Inwardly I cringe as I hear how an owner "earns" respect from his dog — roll him over and hold him down until he quits protesting. Otherwise known as an alpha roll, this is an outdated method, not to mention it usually scares the heck out of dogs. It doesn’t teach them respect, it teaches them fear.
And fear can look a little bit like respect, so people think it’s ok. A dog who’s fearful or doesn’t trust you can often look like he’s well behaved and "respects" you. Usually what’s really going on is the dog has learned that doing nothing is a whole lot safer than doing something. So what you’re really seeing is a dog who’s careful to tread lightly because he’s not quite sure when (or why) you may pin him to the ground again.
If I were a dog, I’d be dead by now. And not because I’m old. But because I respond very poorly to those who demand respect. I am decidedly obstinate – and pretty vocal about it. Not only won’t I do what’s being demanded, but I’ll be really loud about how I’m NOT doing it and why I’m not doing it, and how I’ll NEVER do it.
Cooperation, however, is something I do very well. I’m an exceptional cooperator. (I think I just made that word up.) I’m a different person if I’m asked to do something, then thanked after it’s been done. Say please and thank you (and mean it!) and I’ll just about walk across broken glass for you. And do it quickly. With a smile on my face.
When I was just out of college, I worked for the Federal government supporting 20 or so research scientists. I’d get them the supplies they needed, do their timecards, the usual administrative support stuff. Some of the scientists had poor communication and social skills and they’d demand things from me. Because they could, because they didn’t know better, I don’t know why they did it. But there were a few (just a few) who could actually take time to ask me how I was, and oh by the way, when you get a chance, could you please place this order for me. The order was done before they walked out of my office. And hand delivered by me when it came in. With a smile. We were Cooperators. And that’s what Cooperators do.
Those other folks, the Demanders, they’d have to wait awhile – I’d make sure of it. I’d put their orders at the bottom of my pile. Those orders would get placed, and in time so the experiments didn’t run off track, but they didn’t get expedited, nor did those scientists enjoy personal delivery of their items the minute I received them. We were definitely not Cooperators. We were Antagonizers. We didn’t enjoy one another and didn’t care that each of us knew that. It wasn’t pleasant.
My point of all this: start a cooperative relationship with your dog, not an adversarial one. Don’t go around demanding respect. Earn it. A cooperative relationship will benefit both you and your dog. You’ll look for reasons to hang out together, you’ll love the time you spend together, you’ll try to solve problems together instead of blaming the dog for being stubborn, hard-headed or manipulative.
Better yet, your dog will enjoy that time you spend together. You’ll have a dog who knows he can rely on you, he can trust you. He knows you’ll take the time to teach him the things he needs to know, instead of rolling him over on his back to show him you’re the boss. You’re not the boss – you’re his teacher. Good teachers hold themselves responsible for the progress of their charges. They don’t blame the student because they aren’t getting it – they figure a new way to teach it so it’s easy for the student to pick up the new skills.