Your Dog’s Paycheck
The other day, I saw a lovely family; mom, dad, two kids, and two Shiba Inus — Minnie and Mickey. The Shiba Inu is an ancient hunting breed well-known for its independent behavior. Minnie has Storm Phobia. Mickey is a friendly guy who just doesn’t listen very well. He gets bored and destroys the house when he is not kept occupied.
Mom says to me what I have heard more times than I can count: "They just don’t care when I yell at them."
I couldn’t help but agree with her. Nope, Shiba Inus don’t care if you yell at them. In the case of these dogs and many others, yelling "No!" at them repeatedly just doesn’t work to change their behavior. Then she utters the phrase which makes me want to roll my eyes: "Shouldn’t my dog work for me just because he loves me?" Seriously?!
What if your boss said that she didn't want to pay you? She just doesn't have the time and it is a lot of trouble for her to write out the check each week. I mean, she has to pick up the pen and get the checkbook. It is sooo time consuming! How long would you continue to go to work?
Owners often feel that their dogs should work for love, but yet they themselves don’t work for love. They get paid to go to work each day. The fact is, your dog does love you and that motivates him to do lots of things … however, a dog's agenda doesn't include sitting down when you ask him to or lying down on your cue instead of chasing squirrels.
For hundreds of years, the Shiba (and many other breeds) were selected and bred for traits which are directly in conflict with your desires. You say, "Sit," your Beagle’s genes say, "Put your nose to the ground and track the scent while baying to tell everyone where you are!." You say, "Stay!" your Border Collie’s genes say, "Herd those children! Heerrrrddd!"
Asking your dog to do otherwise is hard for him just as much as it would be for me to stop talking at lightning speed while moving my hands (I am Italian you know). If my husband asked me to stop talking with my hands for a kiss from him (which I would get anyway later on) I certainly would not stop. If, on the other hand, he offered me a beautiful pair of designer shoes, I would really try to stop moving my hands!
The fact is that you offer love to your dog all day long for absolutely no work at all. This makes the love that you are offering, well, not near as special as a small piece of cheese or chicken. The second thing to consider is that when your genes tell you to do something, it is hard to ignore that message. In order to overcome the genetic message, you have to offer a powerful motivator. If you come at the behavior with motivation, you will get your dog to do what you want him to do.
For example, what if you offered your Border Collie the toss of a Frisbee for the act of staying? Then, before he could get the Frisbee thrown again, he would have to lie down and stay. Not only is he obedient, but he is happy to be obedient to you. And, you will inadvertently teach him to perform this behavior automatically whenever he wants something. What about the Beagle? What if before he was allowed off his leash to track a scent in the backyard, he had to sit for 5 seconds? Soon, when he was at the back door he would begin to sit quietly for 5 seconds for the privilege of taking a sniff around the backyard.
You are asking your dog to do completely unnatural things each day, and he deserves payment for those things. If you stop rewarding those behaviors, your dog will stop offering them — just as you would eventually stop working if your boss stopped paying you. So, if you want good behavior, pay up!
Dr. Lisa Radosta