Mark's Dog Blog

It's never just about the dog


I like to simplify things as much as possible when I am with clients to help them understand their dog better. One of the major hurdles most dog owners have when working through modifying behaviour is remaining consistent, and this means 'forever'.

When working on modifying a dogs behaviour, it's never just about the dog. A dogs relationship with its owner cannot change unless the owner changes their relationship with their dog. Too many dog owners that have dogs that are misbehaving are too focused on blaming the dog, and not looking at themselves. Too many are more concerned about their own emotional needs than for their dogs environmental, instinctive and social needs. What makes us feel good, is not always what's best for the dog.

My job as a dog behaviour specialist is about understanding the human and dog bond/relationship. I spend more time explaining to my client their role in maintaining a balanced relationship with their dog, than actually focusing on trying to so-called 'fix' their dog.

Those that cannot get past their own emotional needs tend to blame the trainer/behaviour specialist for not fixing their dog, and therefore feel they have wasted their money. This is why I will never offer a 'guarantee' that I will fix your dog, as I can't. In most cases, its the relationship between the dog and dogs owner that is broken, and only one person can fix this... the dog's owner. All I can do as a trainer/behaviour specialist is guide the dog's owner, by explaining why their dog is behaving the way it is, and demonstrate how to get their relationship back on track. It's the dog owners responsibility to follow through with this advice.

Dogs are situational learners, and this is why its important for the dogs owner/s to be involved in their dog's rehabilitation. I have lost count how many clients homes I have been too and within a few minutes of interacting with an unruly dog its attitude and lack of respect for me changed. So many dog owners are amazed at the effect I have on their dog, and how it can happen so quickly. It's not magic, its no more than understanding the dog's needs, and not being emotionally attached to the process. This is one reason I don't offer board and train, as its more likely than not, that no matter how much work is put in by another trainer, the dog already has strong learnt behaviours that are triggered by just being with its owners. Send the dog back home, and in many cases the owner does not change their relationship with their dog, because they fully expected the dog trainer to 'fix' their dogs problems. The dog therefore eventually reverts back to old behaviours again, and usually within a matter of days. Board and train can only work, if once again, the owner is willing to take responsibility for their relationship with their dog when it returns home. So many dog owners have trouble understanding or accepting this and therefore want the work done for them. They see modifying their dogs behaviour as no different to sending a car to a mechanic to fix it. Its the trainers job to service and fix their dog (and it should be covered by warranty). Even some parents are now too busy blaming the teachers, government or society for their misbehaving children, and not taking on the responsibility of being a parent them self. Somebody else should fix it.

I am not for one moment suggesting not to try board and train, just remember though, your responsibility for your dog does not stop with the trainer. Just as a child's behaviour does not stop with the teacher.

Taking on the role of being a dog owner means taking on the responsibility of understanding your dog. Its not your dogs role to try and understand you. It's not your dogs role to fill emotional needs. Certainly love your dog, but not to the detriment of its environmental and instinctive needs. I can honestly say, that all the love in the world will never guarantee a well balanced and well behaved dog.

The Act of Punishment
The 'furbaby syndrome', the humanising of dogs