The lack of money is the root of all evil.
So many clients call me and to complain about their dogs: their dog is “bad”. Their dog doesn’t ever calm down. Their dog just won’t listen. My usual answer is, “Why should they?”.
Dogs need three things to live well and comfortably in the human world – Piloting, Activity and Work. Humans want two things from a dog – Love and Affection. Do you see how our human wants don’t always match up to human wants? To get what we want (Love and Affection), we need to give the dogs what the need (Piloting, Activity and Work). It’s truly that simple.
Activity and Work are pretty simple: keep Fido moving and keep Fido thinking. The Piloting is the one that can be a little confusing….if you overthink it. The Pilot is the one who answers everyone’s questions, from “Can I eat that?” to “Is that other dog a threat?”. The more you answer you dogs questions, the easier it becomes to Pilot your dog. Piloting is like a big piggy bank – whoever has the most money is the Pilot.
So for example, if I drop some food on the floor, Orion, when I first got him, would run straight at it trying to grab it. However, the moment he became engaged with it (staring at it, moving towards it, etc.), I would simply stand up straight, pretend he was a lot taller and that I was trying to hit him with my belly button, and invade his personal space. Simply keep him backed off from the food until I could pick it up. (Hint: you aren’t looking to back your dog off into the next county – just give yourself and/or the food on the floor some personal space so you have room to operate/pick it up). And no, he doesn’t get it. It’s mine. This isn’t a trick “Wait until I pick it up, and then you can have it.” It’s mine.
The more often I claimed the food on the ground, the less often I had to do it. Now when food hits the floor, Orion watches it land, and immediately looks to me. That’s because each time I answered the question, I took a little bit of money out of his Piloting Piggy Bank. The more money I have in my bank (and the less he has in his), the easier it is to answer Orion’s questions. While I was in the process of emptying out Orion’s bank completely (which took about 2 months), I could still answer all of his questions, but he didn’t necessarily accept the answers immediately. The harder the question is, the more money you must have in your bank to answer it.
For example, when Sparta was about a year, she tore her ACL. Up until that point, I had been taking out money from her Piloting Piggy Bank, and had just about emptied it. Small, simple withdrawals, by answering her easy questions. Anything from, “Are we done walking yet?” to “Can I jump on Grandma?”. All of these questions were answered, and once she accepted the answer, it took money from her piggy bank and deposited it right into my account. After such a long time of answering her questions, I had quite a bit of money in my bank account. Sparta had almost none.
Which was good, because I was about to need all that money.
In order to find out how bad the torn ACL was, the vet put Sparta on the table (quite a feat as she’s a 100lb dog). He laid her on her side, and started yanking at the afflicted leg, trying to ascertain how bad the injury was. Of course it hurt Sparta. She immediately popped up, with a big question:
“Can I make him stop hurting me?”
Wow….that’s a question no parent (dog mom or otherwise) ever wants to be forced to answer. Unfortunately, I had to. I gave Sparta the negative body language and let her know the answer.
“No you may not.”
Such a difficult answer. I needed every last penny in my piggy bank to answer it. But I did, and Sparta accepted the answer with minimal difficulty. The vet was able to conclude his exam in under 30 seconds, and Sparta was set on a rehabilitation plan, and recovered completely.
So if you’re just starting out Piloting your dog, don’t get frustrated. Most dogs don’t willingly hand over every cent in their Piloting Piggy Banks the first day you start Piloting them. Keep at it. If you get frustrated, take a break. But be the calm, benevolent Pilot who has the answers and isn’t afraid to give them. In other words, give them what they need, and then take as much love and affection as you want.