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Nurturing not Coddling

I read a recent article on the difference between nurturing and coddling in parenting.  This led me to look up the dictionary definition of “coddling:” 

  1. To treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness; to treat with indulgence; to pamper.

We can easily see the pitfalls of over-indulgence or pampering.  I always recommend to my clients to “not coddle their dog,” especially if they are having behavioral issues.  But what does that mean?  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Limit talking to your dog like they are a human.
  2. Only speak to them using training commands – which means, most of your time with them will be silent.
  3. Don’t make it a big deal when you leave your house or come home (assuming your dog is crated). Be silent during these times.
  4. Don’t let them wander around your house for hours on end looking for stimulation. Teach them the “place” command and make them learn to relax in one place and calm down.
  5. Be calm and gentle when you pet them.
  6. Have boundaries and learn how to enforce them. No jumping on the furniture, no chasing the cat, no digging holes, no barking at the door etc.
  7. Don’t overly pet them or go to them for constant physical touch – they need space too.

To a lot of people this list sounds overwhelming.  People feel they are being asked to go into this rigid bootcamp mode with their dog – which is true to a certain extent (especially if you’re having issues).  But the trick to this is learning how to be nurturing and not coddling.

Can you be silent and still be nurturing?  Can you be a leader and still be nurturing?  This is the ticket.   I think in order to do this we have to dig in a little deeper and use our heart, our spirit and our intentions.  The Monks of New Skete discussed in an interview that these dogs are entrusted into our care.  It’s best to share rules and structure with them, but we also need to remember just how freaking lucky we are to have them in our lives.  They are absolutely amazing and make my life so much better.  My dogs truly are family. 

So I can take that gratitude I have for them in my life and share it all the time.  I share it in my energy.  I share it in my boundaries.  I share it when I feed them.  I share it in silence.   

When I meet people that are high energy, or anxious/nervous, more often than not, I see amped up overly excited dogs.  Sometimes that excitement will manifest as aggression or reactivity.

I want to draw some parallels to healthy human parenting and raising a dog or puppy. The most important concept in “balanced dog training” is working on the dog’s state of mind.  As a balanced trainer, I want dogs to be calm so that they can start to experience more peace, and make better decisions in the world.  What’s a better decision you ask?  Coming when called, not chasing the cat, not jumping on people, not lunging and barking at other dogs just to name a few. 

So here’s the thing, dogs feed off of our energy. 

A parallel between kids and dogs:  “And the developmental experts are in total agreement.  Anxious parents create insecure children.  Indulgent parents raise spoiled offspring.”*

Just like with human parenting, “Intoxicating levels of gratification and stimulation can drain kids of motivation and ambition.”*  This is because life itself is not always easy; it’s not always fair.  We more often than not don’t get what we want – and for animals surviving in the natural world this is especially true.  Survival is hard work. 

This is where I would argue that genetically we are hard wired to experience the ups and downs of life, and hence why I feel pure “pure positive only training” is a faulty ideology which leaves so many dog owners suffering with behavioral issues.

Just like kids, dogs need boundaries and boredom.  It is in boredom that kids can develop the inner space which also helps their imaginations to become activated.  With dogs, they need to detox from our crazy world and practice impulse control.

The mastery is to find that fine line between being a leader and still being nurturing.  It’s possible, believe me.  And just like parenting, you’ll never be perfect at it.  You will make mistakes – and that’s okay because you are human and your amazing dog will forgive you.

Another tip:  Experiment with adding more soft stuff in after you’re getting better results.  It’s a balance you can play with.

If you’re looking for a Portland dog trainer get in touch with me! 



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