If your dog seems to rule the house, tells you what to do and when or always has his own agenda then it’s quite possible the dog suffers from a sense of entitlement.
Humans can encourage this behaviour in many ways. Dogs need and like a sense of leadership, routine and structure. It removes excess stress on the dog, creates a protocol and sets boundaries for the dog to feel more confident and safe. We can encourage good routines or bad ones in many ways. Repetition and consistency is the simplest form of learning and dogs thrive on it. If we keep it simple, it sets the dog up for success and reliability. By setting limits and making choices simple, it rules out confusion for the dog and sets them up to follow through the way we want or need them to be.
Making things either black or white, yes or no, good or bad, removes the mistake of filling their heads with the grey zone. The grey Zone refers to all the “sometimes” the dog gets to do this. Unclear direction and confusion as to when something is ok or not. Especially when the rules are not yet established for the dog.
Lots of people argue, “I got a dog to be able to give it lots of love and affection” However, the dogs perspective on what that means can be very different from the human version. Love and affection for the dog means a sense of control, safety, boundaries, leadership, rules, respect and stimulation, while still allowing them to be a dog.
Too many entitlements before the dog understands the limitation and respect, can set the dog up to feel or think that anything is acceptable. So we are not saying that you can never do things like let the dog sleep with you, or cuddle on the couch while you watch a movie. What we are saying is that the dog has to understand the privileges of being “invited” to do things that push the envelope when it comes to a sense of entitlement.
For example, if the dog learns he can only come up on the sofa with you when he is invited and gets down when instructed, then that becomes an exercise. This is very different than the dog deciding for himself to jump up anytime he feels like it. Limitations are good boundaries to ground a dog rather than too many choices.
Once the dog learns the basic rules and protocols, then you can start giving the dog extra privileges, when they are respectful and understand that it is more of a reward. Once your dog learns the behaviour of respect, and their place, then feel free to introduce other gestures of Love and affection as rewards, not entitlement. If you find the dog be-coming less obedient, or tries to rule the house again, revisit the reasons they are starting to take over once again… go back to basics and set the rules back to limitations to see if you notice a big difference. This is why crate training is so important. Not only does it give you control, but it gives the dog “his” safe space, always accessible and reliable to be there. It takes away the stress and confusion for the dog to have a place he feels he belongs and feels protected. The world outside the crate is no longer his responsibility, taking a huge load off, if he feels he has to “take care” of the whole house.
Some dogs need more structure that others, as well as more rules and boundaries… the only way to find out where the line is, is to take into account what the temperament of the dog is, as well as how stubborn or smart they can be and if they like to lead or follow. For help with assessing your dog, feel free to contact us at awesomek9.com for more information and how to schedule a consultation.
Nancy-Lynn Stoller I.A.C P.