It’s estimated there are around a half-billion dogs in the world (including strays) and nine million pet dogs in the UK. The World Canine Organisation (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) estimates there are 339 actual breeds of dog in the world today.
But did you know there are only two kinds of dog owners?
The first group has dogs that truly love them almost all of the time. They enjoy the company of their owners and tend to stay near them wherever they go. The next group has dogs who would often rather be anywhere else than with them and the further from the sofa they go, the less interested they seem to be in their human keeper.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the owners in group one have dogs who hardly ever have any recall or reactivity problems. They take their dogs for stress-free daily walks anywhere they choose, they can enjoy a coffee or an ice cream at a cafe with their dogs, and when they can, they take their dogs on holiday with them.
The second group endures a different kind of dog-owning experience. When they go for a walk, their dog can usually be found in another part of the park altogether, where they may be eating poo, chasing pigeons, or more likely looking for and playing with their doggy friends. That’s if their owners can find them at all. You see, while these dogs very much enjoy you whispering sweet nothings in their ear while you cuddle them on the couch, they quickly forget their name and often turn stone deaf as soon as you step outside your house. For the poor owners in group two, every trip to the park, beach, or woods has the potential to be a very stressful affair. They feel as if they are constantly telling the dog off for ignoring them, and it’s a daily battle of wills.
The owners in group two don’t love their dogs any less than the owners in the first group; they actually love them very much. But for some reason the dogs don’t feel the same way. There is a lack of connection; but how did this happen?
Getting a dog was supposed to be the thing that would complete your family and give you a reason to enjoy long relaxing walks in the park. This was the family member that would never grow up and leave home. So how did ‘man’s best friend’ become ‘that bloody dog’ for so many of us?
Before we tackle that, I do have to ask: which category of owner do you fall into? Does your dog follow you around like you are the Pied Piper, or like many owners, do you have trouble getting his attention when he is sniffing a pee-covered lamp post, never mind when another dog appears?
What I’m really asking is: would you say your dog loves you and listens to you all the time? Or only when it suits him, and there is nothing else around that he finds more interesting?
If you are currently in group two, then don’t worry, because I used to be too, and I know it wasn’t much fun at all. In fact, it was a bloody nightmare. Yes, I, too, have stood alone in the park holding a dogless lead while I shouted for my dog to come back. He did eventually, but only when he had finished saying hello to every other dog he met.
I am going to show you how you can get your dog to listen to you and do what you want him to, even if at the moment, your dog would far rather chase something that has grabbed his attention. This superhuman power that you need to get your dog to look, listen, and pay attention to you can be described with another word.
The dirtiest word in dog training
I’m referring to the dreaded ’c’ word. No… not that one. I’m talking about ‘control’. Having great control of your dog is something all dog owners should have, but it doesn’t mean dominating your dog. It doesn’t require you to shout at him or use an e-collar or a check chain. You don’t need any of those things, but if you want to be a responsible dog owner, you bloody well do need to have very good control of your dog. Especially if you are exercising your dog off leash, and yes, all dogs need off-leash exercise.
So control is key. For one thing, the Dangerous Dogs Act (UK) demands you have great control over your dogs in public and private places. And there are hefty fines and possible prison sentences if your dog is deemed dangerously out of control.
The law is obviously important; however, the responsibility that dog owners have to their community and to future dog owners is equally important. As hard as it might seem to believe, not everyone in the world likes dogs, and people who don’t like dogs certainly don’t want dogs running up and bothering them. More out-of-control dogs will mean more dog-control orders and less public spaces to exercise and enjoy our dogs. And a world without dogs would be a very sad place indeed.
So now that we have got the ‘c’ word out of the way, and I’m warming to my task, why don’t I shatter a few more myths about dogs – myths that seem to have wormed their way into the way we think about dogs? If you are very sensitive, then this will ruffle a few feathers, and by ruffle I mean pluck out and shred.
Harsh unpleasant truth number one
It’s not the dog’s fault
This is a big one and it’s worth repeating, so I will.
It’s not the dog’s fault.
Your dog doesn’t go out of his way to do things to annoy you. Dogs are clever, but they aren’t that clever.
• If your dog runs away, it’s not his fault. He should have been on the lead, or you should have been more in control.
• Your puppy poops on the floor. Not his fault I’m afraid, you should have let him outside quicker.
• Your dog jumps up at someone and knocks them over. Not his fault either. And neither was it the person’s fault. Jumping up is something he has learned to do, and it’s your job as his owner to teach him not to do annoying things like that.
• Your dog pulls on the lead so hard he makes your palm sore and regularly embarrasses you. Yup, you guessed it; that’s not the dog’s fault either.
• He may have ripped the wallpaper off the walls when you were at work and pinched your dinner while you were pouring a glass of wine, but remember…
It’s not the dog’s fault!
Hey, we are all human though, and you can still feel pissed off when he does any of those highly annoying things (I know I do), but it’s a waste of time thinking that your dog did them on purpose. Also, getting angry or upset with your dog will just confuse him and won’t lead you any closer to a situation where he does something better instead.
You need a plan to help you teach your dog to do something else. We will look at exactly why dogs do things that drive us crazy in the next chapter, but for now just repeat after me ‘It’s not my dog’s fault’. Treat it as a mantra every time the shit hits the fan and the next time your dog commits a crime that has you palm-slapping your face.
Accepting this one truism will have a profound effect on the way you think and feel about your dog’s behaviour. By accepting responsibility for his actions, you put yourself in the liberating position of being able to do something about it.
Harsh unpleasant truth number two
Your dog only needs one friend
And that friend is…
Which means your dog doesn’t need to have any ‘doggy friends’. In fact, the more dog friends he wants to play with, the harder he will be to exercise and control.
I appreciate not everyone wants to hear this information and the more ‘touchy-feely’ you are, the harder it will be for you to take, but this is real life and not a Disney movie. If Lady and the Tramp had been real-life dogs and had sat down to that romantic meal, Lady would have told the Tramp to piss off in no uncertain terms and would have eaten all the spaghetti herself.
The truth is your dog can and should get all the friendship, love, stimulation, and exercise he needs from you, his owner.
This means being disciplined and only allowing your dog to enjoy doing things that you can control, which will keep him safe and make him easier to look after.
This blog is an extract from Dom’s bestselling book How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero. You can ensure your new rescue becomes an amazing family pet (and is NEVER ends up back in a rescue) by grabbing a free PDF copy of the full book here. Or you can get a paperback on Amazon here.
Or get the Audiobook and start a free 30 day trail with Audible by clicking here now.
In 2011 Dom Hodgson revolutionised the pet service industry with his first business Pack Leader Dog Adventures, the UK’s first, award winning ‘dog adventure’ company. Now a respected dog trainer, author, speaker and mentor to pet business owners, Doms calling is to help dog walkers, trainers and groomers to excel with their marketing, so they can help change the lives of more dog owners with their amazing skills. You can join the elite, ambitious pet business owners inside the Pet Business Inner Circle, or apply to work with Dom personally by clicking here now.