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Dogs, Discipline and Deferring to the Leader

Insist on Consistency!

Being a packleader is a full-time commitment. That doesn’t mean it has to be work 24/7, I’m just saying that the commitment itself has to be honored 24/7. For instance, Ringo and I have rules.

For the most part, Ringo observes them and so do I; the problem is other people (and isn’t it usually?).

I may manage my dog differently than you do, and that’s fine. I, however, am a fairly strict disciplinarian. I believe that domesticated animals should adhere to standards of behavior that separate them from their wild cousins. Their lives are dictated by their surroundings, and as Ringo does not live in an untamed forest but a small, tastefully-appointed apartment in Glendale, I train and expect him to coexist with my furniture, my friends and my daily life. Yes, he’s an animal. He’s just not a savage (until he eats, let me tell you).

So, we have rules. Rules strengthen our relationship. I feed him, care for him, give him exercise; he stays on his doggy bed while I eat, he sits before he exits a doorway, he doesn’t jump on beds. That’s right. No people beds. It’s just a thing of ours. I’ve spent many a night cuddling with him on the couch, but he’s been taught the no-bed rule ever since I got him. It may change sometime in the future, but that will be up to me. For now, I like the no-bed rule. It defines a boundary, and I believe that observing boundaries reinforces obedience in a dog.

To my knowledge, at least three people in my life have thought it okay to make “exceptions” to this rule. Recently, when someone let him stay on her bed (knowing full well that this is a no-no), this deviation from what he knows completely broke his training and he started jumping on beds without a second thought. I have had to discipline and re-train him.

Also, I’ve noticed that people by and large do not care if you tell them not to feed your dog. They will anyway. They will also find ways to bend the rules, i.e., dropping food on the ground for your dog, letting them lick plates, fingers, etc. As someone who has been trying for two years to get his dog to stop begging, I find this absolutely maddening, and quite honestly, inexcusable.

Consistency is important. Dogs don’t understand “exceptions”, they accept conditions as a norm or a deviation. And deviations affect their behavior in a lasting fashion. If I have put two years into enforcing a rule, someone’s whimsical “exception” can shatter all that work like a piece of glass.

Am I passionate about training? Yes. Am I sensitive? You betcha. But, in the world of my own little pack, I’m also right. And no one has the right to interfere with the pack if their rules are structured for the best interests of dog and owner.

Making up rules is easy; sticking to them is the hard part. Along with your dog, you may have to discipline yourself and your loved ones as well… but trust me on this: consistency is the best teacher of all.


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