Are you selfless enough to PARENT your dog?
Simply being their best mate is fun for us, but is it in your dog’s best interest?
We get it, it’s super hard to say no to your dog! Those eyes! How can you resist that adorable face? You just want to love and enjoy your dog right? and it’s so much fun to spoil them and shower them with attention and affection. It’s like therapy! After all, didn’t you get a dog to enjoy and love? They’re family and absolutely need to be included, and it brings so much joy to you and them. How can this be a bad thing. All you need is love, right?
We hear you loud and clear.
But what happens when unwanted behaviour starts to creep in? What if they have started going crazy when people come to the front door, won’t always come when called, freak out when you leave them alone or they start being reactive or hard to take out on walks? You’d love to take them to a café with you but it’s just too stressful.
When owners get to this place they are usually and understandably confused and frustrated as they are unsure how to give their dog the discipline they have now realised is necessary. They think “It sucks that my dog is out of control, and we have to do something, but isn’t discipline going to make them depressed, hate me or take away their unique and cheeky personality that we love? We just aren’t prepared to risk hurting the relationship or not being able to spoil them at home”.
So how do you achieve both? How do you create a happy dog the whole family can enjoy while also insisting they are well behaved and listen to you everywhere you go?
This is the dilemma faced by every parent ever! The reality is, to achieve an above average experience as a dog owner – you will also have to learn to “parent” your dog. If you look at it this way, it opens up a whole new world of responsibility – the joys are still there of course, but good parenting is far from just spoiling and enjoying your children (or in this case – dogs).
Many of our clients have unknowingly slipped into being their dog’s best mate, or have become “grandparents” to their dogs – instead of parents. But unfortunately, as much as you may love your best mate or your grandpop, it’s not really their responsibility or role to provide rules and hold you accountable for your actions – that’s left for mum or dad! Like parenting, it’s often exhausting and difficult to not always give in to what your or child may want, but giving in and being too permissive isn’t always the most loving thing to do. We’ve all seen examples of lazy parenting, and it’s not healthy or positive. We definitely don’t want to be lazy parents for our dogs.
To be a good dog parent, it is up to you to ensure you RAISE your dog to be a balanced and well adjusted member of your family and society. This isn’t an option – it is an obligation. Not only will you have to commit to providing the good stuff like fun, affection and cuddles (yes this is valid and important too!) but you will have to provide all the not-so-fun but vital stuff like exercise, socialisation, discipline, challenge and mental stimulation. You will have to say no (and mean it) to any and all behaviour that isn’t ultimately healthy for them , even if that behaviour is making them happy in that moment. You will need to set healthy boundaries and limitations in regards to privileges, and promote them slowly when they have earned more freedom (just like allowing a child to stay up later or watch M rated movies as they get older – we don’t give them access to that amount of freedom before they are ready). And at some point you will also have to choose and follow through with appropriate consequences if they don’t listen to your requests.
In doing this your dog will no doubt feel uncomfortable and get upset, resist and may even try to manipulate you into thinking you are the meanest person in the world. Dog tantrums are real – and they are a normal and healthy part of “testing” the boundaries, and you, to see if they can get away with stuff. You will have to be emotionally fit and mature enough to calmly and lovingly stand firm when this happens and follow through, consistently. Giving in or getting emotional isn’t going to cut it. Saying you don’t have enough time or that you’re too tired or stressed do what it takes isn’t going to cut it.
Now how much do you love your dog?
The great news is, it’s 100% worth it! Once you get to a certain place, things start automatically falling into place and the hard stuff becomes background noise.
Much like getting fit, the big effort is at the beginning, and then when you see the benefits, it’s more enjoyable and healthy habits kick in.
In doing so, not only do we raise and enjoy a happy well-behaved dog, but you will find that you have become a better version of yourself. In order to help your dog learn accountability, self control, social skills and emotional fitness, you must first be able to do this. This is why the journey of dog guardianship is so powerful and so worth doing well. It’s not just about owning a dog, it’s about who we become along the way.