The term teach my dog to respect me is is one which will raise itself frequently amongst my clients in one way or the other. This is actually a complex issue which has equally complex answers. I will try to simplify what it means and how we can get a dog to start to understand us.  If we have a dog who appears to challenge us, exhibit poor behaviour and is demanding then I do hear people say the dog doesn’t  respect me. 

If you want to resolve recall training, lead pulling or demanding behaviours then you have to consider these as symptoms of a wider issue. That issue is usually the owner!!

What do we mean when we say the dog respects us?

Definition of Respect

The word respect is a human term which does have a definition. Any dictionary will give a meaning similar to this: ‘a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.’ 

In order for one person to respect another person given the meaning above would involve a number of thought processes, understanding and the ability to make judgements. We have evolved as a species to have the brain power to perform such complicated thought processes.

Whilst writing this I thought of the people I respect and why.  People cannot insist or teach me to respect them. It is something which is built up over time. I start to trust their decision making, what they can achieve to which I cannot. How that helps me. There are many factors and variants which influence if I respect a person.   

I want to add an important word ‘Leadership’ to the mix because I believe that this is the word that underpins can I teach my dog to respect me?

Dogs don’t need our brain power to survive

Nature has a great way of getting things right and the dog’s brain is exactly where is should be. People make comparisons with our brain power to theirs. However, for them to survive they don’t need the brain power we have and it is unfair to compare. Evolution has honed the skills and abilities of the dog. We have also enhanced that….or ruined it by selective breeding!! 

Under the definition, can I teach my dog to respect me?

I am not sure a dog can respect us under the definition we use to define this word. The dog would have to take too many variables and make rational decisions based on them. Dogs don’t do this because if they did then training would be approached in a different way. More importantly they just don’t need to.  

My approach is that the dog responds to the structure and interaction we have with them. If we provide sound leadership, make sound decisions, give structure and order then we become important in the dog’s life. If we control the high value resources and their access then we are important in our dogs’ life. 

If the dog understands we control access to these then we can get them do do things for access to them….the basic of dog training!!  Dog sits you give a treat.  We are offering the dog sound leadership to which it will respond to. 

Providing leadership for your dog is different to being the pack leader

Not so long ago clients were taught they had to be the pack leader, alpha male, top dog in order to control their dog!! 

Thankfully dog training ideas are moving into the 21st century and research has shown this is nonsense. However, we appear to have gone a little too far to the right with some ideas of dog training and the community is divided. However, that is for another time.  

I propose that providing sound leadership for your dog is not about being the pack leader. The dog knows you are not a dog or the pack leader.  Hopefully, if you have any sense you will realise you are not the pack leader.  However, you can and should put in place sound leadership for your dog. This will help with your dog training move forward in the right direction.

Providing leadership for your dog is different than teach my dog to respect me

I believe that a fundamental element of you having a dog which fits into the boundaries we set in our society is the leadership you provide your dog. 

A dog who has guidance it can trust is by far a better dog than the dog who is forced into that position.

My work usually involves us going right back to basics. There is little point trying to train a recall in the park if the dog doesn’t listen to you in the home!! 

We set the scene where you set the boundaries and provide the guidance for your dog so that it can make choices, the right choices. Training is about cooperation and understanding between the owner and the dog. 

We need to be rewarding the positive and re-direct the negative. It is about making you factor high in whats important to your dog. You need to be fun and hold all the things which your dogs considers important.

You need to be important to your dog 

You then become important, someone the dog wants to try and be with and take notice of. Some will say your dog now respects you. However as discussed this is unlikely. It has more to do with what you have they want!!

This is achieved through kindness, being consistent and persistent in the boundaries you set. Leadership does not mean dominance, being the pack leader, physical abuse, electric collars and other outdated means of control. 

It is about setting boundaries for your dog in a kind and positive way so both people and the dogs can live together. These boundaries are no different than the ones we set in our society or for our children. We must get these boundaries in place as soon as we get our new puppy.  This will move puppy training in the right direction.  

We, as a species, accept there will be a consequence for our actions. If dogs are to live with us then they need to live to those standards. 

We re-focus unwanted behaviour in a positive and non-physical way by being persistent and consistent in the communication we give our dogs. We can soon teach the dog that the behaviours we want are rewarding and those we don’t want will not be rewarding. My training involves the dog being trained to understand what the word ‘No’ means. We let our dogs down if we teach them the world is only full of positives.

A well trained dog will no longer decide what is rewarding and what isn’t and so make bad choices. We help them make the right choices

Being persistent and consistent with Henry

I will give you an example of my own dog Henry, to highlight this. At meal times I have to go out of the kitchen to the garage to get part of his dinner, he is fed a raw diet. I put him in a sit next to the kitchen window. As soon as I go outside Henry runs to the sitting room window to watch me, I can see him. When I get back in he will attempt to be sitting on the floor, but in the wrong place.

It would be easy for me to let that go. However, that would show Henry I wasn’t consistent or persistent in the boundaries I set. Therefore, I put him back in the same location and tell him to stay and go back to the garage. This is a total pain for me!!  At first he would move 3-4 times and each time I would repeat the above. His dinner time would be delayed.

Now when I put Henry in a sit so I can go to the garage he does not move at all. Sat in the same place every time. The message got through to Henry that I will always be persistent and consistent and the things he wants will be delayed.  The dog will soon start to learn that when you say something you mean it!! 

Once we have this balance correct then we can look at the issues which you were concerned about.  Sometimes once we have changed the status quo the issues are minimal or non existent.

Being Proactive, not Reactive in Dog Training

Anyone who does dog training classes with me soon hears my mantra about being proactive, not reactive and they will hear it many times.  So what does this mean?

If you are constantly assessing the environment you and your dog are in and how this could impact on your dog you are being proactive. If you anticipate situations before your dog does then you are avoiding the unknown.  

You are providing good leadership skills for your dog and not putting them into a position when they have to start making decisions. 

If you ignore what’s around you and disengage from the environment and its impact on your dog then a situation will arise. You suddenly become reactive to what your dog is doing.  

On the whole when you leave decision making to a dog it will make a bad one. An example to highlight this would be as follows:

You are out in a park and have taken a dog off the lead knowing his recall is not so good with distractions. Off he goes and you get your phone out to check your emails.  

You have failed to see the large dog off the lead with their owner also on the phone.  You fail to see your dog checking in with you looking for guidance and you fail to see him then heading over to the other dog.  

Your attention is caught as you hear two dogs fighting.  You start shouting your dog as you run over, but he ignores you. When you get to your dog you and the other owner are able to separate the dogs and you can see yours is hurt quite badly. The way your dog looks at you is as if you let him down, you did!!

This might seem as extreme scenario, but it is played out daily in parks. It could have easily been avoided if the owner had been proactive and anticipated what was happening in the environment they were in and considered what their dog might do given what the owner knew about them. 

Instead poor leadership was given and the owner soon found themselves in a reactive situation because the dog had made a bad choice.  

Teach my dog to respect me means something else

In conclusion it is plain to see that the statement teach my dog to respect me is actually a term which means many other things.  Owners use it when their dog is exhibiting bad behaviour.  Owners feel annoyed because they do everything for the dog and its doesn’t appreciate it. 

If we provide structure, consistency and sound leadership the dog will respond by realising you are important. They will realise that by being near you and responding to commands they know quickly, will deliver the rewards you control. That could be food, fuss or games. 

When a owner comes to me for puppy or dog training the dog is my second thought. My work starts with you the owner.  If you get it right then the dog will also get it right if we show them what we want. I can’t teach your dog to respect you, but I can teach your dog to realise you are important in their life.