Discipline is Natural
Updated: Mar 20
One of the most sensitive topics I must explore with dog parents is the issue of discipline. This is an important topic because it intersects with safety and good canine mental health.
Watch this amazing video below. It offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into natural canine interpersonal dispute resolution. Dog's, just like people, have parents and "police officers" that disallow certain behaviors to persist. In this video, you will see a dog resolve a dispute, and does so with no training whatsoever. Instead, he or she engages out of personal feelings of responsibility.
Why is discipline okay, or even desirable? Consequences for good and bad choice-making is critical in order for dogs to develop healthy social skills. It helps their ability to inhibit emotional impulses. In other words, it helps to develop self-control. Without an ability to control themselves, a dog's mind exists in constant chaos. As a result, they tend to assert themselves in a way as to control their environment.
Discipline is completely natural. Dogs do it too.
Many humans resist discipline and structure for dogs. Perhaps it may feel their dog has been enslaved to authoritarian rule, and by doing so we have violated some rule of nature. Everything a dog does, it is believed, is natural and should not be infringed upon. Of course, this argument is partially true. Dogs themselves, and their behaviors, are natural, even as bred by humans. But then again, everything is natural! Even the light photons emitted by your computer screen as you read these words is naturally occurring.
Add discipline to the list of "all natural" events which shape your dog's social existence. They are hard-wired to need it. But it doesn't stop there. Wolves do it, monkeys do it, and yes, even fish do it. So the question is really not whether or not to discipline your dog. The real question is how, when, and to what extent.
Aaron McDonald is a canine cognitive behaviorist, theorist, and author. He can be reached at www.ThreeDimensionalDog.com. If you are interested in learning about canine theory of mind, grab a copy of Three Dimensional Dog, A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior.