― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing I always see it played out in my mind before it actually happens. In my head I think, “I’ll bet he does it to them all the time”. Yes, I’m paying attention to what the humans are saying, but what they’re saying doesn’t coincide with the facts. And then: IT happens.
Their dog jumps up on the couch right on top of them, causing the human to get up and move to another location.
And they continue without a pause, “But no, Mickey is really good in the house. He just needs help with leash-walking”. No. It doesn’t work that way. Mickey isn’t good in the house. Mickey is a bully, and you’ve just trained yourself to tiptoe around the fact.
Bully dogs aren’t necessarily of the bully breeds (i.e., Pitties, Boxers, American Bulldogs, etc.), but they can be. Bully dogs encompass all breeds. All sizes, genders and ages can be bully dogs. And usually a dog’s owners don’t even realize their dog is bullying them.
Dogs have a hierarchy: the pack leader, or Pilot, as we at Darwin Dogs refer to the position, is in charge of answering the rest of the pack’s questions. It’s a tough job. Questions can range from “Can I eat that?” to “Can you keep that other dog from killing us?”. It’s a very stressful position. The dog with the most self-confidence is usually the Pilot in the pack. Size, gender or age have nothing to do with it, however, a dog must be Pilot in order to breed, hence “alpha male” and “alpha female”. The other dogs in the pack help rear the young and contribute to the pack as a whole. You see this frequently in packs of feral dogs, as well as with wolves.
So to put it simply: a dog takes on this stressful position in the pack to gain certain rights, such as breeding, rights to eat first, to choose where they want to sleep first, etc. With great power comes great responsibility, oh…and some pretty cool perks, too.
So now take a look at that scenario again, the one where your dog just got you to move off the couch. How does that look now? Yeah… your dog just basically bullied you off the couch, and you didn’t think anything of it. Would you allow another human to do that to you? I didn’t think so. Your dog just took a chunk of change out of your Piloting Piggy Bank, and remember, whomever has the most money is Pilot.
“Oh, but it’s no big deal”, you may say. Maybe it wouldn’t be, …if it ended there.
Have you ever known a bully to stop at one point? Of course not. Your dog is bullying you on the walk, dragging you to whatever place he decides. He’s bullying you while you’re trying to work at your computer. He’s jumping on you. Perhaps barking at you to get you to do something?
And what happens if you have food? He wants it, like, now.
Bully dogs have a few favored methods of communicating their wants to you.
For example, has your dog ever just come up to you, maybe while you’re eating a sandwich, and swiped you with their paw? Or have they ever started nudging you with their nose to get you to play ball with them? Perhaps they’ll just suddenly jump in your lap. Do you know what they’re saying to you?
Yes. Darling little Mickey who “doesn’t have any problems” is very loudly using his body language to tell you what to do. Yo, bitch, go get me my supper! Yo, bitch, I want you to scratch behind my ears!
I ask you: what would you do if a human used that language with you? Exactly. Can you imagine what would happen if one of my children came up to me and said, “Yo bitch, gimme a cookie”? Aside from anything else that may happen, they are definitely not getting that cookie.
But what if one of my children asked, “Mom, may I please have a cookie?”.
No, honey, it’s too close to dinner.
Key point is, “yo bitch” gets you nothing. Your dog is perfectly capable of “saying” things in a polite manner as well. Sitting and waiting patiently, rather than jumping on you. Climbing up on the couch next to you rather than on top of you. Waiting to be invited on your lap instead of pouncing on you. Not stepping on you. All of these things are ways a dog shows they respect you. The same way you respect them back.
So don’t accept the “Yo, bitch-ing” attitude from your dog. No, it doesn’t mean your dog is bad if they do it. It means they’ve never learned differently. It also means they are getting mixed signals from you: are they Pilot or aren’t they? You want them to walk nicely on a leash, meaning they follow you, but at the same time, you allow them to “yo bitch” you. It can be confusing to them. They need a Pilot all the time. Like Mr. Miyagi said:
Piloting a dog is a little like raising children. You don’t try it a couple times and then give up. Just as you Pilot your children through to adulthood, you Pilot your dog. Always. Some dogs require more Piloting than others. It’s about mutual respect. It’s also about respecting yourself enough to never settle for a “yo, bitch” from your dog.