Dog Training – Discipline & Obedience Training Tips

In the Oxford dictionary discipline is described in part as:

  • The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.

In essence, discipline for a dog means to learn from their leader what the rules and boundaries are and ultimately to follow their leader by using self-control to stay within them.

  • What discipline doesn’t mean is punishment. While the dictionary says ‘using punishment to correct disobedience’ a dog should not be punished, but corrected in the moment. A correction is when you give a command showing your dog that they are doing something you disapprove of at that exact moment. Anything that comes afterwards would be ineffective as the dog would not associate his actions with the correction or punishment.

Because the word punishment has such negative associations in our psychology, it is perhaps more helpful to think of punishment simply as corrections, whether they be positive or negative. For example a positive punishment would be a jerk on the lead for pulling forward and a negative punishment would be withholding affection for jumping up.

The connection between the word discipline and punishment is where I believe many of the problems for some owners and their dogs begin as they confuse these two terms but let’s be clear, discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline is simply a set of rules that the leader / owner applies to keep the dog balanced and from getting distracted by everything around him.

Dogs need and crave discipline from their owners in the same way that children do. A life without discipline and structure soon turns into chaos with everyone doing their own thing, without regard for anyone else. If you were to walk into a classroom of children who had been allowed to do whatever they wanted you’d see fights, tears and ultimately a lot of unhappy kids wishing the teacher would come in and restore order. The same is true for dogs. When provided with the right amount of discipline in the correct way a puppy will grow up confident, content and stable, knowing their place and what is expected of them. However, all too often owners make the mistake of half-heartedly attempting to train and discipline their dog, either saying that they are too busy or that once those puppy eyes look up at them they weaken and aren’t able to follow through with the command as they think it is cruel or that they would feel guilty afterwards.

Both scenarios are such a shame because the dog quickly learns that their owner isn’t a leader and doesn’t really mean what they say and so concludes that they must take up the role of leader in the natural hierarchical structure they rely upon and this is where the problems start. Just like children dogs will test the boundaries their owner is asking for time and time again but you can’t give in because if he sees even a glimmer of you backing down, you’ll have lost your power and will have to work even harder to regain it.

When we let a dog get away with something we’re effectively telling him it’s OK and that he is the master.

One of the most important parts of your relationship with your dog is respect for you as its authority figure. Without this you’ll be forever pushing water up a hill. Yes, love for you and trust are also vital, but if you start with respect, everything else will naturally fall into place.

But why do so many owners struggle with giving discipline and are even averse to the subject when it comes to their dogs?

I believe there can be many reasons for this including:

  • A lack of time.
  • A lack of understanding of how important obedience and discipline is for the wellbeing of a dog.
  • Someone’s personal experiences of discipline as a child. For example if someone was strongly controlled as a child they may find it emotionally difficult to discipline their dog in a calm, constructive way due to the associations that are ingrained from their childhood experiences.
  • Discipline is mistakenly associated with punishment and thus a negative association in our psychology has been formed between the two.
  • Humanising the dog and treating it as a child, giving it affection at inappropriate times.
  • Feeling daunted at how to correctly discipline their dog.
  • Feeling that they are being cruel or mean by enforcing rules.

Just remember that the kindest thing you can do for your dog is give it the appropriate level of discipline. With this you will find your bond strengthens and grows and the respect your dog shows you will be clear to see.

The bottom line is if you love your dog you owe it to them to not let your guilt of reprimanding him undermine your position of authority.

If you’d like me to be your dog walker I cover Thirsk, Northallerton & surrounding areas. Do give me a call with any questions on 0797 2581530.