Every time I pick up a leash or begin a training “conversation” with a dog, I begin to walk the line of balance to create a “win win” situation for both of us. For me walking the line means to find a balance with each individual dog as to how much of anything I do or what techniques to apply to influence its behavior. Within my own pack of Standard Poodles, I am without question the pack leader but my role over time has evolved from being a strict disciplinarian to more or a benevolent leader. Standard Poodles are very smart and sensitive and with some of my dogs, even outside this particular breed, my no nonsense approach was overly harsh. Even my body language could be a bit much for some of the dogs I have had in training here at the Bowser Academy. Other times I found that a bit of “tough love” worked wonders for some of my “students.”
In the last 30 years my experience with working with hundreds of dogs has taught me to find a balance with each dog that I interact with, even with the dogs I live with in my home. My education regarding dog training and behavior began with reading books and studying with mentors and later with teachers from all over the country. More recently I began to gain experiential insight by training my own dogs and those of my clients. It was only then that I discovered the importance of maintaining a balance when interacting with each individual dog. Each dog has a unique approach to life beyond breed and temperament. Life experience plays a significant role in the human and dog partnership. Some dogs need more structure and boundaries than others. Some seem to be inherently cooperation.
Some interesting questions have arisen when helping my clients with their canine companions which may be helpful in determining if you are walking the line between benevolent leader or overbearing despot. Ask yourself periodically when you are struggling with your relationship with your dog the following questions. 1. Does your dog respond to you when you quietly ask for his or her attention? 2. When do you feel compelled to raise your voice to get cooperation? 3. Have you felt your techniques for training your dog have been too harsh but you get the desired result? 4. Are you reluctant to set boundaries and limitations on your dog’s behavior as you feel those boundaries are cruel? 5. Are you accepting of certain behaviors from your dog but loudly complain about that very same behavior? 6. Do you feel your dog is a good companion in general but wish certain behaviors would just “go away”? It takes time, awareness, consistency, and desire to create a working relationship with any animal.
You are the one who will determine if that relationship is working for you and for your dog.