What can you do if your dog refuses to listen to anything you ask?
For many dog owners, it gets so bad that even thinking about training their dog makes their blood boil – with rage at their pet, and shame at themselves for failing to be a better dog owner.
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These dog owners are at the end of their tether. They lose their rag and yell – which is bad for them, and their dog.
Their bark is so bad they don’t even dare think about their bite.
So what can you do when things hit boiling point?
Every boiling cauldron has a raging fire beneath it, and every fire begins with a spark.
You can’t help the spark. Sparks happen. That’s life. It’s what you do with the spark that counts.
Sparks are light and heat. Both good things when they’re on your team, but destructive and painful when they’re working against you.
The next time rock screeches down grindstone, and sparks start to fly, you can do one of three things:
1. Let the anger catch alight and the fire rage.
2. Stamp it out (though you’ll burn your foot, and you can be sure one day you’ll miss it, and the fire will be far worse)
3. Direct the spark to light a different fuse – one leading to an explosion of positive energy.
When your dog is playing up, it’s for one of two reasons: learned behavior, or instinct. In other words, your dog has no choice. No matter how mad you make yourself, it won’t change that fact.
The difference between dogs and human beings is that we get to choose.
You have a choice. It’s time to unlearn your bad manners so your dog can unlearn hers.
So how can you get your dog to do what you’re asking?
The problem is rarely with what you’re asking for, but how you’re asking for it. Dogs and people will go out of their way to help you out, as long as you give them the motivation to do so.
You direct the spark by how you make the ask. Will you send everything up in flames again, or are you ready for a better boom?
Dogs crave approval – it’s etched into their DNA. Being valued in the pack is key to their survival.
By yelling at your dog, you’re teaching him that listening to you and being around you causes him pain, not pleasure. You’re teaching him the best response is to be afraid, and not to trust you, even when you’re calm, because he never knows when you’ll turn toxic.
Instead of inspiring your dog with opportunities to please you, you’re closing down possibilities for good manners.
(In case you hadn’t guessed, it works the same way with people too).
Make your communication a joy. Make your voice a sound your dog delights in and looks forward to, rather than something he dreads. That’s a gift to yourself and your dog.
What do you need to make this happen?
Timing. When your dog is misbehaving and you sense sparks are about to fly, take time out. Give yourself a few moments to calm down before talking with your dog. Then, in a positive tone, make it clear to the dog why what he’s doing is a bad choice, and offer him a better choice. You can do this with people too, but when you’re ready to engage you should add the extra step of checking the time is right for them, too.
Compassion. Speak to me with words of compassion, and give me time and space to respond, and your words land on me as an opportunity to respond in kind. By giving me time to think, I can better process what you’ve said. Speak to me in anger, or talk so fast I don’t understand you, or expect an instant answer, and your words land as a punch in my face.
With your dog – it’s no different. When you want to get your dog’s attention, make coming to you more fun than leaving you. Every time you talk with your dog is an opportunity for fun!
Leave it. Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, you just have to let go. You don’t have the power to change everything. Dogs are predictable. Treat them with kindness and compassion, and they’ll respond with the same. People are less predictable. Sometimes, you can’t know or control why they’re reacting in a certain why. Sometimes, you have to let them fail, so they can figure it out for themselves.
Your anger is a spark. Let it ignite patience, compassion, and humility.
You’re not the master of the universe, but you can control the words you speak. So make them kind.