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Changing the actions, aptitudes and attitudes of dogs and their people
What Makes A Dog Happy?
I sometimes say that we should refer to dog training as “parenting the dog” because good parents usually make
good dog trainers. Dogs, like children, are happiest when they understand the rules and boundaries that are set for
them by those people who are responsible for their safety and welfare. Dogs do not like ambiguity. Even the most
creative breeds still want to know the limits in which they can have their fun. They also want to know that they can
count on their leaders to set the guidelines for behavior by providing prompt and fair feedback about their conduct.
Without this information the dog feels helpless and out of control of his own destiny.
Dogs that do not recognize who is in charge and the expected modes of behavior can become terribly distressed.
Dogs will display a variety of behaviors when they are confused about their role in the pack and the rules of the
house. Most of these behaviors are considered “bad” by their humans. When a dog is displaying many “bad”
behaviors it can be a symptom of a “sick” household; one where the leader is missing or misaligned with his charges’
needs, or one where the leader is not taking seriously his responsibility for the dog’s needs, wellbeing and security. A
dog in this sort of environment is not happy.
A happy dog is one that can count on his owner to be responsible for both setting the rules and providing the
feedback about his behavior. A happy dog feels confident in his leader’s strength. A happy dog knows that he is in
charge of his own destiny because he knows the rules and the ramifications of breaking the rules. A happy dog
believes that his leader is fair in her method of providing both negative and positive reinforcement regarding his
So, to make a dog happy, we must provide meaningful, fair, consistent, appropriately timed, appropriately measured
feedback to our dogs about their behavior. To make a dog happy we need to interact with him. We need to demand
things of him; simple tasks like to sit on command, or more complex tasks like to herd sheep for us, or search out a
We must remember that we are our dog’s center, his sun, his everything. He has been genetically designed to be our
subordinate, not our slave, not our toy, but our loyal subject and he takes this role very seriously (he cannot do
otherwise, for he has been programmed to need us to this level). When we do not recognize this; when we do not
realize how highly he regards us, how much he demands of us, how much he expects us to be strong, willing, gifted
and capable (for this defines the word Leader), we do not do him justice.
Leaders are not cruel, but they are not feeble, either. They may be tender and caring, but they are not uncertain in
their convictions. They are good communicators, both timely and with the right amount of intensity for the message.
Leaders adapt their communication style to their audience, having assessed their charges well before a time of crisis
or intervention. Real leaders do not have any trouble securing followers.
If your dog does not look up to you, both literally and figuratively, then you need to hone your leadership style to
meet his needs. We are the more intelligent of the species. It is our job to learn how to communicate with our
canine companions who truly had no choice in selecting the home in which they now reside. Only then will our dogs
be truly happy.
© 2005 Tammie Rogers - all rights reserved. For permission to reprint email
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Classes: One Day Workshop
METHODS & PHILOSOPHY
What Makes A Happy Dog?
When Board/Train is the better option
Can you train my 8 week old puppy?
Dealing with a Thunder phobic dog
Training a fearful dog
Selecting a breed as a Service Dog
How To Select A Dog Trainer
I am my dog's leader
Why do dogs need leadership?
Choosing the right breed for your lifestyle
Personality vs. Behavior
How to research a breeder
Crate training issues
Discussing breed standards
Response to a critique of our methods
How to acquire a puppy
How Can I Become a Breeder?
Dogs Must Die
Q & A
Need Help! with my rescue puppy
Transferring Training Commands
Did I buy a puppy that is too young?
Help! My puppy is biting!
What breed should I get?
Teaching older dog to accept puppy
How do I correct my pitbull?
How do we evidence training?
Does my dog need obedience or a hobby?
Will my dog revert after professional training
Rescue Syndrome or housebreaking problem?
Will my dog still run away?
An issue with kids and dogs
Will training break my dogs spirit?