"Do I do some of these things with my dogs? Yes."
©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC
Do you always take your own advice? Of course you don’t and neither do many dog trainers and behavior consultants. Below is a list of things that many dog professionals frequently do with their own dogs that they might not necessarily advise their clients to do.
1) They sometimes use retractable leashes when walking their dogs. Retractable leashes can actually be quite handy when used properly. They allow a dog to fully explore with his nose, which is what he values most in a walk. The reason that most dog professionals don’t like dog owners to use these is that, if not used properly, they can be dangerous in traffic, can lead to reactivity around other dogs or people, and can promote unruly behaviors.
2) They take their dogs to dog parks. Dog behavior consultants know that dogs need exposure to other dogs and dog parks are a great way to do this in an off-leash environment. However, dog professionals are better able than most owners to “read” the dogs in a dog park and determine if this is a “good” day or “bad” day for their dog to be at the dog park. If it’s a “bad” day - they leave.
3) They don’t teach their dogs 467 commands. While many dog trainers will teach clients’ dogs all kinds of cues (e.g., stand, touch, release, take-it, bring-it, leap, spin, left/right, etc.), they frequently only teach their own dogs the cues they will actually use such as sit, stay, down, come, drop-it and wait. I was surprised recently when I heard Dr. Ian Dunbar, the most famous animal behaviorist in the world, admit that his personal dogs only know about five commands. Why? “Because those are the only ones they need and use.”
4) They sleep with their dogs. There is a belief that sleeping with dogs is somehow bad for dogs and bad for humans. Nothing could be further from the truth for a number of reasons. With that being said, there are instances when it is not advisable for dogs to sleep with owners because of behavioral issues such as control related aggression, separation anxiety, etc. (please see a dog behavior consultant or dog behaviorist if you need help with your dog's behavioral issues).
5) They don’t let their dogs meet other dogs when they are walking them. Dog behavior consultants know that when you occasionally let your dog meet other dogs while on a walk, you are randomly reinforcing the greeting experience that can lead to overly high levels of arousal in some dogs. They also know that every dog you meet is like a “box of chocolates”. You never know what your dog is going to experience when meeting another dog on a walk - regardless of the size or breed of the dog you’re meeting.
Do I do some of these things with my dogs? Yes. However, the best bet for the average owner is to listen to the advice your dog behavior consultant or dog behaviorist is giving you. It is given in the context of your dog’s specific needs.