I’m here, as a highly credentialed, multi-certified behavior consultant who specializes in fear, aggression and anxiety cases, to give you permission to spoil your dog. Go ahead. Give them treats for free. That’s right, don’t make them sit before you give it to them.
And in case you’re wondering, yup, that’s my dog, BooBoo, sleeping in bed with me. (It’s not a great quality picture because it was dark and I was trying to capture this sweet moment to preserve it always.) I don’t care that she’s in my bed. In fact, I encourage it if she wants to. Know what else I don’t care about?
I don’t care if she goes on the furniture.
I don’t care if she doesn’t heel or walk next to me.
I don’t care if she pulls ahead.
I don’t care if she goes through a door before I do.
I don’t care if she gets snacks without having to do something I ask first.
Why don’t I care? Because these are all subtle holdouts from the dominance theory myth, that we shouldn’t “spoil” our dogs or they’ll become dominant. Not only has this outdated information been debunked, but holding onto these superficial ideas encourages us to try to “control” our dogs, instead of just loving them and letting them be the dogs they should be. I bring dogs into my life to make my life better, and theirs. And I hope you do the same.
If I wanted something to perform perfectly, I would have gotten a robot, not a dog. Heck, even my computer doesn’t perform perfectly all the time. I don’t expect robotic obedience from any dog and I don’t judge dogs behaving like dogs as some failure of their owner. Sure, we can train skills we need for safety (like not jumping on grandma to greet her, or training a solid leave it for city dogs where there might be rat poison around) but there’s very few obedience skills that I put a lot of value on for most dogs. I’d much rather focus on life skills, and the dog feeling safe, not obedience.
What do I care about? I want dogs to feel safe, to be curious, to be unafraid, to be resilient with novelty, be able to express themselves and to do dog things without fear of punishment.
I want dogs to be exceptionally happy.
Everything else is secondary. Dogs are only with us for such a short time. Why wouldn’t we want them to be showered with as much love, snacks and sharing your love and life with them as possible? Stop trying to control every aspect of their life and just enjoy your relationship with them. I think you’ll both be happier for it.
And really, isn’t making each other’s lives better and enjoy each other’s company what good relationships are all about? If you have a relationship with someone and all they do is shove you around, tell you what to do, try to control you and suppress you being you, is that really someone you want to spend time with? That sounds more like an abusive relationship to me.
Let go of unreasonable expectations that society tells us we need to put on our dogs. Stop making them perform for every little morsel or every pet or sign of affection. Stop the militaristic heeling walks. Stop punishing them for being social and wanting to greet humans or other dogs. Let your dog be a dog.
Need a little perspective? Think about your own life. Why should your dog’s experiences of comfort, pleasure and joy be less than yours?
Do you have to perform a task every time before you are allowed to indulge in some chips or cookies? Do you have to earn your TV watching time by “being good” according to someone else’s standards? Do you wait for permission from someone else before you’re allowed to wave or to say hi to someone passing you? Do you have to earn a hug or other sign of affection from a friend or partner? Does someone else dictate when and where you can and can’t rest your body?
Let the stupid dominance theory holdouts go.
SPOIL YOUR DOG.
Let your dog be a dog.
Enjoy the snuggles.
Watch a movie on the couch together.
Share your snacks.
Enjoy the meandering walks.
Treasure the gross and embarrassing moments.
STOP TRYING TO CONTROL THEIR EVERY MOVE.
Enjoy it all, because one day, they will be gone and those are the precious moments you will remember. You won’t care what a great job your dog did not going through the door before you, how great he was at staying or what a good heel position he held when you walked. You will treasure the times your dog made you laugh because he embarrassed you. You will remember the softness of their fur when you snuggled close. You will reflect on how he looked at you with those puppy eyes that made you melt.
I have this canvas in my office, and I look at it every day and nod. I cannot wait for all these outdated dog training beliefs to go away. Until then, I’ll be here spoiling dogs and encouraging people to do the same.
Of course if you want one on one training, contact me and schedule a session!