Dog–oriented : what does it really mean?

Based on an article written by Raili Halme

Head of the Dog Oriented Institute of Finland

A way of living

The dog oriented approach is an attitude. It’s a way of living with your dog based on mutual respect and trust, the fundamentals of a good relationship.

It’s not a training method,  not a quick fix for unwanted behaviour. There is always a reason for that. In the dog-oriented approach we look for the cause of the unwanted behaviour. Take away the cause and the behaviour will change. We never blame the dog for it. We start changing the environment, our own behaviour or attitude, the circumstances, not the dog.

Communication

In a good relationship communication is enormously important, probably the most important. You only can trust each other if you understand each other. That’s so with people,  that’s so with dogs and that’s also the case between humans and dogs.

Dogs do have a great advantage though. They speak a universal language. A dog from Portugal, Japan or Canada, they understand each other effortlessly because they send out  the same body signals. That’s the point where people often fail. We also have body language, a lot, but we mostly are unaware of it. We talk in words. Dogs above all communicate by body language: body posture, ears, tail  etc.

It’s a matter of understanding your dog’s body language in the first place. Only when you know what he’s telling, you can react properly. This means that we have to be more conscious about our body language.  We even have to learn to use this way of communication.  Because a dog does read our body language anyway and reacts to that.

Safety

Another essential  aspect of a good relationship is safety. No safety, no trust. You create safety by being consequent. And I immediately want to add that being consequent is no synonym of being hard, it’s no excuse to shout at your dog,  to be rude or brutal. 

In the dog-oriented approach punishment is out of the question, in training as well as in daily life.  Punishing is creating fear. The dog will do what is required out of fear, not because he likes to.  You can’t build trust on fear.

Teaching and training

The dog-oriented approach distinguishes teaching from training. We teach a dog lots of things, only through communication. That’s what dogs do too. We show approval and satisfaction by body language and intonation. This teaching is part of daily life, is not planned or repeated.

Training in a dog-oriented way needs to be carefully planned in advance. We only exercise as long as the dog feels comfortable. Every training session ends in a positive way, a successful experience for the dog.

Training sessions are short and interrupted with breaks to enforce what has been learned. The basic rule is: reward the good, ignore the mistakes. Training sessions are built so that the dog always succeeds. If that’s not the case you have to reconsider your way of exercising. It never is the dog’s fault.