Letting The Dog Decide

     Letting the dog decide may sound like an abdication of responsibility, a cop-out that ignores the violence that dogs are capable of inflicting.  After all, isn’t the point of training to get the dog to do what the owner wants, to obey commands and do what it is told?

     But as in Zen archery, where master archers say they simply “pull the bow and let the arrow find its target,” letting the dog decide is, in counterintuitive fact, the only route to willing obedience.


What’s In

Let the Dog Decide

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Do You Really  Want To Be Alpha?

      In fact, being alpha to your dog is a losing proposition for both of you.

     If you reduce your human status to that of an alpha dog in your dog’s eyes, you are condemning yourself to trying to keep the dog permanently in submission.

     Alpha dominance training can easily create havoc, and even tragedy, in a household.

   Being a dog’s beloved master is something far different from being the alpha it must submit to or rue the consequences.  If you want a dog’s deference and respect, rather than its unwilling submission, you do not want to be alpha.
Low-Stress, High-Result Learning

     All learning is physiologically and psychologically stressful to some extent.  With heightened concentration, for example, blood pressure increases.  

    Suppose someone asked you to repeat a complicated series of letters, words, and numbers that you had just been taught.  Now imagine that the person yelled at you, acted in a threatening way, and even hit you while you tried to answer.  You would be thinking more about the threat posed by the behavior of the questioner than the answer to the question!  That is what classical conditioning with choke chains or pinch collars does to dogs, and it is counterproductive to all good training.

     If we want training to succeed, we must recognize that the more stress a dog feels, the harder it will be for that dog to learn.  This interference with the learning process leads to frustration for both the trainer and the dog.

      The first and most important step to limiting a dog’s stress is paying attention to its mood.
Recognizing Dominance

     You can recognize the dominant dogs in any pack by their body language when establishing status.  A dominant dog will often carry its tail high, well over the back, walk “on tiptoe,” and approach other dogs directly face-to-face.  It will attempt to put its head and neck over the necks and backs of other dogs, put its paws on their backs, or even mount them.  The dominant dog may also show its teeth and emit a low grow.
A New View of Dogs

There is always much to learn each day when working with dogs, whether you are a first-time owner or an experienced trainer, and this process never ends.  The system I have presented here is directed toward making both the trainer and the dog open to new possibilities.  It seeks to move the dog’s mind rather than its body, based on the theory that “where the mind goes, the body will follow.”

With a little patience and imagination, and the information and methods in this book, you can take the much more productive route of letting the dog decide to cooperate with your wishes of its own free will.  This will dramatically improve your relationship with your dog and the quality of your life together.  Be firm and fair, remembering that violence begets violence and that time and patience almost always win the day.
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The Traffic Safe Dog

    Bench training has many positive results.  One of the most important is that it helps control getting the dog in and out of vehicles, whether cars, taxis, pickup trucks or boats, and helps the dog be comfortable in new situations that may make it nervous or frightened.   Every year a large number of dogs are injured or killed because they jump out of cars without permission as soon as the door is opened.  You will now have absolute control of this very dangerous situation.
Heeling

    The heel is the most difficult of all the obedience exercises because it is simultaneously an abstention (not moving away from you) and an action (moving in harmony with you).  When training this behavior, you must be endlessly patient with both the dog and yourself.  Smart obedience competitors will take two to four months, or even longer, to train the heel to perfection.