One of the biggest questions I get from owners is, “When can we pet him?” “When can we shower him with love?” “When can he be on the couch?” “When can he have total freedom?”
Okay, that’s more than one question, but you get the idea right?
When people bring a dog into their home, they don’t think they will have to hold back on affection. They don’t think couch privileges might not be allowed. They don’t think they will have to restrict their dogs ability to roam freely around the house. But, if things go awry with their dogs behaviour and their relationship with their dog, then changing or adjusting these things might just be what is needed to help sort the behaviour and relationship stuff out.
What many owners don’t understand, is these seemingly innocent privileges and interactions, can create strong feelings and perceptions in our dogs mind; feelings and perceptions about us, their owners. Feelings of permissiveness, softness, neediness, feeling like we just might be ripe for the taking advantage of.
With certain dogs, these interactions and privileges we share can unintentionally convey that listening, respecting and seeing us as the pack leader, isn’t something they need to worry about.
And this can cause lots of problems.
You may see horrible behaviour on walks, territorial dominance around the house or yard, possessiveness, guarding, neurotic barking, fighting among dogs of the same household, fear and nervousness and even human aggression. But, the thing is, these privileges and interactions on their own, aren’t the sole cause of the problems. Actually, they can be almost totally benign.
So then what is the problem?
The problems arise when these privileges and interactions occur IN THE ABSENCE of the counterbalance to them, which is the training , leadership, rules and accountability.
It’s when the conversation with our dogs is completely lopsided that things get out of hand. Owners don’t realize they’re having a one-sided conversation with their dogs that is leading things astray. They don’t realize they’re giving all the privileges and freedom and love away without asking for anything in return. And when things are given away in this manner; no boundaries and no demands for corresponding good behaviour, things can go bad fast. Respect goes out the window and dogs get stressed, anxious, nervous, opportunistic and sometimes freaked out. So trainers will ask owners to remove or reduce certain privileges and interactions.
The goal is to shift the way your dog feels about you and your household back to a more healthy space and thus get your dog himself to shift back to a more healthy space. In the beginning when resetting the relationship with your dog, you may go hard on the changes at first; zero affection, zero roaming, zero furniture access. But that’s only the half of it. Since it’s not just about what we remove, but also what we add; the leadership, the rules and the accountability, that really makes things click.
It’s striking a balance between asking and giving, that creates the magic.
Then comes the questions at the beginning of this post, when can owners loosen up, give affection back, give more freedom and access. How do you know when how much is too much? Honestly, it truly does depend on the individual dog. It depends on how bad things were and how out of balance the relationship was.
But that’s where the 10/10 principle comes in.
It’s a formula to help owners keep their dogs and their relationship in balance. It’s a number system to make things easy. On the scale, if you’re a 2 in the leadership/rules department, then you better be a 2 in the affection/freedom department. If you’re a 6 in the leadership/rules department, then you can be a 6 in the affection/freedom department. It’s just about balancing the conversation so your dog stays balanced.
Your job is to try and make sure your numbers line up as best they can. If you’re an 8 in affection and freedom and a 2 in rules and boundaries then you will have issues. Truth is, most owners struggle with the discipline, rules and boundaries, so keeping an eye on the corresponding freedoms is key. If you use the 10/10 scale honestly, it can really help navigate all the questions listed at the top of this page.
If you’re willing to be the pack leader, to share with your dogs the hard stuff along with the easy stuff, that will allow you to maintain a happy, respectful and fun-filled life together.
And of course, if you have any questions or feel you may need some guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.