People and Dogs in Trouble

Dogs broblems

No one has yet programmed a computer to be of two minds a few hard problem, or to burst out laughing, but which will come.

Problem Solving and Assertiveness Training for Dog Owners :  

       There are a variety of ways to attack a problem. Knowledge in the area of the problem is a strong, influencing factor. The better you understand the true nature of the problem, the more confident you will be. So the more you understand about the way dogs think and function, the more effective you will be in handling dog problems. It is, after all, easier to make a stand when you know the facts. However, when dealing with dogs, even after the facts are in, sometimes emotional aspects cloud our vision.

       The person who coined the phrase “Love me, love my dog” was no dummy. Identification with our fourlegged friends can run so deep and so strong that we lose the ability to see things as they are. If we can get over, once and for all, the idea that dog problems are equated with a lack of love from the dog to you, eyesight will improve rapidly.

There are several ways to face dog problems :

Dogs broblems

       The Passive Method : 

“May be it will go away.” May be it won’t. “May be he’ll outgrow it.” May be he won’t. Even if he will, it’s a rather poor way to handle a dog problem. How many couches can you afford to lose waiting for him to outgrow the chewing stage? Some dogs, left uncorrected, chew their way from birth to senility, but any dog can learn to be happy chewing a bone once he learns the no-no’s from the yes-yeses.

       Passivity, just waiting, looks like the easy way. Often, it’s the expensive way. Training can rush nature. Prevention can save your household goods. Why just turn your back and grit your teeth when other methods are available.

       Dog problems do not remain static. Sometimes they do go away by themselves. Usually, they get worse. If they are part of your animal’s pattern of testing and your response is passive, they will definitely get worse. There is a method to his madness. While you may not have understood why, after all these years of being housebroken, he suddenly jumped up on your bed and urinated, perhaps you can understand now. Some assertive fellows try to bite the hand that feeds them when they are still sporting diapers. Other dogs ripen late in life. They mature slowly and their languid body development is matched by what is not exactly the fastest brain in the West. It may not even occur to them, until three or four years of age, that may be, just may be, your pack could be theirs for the taking—or even the asking. Voilá Urine on the bed. A passive response? Not from you.

       The Active Method : 

Some owners, with or without much understanding of the nature of dogs, meet problems head on. Their common sense, their sense of dignity, their ability to mobilize justifiable anger, all reach the same conclusion: “Not on my bed you don’t!” Bravo for them.

       They may go too far. They may yell too loud. They may hit when unnecessary. They may need improvement. Basically, though, they are on the right track. In a sense, who cares why your dog marks your bed? He just can’t.

       People who handle problems assertively experiment until they find a correction that the dog hates enough to stop him from doing whatever he is doing that his owner hates. This, classically, is the basis for most dog training. If we stopped here, it wouldn’t be terrible. But we don’t have to stop here. For most problems, better methods-more exciting and productive solutions—do exist. Too much of hitting the nail on the head can be a bad thing. This is especially so if the nail is your dog. Sometimes, an acceptable method, overused, can cause problems itself. So if every time your dog blinks sideways he gets it in the chops, you may be stopping him from urinating in the house only to find that, in selfdefense, he becomes a biter or that you’ve made him a nervous wreck.

       Handling problems assertively and directly can be fine, but communication is the key. Does your dog know why he is being corrected? More important, what is happening to the energy and drive that was going into the problem? Aside from the problem of overkill with this method, we are also dealing with leftover energy. Hence, the next step.

       The Serendipitous Method : 

This new way to train dogs was thus named because I discovered it, quite by chance, while observing dogs I was training. While trying to find new and better ways to solve both common and unique dog problems, it occurred to me that if the dog’s energy could be rerouted, things would go rapidly and smoothly. This method of handling dog problems is faster, easier and more effective than previous methods. Furthermore, it leaves the dog not only problem-free, but smarter and more fun to be around.

       The Serendipitous Method leaves nothing hanging. Instead of merely stopping an activity, when this method is applicable you will redirect the activity. “No, you can’t pull and tug on my kids’ clothes, but you can do it on this knotted rope. You can have all the pulling and tugging fun you want, under my direction and my control.” A terrific boon to dogs and owners, this method allows the dog to play out some of his needs without being pesty, dangerous or destructive.

       There’s a force of energy and intelligence operating behind any activity. You may not think it intelligent for your dog to chase your children and their friends, nipping at their heels, but he is actually using his herding instinct. Is it his fault that, generation after generation, his genes were carefully selected to strengthen this instinct? Is it his fault that you fell in love with the cute, shaggy face of a Bearded Collie, a dog valued for his ability to turn in a good day’s work and to work, like most sheepdogs, with little direction from man? Can you blame him, or any dog, for playing out his heritage? If with a lack of love from the dog to you, eyesight will improve rapidly.
you don’t give your Beardie or Komondor or Puli a good day’s work, if you haven’t provided sheep or cattle for him to be responsible for, for him to move hither and yon, is it any wonder that he sees your little herd as his own?

       Sure, you can belt him in the chops when he chases your kids. Sure, you can stop him. Certainly, you can’t keep a herd of sheep in your four-room apartment—but what is your dog supposed to do when he hears, loud and clear, the music of a shepherd boy’s horn wafting toward him? What have you provided to use up that energy, to exercise his herding “smarts”? He was bred and born to work. The unemployed always have problems.

       By use of the Serendipitous Method, you can help your dog use his drives and instincts and energies constructively instead of destructively. Instead of merely turning away the flow of energy from his desired direction, you will direct where it goes. You will take this opportunity to create better rapport with him, to exercise your own inventiveness and to take one small step toward the end of dog problems.

       Begin to observe your dog and see what he is actually doing. Don’t concentrate only on problem behaviorcheck out all his activities. Start putting two and two together. Several different activities may be the result of one frustrated drive. If he nips at passing feet, if he chases cars, if he’s fascinated by anything moving across the floor, if he attacks your vacuum cleaner, if he sleeps across the doorway to your children’s room, he may have a very strong, very thwarted instinct to herd. Now you can begin to name replacement activities.

       By interfering with any activity, you have already begun to take control. Just by naming an activity, before redirecting it, it begins to belong to you.

       Sometimes, as with tugging, you can name and encourage exactly what your dog is doing and enjoying. All you want to do is take control so that you can change the object being tugged. You can teach your dog to tug a dog toy or a rubber figure eight instead of your kids’ pants. Sometimes, you must deal with the spirit of the activity. A herding animal needs to run and chase. Tell him CATCH ME, CATCH ME and play tag with him. Controlled tag is not the same as his former herding of the kids. Any activity you name and encourage, you will also be able to stop on command. Your little sheepherder was also bred to feel responsible. You can give him jobs to do around the house—collecting socks from the floor if he likes to retrieve, barking at the door when the bell rings, fetching the newspaper. Obedience work will give him responsibilities. For a house pet, training also fulfills the clog’s strong need to work. Your dog can enjoy changing the object of his activity or replacing one kind of work with another. He’s flexible.

       When the energy involved in a problem activity is used up in another way, you have both prevented and corrected the problem. Keeping this in mind, we will use the Serendipitous Method whenever possible, sometimes in combination with one or two other methods. We’re flexible. The goal is a satisfied, healthy, happy, problem-free dog and a happy, almost smug, dog owner. Problems will be dealt with individually in the chapters to follow.

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