Soft-hearted people tend to struggle with disciplining people or animals. We’re not really the kind to yell. We generally take the side of the weak. So we struggle with the idea of dominating an animal.
There is a dominance struggle that happens before or during every interaction with every animal. And it helps neither you nor the animal if the animal wins. Beyond becoming more difficult for you to care for, the dog can become a threat to other people.
Undisciplined dogs can bowl people over, bite people, destroy property, and generally act like bullies. Whether you like standard animal discipline practices or not, you as a dog owner are responsible for bringing your animal into line. And too many dogs are spoiled and entitled and enabled beyond belief. So how can we change this without becoming coldhearted animal-whipping beasts ourselves?
If you struggle to be firm with your dog, the problem is probably that you are framing things the wrong way. To you, your dog is a weak, adorable, dependent creature. This is partly true. Your problem is that you are unable to see that it is also a bully.
Your soft heart probably inclines you to have a special hatred for bullies. Draw on this to command your dog.
When my brother’s young Golden Retriever was jumping up on me and endangering my property, I had much less trouble being firm and even cold with it. I resented its entitlement and aggression. And I was fully justified in using force to push it down if it leapt on me. It helped me to realize that in doing this I wasn’t just doing myself a favor. I was helping to keep the dog from becoming a dominant bully, and I was helping to prevent the same bullying with other people.
Discipline, like telling hard truths, isn’t pleasant for your animals. But it’s the right thing to do in the long run. Remind yourself of this truth if you ever need to muster up some kickass dog coaching energy.
Disclaimer: I know little if anything about dog training and don’t own a dog myself. This is just a blog on framing.