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Home > Pet News and Articles > Spoiled for Choice

Spolied for Choice
Article By: Glenn Redmond

The word spoiled. It conjures up so many images. Like that soft tomato left just a day too long on the kitchen counter or the child who comes close to exhaustion opening all the presents under the Christmas tree. And yes, that misbehaved dog on the end of a Gucci leash, dragging its master down the street. Some owners seem to carry the label like a badge of honour. "Oh, I'm sorry he jumped up and made a mess of your new dress. He's just so spoiled, that's all."

Spoiled. It is such a subjective word. One person might say an animal is spoiled because they get a few human treats once and a while. For another, the label spoiled may not kick in until there are 50 toys scattered throughout the house. It is not the things we give to our animals that spoil them - it is the attitude that they need to do nothing else but look cute and cuddly to be adorned with our affection and presents.

I'm told I was spoiled as a young lad. Being the youngest of 6 with 8 years between my youngest sibling and me, you can imagine the attention. Ah, the good old days. But I also went to school, had chores to do and carried expectations of etiquette into all situations.

Some dog owners make major lifestyle changes such as moving, buying a new car to fit the dog, or changing jobs to have a better schedule to accommodate their dogs' needs. I don't consider these things spoiling your dog, I consider it responsible ownership.

There is a big difference between providing all the comforts of life and giving into your dog's ever present misbehavior. Many owners feel that by providing privileges and luxuries and catering to their dog's every whim that their bond will be deepened. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must realize that dogs are not capable of setting their own limits, and not being given limits can drastically reduce their sense of security and increase levels of anxiety and misbehavior.

Leadership

Training your dog to be respectful in our world really comes down to one thing - leadership. Many trainers talk about becoming "Alpha," a theory based on dominance, emulating what a wolf pack does to keep the pack in order. Suggestions such as eye stares, scruff grabs, alpha rollovers and the like all designed to show the dog whose boss. Having a dog afraid of you may keep the animal in line, but it is not what I would consider effective leadership. The master-slave theory of training has turned a lot of owners off from teaching their dogs proper etiquette and a complete shift in thinking has occurred to one of overindulgence. Both approaches are imbalanced and will without a doubt affect you and your pet's relationship in some negative way. So how do we find the balance between providing effective leadership, giving dogs the love they need and satisfying our own needs to indulge our animals?

The first thing is to understand that dogs are not people. Dogs are dogs. Dogs do not speak English and cannot be reasoned with the same way a young child can. To a dog, when they nudge your arm with their nose and you pet them, they learn to demand attention. When was the last time you went and slapped your spouse on the arm and said, "Give me a massage." It is a cute, but rude behavior and giving into such simple demands lessens your leadership in the dog's mind. Dogs need to be understood and appreciated for being dogs, not furry people.

Take control of daily interactions and access to the dog's favorite things. Require your dog to sit calmly before being petted or receiving a new toy. Train your dog to ask permission to join you on the couch rather than gaining access by frantically bounding upward as you move and spill your coffee. Keep your enthusiastic greeter on a leash when guests come to the house, preventing their attention-seeking habits from flourishing. Remember, the more you allow your canine to repeat an undesired behavior, the more entrenched it will become.

Don't be Jekyll and Hyde. Most owners have many different reactions to the same situation. Sometimes a dog is rewarded with a pet for jumping on an owner and other times is reprimanded. This only confuses and frustrates a dog and takes away from the animal's potential to trust us. Remember, consistency is the only way for our dogs to learn about us and develop a sense of security.

Learn to do the opposite. The more excited your dog becomes in a situation, the calmer you should be. Frantic behavior that is met with frantic behavior will only encourage frantic behavior. It is important to keep yourself in check. Otherwise, you become emotionally reactive to unwanted behavior, inadvertently rewarding what you don't want and giving up your effectiveness as a leader.

With education and establishment of rules you will find that some overindulgence and spoiling is possible without negatively affecting the relationship. Spoiling your dog will not be at the dogs own expense or your happiness for that matter. So go out and purchase those tasty treats, comfortable beds and latest new toy. Just remember to establish rules for their use.

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