Shrinking the World

For over a decade, I have gotten calls from dog owners who have problems with their dog’s behavior. Some of the issues are mild, but most are difficult for a pet dog owner to deal with, manage, and change. In dog training, changing a dog’s behavior is referred to as dog behavior modification. 

I am good at helping people to modify their dog’s behavior. This piece will explain an essential part of my behavior modification process. I call it “Shrinking the World.” 

 

Puppy sniffing owner's hand

In my experience, owners want their dogs to live happy lives. They want to include their dogs in the activities they enjoy. They want to be close to their dogs. All of that is good, and I like the same life for my dogs.  

The problem is that just like humans, dogs must learn how to be successful in our society, and most dog owners need to learn how to teach those lessons to the dogs they adopt into their families. 

The dogs I work with enter their owners’ lives one of two ways. They are either purchased, usually as a puppy, or rescued, usually as adults or adolescents. In both cases, owners are eager to show their dogs the world they will live in. So they take their puppy everywhere with them. They introduce the puppy to all the people in their lives. They want their dogs to roam free when they leave the house, so they stop using the crate as early as possible. They allow the dog to have the privilege of going anywhere they want while in the house. They allow them to meet guests at the door. They give their dog the whole world. The big whole world. 

Soon the owners realize some things about their dogs. When they go to some places, their dog is hard to handle, will not pay attention to them, and will not follow their intentions or directions. The owners notice that their dog is easily distracted, which causes them stress. Owners see that when they introduce their dogs to their friends and families, their dog lacks manners. They will jump on or run away from new people. The dog might even show aggression towards the new people that they meet. The owners might notice that when they leave the house, the dog barks the whole time they are away and destroys things or has potty accidents. They see that the dog jumps on the counter or table and steals food when they are in the kitchen. They notice that their dog has a spot on the couch and that they are possessive of the spot, or they like bully sticks and will protect the treat from anyone that looks at it, and if you try to take it, well, that is a real problem. 

That is when the owner will call me looking for help. I am good at helping people with these problems. I have an easy-to-understand process to help them. Before talking about that, let us take a closer look at the problem. Dogs must learn how to be successful in our society. Most dog owners need to learn how to teach their dogs those lessons to their dogs. 

We have to be the dog’s teachers. Good dog teachers must develop some skills. We need to be able to bond with the dog. I can hear all of you thinking as I am typing, “I have a great relationship with my dog. I am completely bonded to my dog. That is why she barks when I leave. She is sad that I am gone.” If you thought that, I am sorry, but I disagree. If you had a great relationship with your dog, you would not have problems with your dog’s behavior, and you would not have called me. You would have asked your dog to stop doing those things, and your dog would have stopped. A good relationship with your dog means that the dog likes and understands you. If that were the case, when you ask the dog to stop doing those things, the dog would understand you and would stop. If you have a solid bond or relationship with your dog, your dog will know that you will return before he needs anything and that he is safe. That would eliminate his need to bark when you leave. The same is true for all behavior problems. 

So how do we increase that bond or that relationship? We Shrink the World. When we shrink the world, we remove things from the dog’s life. We take them to fewer places; we introduce them to fewer people; we take away options; we take away privileges. We shrink the dog’s world because when we do, it becomes easy for the dog to understand that you are the one that makes all the good things happen. Shrinking the dog’s world makes you more significant in your dog’s world, in your dog’s life, because when you shrink their world, it becomes clear that you provide every necessity and resource to the dog. Your dog begins to rely on you more. Shrinking your dog’s world reduces your and your dog’s stress and gives you the space to work on your bond with your dog to continue improving your relationship with them and working on your ability to communicate clearly with them. You will have the space to learn how to get your dog to cooperate with you and understand what your dog is communicating to you through their behavior. 

Once you shrink your dog’s world and work on those things, you will be ready to expand your dog’s world at a controlled rate. You will have the knowledge, relationship, time, and space needed to teach your dog how to be successful in our society. You will know how to get your dog to change their behavior, and the changes will be lasting. 

Thank you for reading, and Enjoy Your Dog!!!

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