Enforcing Structure and Discipline

Just came back from a 2-day dog behaviour consultation. I thought this was going to be very challenging case as both cross breed dogs (Singapore Specials) tend to be reactive, to the extend of fighting with one another.

I noticed how over-excited both dogs were when both me and my understudy arrived in-front of their door. Both dogs were barking, running towards the gate, one of them was jumping really high and barking at the same time.

When the dogs finally settle down, we sat down and find out more about the problems that the owners were facing with their dogs. After which, we went out to see how they walk their dogs. Walking dogs is one of the best way for me to see where the dog stands in the family as well as to be able to observe how the owner runs their house for their pets. The walk started excitedly fast! In a couple mins, both dogs and both owners was out from the house in a dash and into the lift. Once the lift door open, both dogs zoomed off really fast, leading both owners wherever they want to go. My heart stopped when their dogs pulled them across the road! My understudy whispered to me “waoh! that is very dangerous!” After walking, we went back to the house and observe more of their activity. Seeing how they play with both the dogs. Then, I got the mother and the eldest daughter to go out for sometime. The eldest daughter came back first – before she even ring the door bell, both dogs started barking. One of them rushed to the door and “greeted” her, jumping onto her. Both dogs were wagging their tail furiously. It took about few mins before both dogs settle down. After another 5mins, their mother right the door bell. Both dogs started barking again. The same one that “greeted” the eldest daughter at the door, did the same thing, however, this time was a different level of excitement altogether. Both dogs were over excited, plus the one that did not ran towards the door, went tense in a split second. The moment the other dog turned back and ran backwards, both went into a challenge. The tense dog went further with a hard stare and in 2-3 seconds, fight broke out. Both dogs aren’t light weight for me to stop the fight the way I usually do, therefore I decided to use a leash to leash round one of the dog which is really big size (fat). I had to lift up his whole body to get him off balance, but he was really heavy. Their helper managed to get the leash onto his collar, to maneuver him sideways. Thanks to the younger daughter, she took a cup and splash water onto both their face which shocked the dog who was clamping his jaw onto the other dog and immediately releases his jaw which I was able to pull him sideways. As he was in the flight zone, his eyes was still pretty round and body was still very tense. He didn’t like the discipline from me, however, I had to stand my ground while holding the leash for safety. (Remember: it doesn’t mean that if one is a trainer or a behaviourist, one should play hero. Everyone’s priority should be Not getting bitten. If one gets bitten, it doesn’t mean he/she is a hero or a very brave person. It simply means he/she have disrespected the dog and have made a very bad mistake which makes it the human’s fault.) He bared his teeth at me with a hard stare but moved backwards. After about 1-2mins, he decided to give up and lay flat on the floor. This does not mean I won. It just meant that he decided to respect me and the new discipline.

After both dogs and everyone settle down, I proceed with the last part of the first day’s consultation which is The Reality Check section. This is the part where owners learn what they did wrong and what needs to change.

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A list of issues that I’ve observe will be listed out together with the discipline that will need to be enforced.

The owners was willing to make a change and enforce structure and discipline for both their dogs. They expressed that they are very very determine to make a change for the good of their dogs.

Structure and discipline is one of the main key principles to having a problem free dog(s). We always have to understand that every living things need structure and discipline. Without them, things will fall apart. It is so easy to understand that humans need structure and discipline. We go to work, and there’s structure and discipline. In the home, parents set structures and boundaries, and a child will be discipline if any of those are crossed. In the same way, dogs need structure and discipline too. Parents discipline not because they hate the child, but because they love the child. Same for dogs. (People might not like me to say this, and I might get slam for saying this. But the truth hurts!) Real love for dogs means treating them like dogs. And what dogs really need is not eating waste! What dogs really need is structure for their lives! Exercise, walking beside the owner. Sitting until the owner says go. Eating after a walk, and after every human eats. Controlled play time so that they don’t get over excited. Discipline for dogs is not canning or spanking a dog! It’s creating boundaries. No entering the rooms unless invited. No going onto the couch unless invited. Wait for food. No barking. No jumping when humans enter the door.It is simply the most selfish act of a human to let emotions run and ignore structure and discipline for the dogs just because the human desires cuddle, affection and fulfillment of emotional needs.

The owners of the dogs understood what they needed to do, and the 2nd day was hard work for them, but they did it! As you can see from the video, a huge difference in the walking. They have brought the dogs for obedience class before, but the behaviour persist. From the video you can see that they actually pull the leash up to get the dogs to sit. After the walk, I corrected that to become something positive so that it’s fun for the dogs to sit, rather then getting a tug on the leash. Both dogs are not perfect yet, but they are on the way to becoming good dogs.

The walk was almost about 2 hours as it includes correcting the owners along the way. When everyone got back to the house, both dogs were flat-out. Not because of the long walks, as the walk wasn’t long at all. They were flat-out because their minds were stimulated properly, fulfilling their instinctual needs of following a leader. Because structure and discipline was enforced during the walking, both dogs with physically and mentally fulfilled. And almost half of the issues I saw the day before was totally gone. This takes consistent discipline on the part of the owners. If the structure and discipline is not consistently followed through, both dogs will go back to their old ways again.

Remember! Take time to understand dogs the dog way and not the human way. Dogs desire us to understand them their way and not our way.

By Ezra Koh

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