Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Never negotiate with kids. They don’t have life experience, and they don’t have repercussions for bad decisions; they still get fed and housed. - Gene Simmons
I never thought that I’d be using a Gene Simmons quote in my blogs, but there you go. Sometimes life takes a funny turn, and his quote was perfect for what I wanted to tackle today: this image that has been floating around The Internets.
Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to start with this. Ready for an unpopular, possibly offensive truth? If your dog is making people uncomfortable, it's most likely because he is an asshole.
There. I said it. I guarantee a lot of other people were thinking it, and just never told you. And even worse, you’re pretty much victim blaming. So now that we have opened up that can of worms, let’s get down to business and de-asshole your dog.
What’s making people uncomfortable about your dog? Let’s break it down:
Fido is in their personal space.
I personally don’t want to be licked by either of them. I love dogs. Like, LOVE, dogs. I don’t like drool. Or Gene Simmons, but here we are.
Think about it. How would you feel if a stranger came up to you and was completely in your personal space? Uncomfortable, right? Or what if I invited you to my house, let my kids climb all over you and trample you, but stated that if my kids were making you uncomfortable, I can lock you up in another room? (C’mon, they’re only trying to be friendly!) Yet we accept that behavior from our dogs? I guarantee that if your Fido tried that behavior with another dog, Fido would get corrected very quickly! It’s about manners, and dogs have them the same way people do. Learn to expect good manners from your dog.
Fido is guarding.
I can’t tell you how many times a client calls me to their house to work with their aggressive dog, and when I arrive and ring their doorbell, they simple let their dog loose on me to snarl, bark, and lunge at me. Their reasoning?
“We wanted you to see what he does.”
Oh, by all means, let me whip up an anti-aggression incantation. That will solve the problem!
I freaking know what Fido does…he’s aggressive towards strangers! You told me on the phone!
I know how to deal with a dog who is snarling at me, or giving me “fuck off” body language. You stand perfectly still and let the dog thoroughly investigate you. You do not move. You do not make eye contact. Even after decades of doing this, it’s still terrifying every time it happens to me (usually at least once a week). I have resources, knowledge and experience. What do your guests have? Fear and anxiety. And you have a potential lawsuit coming your way when Fido finally snaps. Just because he’s never bitten anyone before doesn’t mean he never will. And no, the answer isn’t just to “just let Fido smell you, and then he’ll be fine.”
Your dog is jumping/trampling your guests.
And what do you do about it?
“FIDO NO JUMPING! FIDO, NO!!! FIDO STOP OR I’LL SAY STOP AGAIN!!!!”
Yeah, it’s not helping. Fido is still jumping.
I work with quite a few “aggressive” dogs. Usually at least one per week. And you should see all the massive bruises and injuries I have…from “friendly” dogs jumping on me. My legs look like I play professional soccer without shin guards. I have scratches all over me (yes, even through denim jeans). All because of Fido who “just wants to make friends”. Sorry, but consent exists with dogs the same way it exists with humans. Your dog is hurting me, and it’s not a game, nor is it cute.
As I said, we need to un-asshole your dog.Let’s start with how you are perceiving your dog. It has to do with your soft bigotry of low expectations. You expect so little from your dogs. You claim that your dogs are your kids, yet you allow behaviors from your dog that you’d never tolerate from your children (I hope!). The thing to remember is that it’s not about having perfectly well behaved kids/dogs; it’s about having a game plan for anything that happens. Can you predict that your preschooler would suddenly start rifling through great aunt Bertha’s purse? No, that was unexpected. But what makes you a good parent is how you deal with the situation, or more importantly, if you deal with the situation.
I firmly believe in treating everyone appropriately. Dogs are great dogs…they just suck at being human. Kids are great kids…they just suck at being adults. It’s up to you to be the adult human in the situation and to Pilot them through whatever issues or questions they are currently embroiled in. So let’s get started.
It starts with Piloting. Piloting is answering your dog’s questions, and they have a lot of questions. “Can I jump on you?” “Can I eat that chocolate?” Wanna snuggle?” You answer each question according to how you feel. My answers would be No, No and Yes respectively. How do you give a negative? Using simple body language outlined here. No prong collar. No shock collar. No need for a spray bottle full of vinegar(?!) (seriously, I’ve been hearing this a lot…stop it). It’s a conversation. Communicate, don’t dominate, or subjugate to alleviate…
…sorry, that was a little INXS. And if you got that, you are now feeling old.
Just remember, it’s a conversation. Your dog isn’t bad, Fido just has questions. So answer them!
I’m going to give you a bonus hint: I don’t ask my kids or my dogs if they want to do something. I tell them, and then ask for questions.
Example, if I want my kids to empty the dishwasher and re-load it.
Me: River, would you please empty the dishwasher and then load it?
Me: River, I want you to please empty the dishwasher and then load the dirty dishes. Do you have any questions?
Do you see the difference? If River does indeed have questions, (“Do I have to?”), I’m prepared with my answer. I do not negotiate. I will listen to hear reasoning why she shouldn’t have to (and sometimes she’s correct), but I do not make deals with her. I do not lower my expectations unless new or different information is given.
For example, if River says she doesn’t want to because she wants to play video games, oh well! I want a pony and I don’t have a pony. Now get in there and do the dishes. But if she says she doesn’t want to because she’s trying to (legit) study for her test tomorrow, I may change my mind about her doing dishes, based upon the new information.
How does this apply to your dog? Suppose I show up to your house and Fido starts to jump on me. It’s up to you to Pilot your dog, giving them a negative through Piloting. And they accept your answer, calming down. Nice job!
But what if later while I”m at your house, you see Fido start to jump on me again? You start to give him another negative, but then I tell you that I started it because I wanted to wrestle with him. What do you do? Let it go? Give a negative anyway?
The answer is entirely up to you. If you decide you don’t want your dog getting riled, you give me a negative If you are okay with us wrestling around, then by all means let it go. You’re the Pilot; you are actively choosing to let a behavior continue, rather than not doing anything about it because you don’t know what to do. Remember, it’s not about having the dog with the perfect manners all the time. That dog doesn’t exist. But now you don’t have to tolerate those unsavory behaviors any longer.
So congratulations, we’ve successfully de-assholed your dog! And let’s face it, he probably wasn’t really an asshole to begin with. He’s just a dog. A wonderful, intelligent, perfect dog….who really sucked at being human.
Kerry Stack Darwin Dogs Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio