The single hardest piece of dog training is not the mechanics of obedience, it’s developing the relationship and finding the courage to put our own emotional thoughts and needs aside to do what is best for our dogs. I totally understand why owners get stuck into thinking their dog thrives best with the kind of love that offers freedom, a pampered lifestyle, and tons of physical affection; I’ve fallen victim to that mentality too because it feels good to dish out that kind of love. However, the not-so-fun stuff like structure, leadership, trust, clear communication, and accountability which, yes, sometimes involves giving consequences for undesirable behaviors, is also love — maybe the most important kind of love. Without balance we are not serving the whole dog.
Dogs don’t speak in dialect but they certainly speak through their behavior and body language, if we care to listen. If your dog is acting out, in most cases, they aren’t telling you they need more love… you are giving them plenty! 😉 They are likely asking for direction and clarity on who is in charge and keeping them safe. This can only be given with clear intentional leadership. This is love. It just may not be the type of love you enjoy giving, but your dog needs it and if your dog is acting out or not listening, then he is CRAVING it. We would be doing them a disservice if we smothered them with affection instead of giving them what they actually need and are seeking.
Balance is providing both love and leadership. If you really love your dog, don’t let your emotions and your needs define the relationship. Understand your dog and what THEY need to ensure all needs are being met, not just the ones that make YOU feel good.