There is no such thing as a naughty dog - only a confused dog! Dog owning is not war - it is a relationship. Our dogs are our friends - and members of our family - not our enemies, or our oponents.
Dogs are born good - we make them naughty by confusing them with human logic, instead of learning to understand their (exciting) basic, innate instincts, which they bring bag and baggage into our homes with us. Which actuallly makes a lot of sense. They are not bunny rabbits. And it is for this very reason that bunny rabits do not have behaviour problems. We know how fascinating dogs are are - yet we hopelessly underestimate their intelligence and their ability to think, and to train us. Which leads to what we mere humans call "behaviour problems", disobedience... but in the reality, these problems are simply the result of the communication crevasse that exists between cano-sapiens, and homo-not-so-sapiens. In other words, between us and our Best Buddies.
So off we all trot to try and make our dogs to do as they are told, which takes weeks, months, years, never -- instead of simply doing the logical thing - i.e. learn to understand them. Which takes from and afternoon to a week to achieve.
Because the whole dog training concept comes from the army, and not from studying dogs in the wild, when we make no sense to our dogs - we are "expelled".
Dogs (and their owners) do not fail obedience training - obedience training them. I.e. it fails to deliver what it promises. Which is. mini-soldiers switching off their minds and their personalities to march (mindlessly) in orderly, straight lines on a school sports field, and then continue to be mindless and to act like programmed robots when they get home. But it doesn't work like that in reality - only when dogs are being coerced or bribed under highly artificial conditions. When they get home, they do what all soldiers do when demobbed - cut loose.
Unless they have had their spirit broken - i.e. been brainwashed ("trained" which means unable to think for themselvs any more).
Natural Laws which govern dog behaviour are built into our dog's DNA, and state that (for the purpose of survival) unity is strength. Domination and submission are therefore division. Dogs are genetically equipped to cooperate with each other as a team - and not to squabble with each other over who is boss. Our domestic dog's mind, emotions and instincts are far more awesome than that! Dog Training and Dog Whispering Nature's Way teaches the simple, kind and exciting principles of teamwork (i.e. cooperation out of choice) within a pack of dogs. Because that is what a pack of dogs in the wild are - a team. With their leader the Captain - not a dictator.
Below are unedited scientific extracts from Environmental and Conservationist Journals demonstrate why so many dogs fail at school by indicating how our (unproven) human logic - which comes - not from Nature, but from artificial army and laboratory situations, makes no "dogsense" to them:
1) Extract from: African Wildlife Foundation:
African wild dogs live in packs of six to 20. The aggression exhibited towards prey is completely nonexistent between members of the pack and there is little intimidation among the social hierarchy."
2) Extract from: "Social Behaviour. [Carnivora Species Information.]
"The reason wild dogs do not act aggressively to assert rank may be due to the fact that the entire social system is so cooperative-dependent that if one should be injured, the pack would be less effective in hunting for food. An African wild dog pack is dependent upon abundant food, and only one pair breeds, and those puppies are dependent on their parents for such a long period of time, that cooperation is a necessity. So, instead of an active hierarchy, they have a passive hierarchy, with cooperation being emphasized rather than dominance."
Isn't it time we started 'barking up the right tree"! I think so. (And so does your dog.)
Article written for a British Dog Behaviour Journal by Pam Whyte:
"Why is my Dog Failing at School?" Or: "Why is my
Dog still Naughty when he gets back Home after his
Behaviour problems and disobedience are nothing more than dogs being unable to adjust to the culture shock of domestication. The domestic dog still retains all his wild instincts which equip him for living in an "eat or be eaten" environment, so if dogs are to survive in a situation where lions can kill them, jackals can take their food, marauding packs try to take over their territory, and even the food that they need to kill for their survival tries to has horns that can rip a gut and hooves that can break a jaw - and frequently do.
There is therefore no place for "in-house" political rivalry in a tense jungle-setting - their very survival depends on coperation between members of the pack, mutual loyalty, team work and unity within the pack. The "domination and submission" myth therefore comes from the army - not from the Wolfpack Blueprint for Communication and Survival - which is built into our domestic dog's genes.
"But," you may say, "Surely all these years of domestication and selective breeding have bred these instincts out of our dogs."
"Well", reply the experts - "Then why do dogs still have canines for ripping the flesh of their prey (herbivores don't have them) - when they have scavenged scraps, been given left overs, and fed dog food since the time they first attached themselves to (or was it recruited?) our cave men ancestors - way back at the dawn of history?" - Not forgetting that 100 years is roughly 4 generations of homo-(not-so)-sapiens - while it is roughly 40 generations of cano-sapiens. By the time dogs are only one year old, they are old enough to breed. And their puppies can also start breeding at the age of one year old. So, within the space of 10 years, there can be 5 - 10 generations. 10 generations of humans would be spread over about 250 years....
And we can clearly see that their canines are just as formidible and their instincts just as sharp. They still have instincts to protect their territory; recognise a true leader; send wee-mail to one another; read the headlines under a bush or against a lamppost; hunt (chase rabbits, balls, cats, postmen, children on roller blades, cars...) On the inside, business goes on as usual. Nothing has changed. Otherwise we would have no need for dog training!
So, to make matters worse, we then send them off to the army - why? Because we don't make any sense to them. Where we are told to do exactly what we were already doing... I.e. commanding, being firm, showing we are boss, getting rid of energy, bribing....- which clearly aren't working. Only more. (Go figure. Dog walks in front door, logic flies out back door.)
The problem is not their disobedience or "not listening" (they have ears) - it is that we think they are people, and they think we are dogs. (This time we don't have a generation gap - we have a species gap.) So when we get frustrated with them because they don't do as they're told, we cart them of to obedience school - to make them do as they are told - only this time:
1) with lots of distractions;
2) with lots of other naughty dogs teaching them fresh ideas. (Good dogs don't go to dog training.) Which is all they really learn anyway;
3) louder and angrier (oops! dogs learn by example.... they don't command each other because they can't speak.)
And so our dogs, like most of the others "fail at school'. But dogs are very clever. They are cleverer than most people. And the trainers are refusing to take the blame, saying "It is not the dog's fault, it is the owner's fault", when they themselves are not cutting the mustard - in other words, delivering what they are promising to deliver. A dog that doesn't jump on visitors, dig in the garden, chew their furniture, run out of the gate... (when our visitors don't visit us at dog school, we don't bring our garden and our furniture with us to dog school.... In other words, dog training is entirely divorced from reality and has nothing to do with real life.
What they are actually trying to do is turn the dogs (and frequently the owner as well) into their enemy in the absence of a war - and wage war on them, and win (or believe that they are) by making the dogs turn cowardly (submit, cringe, cower - all the same thing) - but then:
1) You can't trust a coward;
2) There goes your watch dog
and don't forget -
3) Dogs learn by example;
4) Then what's the point of owning a dog?
The solution is not to win a war with our furry family members, but to get onto their wavelenth and harness their desire to please their leader. For the purpose of survival, dogs are born good - i.e.e with an inbuilt desire to please their Captain. Let's keep them that way. It is not magic - it is logic.
Nature knows best.
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Here's a peek into the only book in the world on how to communicate with and live harmoniously with your Furry Family Member - Living with an Alien by Pam Whyte:
As opposed to winning a war with them, bliksemming them into submission, turning them into Olympic champions or traumatising them with spray bottles, giving them eating disorders with treats or turning them into prisoners by locking them in crates.
(In other words - as opposed to Becoming a Well Trained Consumer. Nature is simple - it is man who complicates things.)
So what makes a pack leader, then?
Let me say first and foremost: most of us do not go into dog owning in order to have power over our dogs. We acquire dogs in order to enter into a relationship that we are hoping will be mutually fulfilling, bringing pleasure to both dog and owner. But the dog brings into this relationship a need to lead or be led because it is a law of the jungle.
So, if you don’t understand how power exchanges take place within a pack, you are living with an alien who does! But the jungle laws of “who dominates who” are not violent, and can be applied with both passive strength and love. So if you are a person who does not desire power over your dog, but still wants a harmonious relationship with him .— read on!
Which dogs are more likely to become dominant over their families? Below is a list of dogs which are most likely to dominate their owners.
But first, which people are more likely to be dominated by their dog! People who are very gentle, neutral, kind or sentimental are more likely to be dominated by their dog. This is because a strong-willed dog may well compensate for what he, being an animal, perceives as “weakness”.
People who are very cautious and/or indecisive are also targets for dominant dogs. Those who are competitive and aggressive, on the other hand, are more likely to get into head-on collisions with dominant dogs, as their dog may reflect their aggression by throwing it back at them – or at someone weaker, like the child, wife, cat or smaller or older dog.
Through studying the spontaneous behaviour of thousands of dogs within the environment in which they live and interact, I have been able to ascertain that as as a result of consistent breeding programmes, dogs can be roughly divided into the following categories, or groups.
A. Dogs with an inborn ambition to rule
Rottweilers; Spaniels; male Chows; Bullmastiffs; Boer Bulls, male Pyrenees Mountain dogs; Borzois; “well-bred”, or “pick of the litter” Bull Terrier breeds.
B. Dogs that will go for the gap where they see it
The average Bull Terrier; German Shepherds; Ridgebacks; male Weimaraners and Great Danes; female Chows; Belgian Shepherds; St Bemards; Jack Russels (big dogs in small bodies); Irish Setters; Irish Terriers; Shar-peis (possessing dignity and strength of character); Maltese (also big dogs in small bodies); Golden Retrievers; Bulldogs; Boxers; Afghans; Shih-tzus (diminutive manipulators with giant egos); male Giant Schnauzers; Bouviers; Scotties and Sealyhams; Dobermans, especially those from the two extremes of the power ladder in their litter.
C Dogs that will go for the gap but rule with a gentler rod
Standard Poodles; female Great Danes and Weimaraners; Dalmations; Beagles; Sheepdogs; Dachshunds; Afghans and Bassets (both too intelligent to merely do as they are told); other terriers; Setters; Schnauzers; Irish Wolfhounds (a gentle, but determined dominator, seldom aggressive but big enough to inconvenience his family with his bulk and determination).
D. Dogs that would rather not rule, but will still compensate for absence of leadership
Most other breeds, including Labradors. Group A represents dogs who are born leaders. Too much “subordinate” behaviour from owners develops their natural leadership potential. The power to lead that we unwittingly give our dog accumulates — until we wake up one morning and find there has been a take-over. We now belong to the dog. It is therefore advisable when owning one of these breeds of dogs — by following the simple principles laid out in this book (particularly those in this chapter) — not to let the power balance shift into the dog’s court.
Dogs that may also display dominant tendencies are:
(a) Stressed dogs.
(b) “Well-bred” working dogs. (Most pedigreed dogs are bred for work of some kind — hence the high incidence of behaviour problems.)
(c) Top-pups (“Litter-leaders”). Power played an important role in their litter, so they expect to continue their career in their new home.
(d) “Underpups”. Dogs from the bottom of the power ladder in their litter that have experienced and therefore come to depend on the strength of a leader.
(a) Stressed dogs
Dominating his family often becomes a coping mechanism to a highly stressed dog. He finds that playing “king of the castle” games help him escape a reality which he finds too stressful. His dominating is therefore an attempt to both deal with, and to communicate his despair to his owners. Who seldom “hear” him. (Because they’re aliens.) His stress may, for example, be due to intolerable tedium, hunger pangs or the despair of loneliness.
Once the stress is removed (see p. 277), the dominating behaviour ceases, and his full character potential is able to develop. Training and disciplining simply speed him on his way to a one-way trip. Hence the urgent need for a deeper insight into the behaviour of our “best friend”.
(b) “Well-bred” working dogs
If the breed standard requires the dog to have a strong urge to work, these working instincts may well disrupt the life of his family, causing the dog to dominate, and even to become unpredictably aggressive. The work he has been bred for may, for example, be baiting, herding, retrieving, sledge pulling, hunting lions, or fighting in the ring.
But the working side of the dog NEED NOT BE DEVELOPED! The dog will then be better able to fit in with his family. The less powerful the working urge — the easier it is NOT to develop it.
Unrealistic breed standards contribute vastly to the number of dogs that find themselves on death row at animal shelters, causing much heartbreak to their families. Ideally, dogs should be bred as pets — not to herd, work, retrieve, bait, dig, fight, etc. They are then far more likely to spend their full life-span with the family who acquired them as pups. And animal shelters will not be so over worked.
The breed standard is, so to speak, the design of the pedigreed dog, established and perpetuated through selective breeding. The design of working dogs, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Bull Terriers, who are acquired as pets, and not as working dogs, is therefore faulty.
This is because they are bred for one thing (to work), then used for another (as pets), and that is why we are seeing so many of these dogs express dominating and aggressive behaviour. A bit like drawing up plans for a house when we’re building a garage.
“Building” even higher on a faulty design (training him in order to develop this working urge) then reinforces this basic faulty “pattern for performance” which, together with his pack instincts, forms the foundations of the dog’s behaviour.
We can either develop the dogs SOCIAL instincts, which allow him to function as a PET or we can develop his WORKING instincts, which cause him to function at CROSS-PURPOSES TO HIS FAMILY, i.e. to do work his family don’t want done.
Therefore, only by either leaving the dog’s working urges undeveloped, or by altering the design at the drawing-board level (adjusting the breed standards from that of a working dog to that of a pet), will we be able to make any headway with reducing the incidence of behaviour disorders, particularly dog aggression. But we are up against vested interests.
Who are the dog experts? The average family pet owner who is going to live with the dog? Or dog enthusiasts to whom a dog’s shape and performance are their highest priority, and who sell their services and their pups?
Many breeders of working pedigreed dogs claim that they are “breeding for temperament”. Some indeed are, but these breeding programmes would be far more successful if the breed standards did not require the dog to have compulsions for which he has no legitimate outlet.
Dogs are trapped in a time warp. These breed standards were drawn up many years ago, when dogs were required to do a specific task. And even though the function of a dog has altered from that of a fighter in the ring, a baiter of bulls or a frenetic herder of sheep, for example, to that of a family pet and protector — the breed standards remain unaltered
Working dogs are therefore bred as misfits. And then trained as misfits. So they end up wrongly qualified for the role they are required to fulfill. (Protecting is not a working instinct — it is a social instinct.)
Why have dogs like German Shepherds got such a bad reputation? Not because they are not trained — but because they are trained! An extremely high percentage
of trained dogs are German Shepherds. Training does not teach dogs how to be loyal pets - it teaches them to perform. It also exposes them to aggression. Either to that of the trainer (“control your dog!”, “show him you’re boss!”), or to that of the other dogs who, in their confusion, are going for one another. Aggression is then perceived by the dog as the norm.
Take Benson, the Ridgeback who went to training. There he learnt to dominate his owner, David. This, he did by being aggressive toward other dogs, to make David give him his undivided attention (“Benson leave! Benson heel!”).
Then there was a new addition to the family. Having developed a very close relationship with David through being taken to training, Benson did not approve of little Gary taking first place now. He therefore started nipping at the baby in order to get the limelight back onto him self. (“Benson leave!”)
When I arrived, Gary was on his Mom’s lap. In came Benson. His companion, Fleur, was aware that Benson was a potential threat to Gary, so she had become very protective over him. She quickly slipped in between Benson and Gary, giving a warning growl, I saw Benson panic. He looked left and right, his eyes flashing with despair. Why this panic and despair?
Because he saw that Fleur was being aggressive — so he was terrified that she was now going to get a command! And he could not allow such a state of affairs to develop because HE was the celebrity that got commands - not she! (Think dog!!)
So he went for the baby. (Who was not hurt.) He was able to reform because he was not a criminal, only very confused, and after therapy, he then protected the child.
Dogs at training are not taught to be peaceful, but to be pricked for action. Dominating is high action.
The average family man has other priorities in his life. He does not have the time or the desire to teach his dogs to do things that he does not want done.
Why is it then that certain kennel organisations are actually promoting canine eugenics by FORBIDDING the registration of dogs for breeding purposes, unless they have reached certain levels of achievement at dog training?
Because they believe that we are there for the dog. This potentially dangerous fanaticism knows no limits and is one of the reasons for the high incidence of indiscriminate dog aggression — which is coming from what we are doing, not from what we’re not doing. Many dog experts claim that dogs that turn on innocent people do this because they have not been trained. In my work as a behaviour therapist, I see - 85% more aggression towards family members, smaller dogs and innocent people from dogs that have been trained. If you can’t find a kennel that doesn’t breed dogs with an over-developed capacity to dominate and perform, you may like to consider a mongrel or a cross-breed. (They’re also dogs.)
A pedigree certificate does as much for a dog’s mind as our birth certificate does for our’s. It is also only a piece of paper. (Except that a dog’s pedigree certificate also has the names of his cloned ancestors on it.)
Because cross-bred dogs don’t have such a powerful dominating and working urge, they focus more on loyalty to relationships than on bossing their families and tripping on adrenalin. And because they are not interbred, there is a greater chance that they will be more stable and resilient. And because they are still dogs, they still have the urge to protect their pack and their turf.
If you are buying a pedigreed pup from Group A, and you don’t want a potential tyrant or psychopathic killer growing up in your midst — look at the dogs’ kennel names before you choose your pup. If a breeder needs dogs to fight his battles for him, he will more than likely give his dogs aggressive kennel names like Hitler, Terminator, Disector, etc. These names suggest that the dogs are deliberately being bred to carry out these functions — and may, therefore, well live up to their names within their families and the community.
Some breeders frequently claim that these dogs are aggressive because they have not been “properly bred” or have not been trained, in other words, that the dogs are dangerous because they do not have a strong enough urge to work and to dominate, and have not been exposed to enough aggression. We are turning to experts with vested interests to solve the problems that they themselves are generating.
In striving for their unrealistic goal of the ultimate dog, dogs are becoming more and more interbred, and closer to the breed standard that embraces the very aggression which we are trying to eradicate.
Dog aggression is therefore on a roller- coaster which can only be halted by taking a long, honest look at what we are doing, starting with altering the dog’s “design”. Then we must move away from dog training that uses army methods, and concentrate on developing the social instincts of the dog.
A dog whose character potential — as opposed to his potential for performing — is developed, will have his social instincts in harmony with his family and his lifestyle. He will therefore co-operate more readily with a human pack leader, and display more loyalty to his own pack members.
Although dogs that have a powerful working urge, or even killer names on their pedigree certificates, are far more likely to be dominant and to hunt innocent people, they can still develop into trustworthy pets — through applying the principles of communication described in this book. Provided, that is, that they are not already showing signs of becoming dangerous.
Whisky on the video is an example of a dominant dog with a gentle owner that
responded to therapy before he actually became dangerous. Although the owner was gentle, she was strong in disciplining herself in applying these principles.
Top-pups are litter-leaders who have acquired leadership skills in their litters. They strut into their new homes, and check out who they can shove around in this establishment. And usually they don’t have too much trouble organising a new band of slaves.
If they then find that leadership is lacking in their new houses, they become very “naughty”, i.e. they become our leaders — simply because we are not theirs. Because their instincts compel them to. Because that is the way they are made. Because they are dogs.
Then when they get their own way all the time, they start displaying brattish aggression. The guidelines given in the rest of this chapter on how to shift the power balance, will provide assistance for this difficult combination of dog and owner.
(Yes, you’re quite right — your pup certainly does not come into your home with a clean slate! Unless you acquire him when he’s only a week or two old. Then he comes in with an identity crisis.)
How is it that we who have been around for a good many years, have passed through the education system — and may even be in a position of authority with a team of staff jumping to our every bidding—find ourselves at the beck and call of a mere animal, one brick without the ticky high, who has been around on this planet for no more than a month or two? He’s born a politician. And he has nothing else to think about, that’s why.
Let’s state first and foremost that we are not winning power over our dog simply for the sake of power. “Who dominates who” is a law of the jungle and by bringing dogs into our homes, we have introduced the jungle. So, as they say: “When in the trees, do as the apes do.” So if we don’t lead - they will.
Coming into their new home and finding this essential strength absent is a shock to an “underpup”. (Not “runt” — there’s no such thing. Every dog has a potential that can be developed.) Not having developed leadership skills, he has come to depend on the security which the strength of character and decisiveness of the mother and top-pups in his litter provided. He therefore becomes very insecure when it is absent.
He then becomes nervous and afraid “for no reason”. This “jungle insecurity” may even cause him to display fear-biting, i.e. becoming so scared that he bites indiscriminately.
If effective pack leadership were present, it “would keep away” these name less terrors and give him confidence in an owner he feels is then strong enough for him to trust. He may love an owner that represents “weakness” to him — but without leadership, there’s no trust. How to become your dog’s leader and thereby gain his trust and respect is the subject of this chapter.
Because the pack leader is the key dog, the underdogs rush to his defense whenever the pack is threatened. So, if we want our dog to protect us, we must become the key dog in the pack - which is now the dog’s family. And it’s not done by ordering your dog around. It is far more subtle than that.
Paradoxically, an insecure dog can also dominate. This he does passively by, for instance, rolling on his back, sulking, going behind furniture to make you come and look for him, pretending to be scared of visitors or moving slowly out of reach as you try to give him affection.
He may also manipulate by developing hyperchondria, or by pretending to be very dangerous. Starting off as a fear-biter he then enjoys the attention his drama elicits. Which can eventually turn into the real thing. (You’d never think for a moment that “only a dog” could be so imaginative in conning adoring owners!) This aggression then causes anxiety in the owner, which in turn causes further anxiety in the dog. Dobermans, Spaniels, German Shepherds, Ridgebacks and Great Danes are particularly emotional dogs. So when they are given carte blanche, they don’t know where their limits are … and panic, perceiving gentleness or neutrality as a lack of essential survival-skills, which are vital for “pack living”.
By correctly applying the pack leadership skills which are taught in this book, apparent “weakness”- can be replaced with strength (not aggression) which will make the dog feel secure, and these imagined fears will be removed from the dog’s mind, curing all behaviour problems associated with passive manipulation.
How do we recognise dominant behaviour?
Because we are not dogs, we may not be aware of it when our dogs insult us and treat us with contempt — precious creatures that they are! Because we don’t understand them (because of the rap gap), when they are saying unprintable things to us, we don’t know it.
And why do they do it in the first place? Because we completely underestimate them, and therefore do not set them any parameters. And through being over indulgent and not as ourselves we are leaving ourselves wide open for abuse. As you shall see.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all dogs insult their owners, and even those that do, still love us! They are just confused. Dogs that trip us up, bump against us, walk between our feet or sit on them, rush ahead of us, sit with their back to us, roll over for us to scratch their tummy are, for example, dominating us. Often very subtly and very charmingly. But aren’t all confidence tricksters charming?
Dogs that demand to have their ball thrown, that whine or bark when we are trying to talk to someone, or that greet us by hurling themselves bodily against us are also dominating us.
Dominating behaviour usually:
- is manipulative. He pushes our buttons by making us open a door when he has just come in, throw his ball for him, scratch his chest, command him, gaze upon his beauty, or stop petting the other dog (this instant!), etc. The flavours and varieties are as numerous as the dogs are ingenious.
- inconveniences us. This he does by tripping us up, taking our chair as we are about to sit on it, blocking the doorway, etc. This angle is also rich in variety and ingenious opportunities for a dog who has all day. (And loving owners to justify him. “He’s still a puppy. He doesn’t mean it. He’ll grow out of it when he’s two.”)
- is insulting us. By cocking his leg against our bed or chair (doing it on our furniture can either be an urgent message or an insult), or on our possessions, lifting his leg while looking us straight in the eye, giving us the “greeting bow” with his back turned to us (not difficult to translate), bumping or brushing against us, or contemptuously walking between our feet, etc.
- is a take-over. Or he believes it is. This he does, for example, by sitting on our feet, sitting with his back to us, pushing in front of us, leaning against us, forbidding us to touch the other dog or show affection to other members of the family, or invading our privacy by sitting and staring at us.
Females are more prone to be manipulative, and males to insult and physically dominate. (Yes, I am talking about dogs!)
Then there are degrees of domination. A certain amount of domination is present in every relationship - it is part of being involved with another. But it must not detract from the enjoyment of owning a dog, or give him power to rule us. Responding to him by greeting him,
and giving him affection when he comes and asks for it (reasonably) politely, opening the door for him when he asks to go out and feeding him when he tells us he is hungry, is also not being dominated by our dog. It is part and parcel of being in a relationship.
A missing element in the life of the domestic dog is the cut and thrust of politics that takes place within a pack of wild dogs. With doting owners that are a mere push-over, all the challenge and thrill of rising and falling, and gaining status again in the political arena, is absent.
How do this? Because when I apply the principles of pack politics, I’m a hot favourite with so many dogs that have a taste for power, and therefore score over their owners with their hands tied behind their back, blindfolded. I am not scared of them. (Having ascertained before I enter that they are safe.) I am not impressed with them (outwardly). I do not dislike them. (Could fool them.) I don’t even acknowledge them. (Either with a command, or a pat on the head.) I know their little castles need to be rocked (that’s why I’m there) — so I show them my “superior power” by snubbing them. They are fascinated. They flirt with my indifference. They are obsessed with making an impression on me. They try every trick they’ve ever used in their short little careers. They display their beauty across the room. They exit in order to make a re-entry (perhaps she’ll look at me this time). They nibble my shoes. (Now she has to look at me!) They drop a ball in my lap (no one ignores this one!)
And when their kingdoms have finally crumbled, because all their little acts are falling flat, and their (over-) confidence is in tatters, they now appreciate their owners - who are no longer falling for their little games ... I throw them a fraction of a glance. They thrill to their paw-tips.
They find it such a challenge to get attention from someone who appears so aloof. I am not telling them to go away, I am not shrinking from them. I am not commanding them. I am not admiring them. They just don’t exist for me. I’m asserting my power over them ... purely by snubbing them. And it’s my feet they sit at — not at the feet of those who obey their every whim.
Now, for a dog that saw a ring of adoring slaves the minute he first opened his eyes, and who has been able to push them (and the other pups in his litter) around his chess board just as he likes all his short life, there are no horizons left to conquer. So he starts creating problems, just to be able to solve them. Like Einstein in playschool.
Take Donna, the Border Collie. A dog ranking among the top canine geniuses, with looks to match. When I go to visit her slaves, we play “Let’s see who can ignore each other the most” games. (It’s her idea, not mine.)
The beauty of her eyes and her dark contrasting colours are unequalled. But I’m not impressed. I stare over the top of her head, and she shivers with expectation. On the next visit, I drop my eye and look at her for a second. Her ears shoot up, and her eyes nearly come out on stalks, and she quivers visibly. Other visitors fall at her feet — yet I’m her favourite “Auntie”. Although there’s no way she will come right up to me. That would be giving in.
On one occasion we were sitting on the floor. A visitor displaying this unpredictable behaviour held her spellbound. “What is she going to do next!” (Donna makes the best of every situation.) I did my “Let’s see who can be the rudest to each other” bit. Because that’s what she expected of me. I would hate to disappoint her.
Then she walked around the back of me. Pat, her owner, gasped: “Did you know she has just licked the back of your head!” I didn’t. I glanced at Donna as she tiptoed out of the room past me, her head down low, with her eyes rolled upward, clearly smirking. She was “hosing” herself with amusement at the “trick” she had just played on me.
The trick? A backhander. Coming up to me, and licking me (“complimenting” me by “acknowledging my super status”) from behind (an insult). It had clearly made her day. (She didn’t know Pat had let on.)
Donna does not abuse her blatant power. She is a joy to her owners, So we all enjoyed her “poke” at me. She would not be Donna if she weren’t so cheeky, arrogant and flamboyant. Humility just wouldn’t become her.
The ideal is a balance of humility and spirit in a dog. A dog that is totally humble is depressed, and one that is totally cocky just takes over. (Usually.)
Perhaps it is only fair to tell the story of the Spaniel that got my number, before
I gave their games away by telling you about the dogs that didn’t.My little client was a beautiful golden Cocker called Blondie. When I entered, I cut madam dead. This little cutie was not used to such treatment, so she continued to strut her stuff, making exits and re-entries, and placing her favourite toys in my lap, as well as displaying her irresistible undercarriage ... then she cottoned on to what I was up to.
She had no intention of taking it lying down. So she got up. And she made a plan.
On the table were some grapes. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she had her chin on the table, and her eyes were rolling from the grapes to me, then to them again, then back to me.
She was clearly longing for one. I asked her owner if Blondie ate grapes. “She loves them,” came the immediate reply.
I glanced into those wide eyes looking at me so longingly — and so charmingly. “Can I give her one?” “Sure,” came the delighted reply. (The owner also couldn’t bear the dog’s “obvious suffering”.) I bent forward and gave her one. An immediate look of triumph came into Blondie’s eyes. She tossed her head, and strutted out of the room with her head and nose held high. Leaving me holding the grape.
Ouch! I’d been set up. (I’d forgotten for a moment that Spaniels are pros.) Those looks conceal a formidable strength of character. I was neatly cut down to size. The next Spaniel I worked with came up to me after she was rehabilitated. She looked at me adoringly and wagged her tail brightly. As I started to pet her, she turned round, and lay down with her back to me. You’d think I’d learn. But they keep teaching me ...
In order to own a dog that is neither cowed nor dominating, what we should aim at, is a combination of initiative and self-esteem, balanced with respect. A balance that suits our own particular lifestyle and circumstances — and gives us a dog that is contented and is a pleasure to live with.
A dog that lacks initiative and merely “does as he’s told”, is a boring dog and likely to be depressed. But a dog, on the other hand, that runs his household, is burdened.
Below are some guidelines on how to apply the protocol of the pack in order to achieve this balance. Dogs don’t command each other, so being obeyed is therefore not a criterion for being a pack leader.
“So what makes us pack leader then?” Read on, and you’ll see.
First, let’s see what dogs have to say about what makes a pack leader. How do I know? Because I found this shocking piece of literature lying around at the back of dog’s kennel. And I feel honour-bound to make it public. (This article will be completed shortly - please visit again!)