Sharing Softness

Common questions from dog owners before training:

Will my dog still be able to sleep with me?

Does my dog HAVE to be crated?

Why can’t my dog just have some free time in the yard?

Why can’t my dog get affection and belly rubs from me?

Why can’t I designate an area of the couch for him/her?


The thing is, your dog CAN have all of those things...possibly. We treat each dog individually, but have everyone start off by heavily restricting privileges for a while when going back home or starting training. You must understand that a bratty dog or confused dog is different then a dog that is protecting you and lunging at people and other dogs. Bottom line, there is a reason you are seeking out help and guidance in the first place, even if you are just reading this, so you must change what you are doing if it isn’t working. That often takes huge sacrifices on us and our emotional needs, but the dog’s end up prospering and doing great. That is because the human dog relationship was designed to be leadership based. 


The thing is...some dogs, even with leadership, need much more help. Those are our more serious cases where they may not get to loosen up on rules too much. But after the owners see the results and learn how to bond with their dog in a new way, they often don’t have as strong of a need to anymore.  They no longer “feel bad” when they see their dog less stressed and thriving. 


With our little dog Happy, she had severe separation anxiety, among other things, we cut privileges for 6 months and strict sleeping in crate for three years! That’s what it took for her and us to overcome it.  A true rehab.  In the grand scheme of her 12, almost 13 years, that was easy and worth it, but at the time it felt grueling and so difficult.  Was she really improving?  After I thought she was, she would have a bad day and I’d question everything.  When it’s your own dog and you are new to all the training information available to you, it makes you question a lot.  We stayed the course and the results were not just with her seperation anxiety.   She became calmer hearing outside noises, calmer when people came in the house and she cared about what I had to say and started looking at me for guidance.  After the 3 years of work I put into her, all the training and trying different techniques, it wasn’t until we cut the physical attention and the softness where I saw dramatic differences.  Now this was also mixed with leadership work on walks, basic obedience, confidence exercises through agility, other things all working together.  The trouble is I had been doing all of the “training” for years.  What I was missing was fixing the toxic relationship she had with people by anxiously loving or hating them, no in between.  This was so much mental work for myself as well and great prep work to be the person I am now.  She taught me a lot, mostly how not to give up.  


The rest of my own dogs, you can see us with them in the couch in online photos, one of them jumps on me, etc., so I’m not someone who is incredibly strict for the sake of being strict. I’m strict for a reason and when I need to be...because I know what works and what the dog needs. 


Sharing softness is a privilege both dog and owner have to earn. Easier said then done, I know, but doesn’t change how true it is. Factor in your history with your dog and the relationship, any anxiety or a genetic disposition you are working through with your pup and you need to prepare for lifestyle changes. That’s a tough reality for some people, but for many, they learn and grow from it. 


 -Bethany Wilson



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