Understanding your dog on their terms is essential. We invite dogs into our lives, then completely fail to understand them. If we have an animal in our lives, it is up to us to do whatever it takes to treat them with respect, dignity and on their terms, not ours.
For a start, dogs are pack animals. This means they need a pack. This is not negotiable. This is mandatory. You and the other human members of the family can be the pack, but you need to behave like one. If you don’t, then at least one other animal, preferably another dog, is necessary.
Without this, you will cause untold stress and anxiety in your dog and it is highly likely that you won’t even notice. Or will refer to it as ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ behaviour and then may set about training or getting training, often inhumane and again, with a complete lack of understanding of the dog’s nature.
The second most important aspect of understanding your dog is your behaviour. It is imperative that you and the other human members of the household are seen by your dog/s as higher up in the pack pecking order. Don’t assume this will automatically happen. It doesn’t.
Pack leaders need to show pack leader qualities. These include never harbouring any past issue, never getting angry, always knowing how to lead the pack in times of stress or danger.
Dogs, and other animals, live in the now. Learn to do the same, for their sake as well as your own. This is not easy.
No natural leader is ever angry, or for more than a few seconds in extraordinary circumstances. Anger does not engender respect. Anger shows a base fear – not a good leadership quality.
Here are some common scenes that show you the dog feels uncertain who the leader of the pack is:
- straining on a lead, pulling
- pushing to get out of the door before you
- barking at every passing animal/person/car
- aggressive or continuous barking at visitors or when you are trying to talk to someone
- refusal to leave you alone
Jan Fennell understands the true nature of dog. It is not difficult to grasp what she teaches, but it can be hard to change habits of a lifetime. However it is our duty, as dog people, to do just that, if we need to. Probably most of us do. Dogs who are ‘trained’ in this method are calm, happy and respectful. Jan’s methods are equally calm and respectful, of the dog.
I know less about Cesar Milan’s methods. I do know that understanding your dog is crucial to living in peace and harmony with them. Inhumane training methods may subdue a dog, may deaden his soul, but is that the best we can do? Does that create harmony at home, or in the wider world? Could that be one of the causes of the problems of the world? Peace, harmony and respect needs to start at home.