“If you treat your dog like a human, it will treat you like a dog”  Anonymous pundit

One important concept that some dog owners don’t understand, is that dogs would rather cooperate with decisions that we make, than feel that they need to make decisions, let alone the daunting challenge for any dog of training humans to respond to their leadership.  The need for safety ranks very high on the list of a dog’s fundamental needs; they will attempt to lead a pack if they perceive the necessity of their doing so, but that’s driven by their survival instinct, not by ego or ambition.

Recently while working with a client whose first dog has proven to be quite a training challenge, I probed for any hesitance to correct her dog.  “Helen”, I said, “ I’ve seen you muster enough firmness with Daisy that I don’t think the issue is that you’re afraid she’ll love you less if you correct her.  Is there something else that is worrying you?” “Yes”, Helen said, “I’m not afraid that she’ll love me less. But I am afraid that every time I show Daisy that I’m in charge of decisions, I’m hurting her self-esteem.”

While it is inarguable that Daisy has a gamut of traits, emotions and needs, self-esteem has more to do with human psychology than canine.  Daisy and any other dog  will be more calm, more confident and more playful if they understand what we like and are earning praise and encouragement for the good decisions that they make.  Time and again dogs show us that they are happier if we let them know clearly that the choices they make are appropriate… or not.  That clarity is much more important to a dog’s sense of well being than any sense of self-esteem, privilege or prerogative.