The Canine Ecosystem (c) is the environment of the dog. It is where the dog lives, learns, plays, eats and sleeps. Within this environment, all resources must be managed by the dog’s human who is also the dog’s leader. The controlling and management of resources sets the protocol between the human in terms of having a happy, long standing mutually rewarding relationship filled with love and fun. Earning their keep.
Within this environment, all spaces and resources must be controlled and managed inside the home and outside by the dog’s leader. The controlling and management of resources and space includes access to food, water, treats, a blanket & bed, furniture, toys, other dogs or people for play, the ride in the car to and from parks, vet, and social engagements for example. In short, anywhere your dog goes is their Canine Ecosystem. As responsible dog owners, we need to have complete control of our dog’s Canine Ecosystem (c). If your dog is taken to leash-free areas, experiences city walks and sounds (sirens, loud bus or truck motors), joins you at a street festival, playground, sports fields, school yards, parks or picnic areas, campgrounds, entering the house, leaving the house getting into and out of the car, entering a new building, elevators, escalators or on and off public transit: the objective is for your dog to be calm, obedient and be under your control in familiar and unfamiliar environments. When the dog experiences a situation for the first time they are looking to you for reassurance, for your calm leadership. To achieve this trust must be established between you and your dog. Building trust will take time as well as patience, persistence and perseverance. I often get asked by clients: How long will it take to reach my training goals with my dog? The response, without being evasive: It takes as long as it takes. Dogs, like people, learn at different rates. Dogs, like people have different levels of drive, focus, intelligence and excel in different areas of day to day life. There is no shortage of examples of people being told they will not achieve their desired goal in life because of a particular short coming in their make-up only to see that person go on to achieve and maybe exceed in their chosen field.
Dogs need structure, rules and leadership (SRL) – like people. A dog with no SRL will be void of consistent good behaviour and this will likely lead to frustration of many players in the dog’s Canine Ecosystem (c). Some frustrations experienced by people in the Canine Ecosystem(c) where there are no SRL could be destruction of property belonging to household and non-household members: digging, incessant barking when people come to the front door or at night or when the dog is left alone, hand biting, dog fights, leash pulling or aggression to other dogs or people. A dog with no SRL could jump on chase or attack strangers. This is particularly distressing to strangers if they do not like dogs or if they are wearing new clothing (mud, dirt, dog hair) or the stranger is elderly or a child. A dog with no SRL has a potentially catastrophic downside consequences and very little upside. Examples of downside consequences: muzzle orders, rifts between family members or friends, bites (severe or minor) a soiled personal reputation and of course the ultimate penalty: an order to euthanize the family pet. Losing a pet in this way is a traumatic event for all involved. As people we all have rules we need to follow, for example: traffic rules and speed limits, there are social rules, rules at work, domestic rules and many more rules for us to learn and follow. We risk reprimand if we do follow certain rules. Why should a dog be excused from this?
For harmonious canine/human relationships, dogs need to be educated. It is our duty to help them understand what behaviour we want from them. We need to help them understand what is behaviour is acceptable and what is not allowed. In addition to patience, persistence, perseverance and building trust, how is this achieved? There is the old adage “It all begins at home”. The same applies when we try to attain our training goals with our dogs. The home environment is where most dogs spend most of their days and lives. This is where we must have complete control of space and resources. We achieve this by introducing the dog to structure, rules and limitations (SBL) early and regularly. How early for a family pet? As soon as possible. It is believed imprinting on a pup begins as early as three weeks and the extensive and detailed process of training a Police dog starts at around eight to ten weeks of age to set up a high chance of success to carry out Police K9 duties. The same is true with your pet at home. Training for dog or puppy starts on day one of arriving in the new home. Mastering control of your dog at home will set the foundation for having a well behaved dog when you venture outside together. If we do not have control over our dogs indoors, it is not fair for us to expect them to have a leash clipped on, go outside and expect this dog to be well behaved: no leash pulling, no lunging, growling or barking at; other dogs, people on bikes, skateboards, runners, cars, busses strollers or expect the dog not to be panicked by sirens, loud vehicles, car alarms, lawn mowers, power tools, construction sites and any other sound or object that may distract or alarm your dog.
How do we achieve this level of control in all situations, including the unforeseeable? By following the principles of the Canine Ecosystem (c). It all starts at home.