The truth is, most of us have unrealistic expectations for our dogs’ behaviour—far beyond what we would ever expect from any other animal, person, or child. It’s pure fantasy that dogs will be the uniformly friendly, social, outgoing, bombproof, affectionate, tolerant, unopinionated, and complacent creatures we want them to be in our world… When you take your dog out into the world, you will be inundated by a host of well-intentioned fellow dog lovers who let their “friendly” dogs, children, and spouses pop the bubble of your dog’s personal space. Your dog will be expected not only to tolerate it, but to like it and to participate merrily in these interactions. Dogs who do not happen to fit the mold of these social pet customs we have adopted, and who protest in any way (barking, snarling, snapping, hiding) will be labeled as ‘bad’ or in need of training or ‘fixing’. They are expected to learn how to let it all roll off of them whether they like it or not.
Some kinds of dogs will handle these expectations better than others. Some have been selectively bred for social complacency and merriment. But most have not. The majority of dogs in the population maintain the natural awareness of and concern for personal space and property, regard for the etiquette of introductions, and the value of minding one’s own business.
— Kim Brophey, Meet Your Dog: the Game-changing Guide to Understand Your Dog’s Behaviour (2018)
Perhaps one central reason for loving dogs is that they take us away from this obsession with ourselves. When our thoughts start to go in circles, and we seem unable to break away, wondering what horrible event the future holds for us, the dog opens a window into the delight of the moment.
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs
When your dog makes an error, there are many options with which you can respond. It is the energy with which you follow through that counts….
A simple way to think of energy is to put it as a ten point total. When I am in balance with my dog, he has five points, and I have five points. Let’s consider five points to be when I have normal level energy. Now if my dog was to get mega excited, his energy would go up to a seven. To remain balanced with my dog, in those moments my energy needs to drop to a three , totalling us at ten, to keep us both in harmony. In no way do I become passive, but I need to soften and calm.
If my animal escalates, I de-escalate. I slow my breathing, loosen my muscles, and physically slow down. I lead the dog by controlling the energy that I lead with. Whichever methodology you choose to train , you respond to your dog’s error with this level of energy. As dog trainers, we create the energy balance for our dogs.
Or likewise, if my dog is feeling flat, and mouse-like, with an energy of three points, then I need to pick my energy up to a seven, equaling us at a ten.
When I am retraining reactive dogs, my job is teaching people to not be as reactive as their dogs. If their dog becomes a nine, then I need to become a one, rather than the nine that they come as.
When I started operating on this kind of mindset, just out of intuition when what I was doing before wasn’t working, things shifted for my dogs and I pretty dramatically. I’m still learning how to properly do it with Gunner, since he can turn into an 8 just from looking at him, but with Asher’s reactivity, it was really key.
This is, I think, a much better way for illustrating how much your mindset can reach your dog through the leash (or otherwise).
Monique has another post about making dogs aggressive and hiding in bushes, reassuring your dog that it’s okay, he’s a good boy, as another dog passes by… while also tensing yourself, gripping the leash, rolling it in your hands, preparing… Which travels to your dog, which tells them to get ready, which turns into a predictable pattern that they will then repeat - instead of teaching them to be calm and let it go.
I know I’ve done this before when Asher has gone over-threshold and I don’t do it anymore. It never did a damn thing other than make us both more anxious and nervous and feeling shitty after.
I will create safe distance for him. On hikes, I may go off trail and stand - not hide - in bushes so we have the proper distance to keep him from jumping on people, to avoid setting him up for failure and reinforcing undesirable behaviors.
But now I go through the motions of “look at that,” I reward him for choosing to look at them and then me instead, for sniffing the floor, whatever it is, so long as it’s calm. If he starts to whine, I call his name, I toss treats on the floor to calm him - before he starts to react. There’s nothing inherently wrong with going into the bushes - it’s all about how you do it.
Importantly, I don’t rush into those bushes. I act like we would at any other part of the trail, I act like I would any time we need to change direction, regardless of others being around. I watch my breathing. I keep my hand relaxed (having my belt on for safety also reassures me that keeping my hand loose is safe and okay). I relax my whole body. Your whole body, in every way. Emanate calmness. Can’t just pretend calmness; you must be the definition of calm serenity. I keep my voice normal - I have to say Asher’s name with a high-pitched call in all circumstances, but he’ll pick up on any anxiety if I force that or try too hard to say it. Nothing is different or out of the ordinary and keeping things the same tells him that. If I change, that neophobia is gonna kick in and he’s gonna get defensive.
I don’t make a big deal out of anything, and then neither does Asher. If I’m calm, he knows he can be, too.
To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog-nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticise all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch.
If you want to be inspired by someone follow your dog. Watch them, they live in the moment. They enjoy almost everything. They really do live a better life. I guess it’s easy when everything is given to them. Especially love. But without love, would anyone want to live? Since they have such affection is there any doubt by how they respond to such constant attention that they should return the favor ten fold? As our closest friends, think about it. To quote John Lennon, “love is all you need”. If it was the way we all were to each other then we would all enjoy our lives as much as a fucking dog.
Are schipperkes as high energy as people claim? I love the look and temperament of them, and Luca is easily my favorite dogblr dog, but they seems so energetic! Like little rascals!
Thank you for your kind compliment. Luca is also my favourite dogblr dog.
My general disclaimer before I answer questions like this: Luca is the only schipperke I’ve lived with and I’ve only met two in total.
The following are various quotes I have read on the schipperke’s energy:
“The Schipperke is a smart and very active little dog possessed of an extraordinarily inquisitive nature. Wherever it goes it closely examines every article it comes upon and is for ever poking about both indoors and out.” — Eric Fitch Daglish, The Dog Owner’s Guide (1933)
“As a breed, the Schip is exceptionally hardy, intelligent, very quick and full of pep.” — Ernest H. Hart, Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds (1968)
“A characteristic peculiarity of the breed is their exceeding inquisitiveness and lively interest in everything going on about them, their excitement being expressed by sharp barks and the bristling mane.” — James Watson, The Dog Book (1905)
“There is no limit to his prying liveliness.” — William Arthur Bruette, The Complete Dog Book (1921)
“It must be kept in mind though, that the Schipperke must maintain an active way of life whether in a city apartment or a country estate.” — The Official Book of the Schipperke, Schipperke Club of America (1976)
With Luca, I find these descriptions to be mostly accurate. He certainly is a rascal, inquisitive in nature, with no end to his prying liveliness. You know how many people talk about “velcro dogs” and dogs that don’t leave you alone? He is kind of like that, except he’s not glued to me nor does he wish to be touched. But if there is a door between us, he sees it as an affront and must know what is happening on the other side. He follows me around because he wants to be aware of everything in the home. He is not content to let things pass him by.
Luca requires a somewhat active lifestyle, both mentally and physically. I don’t think the size of his dwelling matters, as long as he gets time out of it. However, he doesn’t bounce off the walls if I am unable to take him out. He is able to settle indoors. But if I do not provide him enough mental stimulation, or if he is on edge for any reason, he will divert to his watchdog role and be quite active in barking and patrolling for some time.
Hope this helps! I think schipperkes are totally underrated. As Frank Townend Barton wrote in Dogs; their selection, breeding and keeping (1916), “It is rather surprising that the breed does not become more popular, especially in town, as they are dogs that require very little trouble to keep them in good condition…” and as Isabel Ormiston wrote in Regarding The Schipperke (1927), “The Schipperke is the ideal dog for those who do not like toy dogs and want a dog that is full of ‘dog’ and yet have not room for a big dog… He is in fact a dog who needs only to be given a chance to make his own place and keep it. Those who have owned a ‘skip’ are never again satisfied with any other breed.”