Your dog’s genetics and past life experiences are not in your control. But the experiences they are having, and will continue to have, are. What kind of choices are you making for your dog?
Let’s start with some perspective about how your dog sees the world around them. Living with human beings often means dogs get to make few choices about their well being. Stop and think about your own dog…do they decide where they live? Who they meet? How they are greeted by strangers? Which dogs they get to interact with or choose to avoid? Where they can move their bodies if they are feeling stressed or unsafe?
The reality is, we have to use leashes, walls, and fences for dogs to fit into modern living but it leaves them with little opportunity to make decisions about their own safety. In actuality, they are relying on YOU to make choices that will help them to have positive experiences as they interact with the world around them.
If you are simply letting situations around your dog occur and hoping they will play out positively, you could very well be gambling with your dog’s well being.
Often dog owners only pay attention to what physically affects their dog. Overlooking your dog’s mental safety is a huge mistake that can easily lead to fearful, aggressive, or anxious behavior. Sadly, I often hear owners recounting stories of their dogs being charged by off leash dogs or having unsafe dog to dog interactions. When those stories result in no physical damage, they are regularly brushed aside as if they no longer count.
But they count to your dog. You see, he or she has just learned (or reaffirmed) that at any moment, with little warning and no option to escape, they may subject to a terrifying attack.
And what have you, your dog’s source of safety and stability, demonstrated during these scary moments? Are you prepared to handle the situation and able to keep your dog mentally and physically safe? Does your response instill calm, confidence to a stressed out dog? Do you watch your dog’s behavior when they start to communicate their discomfort and take action?
If you’re in charge of your dog’s safety and you’re not taking active steps to ensure that they are put in safe situations, you’re definitely gambling with your dog’s well being. And you’re losing. Or rather, your dog is losing.
The good news is, whether you are guilty of behavior gambling or just have a fearful, aggressive, or anxious dog, you can turn things around. In fact, that’s exactly what we do here at Tug Dogs with our customized training treatment plans. We go WAY out of our way to ensure that dogs have positive experiences with us that inspire trust and confidence in our ability to keep them safe. And you can too.
Here are a few common sense tips to consider:
- If you don’t know how a situation is likely to turn out, avoid it. See an unknown dog walking down the street? Don’t let the dogs meet (and certainly not face to face). Sure your dog might briefly get to meet a friend. But your dog might also get their first terrifying experience of dog on dog aggression. And dog on dog aggression is like virus. Read the dog aggression virus blog here: http://teachtraintug.com/2018/09/the-dog-aggression-virus/
- Are you unsure about how your dog feels about cats? Kids? Bikes? Etc… Then don’t just push them into those experiences and hope for the best. Take control by doing slow introductions, making sure to carefully watch your dog for signs of discomfort. If your dog seems concerned, stop and contact a quality trainer for assistance.
- Want to bring your dog into a busy environment while secretly knowing it makes them uncomfortable? This one’s easy…just don’t do it.
- Hosting a party with a shy, anxious, or aggressive dog at home? I’m hoping by now you’re getting the hang of this! Have a safe plan for your dog such as being secured in a quiet bedroom with an activity (like a stuffed kong) so that he or she doesn’t have a stressful time.
- Bringing home a new dog? Don’t let your existing dog rush up and give a potentially scary or confrontational greeting. Let the new dog get comfortable with your surroundings and then introduce the dogs with an on leash walk, where you have more control of what happens. (This is an area where hiring a skilled trainer can make a world of difference and I highly recommend you do so to prevent problems from occurring).
The truth is, loving your dog and being a capable leader who can keep your dog safe are two entirely different things. This is why we devote SO much time in our training treatment plans not just to working with dogs but also in working with dog owners to develop their skills in keeping their dog mentally and physically safe..
Whether you have a dog who is struggling with serious behavior challenges or you’re one of those amazing (and smart) people who seeks training BEFORE a problem has the chance to occur, get in touch with Tug Dogs today. We can help coach you and train your dog so that you can live better together.