Greetings, dog owners and dog lovers! Welcome to the first of ten installments called Smarter You, Happier Dog. Over the course of the next ten weeks, I hope to explore various aspects of life with dogs. The wiser we can be about understanding how dogs think and what their needs are, the happier our dogs will be. Which means we’ll feel great, too!
Those of us who live with dogs are carrying the torch in a 30,000 to 40,000 year relationship that can be magical, but can also leave us feeling humbled. In today’s installment, we’ll start with a thought that will act as an underpinning in future weeks: the idea that teaching our dogs manners is the key to sharing a colorful relationship with dogs, whereas failing to teach our dogs means that the dog lives a life of unnecessary frustration.
The power of words is important to note here. You’ll notice I use the words like “teach” (instead of train) and “manners” (instead of obedience or tricks). Emphasis on the idea of training tends to make us focus on physical results in the dog. Meanwhile, the word teaching places more emphasis on the dog’s mind — which is where we need to be if we want to approach our relationships with dogs with species-specific empathy (and to achieve the best results possible). Similarly, when we speak of obedience, we can be too focused on the outdated and patently unfair myth that dogs should desire to please us at all times and that failure to do so means that the dog is challenging our authority. This can be a gateway to frustration and an increasingly punitive attitude by us as owners. On the other hand, with the word “manners”, we are emphasizing the idea that we want our dog to be assimilated into the many parts of our lives (at home, on neighborhood walks, at times when guests visit our homes, etc., etc.)
Now, then. How does teaching our dogs manners make life more enriching for us?
A better mannered dog is a dog who has more freedom. A better mannered dog is a dog that is a pleasure to be around. He is a dog who is given more choices. More outings. More socialization. More assimilation into his owner’s everyday activities. More car rides. More being a dog that matters!
By the same token, a better mannered dog isn’t a frustrated dog. Being well versed with basic behaviors like loose leash walking, sitting, coming, staying, etc. means he is less likely to that act up due to unnecessary and excessive time being crated or left alone. He is not a liability when visitors visit because he’s been taught that keeping all four feet on the floor gets him a reward. He is not yanked, snapped, and jerked around on his leash and collar because he has been taught that staying near your side results in yummy rewards and praise. In summary, he is content because you have stepped up to help him live a fulfilled life; and honestly, if you don’t do so, who will?
Your dog has no one else to advocate for his happiness, so please do the right thing. Manners today means happiness for a lifetime!
Hany Hosny shares life with his adopted shelter dog, Stella. He volunteers at animal shelters and shares his relationship-centered ideas on living with dogs, on his popular Facebook page, Smarter You, Happier Dog.