What does it mean to be your dog’s best friend and how do you build that kind of relation with your dog?
That is where I came from. I was the rough tough Sergeant. Being taught dog training the old “Make sure your dog knows who’s the boss” way and starting off in classic obedience training. Though I soon found that truly boring. It could have been some underlying knowing I was having my dog doing things for no real reason. I simply couldn’t find it necessary to force my dog to do something, just me wanting it being the only reason.
Here is a little thought experiment for you:
-How many times has there been a real need for your dog to sit?
I gave it a thought and came to the answer being never. I could not think of one situation when it was necessary for my dog to put his butt to the ground. Even so, I used to tell my dog to sit (Yes, tell him to – if I had asked him he would have had a choice, but I gave him an order.) before going for a walk, before eating and so on. This was not something I did for him. No, this was all for me, myself and I. I do want my dog to be calm before going out the door for a walk, but having him to sit down does not mean he is automatically calm. He could be aroused or stressed even sitting down.
I have stopped. I am not even asking my dogs to sit anymore and I have learned something – I don’t have to.
Be your dog’s best friend
For some time I was struggling with me believing I was on the right track, but the mainstream dog training was stuck in the Alpha Syndrome (Anders Hallgren – 2011) and it was very hard to get out of it. I was lucky to stumble upon José Miguel Castillejo, a Spanish dog behaviourist at La Brújula Canina, who made me realise I was very much right. During a course of his I took, I reflected on the human – dog relationship. Doing so I came to the conclusion that if the dog is man’s best friend, man should be the dog’s best friend.
Since then, my motto is: Be your dog’s best friend.
If you build up a relationship with your dog in such a way that he sees you as his best friend, you don’t have to ask him to sit…
Who is your best friend?
What makes him/her your best friend?
What qualities has he/she got?
Answer these questions and then turn them around on yourself. For your dog – Are you?
What we have to do is learn how dogs communicate. We have to learn Dog.
I have, so many times, put my dogs in situations they did not want to be in, the simple reason being my lack of knowledge. I just did not know what my dogs were telling me.
Personally, I believe friendship is built on trust and respect more than anything else. The dog needs to know our boundaries, though. It is our social responsibility to have a dog that can behave in our society, but I also believe we should know the dog’s boundaries and respect him as well. If we have a relationship built on trust and respect, everything else we want from our dog comes naturally.
I now have four dogs, two Spanish Greyhounds, a Greyhound mix and a Sniffhound (a some sort of a hound mix that sniffs a lot). When we take a hike on the countryside and I let them off leash, I don’t hardly ever call on them. I have actually not trained recall with any of them.
What I do, if they run off and I haven’t seen them in a while, I use what I have started to call a “Silent Recall”. I simply stop walking, keep silent and in just a few moments my dogs are back with me. I don’t tell them to come back, they choose to.
This is just one example and there are many more, but the point is – if you show your dog you trust him and you don’t push your ideas on him, he will want to be with you and will do whatever he can to please you.
Why wouldn’t he.
You are his best friend.
*Note: When the gender of the dog is unknown it is taken as masculin. I do not like to treat the dog as an “it” and I am just lazy – nothing else.