Hope’s Story – Day 17

We are fast approaching the end of the honeymoon period. After two weeks of watching me, and learning that there is structure and rules, Hope is now testing the boundaries of those. It is only natural that any dog, any child, any person would do the same at some point of being in any situation – and it’s a good thing.

I do not want a dog that is so fearful that it never learns what is the wrong thing to do. If a dog only learns what is right, it can never learn what discipline means or how to respond to that discipline. It’s something a dog must learn. When this testing is done in a controlled environment, it can be fair and consistent.

By testing structures and rules, Hope is also testing my leadership skills. Am I somebody she can trust to follow? She has watched as I have shown leadership to the other dogs she comes into contact with. She has witnessed my protection of her as I have demanded that the other dogs treat her fairly, and that they don’t push her beyond what she is comfortable with. She has also seen my loving and playful side. What she hasn’t seen yet is my punitive side. This is just beginning.

It is important to also be fair with discipline. When it comes to following a command, are you punishing for something the dog has not yet learned? This is why I say seeing my punitive side is something that is just now beginning. I want to make sure she has practiced each and every command hundreds of times and completely understands each one before punishing for noncompliance. (What if her noncompliance is actually confusion?) As we come to the end of learning each command, the corrections she receives are very light, and she is guided back to compliance so that she equates the proper response to obedience. Once the teaching period is over, her corrections will be stronger – what she needs so that repeated offences are extremely few.

By providing this type of structure, Hope will understand that there is a clear difference between yes and no. That clarity is something she can depend on – something a good leader provides.