The Fearful Tyrant!
One of the things that I think trips a lot of owners up is the fact that fearful dogs can also have, or develop, other, seemingly incompatible behavior tendencies. The fact that they can be fearful AND nasty little tyrants seems to make no sense. But we see it all the time.
Due to their stories and/or behavior, many owners treat fearful/insecure/nervous dogs differently than they might a dog without a bad history, or one without initial fearful, insecure behavior.
These dogs get far more spoiling, freedom, allowances/excuses made for poor behavior, coddling, soft nurturing energy, zero accountability, excessive affection, and just about anything else they want. All in an effort to heal these dogs.
But if we step back, we all know that spoiling and the absence of accountability is the exact recipe for unstable tyrant building, regardless of what the dog’s story or behavior is.
But wait, don’t these guys need this love and affection and special exceptions made for them so they can heal? Ummm, no. That’s exactly how you create the dogs that get to come stay with us for multiple weeks for being a mess.
Even though it seems counterintuitive, this soft stuff from you is precisely what these guys don’t benefit from. Not that you can’t care, love, and nurture them – you can, and you should – but the best way to care, love, and nurture them is by creating a safe, dependable world, where they know someone is in control, and someone is able to make the big decisions. When they sense that, they feel safe. When they sense strength, they feel safe. When they sense rules, structure, accountability, they feel safe. When they sense only softness, freedom, and doting, they feel unsafe. They feel as if they, these incredibly fearful, unsure little beings, are the most powerful entities in their world. And when you’re scared and unsure, and you feel like you’re the one in charge, I can’t imagine a more stressful, freakout-worthy situation.
So on top of all the stress and anxiety that comes from being scared and in charge, you also create an atmosphere of permissiveness. Which creates choices that best serve the dog – not in the macro, healthy, sense, but in the micro, whatever the dog feels it wants/needs in that moment. You know, the bratty, entitled, possessive, running away while barking at you, grumpy, bitey, growly, snotty, sense.
The number one reason dogs show up here is because of spoiling, doting, permissiveness, along with the absence of rules, structure, and accountability. That’s it. That’s the magic combo. If you share that combo with a pushy dog you get bad stuff. If you share it with happy-go-lucky dog you get bad stuff. And if you share it with a fearful, insecure, nervous dog, you get the worst stuff.
The unfortunate part is this: the guys and gals who need our strength the most are usually the ones who get the least of it. Mainly because we think we can fix fear, insecurity, nervousness with affection and love. And while love and affection can be helpful to reinforce what you want, they’ve never on their own created anything but dogs that are a mess. If you’ll package your love and affection in strength, rules, and accountability, and then, when the dog shares truly healthy behavior share actual affection as a reward, you’ll be onto something big!