While dogs may be man’s best friend, treating them like one all the time can do more harm than good. Don’t get us wrong: Dogs greet us, tail wagging, when we come home; are great workout buddies; never nag; and will sit still to watch a game without interruption. But interacting with a dog as if it were an equal, instead of being its in-control owner, can have pronounced negative effects on its behavioral patterns. This is especially true when it comes to dogs living in the city.
What a dog instinctively craves is a master (or a parent, if you prefer) – one who is cool, calm, and collected. And one who can give it structure, consistency, exercise, and proper nutrition (not to mention training) in order to become a well-balanced and well-mannered companion. Your goal, then, should be to act as a guide – not just a pal – and help your dog experience and overcome anxieties and fears when confronted with challenging environmental stimuli. As a for-instance, you should never pick up a dog in order to prevent it from having to endure a stressful situation – say, when seeing a larger breed dog approaching. Doing so only creates a negative association for your dog. Create situations where your dog learns to be nervous and anxious, and inevitably it will grow to be nervous and anxious.
Instead, the goal is to create controlled situations to help desensitize your dog to the often overwhelming complexities of city living. By properly training and teaching your pet, you’ll inevitably learn something about yourself as well. And if you open yourself up to it, you’ll find that your dog can teach you to be more patient, loving, kind, and persistent and even help overcome your anxieties and fears. It’s a win-win situation.
MensJournal.com contributor Taylor McKenna is the head trainer and a co-founder of The Confident Dog in Brooklyn, New York.