Thursday, May 23, 2013

How NOT to Raise a Monster


It's been a good week that I haven't posted a real entry in my blog (being a busy birthday girl and all, ahem!) and I am overdue!

I have been spending the last few weeks bonding with Yoda and I must say our relationships is growing stronger every day. We run into people or neighbours and almost everyone is astonished that we have only been together for a month because of how obedient, calm and in tune she is with me, always looking back at me and making eye contact, they all just assume I must have had her for a much longer time.

The truth is we meet people walking their dogs who complain that though they have their dog for 1 year, 4 years, 8 years...their dog doesn't listen to them, or they bark anxiously, they are hyper, or even that they try to bite if the owner approaches!!!

They tell me that I am lucky to have a good dog, I tell them that she could have also been a devil had she wanted. It is really in the ownership and how you handle your dog. I think most people don't like hearing this because it places the responsibility on the owner. Of course it is easier to blame the dog....

One of our friends recently got a puppy and their puppy cries all night and day. Then they tell us that they leave it loose in the home and they have friends with their adult dogs come over almost every single day since the day they brought the puppy home, "in order to socialize it".

Well no wonder the puppy is stressed!!
Poor pup just got taken from her mom and home and isn't given the chance to adapt to her new family and home, but instead she is thrown into a busy, scary, new place full of free-roaming strange dogs every day and strangers coming and going. Also, how is she supposed to be calm when she isn't given the time to bond and form a trusting relationship with her new parents BEFORE getting to know strange dogs and random people? She doesn't trust her owners or see them as leaders! Of course the poor pup is overwhelmed and cries incessantly!

Also, it is not a good idea to allow a puppy free reign of the home, but rather to slowly introduce her on-leash to every room and relay the message that every new room is your territory and that she is being invited in with permission. This allows the dog to respect that you are the parent and respect what is yours from the very beginning.

This is how we introduced Yoda to our home, slowly, on-leash, room by room, behind our lead. Our master bedroom is the only room which is off limits and so, we have never shown it to her or allowed her in. She understands that we have set a psychological boundary for her to not enter that room, because she only ever entered rooms from the get-go with our explicit permission. 

Now that she has earned her freedom to move freely about the house, even if the bedroom door is open, she has never even attempted to cross the doorframe (though she has sat just behind it, looking in curiously, she known not to enter, because she respects my space).

Of course, if you have been reading my blog, you know we went through a whole 2 week cocooning period and in the 3rd week, Yoda was only introduced to my mother and my best friend. By that time, she already knew to look to me for guidance and I was able to get her to listen to my commands, which I started teaching her from Day 1.

Although we are together for over a month, I still choose to hand-feed her. I now ask her to look at me and only feed her once she has made eye contact with me. I find this is a special time where we bond and she learns to connect with me mentally in order to be rewarded with her food. Maybe she would have growled or snarled had I allowed to have unrestricted access to meals, rather than recognizing I am the parent that provides it and whom she should respect. However, I did not give her the chance to develop any such guarding, protective possessiveness. 

I was told this is cruel because I control her and keep her dependent on me with food. Almost everyone in life keeps you dependent on them with resources, including your boss with your paycheck. I think it is cruel to allow a dog too much freedom and lack of structure which leads them to feel anxiety, stress and thus, act out. I find I have only seen positive reactions from making mealtimes interactive. Besides, I like to be associated with doggy food and other good stuff!

I try to gently educate people I meet who tell me their stories, but most people don't accept tips easily. I wish they would read more books or educational websites for their dog's sake.

I won't say that Yoda isn't just the most perfect dog ever and that I am purely blessed and lucky to have found her!

But I do think that a large part of why she is such a good dog is because I have given her a quiet, stable environment with a lot of consistent discipline, obedience training, daily exercise and of course, love. She feels calm because, for her sake, I am controlling the pace at which is introduced to new people, dogs and exciting stimuli. I am trying to set her up for success and ready to redirect any unwanted behaviour as soon as it happens.

So of course, when we are out, she sits quietly beside me, waiting for my word before we start off again or waiting patiently while I talk to someone, because she sees me as her leader and she feels confident with me. She doesn't need to cry or bark or jump in anxiety, because she doesn't need to worry about anything.

Mama has it all under control.


  1. Really great teaching method -and clearly effective. -Andie