Autonomy and your Dog

Allowing you dog full autonomy can lead to some bad habits.Autonomy is something we strive for from the time we are born, but when it comes to our dogs, can autonomy sometimes be too much of a good thing?

Granting our dogs autonomy can be viewed as a reward, a necessity, and a way of avoiding the management that’s part and parcel of being a good human to your dog.

In a controlled environment, allowing our dogs the freedom to make their own choices is a rewarding thing for both us and the dog. It builds trust and can go a long way to having a confident and well-adjusted dog; it’s a great real life reward that’s better than bacon (well, maybe not the maple kind, yeah, yeah.) It’s also part and parcel of letting a dog be a dog. Allowing a dog to act like a dog is Dogtor Ziggy’s surefire prescription for a healthy id, ego, and super ego.

Our dogs are not as in tune with our rules as we would like to think; allowing them autonomy while they are practicing behaviors we don’t like and then expecting those behaviors to “just disappear” because we shout no a them is not realistic.

Behaviors like chewing on inappropriate things and toileting in the house only strengthen themselves into harder to break habits the longer they go on. To change those autonomous behaviors, we need to act as micro managers.

Control the Environment

We need to make sure that our dogs can’t practice unwanted behaviors when we are not there to supervise.

Be an Attentive Supervisor

We need to make sure that when our dog is in an environment where it can practice autonomous behaviors, we are able to interrupt those behaviors we don’t want and redirect them to an acceptable alternative that work for both the dog and for us.

Be Generous with you Praise and Rewards

After a successful redirect, it is important that we let the dog know that this “new behavior” we’ve pointed them towards is both highly desirable and rewarding thing, much more so than the old habit we interrupted.

To successfully change our dog’s behavior we must be willing to suspend their autonomy and spend the time, patience, and thought necessary before giving them their autonomy back.