Updated: May 10
Are we too strict with our dogs?
Every dog owner wants to be the best pawrent they can be, right? But how do we know if we’re doing a good job? Humans seem to forget, as much as we treat our dogs like humans, they are still dogs. Over thousands and thousands of years, we have domesticated these once wild animals, and what we see as undesirable behaviours, are actually perfectly natural and normal behaviours for any dog. As humans seek to own the ‘perfect dog’ that isn’t necessarily a robot, but does everything we ask, do we take away everything that it means for a dog to be a dog? Do we restrict those natural behaviours so much, that we have actually forgotten what it’s like for our dogs to be dogs? And therein lies my question, are we too strict with our dogs?
I try and give my dog Nala, as much freedom as possible, in almost every opportunity we’re in, as long as it meets a few basic requirements...
✅ Respect for everyone
✅ Safety for everyone
✅ Always being in control (without being controlling)
✅ Not undoing training or causing any lasting behavioural problems
As long as these points on the whole are being met, then I will allow pretty much any behaviour from Nala. Now, I myself are very aware of providing opportunities for her to express herself, understanding and knowing what they may be, and as often as possible, fulfilling her genetical or instinctual behaviours. But what I want may be your average dog owner to think about, is your relationship with your dog. Are you being too strict by restricting and not allowing any natural behaviours, such as...
Jumping and climbing, and so on.
By restricting, all these perfectly normal and natural behaviours that your dog wants to perform, your dog may look at in what other areas they can meet these needs, and these are often seen to us as unwanted, or ‘bad behaviours’. Dogs rarely perform a behaviour without a reason behind it. Chewing in the home, could be a source of pain relief, barking at the postman could be their protective instincts upon hearing a noise, stealing your socks could be through boredom or a lack of toys, or simply to get your attention, and chase and play with them. Every breed and every dog, will have different needs to fulfil. It’s a key part of ours, to understand what they are and provide areas and opportunities for them to express those behaviours. I often think, the owners whose dogs are under-stimulated and not given the opportunities to express themselves, are often the owners who struggle the most. So ask yourself, am I too strict? Do I understand their needs and give them as many opportunities to be a dog as possible? If you need your dog to be well-behaved, maybe you have young children in the family, maybe a disability, or simply with the breed they are and where you live, it’s high on your priority list. As long as those categories are being met, in regards to safety and respect and so on, look into areas and ways you can provide your dog with the opportunities to express themselves. I absolutely guarantee you this, by loosening the reins, providing more opportunities, being inventive with your new games and ideas, even just having a better understanding of their needs and trying to meet them. You will not only see a reduction in unwanted behaviours, which is huge in itself, but you will have a much happier dog, healthier relationship, a more enriched and fulfilled dog both mentally and physically, and a tired dog as well. A tired dog is a good dog, as they’re usually sleeping 😊.
Finally, do you know the best part about your dog’s natural behaviours? You can meet them not only every single day quite easily, but they’re all absolutely free and will cost you absolutely nothing! Some of you may need to manage your environment or dog slightly more than others, maybe due to their reactivity or fearful behaviours, but there will always be away for you to provide for your dog.