Does Your Dog Get To Choose Enough?
If you’re a dog owner who likes rules, or you expect a dog to be seen and not heard, show respect to the humans as their pack leader or expect them to act like obedient robots, you would hate this home.
It’s chaos in this house and the chaos is largely to do with the conduct of the dogs, with Holly (our puppy farm survivor and the smallest Yorkie) right in the middle inciting riots that she might in some way benefit from and she usually does. And there’s positive reinforcement in a nutshell.
Choices are so vitally important to our dogs and in fact they have very few, we chose them after all, they didn’t choose us. Even when we offer them a happy home with plenty of love, they still have few choices.
Think about the freedom we have. We might think we are stuck for a multitude of reasons, money, relationships, people or necessity all give us the impression that we have little choice. On a wider scale, government, taxes and world politics allow sinister beliefs to grow, beliefs that tell us that we are stuck when really, 99% of the time we are not. We have options. We can study, change jobs, change relationships, move home or even move to another country if we want to. Yet our minds have given us the illusion of lack of choice.
Dogs on the other hand, they do have little choice, particularly in the UK and other countries where they are heavily “owned” by people. Dogs can’t move home, change their daily routine, decide what we buy them to eat go out for a walk when they feel like it or decide they are fed up of an abusive relationship (if they find themselves in one) and leave. Dogs are pretty much at our mercy. In addition to this we have for so long been taught that any freedom of thinking or behaviour from them represents dominance and must be met with further boundaries, even punishment.
Thankfully things are changing, people are starting to recognise that it’s OK for a dog to show individual sparkle and make requests that are important to them. The term obedience is being cast out with the demons and replaced with life skills and manners. We are beginning to stop issuing commands and instead teaching cues, through positive lessons, games and dogs are being encouraged to be themselves.
In amongst all this positive change is an emerging practice of learning and living through choices, which makes my heart sing.