Without Discipline You Can Only Have Chaos
Dog aren't born into this world for us to just shower them with love and affection, at the expense of discipline. Dogs, like any social animal, require guidance, structure, rules and boundaries. Without these your dog can only ever be in a state of psychological confusion (chaos).
Whenever we offer a dog any interaction that makes the dog feel good, we are reinforcing a behaviour. Sadly, in many instances, dog owners are unintentionally reinforcing behaviours and emotional states that are not healthy for the dog, such as fear, hyper-arousal, overly anxious states; and mainly because humans can tend to be more focused on their own emotional fulfilment, and what makes them feel good, with little consideration or understanding on how their emotional based interaction is affecting their dog.
Am I suggesting we shouldn't offer our dogs love and affection? Of course not. However, love and affection is earned through discipline. With consistent discipline we are offering a dog true love, because our focus is on their needs, not solely on our own emotional needs.
I honestly get sick of those that preach the narrative that "all your dog needs is lots of love and affection", when the dog is suffering from issues such as anxiety, fear, aggression, etc, etc.. It's this advice and adhering to it that is reinforcing these states and behaviours in the first place. Sadly, this type of advice is offered more than I care to mention. Especially by rescue organisations that are more interested in the emotive based force free and positive only ideologies, and that believe any dog taken into a home by a family can be "fixed" with lots of cuddles, treats and affection. I am not suggesting all rescues fall into this category, but sadly there is a large number of them.
I can offer so many examples from the years that I have attended homes to assist dog owners. One example, when I was still working in Australia, is a small breed dog that was adopted from a rescue, that was kept doped up on psychotropic medication, and the dogs new owners told by the rescue that the dog needs to be on this medication for life because it has severe separation anxiety. The dogs owners after adopting the dog asked for my assistance due to some aggression that was starting to develop. I informed the dogs owners that I couldn't help them until we weaned the dog of the medication, as I cannot be sure how the medication is affecting the dogs behaviour. It came to light, after weaning this dog of the medication, the dog had no separation anxiety at all.. the medication it appears was used to try and mask the dogs aggressive behaviour, and therefore trying to hide it so the dog could find a home. Yes, the rescue told these dog owners that, "all your dog needs is lots of love and affection", oh and a life on psychotropic medication....
I had another instance when I first arrived in Vietnam, I was asked to assess a dog that displayed aggression. This dog again was a rescue dog, that when adopted was displaying some aggressive behaviours. Again, the only advice offered.. "your dog only needs lots of love and affection". By the time I saw this dog, it had already sent a couple of people to the hospital with severe dog bites. Sadly this dog had to eventually be put to sleep, as the dog had become to unpredictable, after its last victim was attacked unprovoked and had to be taken to the hospital to have severe dog bites stitched up. Now this is very rare, that aggressive behaviour can be so unpredictable and full-on that the best thing for the dog and the safety of people is to put the dog to sleep. However, there are instances, rare as it is, that this can be the only moral course of action to take, for both the dog and owner.
I can list numerous instances similar to these that I have been involved with.
It's way past time we start looking into a dogs eyes and soul, and start respecting them as dogs, not just as a source for emotional fulfilment.
I don't feel this is always an issue about anthropomorphising dogs and treating them like little babies. This is more about people getting dogs to satisfy and fulfil their own emotional needs, with little consideration or understanding of the dogs instinctive needs. I say this because for one, many of these dog owners will allow or accept behaviours from their dog that they would never accept from another person or child. They will even make excuses for their dogs behaviour, such as aggression, "oh my baby is just scared, all he needs is lots of love. He was probably abused when he was young". This in many cases is not the fault of the dog owner, but listening to the advice they are receiving from people with little to no knowledge of dog behaviour... and sadly, this goes for many rescues. Just because a person is operating a rescue does not mean they understand dogs. In many cases they start a rescue from a purely emotive place. It's because they love dogs so much, and want to save every single dog in the world, that these issues arise. They are so emotionally attached to their own feelings about dogs and that all dogs should be saved, the dogs psychological well-being is often overlooked, not understood, or even discounted, due to a lack of understanding. "All your dog needs is lots of love and affection". These rescues that operate in this fashion do have good intentions, no doubt, however a good intention doesn't necessarily equate to responsible decision making. When we allow emotions to override rational thinking and decision making is when we allow issues such as I have outlined in this article to arise.
The sad part is, I am going to be a complete pessimist here, and say, I cannot see this ever changing. I just hope with education, more and more people will open their eyes and see what is really going on, why we are seeing so many dogs so psychologically damaged, so many dogs PTS, so many dogs forced onto psychotropic medications, so less dogs have to go through this.
God help our dogs.....
Give your dog companionship, love and consistent leadership, and your dog will reward you with total loyalty.
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