I Can't Control My Dog!

Mar 4 / Jay Gurden
An often-mentioned concept is the constant feeling that ‘I must control my dog’. It is true that there are situations where control is necessary, when out in public, and around livestock as examples. Those mentioning this deep and urgent need for a guardian to always ensure ‘I am in control of my dog’ will frequently belong to one end of the spectrum when it comes to handling and training dogs, that of the pack leader and dominance theory followers.

When we can open our minds to a more ethical and cooperative way of existing with our dogs, that element of needing to feel in control diminishes. By using modern force free methods and utilising the power of positive reinforcement, by coaching our dogs in a fun and mutually fulfilling way, we can build a relationship on working together, not attempting to lock ourselves into some kind of power struggle. (We know who has the power in the human/canine relationship – the human makes all the decisions after all.) 

When we have a dog who is keen to spend time with us, actively wants to participate in what we are doing and solving the problems we are giving them to work on, there is no need to wonder about control, because we can form a beautiful partnership together. When in those situations that require a dog to be under what is known as close control, they can be. Built in the right way, the canine/human bond will have the dog happy to be alongside their human in any circumstance, happily focusing on them at close quarters and keen to continue with the adventures of the day.

If this sounds like the kind of relationship you would like to enjoy with your dog, one of joyful cooperation and mutual respect and enjoyment, put the thought ‘I must control my dog’ to the back of your mind and instead think ‘How can I best work with my dog for us both to succeed?’ This is where the skills involved in canine coaching come in. The same cues and movements can be coached as in older-fashioned training methods, but done in a different way.

Coaching involves a dog learning by a process of problem solving, gradually increasing the difficulty and therefore the mental buzz that the dog can get from success and the associated rewards, utilising dopamine release and the brain’s natural reward mechanisms. Coaching improves a dog’s confidence levels, giving them a naturally optimistic view of the world, and making them more likely to be happy and relaxed going out into that world.

For the best relationship with your dog, don’t think about how to control them. Think about how to work together with them. Your dog, and your bond with them, will both benefit.

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