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The 3 Cs of Dog Training: Control, Control, Control

prosper (thrīv) v. to grow or develop vigorously and healthily. jewel

In my opinion, a thriving canine is a happy, well-balanced, full-bodied dog that enjoys people and that people enjoy being around. There are three C’s involved in raising a dog to thrive: Control, Control and Control.

  1. Check your dog
  2. Control of the Environment
  3. Control your emotions

Before we go into the details of these 3 controls, let’s clarify the word control. The term “control” can have a negative connotation or be misinterpreted. It falls into the same category as other potentially problematic words such as leadership, dominance and even the word command. Many people misinterpret these words because, to them, it sounds like you should rule your dog like a tyrannical fascist dictator.

“I don’t want to do this” they will say. “I love my dog. I don’t want them to be afraid of me.”

In the past I would have been bothered by this seeming softness. “Have people really become so soft that I have to hang on to every word?” I would ask myself. Then I started meeting people on the other side of the spectrum who misinterpreted those words and went overboard like this guy:

“Oh yeah, I know. You have to let your dog know you’re dominant. You have to pin them to the ground and stuff. Yeah, I already know. If they don’t listen to me, I just grab this big stick and they run to the back room, so I know they respect me.”

Well, suffice it to say that I’ve come to understand the fact that words are very important, very powerful, and that using one in place of the other can have a completely different result in a conversation with any given person.

Imagine this. You win two hundred dollars in concert tickets for you and someone special. They turn to you during the show and say:just all that screams and noise it’s over, I want to talk to you about something”. I think we can all agree that the preferred terms would be song and music. Semantics?

Well, with that said, let me just state that the type of control I’m talking about is not about being mean, suffocating, fear-based, or any of those other concerns that might arise. I’m not in the business of breaking a dog’s spirit. I am in the business of helping people have a longer and longer lasting relationship with their dog. The truth is that dogs really need and respond positively suitable leadership and the three Cs are part of that package. As you will see, the three C’s will not make your dog fear you, they will make your dog love and appreciate you.

Check #1: Your dog This basically comes down to training and socializing your dog. A dog that is well trained will be a much better companion and will enjoy your company. They will be allowed in various dog friendly locations, they can enjoy the freedom of being enclosed, running on the beach etc. and have a better temperament in general. They obey orders and have good manners. The key here is that for this to happen they need to listen to you. Not just when they like it or when they know you have a treat, but any time and every time you tell them. This is where some of that semantics comes in. That’s why I use the word Command, but some people might prefer Cue or Signal. The command can sound very harsh, but the Cue or Signal can sound a bit like a request, which can be interpreted by the dog as “I don’t have to if I don’t want to”. Whatever word you choose, keep it in mind. A dog that thinks it has a choice is one that simply can choose:

  • No “Come” when you call
  • No “Shut it up” or “Let it go” when they get into something nasty or poisonous
  • Don’t stop jumping, chewing, biting, barking, digging, etc. when you say “no”

However you feel about the word control, it is necessary if you want your dog to be a part of the society we live in. Uncontrolled, dogs often become nuisances or worse, aggressive and therefore end up in a shelter or euthanized. I call this unpleasantly common problem “loving dogs to death.” The long and short of it is, Control Your Dog.

Check #2 The Environment “Environment control? How should I do this?”

Well, obviously we can’t always control the world around us. What we can do is control when, where and what our dog is exposed to, at least as much as possible. This may mean controlling and limiting access to the house until they are fully house trained, as well as limiting their freedom on your property or out in the park. It can mean being more aware of your surroundings while on a walk. A big part of raising a dog is preparation. Some environmental controls may be:

  • Keep your dog on a leash at home until it is trained
  • Using baby gates, closing doors and keeping litter out
  • Keeping items off the floor that you don’t want them to chew
  • Keeping appropriate chew toys available at all times
  • Leave the dog park when it gets too noisy or you have any sense of danger
  • Crossing the street or going the other way if you see a potential problem
  • Manage people who try to approach your dog without asking your permission
  • Avoiding dogs that drag a person behind them

The main idea here is to set your dog up for success by controlling his environment and access to it so that he has as many positive experiences as possible. They’ll make mistakes, sure, but you’ll be there and set up the situation so you have some form of control. Guide them and let them know what is okay and what is not. We are not trying to deny them access to the world. we provide guidance so that they ultimately have the greatest possible access. Too much freedom, too soon, without sufficient control can lead to bad habits, dangerous situations and negative experiences. All of these can lead to phobias and aggression issues. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Control #3: Your emotions Last but certainly not least is to control your emotions. I’m not going to lie to you. this is the hardest part of all for most of us humans. We are emotional beings and sometimes we are so stretched to the limit, we are about to burst. Our modern life keeps us so busy and in such a state of constant mental and physical stress that we tend to lose our cool very easily. Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when Honey Bunny robs the restaurant and Samuel Jackson’s character tries to calm her down? He says something about being like Fonzie.

“And how’s Fonzie?” He asks. “He’s cool.” Honey Bunny answers.

This is how we should be with our dogs. We gotta be like the Fonz. We have to be cool.

We love our dogs, of course, and there are times when we want to be animated, rough, make exciting and high-pitched noises and so on. Maybe you enjoy cuddling on the couch and whispering sweet nothings into your dog’s ear. There may also be times when we need to use a firm tone to tell them “No!” The key though, is that these should be very occasional. Most of the time, believe it or not, it would be better not to talk at all. Dogs don’t need that much sound. Most conversations are about us, not them.

“Most dogs are over-talkative, over-touched and over-stimulated.” – Martin Deeley, Co-Founder of the International Association of Professional Dogs

No matter how loud we are, the real secret is to control our emotions. If we are angry, frustrated, sad, guilty, etc., we are unable to do right by our dogs. It’s never a good idea to be overly emotional when dealing with your dog. I don’t claim to be a robot and I certainly don’t claim to have mastered this art myself. It’s just a really good thing to know. Your dog is very sensitive to his environment and that includes you and your emotional state. They may mirror your feelings, become overly repulsed or intimidated by them, or simply learn to ignore you because you’re unstable. Examples of emotional control:

  • To calm your dog, you must be calm. Tip: If you’re yelling at your dog, you’re not calm.
  • If your dog needs correction: Be as firm as necessary and do not correct angrily. Stay in a “matter of fact” frame of mind. You’re not arguing or negotiating, you’re just training a dog.
  • Don’t take your dog’s bad behavior personally. They are not trying to hurt you or make you angry. They are not people. They are dogs and they need guidance and completeness.
  • Don’t feel guilty or sad. If there is any excuse for your guilt, such as not meeting your dog’s needs, then you need to do something about it. Feeling guilty will make things worse because it reduces the time you spend together and affects the dog negatively.
  • Give yourself time, not the dog. If you find yourself getting upset, embarrassed, etc. take some time. Time outs don’t work with dogs. they can’t go to their room and think about what they’ve done.
  • If you are afraid of your dog: See Control #1 and get some professional help. Find a trainer who is well rounded and can teach you how to train your dog and create a retraining program. It is dangerous and unhealthy for both you and your dog to let this type of relationship go unchecked.

Again, we’re all only human and can only do the best we can. Hopefully the three Cs have given you some new insight into your dog’s mind, as well as your own. The mind is a very powerful thing, underestimated by most. Who knows, taking this advice into consideration may help you not only raise a better dog but gain more mental and emotional control over all aspects of life.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford

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