How does mindset affect the life your dog will experience? For example, how you see the world, how you see yourself, how you see your dog, and how others see you and your dog.
How do you see the world?
For example, what do you think about other people? How do you categorize people? There are lots of ways to slice this apple. Male/ female? Tall/ short? Religious/ atheist? By color? By race? By familiarity? By class? I think the best way to see other people is to see what they actually are, not what your biases lead you to believe what they are. That is easier said than done. For example, if you think that children will behave the same around your dog as adults, then at some point, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Many dogs react differently to children than adults, or to some children or some adults. Or, let’s say that you think all people are the same and that no one will ever do anything harmful to you or your dog. Once again, you are eventually going to be in for a rude awakening. Another example: what do you think of your climate? I have seen many people take dogs on hot day hikes in Arizona, causing those dogs to be put in life threatening situations of heat stroke, because they figured their dogs could handle a long walk in hot weather with little to no water or shade. And since I have volunteered doing dog rescue for over 2 decades, I have seen the results of people making disastrous mistakes by neglecting their dogs because they didn’t see the world in a way that really was, instead thinking that what they were doing was OK for their dogs. Lastly, do you have at least a slight knowledge of the dog regulations and rules in your community? Mistakes there can also be costly. If you think that nothing bad can happen to you or your dog, how do you think that will affect how you manage and train your dog?
How do you overcome your biases and have a more clear vision of what is going on around you? Like any other type of learning, you have to go out in the world with your dog, do some reading, take some classes, and find out. For example, I regularly read news articles about dogs. I want to heighten my awareness, on a regular basis, to understand what is going on. It is an active type of study and it allows me to reflect and attempt to puzzle out our world.
How do you see yourself?
Are you any good at managing your dog? I think a lot of people overestimate their abilities… until a shock comes along and they learn how much they should have known. They thought they were doing well, not considering that maybe what they were doing was leading them to the precipice of a disaster. Thus, a percentage of my students call after something bad has happened. It is good to remedy a newly discovered problem. Another percentage of my students call before something bad happens, such as enrolling in puppy lessons, to discover what they will need to know in the future.
I think some of the worst are those working in government-run animal control operations. It is not unusual to discover all manner of horrible things being done to dogs in shelters by administrators and employees, and they actually think and tell everyone they are doing a good job. I was mightily disappointed recently hearing about how a well-known national shelter in another state uses all manner of aversive training methods on the dogs in their care. I have found it next to impossible to get through to these people. Government run shelters are often more about law enforcement than animal welfare, and that mindset opens the door for them to do anything they wish to the animals in a prison like setting. Instead of repenting for their own misdeeds, they blame the public. That is why I support privatizing animal control operations, so long as the new mindset will be animal welfare instead of law enforcement.
How do you see your dog?
What kind of dog do you have? Why did you get that dog? How do you care for your dog and how do you house and feed your dog? I have seen people who thought it perfectly acceptable to imprison their dogs in a sterile back yard, chained to a tree, and never given any decent protection or affection, and punished for barking day and night (even though that was the only thing the dog could do to obtain any kind of stimulation or attention). I’ve seen people who purchased their dog to be a protection dog, and then provide the most neglectful environment to them, endangering them to strangers and wild animals. I’ve seen people who overly babied their dogs to the point they were like porcelain dolls on a shelf, perfumed, caged, overly handled and bathed, pushed around in baby carriages, and never allowed to be a dog. I have also seen dogs that were brought into the home for the right reasons, properly fed, housed, exercised, loved, played with, and given good medical care. I’ve seen competition dogs that were treated like some kind of machine, and heard that they were beaten at home if they didn’t win the competition ribbon. I heard of a veterinarian that would beat dogs he didn’t like, those in his kennels, after hours. Which type of mindset is best for your dog?
My mindset is that dogs should be well managed at all times. I also believe that all dogs should be expected to be well-mannered and obedient within a 100 yard radius of the owner, even if off leash in any public or private environment. That’s the minimum standard I think all training should be geared towards.
How do others see your dog?
My goal is to help students have dogs that can be accepted in all the circumstances they will engage. I want to hear back that your mom, who normally hates dogs, will come to visit your home and peacefully accept your dog. I want to hear that your dog did well on that plane flight. Your dog won that first place ribbon at the dog show. I want to see those funny travel pictures you post of your dog on social media. I love getting those Christmas cards showing the family picture which includes your dog dressed up for the holiday. I want to see your dog doing well at that rally competition. I like to hear about your camping trips with your dog, too.
What you don’t want is for people to hate your dog, to try and sabotage your dog, to inform the community or authorities that your dog is a nuisance or danger to the community. Now, we all know, we can’t control how other people think, especially the small percentage of the population who truly hate dogs. In those cases, it is best that those people never even see or hear from your dog. But, setting that group aside, I recommend you manage and train your dog in such a way that, at the very least, people leave your dog alone, and at the very best, are enthusiastically happy to have your dog around.
An example of this is how you talk about your dog. If you project the image that your dog is crazy, dangerous, or otherwise unstable, then guess how those hearing those reports are most likely going to treat your dog? That’s why I recommend nice names for dogs. You might think it funny to name your dog a cuss word, but that isn’t going to help your dog in the long run. It is why I have students with aggressive looking breeds put happy bandanas on their dogs during a walk, to soften their image. It is why I don’t want you yelling at and cursing your dog, because others hear that and think something is wrong with your dog or you. I want you to keep your dog well cared for, groomed and healthy. How others see your dog can affect you some day, and you should take that into account.
How you view yourself, your world and your dog will play a big factor in how things work out with your dog. How others view you and your dog can become a huge factor in how things work out, as well.
Be a wise and knowledgeable dog owner. That is your best option for having a good experience owning a dog.