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The 3 C’s of dog training: control, control, control

to flourish (to flourish) v. grow or develop with vigor and health; to flourish

In my opinion, a thriving canine is a happy, well balanced and fulfilled dog that enjoys people and that people enjoy being around. There are three C’s involved in raising a canine to thrive: control, control, and control.

  1. control your dog
  2. control the environment
  3. control your emotions

Before we get into the details of these 3 controls, let’s clarify the word control. “Control” can have a negative connotation or be misinterpreted. It falls into the same category as other potentially problematic words like leadership, dominance, and even the word command. Many people misinterpret these words because, to them, it sounds like you should rule your dog as a tyrannical fascist dictator.

“I do not want to do that,” they’ll say. “I love my dog. I don’t want them to fear me.”

In the past, this apparent softness bothered me. “Have people really gotten so soft that I have to tiptoe with every word?” I would ask myself. Then I started running into people on the other end of the spectrum who would misinterpret these words and go overboard like this guy:

“Oh yeah, I know. You have to let your dog know that you’re dominant. You have to pin him down and stuff. Yeah, I know. If they don’t listen to me, I just grab this.” big stick and run to the back room, so I know they respect me.

Well, suffice it to say that I have become aware of the fact that words are very important, very powerful and using one instead of the other can have a totally different effect in a conversation with anyone.

Imagine this. You win two hundred dollars in concert tickets for you and someone special. They turn to you during the show and say, “as soon as all this screams and noise It’s over, I want to talk to you about something”. I think we can all agree that the preferred terms would be singing and music. Semantics?

So with that being said, let me just say that the type of control I’m talking about isn’t about being mean, stifling, fear-based, or any of those other concerns that might come up. I’m not in the business of breaking a dog’s spirit. I’m in the business of helping people have a better and longer relationship with their dog. The truth is that dogs really need and respond positively to suitable leadership and the three C’s are part of that package. As you will see, the three C’s will not make your dog fear you, they will make your dog love and appreciate you.

Control #1: Your Dog This basically has to do with training and socializing your dog. A dog that is well trained will make a much better companion and a joy to be around. They will be allowed to be in a variety of dog-friendly places, they will be able to enjoy the freedom of being off-leash, running on the beach, etc. and have a better overall temperament. They obey orders and have good manners. The key here is that for this to happen you need to be heard. Not just when they feel like it or when they know you have a gift, but whenever and whenever you ask for it. This is where a bit of that semantics comes in. That’s why I use the word Command, but some people may prefer Cue or Signal. The command may sound too harsh, but Cue or Signal may sound a bit like a request, which the dog may interpret as “I don’t have to if I don’t want to.” Whichever word you choose, keep this in mind. The dog that thinks it has a choice is the one that could choose:

  • They don’t “Come” when you call
  • Don’t “Throw it” or “Leave it” when they are getting into something nasty or poisonous.
  • Does not stop jumping, chewing, biting, barking, digging, etc. when you say “no”

Regardless of how you feel about the word control, it’s a must if you want your dog to be a part of the society we live in. Left unchecked, dogs often become a nuisance or worse, aggressive and therefore end up in a shelter or euthanized. I call this uncomfortably common problem “loving dogs to death.” In short, this is Control Your Dog.

Control #2 The Environment “Control the environment? How am I supposed to do that?”

Well, obviously we can’t always control the world around us. What we can do is control when, where and what our dog is exposed to, at least to the extent possible. This can mean controlling and limiting access to the house until they are fully housebroken, as well as limiting their freedom on your property or in the park. It may mean being more alert to your surroundings as you walk. A big part of raising a dog is grooming. Some environmental controls could be:

  • Keep your dog on a leash in the house until trained
  • Use baby gates, close doors, and keep trash out of reach
  • Keep items off the floor that you don’t want to chew on
  • Keep suitable chew toys available at all times
  • Leave the dog park when it gets too loud or if you have any sense of danger.
  • Cross the street or go the other way if you see a potential problem
  • Handling people who try to approach your dog without asking permission
  • Avoid dogs that drag a human behind them.

The main idea here is to set your dog up for success by controlling the environment and his access to it so that he has as many positive experiences as possible. They will make mistakes, no doubt, but you will be there and you will have set up the situation so that you have some control. Guide them and let them know what is okay and what is not. We are not trying to deny you access to the world; we’re providing guidance so that ultimately they get the most access possible. Too much freedom, too soon, without a good amount of control can lead to bad habits, dangerous situations, and negative experiences. All of this can lead to phobias and aggression problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Control #3: Your Emotions Last, but certainly not least, is controlling your emotions. I will not lie; this is the most challenging part of all for most of us humans. We are emotional beings and sometimes we are so stretched to the limit that we are about to burst. Our modern lives keep us so busy and in such a state of constant mental and physical stress that we tend to lose our cool very easily. Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when Honey Bunny is robbing the restaurant and Samuel Jackson’s character is trying to calm her down? She says something about being like Fonzie.

“And how is Fonzie?” he asks. “He is great”. Honey Bunny folds.

This is how we have to be with our dogs. We have to be like the Fonz. We need to be cool.

We love our dogs, of course, and there are times when we want to be lively, play hard, make exciting high-pitched voices, etc. Maybe you like to snuggle up on the couch and whisper sweet things in your dog’s ear. There may also be times when we need to use a firm tone to tell them “No!” However, the key is that these should be very occasional. Most of the time, believe it or not, it would be better not to talk at all. Dogs don’t really need that much sound. Most of the conversation is for us, not for them.

“Most dogs are talked to too much, touched too much, and stimulated too much.” – Martin Deeley, co-founder of the International Association of Canine Professionals

Regardless of how much sound we make, the real secret is to control our emotions. If we’re angry, frustrated, sad, guilty, etc., we’re not in a good place to do right by our dogs. It is never a good idea to be in an overly emotional state when dealing with your dog. I’m not saying he’s a robot and I’m certainly not claiming to have mastered this art myself. It’s a really good thing to keep in mind. Your dog is very sensitive to his environment and that includes you and your emotional state. They may mirror his emotions, be repelled or overly intimidated by them, or simply learn to ignore him because he’s unstable. Examples of emotional control:

  • To calm your dog, you must be calm. Hint: if you’re yelling at your dog, you’re not calm.
  • If your dog needs a correction: Be as firm as necessary and don’t correct in anger. Stay in a “matter of fact” state of mind. You are not arguing or negotiating, you are just training a dog.
  • Don’t take your dog’s bad behavior personally. They are not trying to hurt you or make you angry. They are not human. They are a dog and need guidance and satisfaction.
  • Don’t feel guilty or sad. If there is some justification for your fault, such as not meeting your dog’s needs, then you need to do something about it. Feeling guilty will only make things worse because it decreases the time you spend together and negatively impacts the dog.
  • Give yourself a break, not the dog. If you find yourself getting angry, embarrassed, etc. take a break time. Time-outs don’t work with dogs; they cannot go to their room and think about what they have done.
  • If you are afraid of your dog: See Control #1 and get professional help. Find a trainer who is well rounded and can teach you how to train your dog and set up a reclassification program. It is dangerous and unhealthy for both you and your dog to let this type of relationship go unchecked.

Again, we are all human and can only do the best we can. Hopefully, the three C’s have given you new insight into your dog’s mind, as well as your own. The mind is a very powerful thing, underestimated by most. Who knows, heeding this advice may help you not only raise a better dog, but also gain greater mental and emotional control in all aspects of life.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – henry ford

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