HOW STRUCTURE CHANGES A DOG’S THINKING
By Pete Eromenok
A dog left unchecked to go about his own business, will often become his own boss. You see this in dogs that spend a substantial amount of time alone or playing with other dogs. These scenarios lack structure. To a dog an unstructured situation means, “Just do it”. They won’t pay attention when called, or they will ignore the wishes of their owner.
Dogs learn to do what they want very quickly. For example, if you try to teach your dog to steal food off the counters, he will learn in a few moments and then miraculously get better and better at it with out any further human direction. Dogs learn quickly how to do what they naturally or instinctively want to do anyway! However, if you were to try teach your dog to lie down next to a hot dog, then I guarantee it will take more than a few moments to teach him to leave it alone, because he wants the hot dog more than he wants to lie down. So the goal would be to have the dog want to obey the leader over its own desires. If this behavior is achieved, now choice comes into play. He can decide at any time to follow his instincts, or follow the leader- you. As a dog learns to choose between what he wants and what the owner wants, a transformation happens inside a dog’s head. The dog now starts to be a productive member of its pack. The dog becomes content to fit in and no longer cause its pack members to act hostile towards him or threatening.
Some dogs learn and condition faster than others. And all dogs can be trained to some degree. All Dogs are much happier when they are trained than when they are left to their own devices, because they don’t want to be anarchists, but team members.
Dogs have a great desire to belong to a group; a group of people or a group of dogs; it makes no difference to them. If you took a group of dogs and put them together for a period of time they would without a shadow of a doubt form a ranking or order, alpha, beta… omega and a family unit would be established. This unit would consist of rules. These rules bind them tightly together and unite them as one pack. Members would then be content in their purpose. This would be critical for their survival in the wild. The same thing happens when you put a dog into a human family. Yes, a dog knows that we are not dogs, however the way a dog interacts with its own kind is very similar to the way he acts with humans. The temperament of a dog also influences how that individual dog views things. If you are the type of pet owner who doesn’t expect anything from your pet, gives it free reign and caters to its every need, you have demonstrated subordination to your dog. On the other hand, if you have trained your dog to obey your wishes and it does so reliably, it views you as a leader. Now this is a general statement, not an absolute. There are always individuals that exhibit complex behaviors outside the norm.
In a pack, the leader gives direction. He is fair, yet he makes sure that the rules are not broken. Individual dogs in a pack are not allowed to do whatever they want to do. That kind of behavior can lead to a rearrangement of status which can even compromise the family unit.
What you do and how you do it will indicate your status to the dog, and his response to you will be dog appropriate to that relationship which you have established. Your consistency is a major factor. Consistency determines the length of time a dog will take to learn a behavior. Inconsistency causes canine confusion and retards progress.