Photo by Terry Bain
I love my dogs. They’re a lot of work (and occasionally expensive), but adopting them was the best decision we have ever made. From the beginning, I gave them loads of affection balanced with discipline. Since we don’t have kids, my mother refers to them as the “grand-dogs” and my friends call them “fur babies.” I am of the opinion that pet owners, as a group, spoil their pets.
“Spoil” is such a general term—what does it mean when applied to a dog? Dressing one up? Having dozens of doggie toys? Massages? Or just simply a pet without discipline?
Every dog is different, even when they live together in the same household. Our two dogs have different needs, but the thing that has kept them the happiest has been having a strong alpha in the house. So has been strictly adhering to the dominance structure in the house. Whether your training opinions come from a book or the “Dog Whisperer,” dogs will be dogs—they can’t be treated like furry people. We use only positive reinforcement training techniques, which is a choice we made based on the needs of our dogs—and our personal preferences.
Over time, I’ve found a series of tips to keep your dog well-loved but not out of control:
- Alphas eat first. Your family should complete their meal before setting down the meal for the dog.
- You lead the walk. Your dog should walk to one side, and just behind you. They shouldn’t pull, and you shouldn’t follow.
- If the dog does something bad, ignore the behavior. Remember: Any attention is going to ensure a repeat of the bad behavior. If your dog doesn’t get a reaction, they’ll learn that it’s not going to get your attention.
- When your dog does something well (or when commanded), reward them immediately with treats and praise. Let out all the stops on the praise! When we were potty-training our younger dog, every time she used the “potty corner” outside, we cheered, hooped, and hollered like she had scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. It was silly, but incredibly effective.
How do you balance affection and discipline with your dog?
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