“You never had control. That’s the illusion!” -Ellie Sattler “Jurassic Park”
If you have a fearful dog and a dog reactive dog, you think a lot about control. Firstly, you need to have your dog under your control to prevent bad things from happening. Things your dog thinks are bad or things other people are going to think are bad if your dog does them.
What’s even more important is that other people have control over their dogs. This is, of course, a potential nightmare for owners of reactive dogs. I can’t think of too many worse events than having another dog rush us; friendly or not.
I also believe a lot of people think they have control over their dogs when they really do not. Does having a leash on your dog signify he is under control? Not in my experience. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen an on-leash dog dragging his owner from tree to tree or, heaven forbid, right into another dog’s space. Is that dog under control? Hardly. The leash is just a tool. It doesn’t equal control.
The same can be said for other tools in our dog training toolbox. Prong collars, electronic collars, front-clip harnesses, buckle collars, etc. A dog wearing any of these devices may appear to be under control but is he really? What happens when the tool is removed? Does the person still have control over the dog or is the dog doing the equivalent of kids at the end of the school year busting out the door screaming “I’m free!”?
While I don’t believe we can ever have 100% control over another being (and, really, who wants that?), the ultimate proof of our control over our dogs resides in training not the usage of tools. While the tools are beneficial to the training process, they are often used as a crutch. Sure your dog might not bark at the mailman when he’s wearing his anti-bark collar but that doesn’t mean he has been trained not to bark at passerbys. If you remove the tool and the behavior’s still there, it hasn’t been trained. You don’t have control.
If your dog will do a whiplash turn off of deer in a wide open field while wearing nothing but what he was born with. . . you have control over your dog. Your training has paid off. If you need to continue using the crutch just in case, then you don’t have control. Be honest with yourself. It benefits everyone. Personally, when I’m out walking Risa, I don’t care whether a dog is on or off leash. All that matters to me is that the dog is under control.