Do you “kill with kindness”?

This dog owner–we’ll call her Sandy–cannot “say no” to her dog.

“I give her whatever she wants, because I love her so much! I know I shouldn’t feed her off my plate or let her grab things off the counter but (sigh) I do. She looks at me with those big, brown eyes and I just know she’s begging me, ‘That looks so good, oh please let me have some, please?’ I can’t bring myself to yell at her if she does something bad, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. What if she stopped loving me? I move my stuff out of the way when she wants a place to sit, and I let her jump all over me when I get home, even though she knocks me over and scratches me. She was a rescue! So she needs my unconditional love.”

Sandy is killing her dog with kindness. By setting no rules or boundaries, she allows the dog to take the top spot in the family hierarchy–she becomes subordinate to the dog. She forces her dog into the highest position of power, which is going to cause the dog enormous confusion (and may lead to unruly, even dangerous, behaviors). She has made herself her dog’s servant.

Just as children need to learn social rules and etiquette, so do dogs. To truly show that you love your dog, set firm, fair, consistent rules, and enforce them. Doing so takes the weight of pack responsibility off your dog and puts it where it belongs: with you. Show love to your dog with gentle discipline, and you will “nip in the bud” the types of behaviors that can, sadly, ultimately result in a long, agonizing drive to a shelter.

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