North American dog owners are becoming increasingly obsessed with “control.” Commonly seen in dog sport enthusiasts trying to be top of their game as well as everyday dog owners who have bought into dominance theory, the need to control canines seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. In pursuit of control, dog owners will limit access to various resources such as “human” food, comfy couches, four-legged friends and other people. This often leads to what we call “Forbidden Fruit Syndrome” (FFS).
The first symptom most FFS sufferers exhibit is an unnatural obsession with something. Most frequently it is an intense drive to get to other dogs or people and can also be directed towards toys or obsessive food begging. Another symptom occurs when dogs are forcibly removed from furniture or if prized chews or toys are taken away without properly conditioning the dog to be receptive to human interference when they are engaged with their favorite things. FFS tends to rear its ugly head in the form growling, snarling, snapping and sometimes even biting as dogs try to keep humans away from valuable “possessions.”
We are blessed with a wonderful local resource who has been truly enlightening when it comes to dealing with FFS. Silvia Jay, a trainer who shares her passion for pooches at www.voice4dogs.com has brought the concept of “Mindful Leadership” to our community. Silvia points to dogs’ needs for social inclusion and emotional security as the fundamental requirements for successful human-canine relationships – not the need to be dominant! When dog owners provide these two resources to their dogs, they eliminate frustration, stress, fear and confusion in the dog’s mind and as a result behavior issues are generally resolved.
How does Mindful Leadership relate to FFS? Instead of limiting your dog’s resources in an attempt to gain control, Silvia recommends your dog live in a land of plenty. We have seen the benefits of this theory first-hand both in our own home and in the homes of our customers’ dogs. When a dog perceives a resource as being limited, they are more likely to guard it which can quickly escalate into serious aggression if owners confront their pets in the name of dominance. When dogs are provided with plenty of toys, chews, comfortable resting places and playmates they will be far less likely to try and keep their people away and will not be as obsessive when it comes to meeting other dogs.
You can use your Clicker Leash to help your dog see you as a gateway to these resources in a positive light. This will ultimately provide people with the control they crave without the fallout that often accompanies dominance-based training strategies. Have a dog that is obsessed with four-legged friends? Click and use the other dogs as a reward when your dog offers you attention. If your dog loves to chase squirrels, put away your hot dogs and give your dog permission to go on a squirrel hunt after you click your Clicker Leash when they do something you like. Silvia suggests you take it to the next level and actually join your dog in the fun, pretending to chase the squirrels at their side. Be a team!
We love Silvia’s kind and effective approach to dog training. If you are faced with the challenge of a resource guarder or an obsessive dog, remember when you provide your dog with plenty, not only will you be perceived as a mindful leader but you will also have the luxury of a world of rewards to use when you are training.