Cesar Millan said something that really hit the nail on the head: "There's no knowledge behind instinct."
Behavioural problems occur when we lead our dogs with emotion. We overthink every little thing, try to rationalize their behaviour, plead with them, talk to them like they are human, use their histories or stories as an (unintentionally self-serving) excuse to treat them like humans, instead of simply meeting their current canine needs: Exercise, Discipline (boundaries), then Affection.
It's not until we learn to lead instinctively, with our energy instead of emotion, that our dogs start to follow and respect us.
Dogs are actually very simple. That's why my best clients to teach are children. They are still very connected to their instincts and energy.
Step 1: Exercise
It's hard for your dog to be calm and content during the festivities if they haven't had a chance to expel their energy. Make the time to take your dogs out for a long structured walk before the chaos begins so your dogs can be calm when your guests arrive. Yes, this means small dogs too, and dogs who have "big backyards".
A structured walk is a walk done with you leading your dog, and not the other way around. This type of walk will meet their inherent need to migrate, which will stimilate their minds, and drain their energy.
Rules for A Structured Walk:
Step 2: Boundaries
Boundaries are something that should be practiced every day - consistently. When you have guests over, the boundaries need to remain the same. Decide with your family what is off limits, and stick to it, every time. For example, the kitchen or dining room can be off-limits. This will take you and your family members consistently using your body language as well as touch (much better than your voice) to move your dog back to where they should be (on their beds in the room where you want them to stay). The high energy of having company over can mean having to take your dog back more than once, that's ok! Stay calm, repeat as needed.
Step 3: Keeping your Guests in-check.
This one can be tricky - but, remember, your house - your rules. There is no need to create excitement in your dog, and we must ask our guests not to get them all riled up.
"OOOOOOH HI MAX! YOU LOVE YOUR AUNT MARGARET, OH YES YOU DO, OH YES YOU DO!"
What does your dog do after this? They get excited, perhaps jump up onto guests, bark, maybe even pee a little. Not all guests are aunt Margaret, and not all guests want to be jumped on or knocked over, particularly the little guests. If one guest reinforces this excitement, Max will think it's ok to do this to all guests.
Why do we feel the need to do this as humans? Well, we can be a little bit selfish sometimes. An excited dog is not a happy dog - a calm dog is a happy dog - and a calm dog creates a calm environment for everyone around them. Kindly ask your guests to ignore your dog, no talking to them or touching them.
Gasp! ignore adorable little MAX, what if he doesn't like me anymore?
FALSE, he will start to respect you and your space, and isn't Max's calm happiness more important than your ego?
If aunt Margaret creates this excitement everytime she comes over, chances are your dog will run over to her anyways - as she has become a source of excitement for Max. Ask her to please remain stoic, quietly use your body language (no words) to send Max back to his bed, and repeat as needed.
"BUT, when CAN I pet Max and make sure he still loves me?"
When all the guests have arrived, and Max has is calmly resting on his bed from that nice long walk, and calm atmosphere youv'e created, you can allow good ol aunt Margaret to go over and give him some pets. Best to not use any words, play it cool, and calmly go back to the festivities.
Michael Bylo - Canines Moving Forward
As humans, we tend to have a problem with using "touch" to correct our dogs. This is because we often lead our dogs with our emotions. For example, by getting angry and frustrated when they don't listen, or by becoming offended or hurt. OR by feeling bad you might hurt them, or their feelings.
This emotional state of mind is counter-productive to affect change in your dog's behaviour. As is using your voice, e.g. "stop it" or "no!"
To affectively correct the behaviour, you need to communicate with your dog in a way they understand and respect. Use your calm, assertive, un-emotional, energy, and touch, and keep moving.
Your dog isn't trying to upset you. They just can't understand you, and do not respect you, in your emotional state.
Keep Moving Forward!
DOG PARK ETIQUETTE
7 Steps to Prevent Dog Park Mishaps
1. Beans, Beans, and More Beans!
Do not bring your excited dog to the dog park. It is very important that we bring calm energy into the dog park. Excitement can cause competition and fights, as other dogs will naturally want to slow your excited dog down. If your dog is full of beans, take them for a walk to drain their energy before heading to the dog park.
2. Pedestal Syndrome
Do not carry your dog into the dog park. It is important that your dog enters the park at dog-level, no matter what size your dog is. Dogs behave poorly when we put them on pedestals, and your dog is there to socialize with other dogs. If you are concerned for their safety, the best thing you can do is let them stand on their own four paws (or however many paws your dog has), this way they can’t use your affection to nurture or reinforce their unbalanced state.
3. Keep Moving
Find a dog park that has a trail that you can walk around while your dog socializes. It is not natural for dogs to stand in one place. Dogs are migratory animals that prefer to be moving forward. This also lets your dog know you are the leader, you just keep moving and they will want to catch-up. When we stand in a circle at the dog park the energy can build up, this is when playful wrestling turns into conflict. If you want a happy experience at the park, keep moving, this stimulates your dog mentally and physically - which is exactly why you’re there!
4. Pay Attention
It is important to pay attention to your dog while at the park. Be present, and refrain from using your phone. If your dog is doing something they shouldn't be doing, it is your job to correct them. For example, if they are jumping up at another dog’s face, dominating (“humping”) other dogs, or barking incessantly, don’t wait for another dog to correct them - as not all dogs know how to calmly correct without lashing out. Stop the behaviour before it escalates, and keep moving.
5. Benches and Tables (more pedestals…)
I’m surprised I even have to write this one, please keep your dog off of the tables and benches at the dog park. The benches are there for people who are less mobile, and your dog should not be given the chance to sit higher than the other dogs. You may allow your dogs to climb the furniture at home (and that’s another discussion), but if you want to achieve balanced behaviour from your dog, and the dogs around you, prevent your dog from perching on a pedestal.
Refrain from bringing “Chuckits!” and other toys to the park. This type of exercise does not provide your dog with mental stimulation, and is best suited before you enter the park. Ball-obsessed dogs (more often than not) are possessive over their balls. This can cause conflict when other dogs try to join-in or initiate play (by stealing their ball). Toys invite dominance and other behaviour that can interfere with a positive social experience. Your dog could be very friendly with their toys; but other dogs may not know how to interact positively around them.
Having your dog on leash at an off-leash park will cause unnecessary tension in your dog and the surrounding dogs. There are many dog parks that have smaller enclosures inside the large enclosure; I suggest using this space to get comfortable with having your dog off-leash, instead of inviting unwanted interactions which could negatively affect your dog’s experience with other dogs.
Keep moving forward!
Canines Moving Forward
Sara Nielsen (Bylo)