Safety; What it Means in Dog Training

Mr. Snitch and My other Boys!

Dog training can be a very emotional ride.

And, I am not even talking about YOU the dog owner!

I am talking about your dog!

Yes, your dog has emotions and we have a very successful “Emotions Training Program” which we call our Dream Dog Program for more on that click here. 

I’ll say that again, yes, dogs have emotions.

They may not have complex emotions nor are they manipulative but they do have simple emotions and fear is one of them.

I have talked a lot about fear lately; but it is a very intricate problem and can come in a variety of severity.

Distractions

When we are training or working with our dogs, we often think that they are distracted, dumb, and stubborn or just intentionally ignoring our commands.

But…

But what if it is because we are not meeting their emotional needs?

Recently I was looking through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I haven’t had the joy of reading since college.

And, it got me to thinking… I think dogs have the same basic needs.

They want a full belly, and water and directly after that they need a safe place to live and sleep.

But, they also need to feel safe when we are dog training with them.

And, I think we often misunderstand our dogs and how they are feeling.

Sometimes it is easy to see when they are scared, but other times I think we misinterpret it as them being obstinate.

For ExampleTaiwan Earthquake Kills Thousands

Let’s say for instance that your dog is nervous of cars or other wheeled objects.

He may seem aggressive, overly excited, or maybe he just can’t focus with cars close.  All of these can be signs of distress.

So it would be hard for him to learn a new behavior, or even perhaps perform an established or known behavior while near cars or other vehicles.

Does that make sense?

Let’s Put This into Human Terms

While visiting a continuing education seminar in California on learning new mathematical equations you experience an earthquake.

The things around you are shaking and moving, the floor is bucking under your feet; but your teacher is pressing you to either learn or dictate mathematical equations.

Could you do it?

What if trees were falling down around and crashing into the building and loud booms could be heard?

You probably could not, because at the very simplest level your needs for safety aren’t being met.

If you don’t feel safe, you search for safety.

If you were in that earthquake you would be running to a doorway, or a ditch, or somewhere that you would feel safe and math would be the last thing on your mind.

Your Dog Needs to Feel Safe

Start Training at Home  Thank You Guide Dog Training for the Photo

Start Training at Home
Thank You Guide Dog Training for the Photo

Your dog needs to feel safe in order to learn or to perform his dog training for you.

And, with safety comes trust in you (the owner) and then confidence.

So if you are having trouble getting your dog to listen in doggy obedience class, outside, at the park, at a friend’s house; then perhaps he doesn’t feel safe there?!

How to Ensure That Safe Feeling

Begin by training at home!

As long as your dog is used to being in your home and you train in a happy and positive manner, home is the best place to start training!

So many people begin their dog training by taking a puppy class or an obedience class; but the very best place to start is alone at home without distractions and in a place that your dog feels safe.

Next move to somewhere else that your dog is comfortable and familiar with, and slowly add more and more environments first that your dog knows and then that he doesn’t.  As your dog is effective and learns and is having fun; his confidence is being built and he is learning to trust and enjoy the time spend with you!

This transfers over to even places where he once did not feel safe.

Nervous Dogs

It is easy to tell that some dogs are fearful and nervous.

Most people aren’t tuned into their dogs, they think hackles, aggression, dilated eyes, and stiff body positions are normal or not a fear problem.

But some dogs are obviously fearful; tails tucked, running backward, hiding and avoiding contact are all more easily spotted.

If your dog shows these signs GET HIM OUT OF THERE.

One of My Favorite Fear Stories

My Snitch Helping Me Drive

My Snitch Helping Me Drive

I had a dog who was rock solid!  Almost (as it turns out) bomb proof.

Guns didn’t bother him, traffic didn’t bother him, he loved all dogs and people and he was in fact my Service Dog Demo Dog… meaning he spent most of his life in public putting on demonstrations and doing Service Dog work.

His name was Mr. Snitch by the way and he became part of my soul.

When he was about 2, it was time for my 10 year high school reunion.

I was pretty proud of myself!  I had developed a really good resume and had just started my own nonprofit.  So of course I brought him with me for emotional support and to brag about the things I had accomplished in life. And, Mr. Snitch… well he liked going everywhere with me.

So I took him to our first night’s get together at a bowling alley and to my surprise he FREAKED.  He whined and he paced and pretty soon with all the balls crashing he tried to get away.

Even though I wanted to spend time with my friends I knew I had to leave.

It wasn’t in his best interests to stay and he was one of my best friends; how could I expect him to be so miserable.

He continued to live a long life as a Service Dog until he died of cancer at just under 8.  And, I never had a problem with him again… not jack hammers, not whips, not cars back firing; nothing else bothered him.

So if you have a nervous dog, don’t push them. Take them back to a place of safety and try to determine WHY and if it is something that needs to be worked through.

And,if it is work on it slowly and with compassion desensitizing the dog as you go for more on desensitization click here.

So if he is not learning or he seems distracted; ask yourself does he feel “safe” here?

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Comments

  1. Lynn pearce says:

    Good for to to tell people dogs have emotions. I have 6 , 3 showed up at my door step. 2 from a shelter where I walk dogs. Dogs in shelters have lot of fear. They don’t know why there. Often time owner dies and they lose their happy home. I suggest people get dogs outside of shelter away from all the noise and other dogs to see what dog really like.

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  2. Nancy Adams says:

    Your article on Mr. Snitch and the bowling alley was informative. Thank U.
    The pic of your ‘Boys’ is precious!!

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    Minette Reply:

    Thank you! I loved my boys very very much!

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  3. Bev says:

    This explains a horrible experience that I had with my youngest. I took her to an older puppy class. It was held at the County Fair Grounds. There was a lot of chaos, yelling, barking, etc. Owners had not been taught to have their dogs respect other dogs or people. Every time a large plane flew low over the fair grounds on its way to the airport, nothing could be heard, except the plane. The final insult was that we were working on pocked and pitted grass. With my own problems with an artificial knee, I could not walk without major distress, and after I fell because of that, my dog and I walked on an adjoining sidewalk, by ourselves, away from the class. Needless to say, I was ignored by the soft-spoken instructor. They would not refund my money, and I skipped 2 of the classes. I returned for the final class, to find that the instructor had gotten ill, and there was a substitute, who kept criticizing me, and complaining that my dog was not responsive because of me.

    The puppy, now 18 months, is an incredibly sweet, gentle dog, who loves me and her 2 older canine sisters. Yes, we still have more training to do … a little at a time in our own home.

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    Minette Reply:

    I always train my dogs at home first. Then I often take a class to perfect their training in a very distracting environment, but classes are not conducive to “learning”

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  4. mary Hache says:

    my dog was attached by two dogs, when we were walking. Now she is scared of other dogs if they bark at her.

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