G’day! Thanks for coming back for the second installment of this multi-part series explaining the Bark Busters dog training method. Last time we talked about the quickness of our system (Nov. 16, Why Speak Dog?), based on the fact that we use a language that your dog instinctively knows (voice tones and body language). Now I’d like to talk about another aspect of our method that distinguishes it from others out there: Our natural, dog-friendly training techniques actually help to build the relationship you have with your dog, helping you achieve a lasting emotional bond based on trust and respect.
Our system does not rely on treats or harsh physical punishment—instead, we teach owners to be strong leaders that their dogs will look to for safety and guidance on what is acceptable behavior. Dogs have naturally evolved in hierarchical social structures (packs), which now include human members. Within their social structure, dogs require a leader who can handle the pack’s complex decision-making requirements, such as securing food, entertainment and shelter. Many problem behaviors are rooted in anxieties dogs have because their owners are not being strong leaders or providing consistent sets of guidelines.
Whether they call it establishing the owner as the head of the household “pack” or “Alpha” or simply a strong, benevolent leader, most dog trainers agree that dogs are happier knowing that their owner is in charge, taking care of all their basic needs and keeping them safe. By establishing yourself as your dog’s leader, you not only can teach him boundaries and guidelines that will make your life easier and more enjoyable, but you can also reduce his stress and anxiety, as most dogs aren’t comfortable trying to take on the pack leadership role.
So the question now is—how do you get your dog to trust and respect you as his pack leader? Our answer is just as dogs instinctively do within their own social structures: The leader sets consistent, reasonable rules for daily activities such as eating, toileting, sleeping, and playtime; the leader praises the pack when they follow the rules; and the leader corrects pack members, using body language or voice tones (not physical aggression), to let them know when they’ve overstepped a boundary.
While dogs can learn to follow commands by being rewarded with treats, or be frightened out of behaviors by shock collars or other physical punishment, this isn’t the way dogs naturally lead one another. Handing out treat rewards is fine and fun for tricks or simply to show affection to your dog, but treat training alone won’t teach him to trust you and look to you for his safety and well-being, especially if he has stress-related problems such as aggression, separation anxiety, nuisance barking, etc. Likewise, physical punishment may deter your dog from exhibiting some behaviors, but it won’t address the underlying insecurities that may be behind his undesirable behaviors, and using fear as a motivator will ultimately break down, not build up, your relationship with your dog.
For a real, lasting, emotional bond to develop between you and your dog, your relationship must achieve a balance of trust and respect. The ultimate goal of the Bark Busters training system is nothing but praise for good behavior—because your dog respects you, looks to you for safety, and trusts your decisions.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basic philosophy behind the Bark Busters training method, in my next post, you can look for more specific techniques you can use to show your dog that you are a capable leader—simultaneously reducing his stress and undesirable behaviors and strengthening the bond you share.