Loved or spoiled, do you know the difference?

22 Dec

I’ll go ahead and swallow my pride and admit to you that many of Ilsa’s confidence issues are likely inflicted from mistakes Susan and I have made with her. Since Ilsa is our first vizsla, she is spoiled rotten, and we have all too often fallen for her demands. How is that possible from such a sweet little girl? Ilsa isn’t outwardly pushy. And that’s exactly how we have been deceived… Between nosing us to pet her and giving a gurgle to play fetch, we have succumb to many of Ilsa’s demands. Now that Gumbo is in our lives, we realize that being pushed around by a giant goofball isn’t quite as cute as our dainty little girl.


We always want the best relationship we can achieve with our red dogs, so we have looked for some guidance. One resource we’ve found invaluable is Patricia McConnell’s How to be the Leader of the Pack…and Have Your Dog Love You for it! This is a very short book which can easily be read in one sitting. I don’t consider it a resource for exact training techniques but rather, it is about the relationship you have with your dog. Whether you are training for competitive obedience or just want your family pet to behave better when family comes over for the holidays, we can all learn something from this book. This book is pretty darn blunt as far as dog books go. I actually laughed out loud numerous times – not because this book is filled with humor but Patricia McConnell simply states it like is. She illustrates numerous situations that I think we can all relate to. She offers suggestions for what to do when you dog rudely demands something from you like “pet me now human!” If your dog insists that you pet her, she’s not necessarily being sweet – she’s being demanding. As McConnell says, “Don’t let your dog push you with his nose and demand that you throw the ball. It’s not sweet, loving, or cute …it’s pushy.”

Most of the book is dedicated to how to handle these situations. Although the term is never used in this book, many of the ideas are consistent with the mantra of Nothing is Life is Free. Does your dog want to go for a walk? Then he needs to sit and be released before he can walk out the front door. Did he sit, stay, or come? Then it’s okay to pet him. The key to making such a system work is consistency. McConnell dedicates a chapter to the down stay emphasizing that if a dog breaks the down 25 times, you should correct them 25 times the same way. I will add one note of my own which is to not expect too much from your dog too fast. 25 corrections of any variety can be stressful to your dog. Keep your training short and positive – always ending on a high note. When your dog is ready to try a 30 minute down stay, you shouldn’t need to correct every minute or two. Just determine your rules from the outset and be consistent.

Although our blog consists of only a few posts so far, I think you can tell we are pretty fanatical about our dogs. I’m pretty sure our vizslas will always be spoiled, but we do our best to give guidance and set rules because we love them. I have to share the last paragraph of the book because it sums things up so well – “Following these guidelines will provide your dog with the security he or she wants and needs. Don’t think of these as punishments, but rather as boundaries that clarify and structure your relationship. Your dogs will love you for it. Bless their furry little hearts.” If you are looking for a better relationship with your dog, this is definitely a book for you. So go give it a read and have some fun with your dog!

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