Why Letting Dogs “Figure It Out On Their Own” Can Be Risky
I’ve seen it all the time. In fact, I work with it all the time. What am I talking about? I am talking about dogs that were never given training, be it basic obedience/commands, or behavior modification training to address a serious behavioral issue (that usually escalated to uncontrollable proportions).
Many owners will get some of the simple commands in their dog’s vocabulary, such as “Sit” or “Leave It”. But then these dogs are expected to “figure out” other important things, such as good leash behavior, polite greeting manners with people and other dogs, or staying put when there are distractions everywhere. There are also the dogs who start having behavioral problems and owners will accept that these inappropriate behaviors might be due to the dog’s young age, and that they will eventually, “grow out of it”.
As a dog trainer here in DC, I have seen these dogs go through some serious hardships and anxiety, and then their owners end up either frantically calling me for training (good idea!), or these dogs end up out of the home and back in shelters for their behavior problems (bad/sad idea!). This is not to say that some people just get lucky with dogs that need little to no training – they do exist. But it is rare, and when you look at it honestly and objectively, why wouldn’t you want to give your dog structure and training?
While working with a dog trainer in Columbus we talked about how dogs are very willful animals, but at the same time, when they are with us, they want us to tell them what to do. They need guidance, they need to do what is right behavior to us, so that they can do it for us and themselves. Letting dogs figure things out on their own doesn’t mean your dog is going to turn out poorly, but the risks are great. When a dog has no leadership in his pack, no one to direct him to better choices and situations, the dog can either do two main things: take the leadership role upon themselves (becoming “alpha”…even over you!), or remain leaderless and become severely anxious due to the dog’s lack of control and guidance.
Giving a dog structure is doing the dog a great favor. The dog knows what he needs to do in order to thrive in the household with you. The dog knows what he needs to do in stressful situations, or in environments that are teeming with distractions. By showing your dog your expectations of his behavior, the dog knows what he needs to do, and won’t be worrying whether or not he is doing something wrong to upset you. Yes, dogs want to please themselves, and we as owners can SHOW them how to please themselves through good, structured behavior!
If you feel your dog is lacking structure, don’t sit around and wait for him to “figure it out”. Take the initiative and bring your dog to behavioral success, eliminating opportunities for anxiety and failure! Give me a call and we can set you and your dog up for reward-based dog training: 800-649-7297!