home. He should be rewarded for his good behaviors, each and every time he displays them, and penalized for his bad behaviors by having them ignored.
4. Control the things he loves as ways to reward him. If your dog absolutely loves a certain toy, this toy should not merely be out all the time for him to play with, but used as a valuable training tool and reward. Have your dog sit patiently and follow some basic directions before rewarding him with the toy.
The plain truth is that seeking to train your dog through fear is counterproductive and will not likely result in the obedience one truly desires. Furthermore, fear can drive your dog away from you rather than allowing you to build a close relationship with your dog. By following the above guidelines, one can build a deeply respectful and trusting relationship with their dog, and have a mannerful and obedient companion as a result.