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Intention versus interpretation

The Incredible K9

There is often a disconnect between what owners intend to train their dogs to do, and what behavior they're actually experiencing. Sometimes, this behavior gets worse and worse with time. Here is a little insight: It doesn't matter what you intended... It matters how the dog interpreted what you intended. To help explain this concept, I'll offer 3 common examples: Example #1:

  • You give your dog stuffed squeaky toys to play with... to drain excess energy.

  • Your dog is excited and adrenalized.

  • He shakes it, tears it apart, and destroys that squeaker in a matter of moments.

Your dog already chases and stalks squirrels and rabbits, but that seems to be standard operating procedure, anyways. Then one day your dog attacks, or even kills, a small animal... or even worse, the neighbor's little, fluffy, Pomeranian. In horror, you think, "Oh my gosh, he's never done this before, what is wrong with him?" The reality: You've been teaching your dog to move forward toward, and be stimulated by, small, noise-making objects for years. You've been training for this behavior every day in your living room, and now your dog has transferred that knowledge to yet another [unfortunately unintended] similar situation. Example #2:

  • Your dog lunges and barks at others while walking on a leash.

  • You reach down and pet him, attempting to soothe and comfort him.

  • You want him to know that "it's okay, everything is okay, you're okay".

As the weeks and months go by, the lunging gets worse and worse. The reality: You're teaching your dog that "it's okay" means "it's absolutely not okay". You can actually begin to cue your dog to "not feel okay". Example #3:

  • You recently adopted a dog.

  • You're dying to finally show him what love truly feels like.

  • You shower him with affection.

  • You cuddle on the couch.

  • He sleeps in your bed...

  • Now your dog knows and experiences "love"...

As your dog becomes more and more comfortable in your home, they begin to growl at the kids... or the neighbors... or your boyfriend... or your wife... or anyone else who enters his "territory". The reality: Your dog may be resource guarding YOU. He may consider YOU as his possession. Someone else is only competition for you. Your role in his life is a passive one, not one of leadership and direction. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Get rid of the laser pointers and the squeaky toys.

  2. If you don't know what your dog is thinking, don't pet him. Stop saying, "it's okay".

  3. Permission must be given for your dog to get on furniture, and that permission should be granted only when you've been satisfied with your dog's behaviors and habits for 30+ days.

  4. If your dog is making poor choices in the house or in the yard, then you've given him too much freedom. We don't want your dog to practice [and get better at] undesired behaviors. Practice makes permanent.

If your intentions and your dog's interpretations don't align, then what's being practiced is counterproductive. If you ever have questions about what you practice, or what your dog practices, let me know. All for now,



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