Ever wake up with such good intentions, you smile, jump out of bed, and start your day running? Then, about an hour into things, you find yourself on a completely different project, doing something entirely unrelated to the whole day you had planned? But you started doing it, because it FELT SO GOOD to finally get it done?
Yep, it happens to the best of us.
What's more important to realize is that...it happens to our dogs too!
Dogs don't wake up each morning and say to themselves, "What can I do to piss my mom off today?"
But they CAN and DO get distracted, forget what they are supposed to do, and get reinforced by doing something else.
Let's look at this scientifically for a moment: The average study shows that for every one year in a human's life, it averages about 7 years in a dog's life. (Yes, smaller dogs may have 15 years in that one year, and larger dogs may have 2...but bear with me here! Stop looking for the squirrel!)
If this is true, then there are about 8,760 hours in one human year, at 24hrs per day x 365 days in the year. This means, with the study's average, there are about 61,320 hours in a dog's year, so 168hrs per day for a dog. (No wonder they seem to sleep so much! - Oh, look, a squirrel!)
So if you REALLY think about it (I know, that hurts...) if we can get distracted at a 1 hour interval, the average dog gets distracted at about 2.8 minute interval. (Are some of my students beginning to see now why keeping sessions short and fun are critical to success and why I say that an average dog's attention span is about 3 seconds?!?) (...and no, this is not saying anything about memory...just attention span)
Okay, so not based completely in scientific study and totally proven, but it is the best example I can give you for now. Most humans get distracted even faster (minutes!), therefore, so do dogs (seconds!), but I wanted to hopefully help you understand that it may not be about the popular "dominance" theory...it may simply be your dog sees things opportunistically. Just like we do. Doesn't mean we can't remember what we WERE doing...later.
Ever go grocery shopping for milk and come home with 4 bags of groceries? Yah. That's what I'm talking about. Are you being "dominant" or just opportunistic? (...Ever forget the darn milk, the whole reason you went to the store?!?)
Coercion and force doesn't really do a lot of good when your trying to help someone (or in dog training, your dog) learn something new. Positive experiences build trust and respect. Knowing how learning occurs can help your dog - a completely different species - understand you better and build your training relationship. Physically training your dog with collar corrections, dominance downs, and those completed silly alpha-rolls only teaches your dog you must be physically present to correct and are physically going to hurt them. Contrary to popular belief and set purely in misconception, wolves (packs) thrive with mostly non-physical gestures and postures. Submission is given freely by a member (lowered posture, tail tucked, belly or throat exposed to the alpha); they are not forced into that position. The result is a unit, moving together to hunt, protect, and thrive. By forcing issues, we only build resentment. We promote fear, mistrust, and clear anxiety...not unity. Some wolves ARE forced...out of their pack. They are sent to be another pack or to be a lone wolf for whatever reason.
The point to take home here is this: If your dog fears you, why should he have to protect you if you're being robbed/mugged/bitten by another dog? You've shown him you can handle yourself. I have heard many times from people that "my dog will protect me" but have proven just as many times that the dog actually will not. After the shock passes, we begin to rebuild the relationship that can help solidify the family and regain the lost trust.
A true leader leads... not by force, but by example. Sometimes, we have to find different ways of communicating. We get far better rewards by building a confident and happy dog than we do by destroying confidence, creating anxiety, and believing that our dogs are out to dominant us. We are supposed to be the more complex thinking creature...why resort to physical dominance when I can be creative, get the behaviors I want, and have a happy dog who loves to do it?
Please remember to try and trust that your dog is generally just being a dog. You will never be a dog. He/She will never be a human...but that's okay! You dog is living life, having fun, wanting to be loved, reinforced, praised, and told what a good dog he/she is! Please believe in the Power of Good Intentions.
If you are having issues with aggression, anxiety, or just want to learn more fun ways of doing things, just give me a call at: 262-308-2523