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Obedience and Commands: Do They Still Have a Place in Modern Day Life with Domestic Dogs?



The relationship between dogs and humans has evolved significantly over the centuries. Once revered primarily for their practical roles in hunting, herding, or guarding, dogs have now become an integral part of many families, providing companionship, loyalty, and unconditional love. As our understanding of dogs' cognitive abilities and emotional needs has grown, it's time to question whether traditional obedience and commands should still play a central role in the modern guardianship of our canine companions.


Ethics in Dog Training: A Moral Responsibility


As guardians, we have a moral responsibility to ensure the welfare of our dogs, both physically and emotionally. Traditional obedience-based training methods often rely on dominance and punishment, which can negatively impact a dog's emotional wellbeing. By re-evaluating our approach and embracing methods that prioritise consent and respect, we can foster a healthier, more ethical relationship with our dogs.


Upholding the Dog's Right to Natural Behaviour


Dogs have unique instincts and natural behaviours shaped by their evolutionary history. While domestication has undoubtedly influenced these behaviours, it's crucial to strike a balance between our dogs' adaptability and their inherent needs. Suppressing natural behaviours, such as digging or scenting, can lead to frustration, anxiety, and other behavioural issues. Acknowledging and accommodating these needs can contribute to a happier and more content canine companion.


Recognising Canine Emotions and Cognition


Recent research into canine emotions and intelligence has expanded our understanding of these complex beings. Studies have shown that dogs are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, including joy, fear, and even empathy. This knowledge should inform our training methods, ensuring that we consider our dogs' emotional needs and respond appropriately.


Addressing the Emotional Needs of Dogs


Incorporating our understanding of canine emotions into our approach to dog guardianship means adjusting our expectations and adapting our training techniques. Instead of expecting unquestioning obedience, we should strive to cultivate a relationship built on trust, understanding, and communication. By doing so, we can create a more emotionally healthy environment for our dogs.


Celebrating Dogs for Who They Are


Every dog is unique, with their own breed-specific characteristics, personality traits, and individual quirks. Embracing this individuality means nurturing and encouraging our dogs' unique strengths and qualities, rather than trying to mould them into a one-size-fits-all model of obedience. By appreciating and accepting our dogs as they are, we can foster a stronger bond and a more harmonious coexistence.




The Advantages of Positive Dog Training


Positive dog training, also known as force-free training, focuses on reinforcing desired behaviours using rewards, praise, and encouragement, rather than punishment or aversive techniques. This approach aligns with our growing understanding of canine emotions and cognition, promoting a more ethical and effective training method.


Positive dog training has numerous benefits for both dogs and their guardians. By using rewards and praise, this approach fosters a stronger bond built on trust and mutual understanding. Dogs trained using positive reinforcement are often more confident, less anxious, and exhibit fewer behavioural issues. Additionally, guardians can enjoy a more fulfilling relationship with their canine companions, knowing that they are prioritising their dogs' wellbeing.


Towards a More Compassionate Approach


As we continue to deepen our understanding of dogs' cognitive and emotional needs, it becomes increasingly clear that the traditional concept of obedience and commands deserves re-evaluation. By prioritising ethics, respecting our dogs' rights to natural behaviours, and embracing positive training methods, we can create a more compassionate and empathetic approach to dog guardianship.


By moving away from the dominance-based paradigm and towards a relationship built on trust, respect, and understanding, we can strengthen the bond between us and our canine companions. This shift in perspective allows us to celebrate our dogs for who they are, acknowledging their individuality and fostering their unique qualities.



The National Institute for Canine Ethics



The National Institute for Canine Ethics is a membership-based organisation that promotes ethical and humane treatment of dogs. NICE is ABTC and UK Dog Charter Accredited.




By joining, members show their commitment to upholding high standards for dog care and welfare. The institute offers two free webinars each month, covering a range of topics related to canine health and behaviour, to provide members with ongoing education and support. If you are passionate about dogs and want to make a difference in their lives, the National Institute of Canine Ethics is a great community to be a part of.







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