Do you allow your dog on the couch? What about in your bed—do they sleep with you at night? Do your dogs jump up on you when you come home? Are they allowed to free roam the house, or kept in a crate when unattended? Are they fed in a bowl? Do you walk them on a retractable leash?
Now, what if I told you that none of these—not a single one—is a “bad” behavior? Or a “bad” allowance?
Reading and participating in a recent discussion posted by @normthegsd
reminded me the importance of this topic.
We hear trainers, and educating owners, frequently talk about leash pulling, jumping, barking, sniffing, lounging on furniture, as things to discourage. As though they are constants. When really, NO constants exist in dog training. Every dog is an individual, right? And yet we see, and encourage, branching posts, sweeping generalizations, about “rules” for a good pet. For a good relationship. Your dog should never pull on a leash. Never jump on you. Never bark. Never be encouraged to be mouthy.
And yet...if you’re training a service dog forward momentum pull and item retrieval, or a bite sport dog, or encouraging a healthy level of engagement before examining pure behavior, those rules become discounted.
Wally is allowed on the couch because it does nothing to disrupt his ability to be separated from me, nor influence his boundaries otherwise. Kalani is not: she becomes rowdy and possessive. Wally eats from a bowl fairly often. Kalani is almost always hand fed. Wally is not allowed to jump on me ever, as it’s crucial to keep that behavior isolated to only his medical alerts. Kalani is—she performs tricks that require jumping onto and over my body. I could go on and on.
Too often, we read behaviors as PROBLEMS rather than SYMPTOMS. Why is your dog barking? Why is he pulling? Why is he disengaging? Why is he jumping? And we are quick to eliminate the behavior and therefore worsen the cause, or end up prohibiting a WANTED behavior in the future.
Before listening to any trainer’s lifestyle approach or advice, ask WHY. If they can’t, or won’t, answer, well...time for a new trainer.