No, it’s not a clickbait title.
I’m absolutely going to use a car, specifically your car’s tires and balance, to help you understand more about your dog.
But first, let’s talk about a recent conversation I had with a dog owner.
Cindy had recently made the huge leap of fantastic judgment to decrease the amount of daily kibble her dog received. The dog was seriously overweight and at substantial risk for numerous health issues and was already experiencing discomfort from carrying more fat on his frame than he was ever meant to. This is a huge step for Cindy, as many dog owners overfeed their dogs, ultimately shortening the lifespan of these already short-lived animals who bring us so much joy and love.
Good job Cindy, I mean it.
Within several days of the adjusted daily food amount, Cindy noticed some things in her dog’s behavior that alarmed her.
For starters, the dog was much, MUCH more interested in food. He would get jumpy, pushy, bark, and become a total spaz at feeding time. This didn’t happen previously.
Also, when the humans were eating, the dog would beg at the side of the table, and if none of the family acknowledge him, he will jump up ON the table.
Even more concerning is that after the dog would receive his meal, he would growl at anyone who came near him while eating.
That’s definitely a point of legitimate concern.
When you throw a weight off of one of your tires, your tire becomes out of balance.
This lack of balance can cause some rather disruptive feedback in your steering wheel and cause numerous other issues if left unresolved.
Let’s say you are driving around town at 35mph.
Will you be alerted to the lack of balance in the tire?
Most likely not. You will not feel anything out of sorts.
Now jump on the highway and start speeding up. As you reach what I have found to be the magic number of 72mph, your tire creates quite an unpleasant vibration in your hands. In some cases, it can be quite extreme. The question then must be asked, did driving fast cause your wheel to become unbalanced? After all, that’s when you noticed it, right?
The tire had been out of balance for a week.
You didn’t expose the symptoms because you weren’t driving fast enough for them to appear. If you slowed down from 72mph, got off the highway, then you wouldn’t feel the vibrations anymore. Does that mean the tire is back in balance?
You have now adjusted YOUR behavior to accommodate the unbalanced tire and avoid what you find unpleasant.
So what’s next?
Always drive 35mph to avoid the vibrations?
You go to the mechanic to get the tire balanced and resume your normal driving activities. It would be commonly accepted as absolutely ridiculous not to handle it that way. You would look at someone in disbelief if they even suggested never get on the highway again. You would tell them that the vibrations aren’t because you’re driving 72, but they are because the tire is out of balance. The vibrations are merely the symptom of the underlying problem.
Common sense, right?
I’m glad you see the plain as day reality of the tire situation.
Do you see the plain as day reality of Cindy’s dog’s behavior?
The knee jerk reaction says that the dog’s hunger is the cause of the bad behavior and the aggression. I can’t tell you how many times I see situations just like this in the FB groups and the HUNDREDS of people going on and on about how it's the hunger that caused it. Let’s not forget these people can’t even get their dog to come when called, but they get on FB and suddenly are expert dog trainers.
Feed the dog more.
Yes, feed the already overweight, unhealthy, uncomfortable dog more because he doesn’t like being hungry. That’s the same as saying you should never drive your car above 35mph again to prevent the out-of-balance tire's vibration. Fix the tire, then resume everyday life.
In this case, bad behavior and aggression are not the problems, they are the symptoms of a much bigger problem. These symptoms came to the surface when something was changed that triggered them to appear.
What’s the REAL problem?
Ultimately the relationship Cindy has with her dog is the problem. Of course, when I told her this, her emotion was behind the wheel, so it damn near drove her off the mental road. Once she calmed down and unfurrowed her brow, she gathered herself and asked, “What do you mean our relationship is the problem? Our relationship is great.”
This is not an uncommon response.
I went on to my usual dialog that starts with the question, “OK, what makes it great?”
This is most of what my job entails.
People have strong emotionally based objections to the very information that will help them and their dog. I have found that I have a knack for navigating those objections and helping them unlock the same doors holding their progress back. I’ll spare you the rest of our dialog at that point because I have the entire topic very well covered in another blog article on your relationship with your dog that you can read HERE.
With some skillful Socratic dialog and questioning, I was able to get Cindy over the first big hurdle, accepting that the food has nothing to do with the real problem. Then we could begin the problem-solving process and get some change on the menu, as the change was definitely needed.
Do you still think the food is the problem?
Are you still asking why not just feed the dog more?
My question for you is “why”?
If your child wanted ice cream, and you told them no, and they kicked you on their way to the freezer where they defied you and took it out anyway, what would you do?
Is the solution to never deprive the poor sweet child of ice cream ever again?
For the sake of humanity, I hope that’s not even a consideration in your mind.
If your child is watching TV in the living room when you get home from work and you go to put the news on, and they throw the remote at your face because they don’t want you to change the channel, is the solution for you to wait until they are done with the TV?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Cindy’s dog thinks it has the authority to do whatever it pleases. From jumping onto the table to using aggressive behavior to control a resource it wants to control. Not addressing THAT means a life of the human accommodating the whim of the animal. That’s not good for anyone. Not only is it dangerous, but seriously, that dog can never reach its true potential as a happy and fulfilled dog when it has no rules, boundaries, or understanding of structure in its life.
The entitled child with no sense of consequences or leadership or value will never be fulfilled and struggle for their entire life trying to resolve the vision of life their parents dysfunctionally gave them, with the real world.
Don’t do this to a dog.
How much of your life is you accommodating your dog’s behavior instead of the dog accommodating yours?
If you don’t have a dog who will come when called while running around at the park…
If you don’t have a dog who calmly walks by your side through any neighborhood regardless of squirrels or other dogs…
If you don’t have a dog who will immediately stop whatever they are doing from merely a short and simple sound from your mouth…
Then something needs to change for the safety and overall fulfillment of both the dog AND you.
There is a whole different life out there for both of you that you might not even realize exists, let alone being totally in reach. When I work with people who have had dogs before or have had the current dog they need help with for a while, it's priceless to see the look of joy and happiness on their faces when they start to experience a new relationship and new life with their dog.
Dog’s want to exist in the easiest way possible. It’s our job to show them that we will set the rules, and they can easily enjoy life within those rules. Watch the anxiety and aggression decrease from simple lifestyle and relationship changes. Observe how a once pushy and often obnoxious dog becomes polite and appropriate.
All that aggression, anxiety, stress, and crazy behavior aren’t signs of a happy dog. It’s the sign of a dog who is begging for some help from its owner.
I teach people how to understand their dogs in my unique online experience for dog owners, The Canine Blueprint. Whether you want to learn more about helping your dog from me, or someone else, it doesn’t matter. All that’s important is that you start thinking about how you learn what changes need to be made to better communicate and live with your dog.
What did she change?
Damn near everything!
All the freedom she was giving her dog and the complete lack of any respect and rules was addressed immediately. The dog was put on a routine and a leash. For the first time in their relationship the dog was forced to think about its own behavior and make choices. Within two weeks Cindy had a different dog. Was everything perfect? Of course not, but interestingly enough, Cindy started seeing changes in places that she would have never expected.
The dog stopped barking when the doorbell ring, even though she never directly addressed it.
The dog was much more attentive on walks, even though I never even instructed her on how to teach her dog to heel.
Imagine if she had just given the dog more food again. Not only would the dog be on the fast track to dangerous and painful health problems, but the freedom and enjoyment both Cindy and her dog now get to enjoy as a result of a better and more functional relationship would have never been attainable.
Your dog is waiting for you.