My Dog is in Charge

Branch Manager

Yes, I did say my dog is in charge.

And, yes, I mostly mean it!

I’m not willing to ear pinch, shock, prong, smack or otherwise force my dogs to do anything.

I prefer to use my mind, over my body.

I am pretty sure this will ensure my ability to love and handle large dogs far into my senior years, because I won’t need to physically manipulate them.

It also means I am more capable of handling seriously aggressive dogs.


Our First Place Protection Trophy

Our First Place Protection Trophy

Recently I saw a post from a famous dog trainer, who I won’t plug here, who is known for positive reinforcement training, who was trying to explain why positive trainers are not permissive trainers (for more on that and why click here).

I commented that in my opinion this was the best way to train (and yes, I started my career working under a trainer who thought all puppies should be fitted with prong collars, so I have seen both sides).

I mentioned that if your dog thinks he is in charge, there is a lot less conflict and fighting, and the dog chooses to listen.

I was clobbered, mostly because this was on a working dog forum and a large percentage people who handle working dogs use a lot of compulsion.

First I was challenged to get a Belgian Malinois (known for being difficult to work) and of course I have spent the last 15 years dedicated to this magnificent but hard to own breed.

Next, I was challenged to compete.

I have many, many titles in many sports, including protection sports, agility, dock diving and AKC obedience.  I was even invited to AKC’s National competition because our scores were so high.  Which is kind of a big deal, considering how many hundreds of people compete in all over the country in AKC obedience each weekend.

After showing pictures of titles, ribbons, certificates and working photos I was left alone.

I Believe in Balance

I believe in balanced training, you need balance to survive anything in life for more on balanced training click here.

And, again I don’t believe anything is “purely positive”, nature is one of the cruelest things I have ever seen.  People and animals starve, get killed and die daily.

I have rules at my house, and I also have obedient dogs.

Why Being in Charge is Important to Your Dog

Everyone wants to be in charge.

We want to drive

We want to be our own boss

We want to be treated how we feel we deserve to be treated

And, no one like feeling forced into doing anything.

Force creates resentment.

Try Forcing a Big Cat to Do Something It Doesn't Want...

Try Forcing a Big Cat to Do Something It Doesn’t Want…

Try forcing a toddler to do something he doesn’t want, or to wear something he doesn’t want… it can be quite challenging.

How about convincing that toddler that what you want is best, and actually what he wants!

I remember, as a brain washed child, growing up in WY and visiting the big city of Denver where we would go to the zoo for the day.

My mother put bells on my sister and I, wrapped in a pretty ribbon.

Giant, cow bells.  There were no craft store bells back then…

That way she could hear exactly where we were at and make sure we weren’t abducted.

They were shiny and gold, and we loved them.

We had no idea she was actually “parenting” with them or that we could have been in danger in the city.

I remember as a teenager going into her room because she was giving me some of her old jewelry and seeing the bells.  She laughed as she told me the story and gave me my bell.

She convinced me that I wanted the “special bell” (thankfully it was only for BIG occasions 😉

I Convince My Dog

Just a Few of My Ribbons

Just a Few of My Ribbons

I convince my dog that he wants to do what I want him to do, secretly, much in the same way my mother manipulated us as children! (which was ingenious and I now recognize that!).

I don’t reward his rotten behavior.

I either ignore it or I change it.

Occasionally, I correct it; but I don’t do it physically I do it mentally (okay sometimes I use my body or the leash but that isn’t what I mean).

Imagine Your Teenager

You don’t like their immediate behavior.  Perhaps they snuck out to a party one night.

You know they know better (this is essential, does your dog know better have you actually trained him to do something else?). Most people have super unrealistic expectations of their dogs and so they hit or punish them for something that is natural for them (like jumping) without ever teaching them that it is not something they want.  For more on that, read my article on Common Core Math and Other Things Your Dog Doesn’t Understand.

Now slap your teenager across the face when you find out (actually please don’t, I am trying to prove a point).

Do you think that the slap will keep them from sneaking out and partying with their friends again?  One moment of pain or discomfort, may make them angry, but it probably won’t change a behavior that was super fun for them.

Now, take away their car, keys, and phone for a month or two.

Think that will change their behavior?

It may not… but chances are higher that taking away the things they love and need will make them think twice before showing the same behavior.

The same is true for your dog.

Hitting him may not make much of a long term difference but taking away something he wants will make an impact.

So I don’t ignore his bad behavior, I just take his phone away 😉 or the equivalent.

He learns that whatever that behavior is, is not rewarding and he stops showing it.

And, he chooses to continue the behavior that I reward.

Even though he thinks he is in charge (which means we are both winning), I know that he is merely doing the things I reward him for doing.

When I See Bad Behavior Rear Its Ugly Head

2 of My Difficult Kids

2 of My Difficult Kids

And, when I see bad behavior crop up… I wonder how I have been reinforcing it.

Because sometimes we inadvertently reward bad behavior, and then we can’t imagine WHY or WHERE this has come from.

For instance:  If you teach your dog to stay off of the furniture 99% of the time, but allow him up to cuddle on rare occasion… you will likely see him jump on the furniture more often.

We must be consistent, especially until the dog understands.

I once had a client who taught her dog that when the husband went to work the dog was allowed in the bed.

The dog went through a stage of trying it around the husband (of course) but soon learned that the variable was the husband being gone and eventually stopped doing it in front of the husband.

I certainly don’t recommend this, because it can be confusing… but dogs are smart!

So if you want great dog training and less conflict; let your dog THINK he is the one in charge but stick to your guns about what you allow and what you won’t tolerate!

What do you think!  You can bark, I won’t bite!

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  1. Pat says:

    I have a very stubborn bulldog that we recently got from a breeder. We are trying to teach her to use the pee pit rather than the yard. Our boxer uses it faithfully. We have tried to get her to use it, but she doesn’t even want to go in the area. At the breeders she had a similar setup, but the dogs were left in the area for hours at a time. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can get her to use this designated area.


    Minette Reply:

    Use a leash and don’t give the dog other options until it is well conditioned.


  2. Shannon says:

    You have such beautiful and well trained dogs! I love reading your articles, they have been so much help. Keep up the good work, Minette! 🙂


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you so much Shannon 🙂 I do love my fur kiddos!


  3. My 9 month old weimaraner has been doing fine most of the time. We went to the vet yesterday and when we walked inside he went nuts trying to play with every dog around. He had been do so well in smaller groups. This was just too much for him to sit quietly. I plan to take him back to the vet and just sit in the waiting room to work on his behavior. I would appreciated any suggestions. I got him back under control to where he was listening again but I guess we need more practice with this level of distractions.


  4. Alyssa says:

    I really want to get into mondio ring. I saw how you said you have trained protection sports. For me, the only problem is the protection side. I am quite good training the other areas, but I do not know how to train protection and do not want to use potentially dangerous methods such as E or prong collars. How would I train this as most people in the community(near me at least) recommend those methods?


    Minette Reply:

    The bad thing with protection training is that you can’t do it by yourself. Someone has to get into the suit and take bites…

    As for the training side, you have to make sure that you train with someone who is comfortable with your training methods and respects you.

    I make sure that I check references and ensure that no one with “make” me do anything with my dogs. With that said, anyone who gets into the suit with a dog is risking severe injury. So your training has to be almost perfect and positive methods often take a bit longer.

    My first responsibility is to my decoy, to make sure he is safe and doesn’t get bitten, my second responsibility is to my dog.

    As far as ground work goes, I do a lot at home on outs with toys and guard with toys and that kind of thing. I also make sure that when my dog outs on the decoy I have a toy to reward my dog.

    Look into Ivan’s CDs and Bernard Flinks. Although they do use corrections you will find that their methods are more positive. Also Shade Whitesel and Denise Fenzi


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