How To Spoil A Dog
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“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
A spoiled dog is damaged as a pet, and diminished in ability, and lacking in loyalty or desire to please, because it is allowed, given permission, and often encouraged to be unruly and disobedient through excessive and undeserved attention, petting, praise, treats and freedom. It’s the owner’s fault, and it causes untold amounts of problems in the home and in public.
What are the signs that a dog is being spoiled?
1.) A Spoiled Dog Is Typically Owned By A Mommy or Daddy. These are the people that treat a dog like a furry little human baby. They refuse to treat a dog like a dog. Their dogs fill an abnormal need for attention and companionship that robs the dog of its dignity and place as a dog in their homes. This problem magnifies, depending upon the type of spoiling, and the type of dog, this person gets. Problems can go from merely annoying to deadly, from behaviors that any normal person would find irritating to those that would cause a large dog to attack and kill a person. These people are weak minded, overly emotional, not having a clue about setting and enforcing respect and boundaries, having no inclination about having an orderly routine for their dogs, nor any willingness to ensure that obedience is a lifestyle.
2.) The Owner Tries To Reason With The Dog. Dogs don’t reason like people, don’t feel guilt like people, don’t understand language like people. But, spoiled dogs are talked to and corrected as if they are humans. Countless times I have seen owners trying to cause feelings of guilt through all manner of tactics: long speeches, banishment and ignoring, withholding dinner, and so forth. I once had an owner, who was being bullied by her 1 year old Rottweiler, ask me why I just couldn’t explain to the dog why it should stop jumping and biting on her and other people. Seriously. And when I tried to explain why this wouldn’t work, she became the proverbial Drama Queen, getting hysterical and offended. I fired her that day, 3 days into the training, writing her a full refund check and getting out of there. It was a no win situation. She needed a shrink, not a dog trainer.
3.) The Dog Rules Their Calendars. Everything is about dog’s needs. I have seen couples whose marriages were on the rocks because of one spouse’s overindulgence of the animals in their care. I have especially seen this with rescue volunteers, neglecting the needs of family, finances, and friends as more and more dogs are brought into the home. There’s actually a term, called the Rescue Widower, a husband horribly neglected by his wife because of her rescue work obsession. The dogs rule, and the rest of the family starts to resent it, and can result in divorce.
4.) Everything Is About Salving The Dog’s Feelings. Spoilers seem to think they are mind readers, and that anything other than overindulgence is cruelty. Thus, training is never completed or enforced, and if training is implemented, only forms that the owner thinks are “cruelty free” are used. They are more concerned about how they think the dog is going to feel than what the dog is doing or what kinds of behaviors are developing. While everyone else hates their dogs, judging their dogs by their actions, these weak owners are only concerned about their dogs feeling happy and comfortable. Thus, these dogs are overly sheltered, and become obnoxious and insecure, being held back from normal life experiences that are actually healthy, such as learning rules and boundaries and respect.
5.) The Owners Feel Guilty. These people feel guilty about making their dogs obey or be mannerly, so instead, they take the easier route of justifying why their dogs don’t have to do these things, or why training and discipline / order are cruel. This is much of what the animal rights folks are all about, and why they are against dog ownership. I have yet to meet an animal rights advocate that trained their dog to obey. These dogs are always overly pampered, always walked in some kind of harness, fed ridiculously expensive diets, and don’t obey. And when the dogs don’t behave, this is used as a justification why animals shouldn’t be “held in captivity”. On a less extreme level, the owners just won’t be consistent in enforcing household rules, so the least amount of obedience and manners results.
6.) The Dog Is Bribed With Attention And Treats. Spoiled dogs are praised excessively, coddled, and sheltered. This encourages aggression in some dogs. And it encourages defiance in most dogs. You’ve seen this: the dog runs out the door, the owner gets a treat, and says, “come back and I’ll give you this treat”. The dog looks at them, and then continues to go about its business. It has come to learn that it can still goof off, and in the end still get the treat. The petting is also doled out inappropriately, and hugs and closeness given without examining how it is affecting the relationship. Inappropriate attention raises status. I have seen this manifest into aggression towards other pets in the home, towards kids, and towards spouses. I always watch to see how people interact with their pets, because it can be a precursor for aggression, defiance, and other behavioral problems in the home and in public.
Of course, all of this is preventable. But, it starts with being a good owner. Proper leadership doesn’t mean being lax and overindulging. Proper leadership doesn’t imply harsh, authoritarian methods. If I can just get through to these owners, then things change for the better really fast. But when I can’t, the training unravels as the owners backslide and undo everything I’ve taught them, and it’s as if we never trained their dog at all.