I can’t help but wonder why we set expectations so high for our dogs. They’re not allowed bark, bite, growl, jump, chew on certain objects – the list goes on. The focus of many people has been to eliminate these undesired behaviors. I have two problems with this.
First off, we are talking about dogs here. Dogs chew on things. They jump on us when we arrive home because they want to greet us. It’s what they do. If we don’t like the behaviors that come with a dog, then why do we love dogs so much? Sure, some behaviors need to be modified for the safety of other dogs and people but I can’t imagine demanding my dogs go their whole lives without barking once.
Secondly, this approach is so negative! It really bums me out when I focus on all the things I don’t want my own dogs to be doing. I don’t know about you but I get excited when I think about new behaviors to teach my dogs- even simple manners and impulse control. Changing our viewpoints can positively impact our own state of mind when it comes to training our dogs. Don’t want your dog barking at the mailman? Teach him to lay on his mat in the mudroom when the mailman comes. Is your yard torn up from a dog who loves to dig? Build him a sandbox to dig in. It really isn’t fair to constantly say “no” if we haven’t taught our dogs what the correct behavior is.
My dogs are not what's considered to be “perfect.” They bark at people who walk by our house, jump with excitement when we come home, argue with each other - but they’re dogs. I don’t have kids or many house guests so it doesn’t bother me when they jump. There are several dogs in our neighborhood so barking is commonly heard whether from my house or another house. Sure, my boys know some great behaviors but as long as they are happy and healthy, I don’t expect them to be angels. Now, things may be different if they were eating household objects or aggressive to people- but they’re not. Does this mean dogs don’t need training? Far from it. But instead of saying “no,” teach them what you would like them to do instead.
No matter the age, every dog can benefit from learning some great life skills. Not only will it allow them to be a dog but it will give us some relief from those behaviors we don’t want them to be doing. We all want our dogs to behave in a certain way so my challenge to you is to list the behaviors you would like to eliminate and come up with alternative behaviors you can teach them. Then, begin training! You and your dog may even have some fun learning these new behaviors.