I’ve often heard that in order to have control over, and the respect of your dog, you must provide them with boundaries: A system of human expectations that the dog must meet, or face some sort of discipline. In parenting terms, “Do as I say or else!”
This quote from a recent article on Cesar’s Way entitled “Dog Training: Punishment or Discipline?” serves to illustrate my point.
The reality is that dogs thrive on rules, boundaries, and other forms of discipline. Without discipline, a dog feels lost and confused about his role in the pack.
Now you may think that punishment and discipline are two different things, but not in this context. A human may be able to rationalize the difference, but can a dog? In fact the article goes on to conclude:
Don’t think of discipline as punishment, but just one more gift you give your best friend to keep him happy and balanced.
I agree that a dog can feel lost and confused about their new home, but it has nothing to do with knowing their role in the pack. I think the confusion comes from being disciplined for something that comes natural to them without the benefit of training. Being disciplined for something that comes natural while not being provided an acceptable alternative would be confusing indeed, if not maddening.
Yes, boundaries are good for your dog. However, I don’t believe that discipline has anything to do with the process. Dogs don’t understand human rules and therefore punishing or disciplining them for something they don’t understand seems counterproductive to me.
Instead of disciplining a dog for something it cannot possibly understand; why not provide an alternative that satisfy the dog’s needs while still complying with the boundaries we wish to set?, this certainly seems a better alternative to me.
We have the ability to manage our dogs by being present when we want to guide them through interactions, and deny them interactions when we aren’t present. This provides us with the opportunity proactively train our dog in a controlled situation rather than react after the fact which usually leads to our being angry and perhaps a bit overzealous in our discipline.
Simple behaviors like “leave it,” “settle,” and “got to your place” give us most of the tools we need to manage an interaction without discipline and allow us to redirect the do to an acceptable behavior that results in their needs being met while our boundaries are respected; all without the need for discipline or punishment.
Managing these interactions allows us to calmly set boundaries in a productive environment without the need for the reactivity that discipline engenders.