You may hear lots about how discipline comes into play when training or even just living with animals. Most notably dogs. And while there may be a time when disciplining your dog will be necessary, when I think of discipline, I think of the discipline that is necessary in me as the owner, trainer, pack leader, mother, etc. I don’t think there is anything more important and valuable in living with and training your dog than your own personal discipline in the process. More specifically, consistency. Whatever message, positive or negative reinforcement, reward, admonishment, etc. needs to be consistently given for it to be not only affective but fair.
For instance, if one day you come home from work and your dog greets you jumping excitedly and your reaction on that day is to reward him with affection and attention and then the next day when he does exactly the same (and you’re in a less amicable mood…you’ve had a bad day at work and just want 5 minutes to yourself) and your reaction is to smack him on the end of the nose for jumping, your message is not just confusing. It’s down right unfair. How the heck does he know what’s right or wrong?
Now because he’s a dog, he’ll probably forgive you quickly, unless he’s like Bruce, one of my dog’s that while a big bruiser at 115 pounds is quite sensitive. In one of my unfair angry moments I yelled at him and told him to “get outside” in a voice that he’s rarely heard…at least not directed at him. When an hour later I’d seen no sign of him I began looking. I found him…he not only went outside, but he went about as far away as he dared. He was laying by my neighbors barn about 300 yards away. When I called him to me, he came relunctantly and cautiously. I assure you that it took a while to regain his trust after my angry outburst.
Such inconsistency can be more damaging than just simply hurt feelings. It can damage trust and respect, which can have long term affects on all and any training.
Anyway, my tip this time really is to think about what message you’re providing your dog in teaching them right from wrong and make sure you are exercising personal discipline in the direction you’re giving. Be consistent for the best chance at success for you and fairness to your four legged friend. Wouldn’t you want the same from any friend for that matter?