There is a plague spreading! This atrocious affliction is assailing families across the country at a truly alarming rate. If, and only if, you can identify the symptoms you may have a chance for survival.
Thankfully the symptoms of this torment are fairly easy to recognize. They are listed below in story form…
Alice Jones arrives home after an uneventful day of work. Alice has developed a strong and recent loathing for her boss but that’s a story for a different time. She walks through the door and is greeted by Jethro. Jethro jumps up on her and wags his tail; a happy tan furball in the lamplight. After tossing her work outfit in the hamper and replacing it with a pink sweat suit Miss Jones trots down the stairs and heads towards the bench near the door. Under the bench her shoe pile awaits. Jethro is beside himself; the ritual of the evening constitutional almost more than he can bear. Alice plops down on the bench. She grabs her favorite jogging sneakers. The stitching in them just beginning to open up in places. The sneakers will need to be replaced within a few short weeks. Jethro, a large brown beast, snorts his excitement and continues his dancing. Alice grabs the treat pouch affixing it to her sweatpants. Jethro is finally able to sit after being told six or seven times as she puts the leash on him. They go out the door and into the cool evening air.
Alice and her dog keep a brisk pace as they pass the first block. They pause to look both ways before crossing. Alice’s eyes darting here and there scanning the lonely intersection before continuing onward. Jethro strains – keeping the leash taut and panting all the while. Alice increases her speed to attempt to match her four-footed friend’s.
Then it happens. Alice inadvertently tenses. It was a bark. Turning quickly to her left she hears the bark again before she sees the rushing dog’s form through the fencing. Jethro goes buck wild.
Jethro is dog aggressive. Alice spits out a curse attempting to restrain seventy pounds of muscle, teeth, and fur. What was it the behaviorist had taught her? She reaches into her treat pouch and grasps for the food. Rifling through the little bag at her hip, she is just able to pull out a small treat. As Alice struggles to maintain her footing in the dark night, keep her shoulder in it’s socket, and keep Jethro from climbing the neighbor’s fence and biting the barking dog she wonders why her dog has made so little progress. So little progress even after hiring a professional behaviorist? Anger, frustration and desperation all begin fighting for the throne of her emotions.
Jethro lunges again and again, straining at the leash; fighting for leverage. His brown eyes like laser beams of concentrated fury. The dog’s energy rises with each passing second. Alice speedily shoves the treat almost into one of his nostril’s and as instructed yells, “Watch me!” She brings the treat back up toward her own face. No change. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Jethro has now almost reached the fence several times and has almost spilled Alice onto the sidewalk below them. This exasperating spectacle continues on for another minute. Alice finally resorts to straining her damnedest and eventually is able to yank Jethro past the end of the neighbor’s fencing. They escape the barking dog and continue into the night.
Later Alice and Jethro arrive home. The dog – wagging happily from the walk. The person – defeated and vexed from the battle.
This phenomenon is happening now and occurs all over the world. The plague we forewarned you about, good reader, was not the dog-dog aggression. The terrible epidemic we are specifically talking about is the weak and inefficient method commonly used to fix the aggression. This is the same bad method used in countless situations across the globe. The same method that brings about little to no change and IS the bane of unsuspecting dog owners…and it is so sinister because it is consistently sold as the cure! The method described in the story above is constantly sold as the solution! And caring dog owners buy it hook, line, and sinker. And what a “sinker” it is.
It causes hope to sink. It causes confidence to sink. It causes human emotion to sink down into the mire and muck until the poor dog owner is so beaten down by the continual losses, so very distressed and afflicted by this plague they soon give up. They give up because they have already tried dog training and it did little to no good. Maybe they already paid top dollar for a dog behaviorist and the method may have worked on their dog at a far distance from another dog, or it may have worked just slightly when the dog was less distracted, or in a controlled setting, but not in the real world and certainly not for lasting results the owner was anticipating!
Folks, this goes far beyond obedience training for dogs. This sad and pathetic yet all-too-common story is a perfect illustration showcasing the piss-poor methodology of a humongous majority of dog behaviorists and dog trainers. Attempting to perform a “watch me” command or a “look” command using a food bribe while a dog is beginning to freak out on another dog (or person, or cat, or squirrel, or mail carrier, etc) is the scourge that we fight daily. This is a Plague!
You would probably not believe how often I hear my new clients recount (like Alice’s dreadful tale) their similar poor experiences with professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers. My question…When, When, When will we realize that bribing anyone at any time INSTANTLY makes for a less healthy relationship.
Any and all close relationships have several ingredients included in order to be successful and close. Respect would be the glaring one in a case like Alice’s. Jethro had zero respect for her and he showed it in dog speak. He showed how important he viewed their relationship as he practically abandoned it in an instant to give direct attention to something else. This was terribly rude to Alice. And totally unacceptable behavior if Jethro was a human being. This behavior however is tolerated many times in our relationships with our dogs.
Imagine the human equivalent of the Alice/Jethro relationship with me for a moment.
Let’s say you are having a conversation with someone and you are in mid-sentence and out of nowhere they just totally start ignoring you. Not only that but they start jumping around, staring at something, and begin screaming out their over-excitement. Puzzled you turn around to see what they are going on about and see your neighbor casually mowing his lawn. The person you were just talking to is going bonkers now…dropping F-bombs, needing to be physically restrained while they bodily threaten the neighbor; all the while screaming their head off. The troubling thing is that this is extremely common because your neighbor is out there typically every couple weeks to trim up his lawn.
Now, as a concerned individual, you ask them to stop. You are totally ignored; blown off as if you did not even exist. The sort of extreme ignoring that would impress even the most snobbish of royalty the world over. The person you used to be talking to, maintaining directed intense eye-contact and the continued onslaught of monstrous insults at the hapless neighbor is becoming quickly uncontrollable. You take it a step further and decide to step in front of them. This individual, like a professional athlete, slips left and continues the disgusting yet powerful display of raw energy and physicality-curse words flowing toward the neighbor. What is a caring person to do with this Tyrannosaurus-type-terror? Bribe them? Beat them? WHAT???
Let’s pause for a moment and then honestly ask ourselves would bribing them at this point be prudent? Would bribing them at any point over the years of your relationship be prudent? And does the bribe, if it indeed works, guarantee no future outbreaks of alarmingly aggressive behavior? (Just to let you know Beating them is NOT the solution either!)
Should they always look to us for reinforcement? Should our friends, coworkers, or children (or dog for that matter) as intelligent creatures ALWAYS look to us for reinforcement?
This last question is a critical question because it is where my beliefs on dogs and their training and behavior differ from almost all other dog trainers and dog behaviorists I’ve ever met, read of, seen on TV, or even heard of!
I believe we should NOT always be the answer for our dogs. Just as our human children grow we should NOT always be the answer for them. ALL GOOD LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT DUPLICATION, DELEGATION, and DECISION MAKING. As a father of three great kids one day I may not be there when they have a tough decision to make. I may not be there when they are pressured to try drugs. I may not be able to be there holding their hand as they apply for their first job. But I do my best to be the best leader I can be and equip them as much as possible so that when I am not there they can make an intelligent decision on their own.
Good leadership is the key on the parent’s part. Maturity is the goal for the growing child’s part. For a healthy relationship we need both respect and trust. How can we trust the child if they don’t respect us? How can the child trust us if we don’t respect them? It is a two-way street.
^^^^^^ It is the same two-way street with dogs. ^^^^^^
Bribery is actually a CRIME in our society!!! Why is it sold to us as the most “positive” way? This is amazingly bizarre. And this is foolish! Bribery needs to stop if we want calmer, healthier, more social interactions from our dogs and pups.
TO BE CONCLUDED…
PS. Please keep an eye out for the exciting conclusion to this post as we will examine what happens if the food treat/bribe does actually work and the effects on our relations with dun, dun, duuuuu….(exciting musical crescendo here)…..our dogs!