Rules and Boundaries lead to More Freedom.
Wait. This can’t be right...
And yet, the more consistency, communication, and clarity you give your dog on what is and is not allowed makes way for a more reliable and balanced animal. Which makes them a more enjoyable companion! How????
My next statement will be thrilling news to a lot of you, as it validates much of how many think about their dogs:
Dogs are like children.
Imagine a 3-yr-old who has no rules.
Imagine it longer.
Don't just imagine how that child will affect the public when brought to a store. Also imagine how confused, unsure, afraid, even angry that child would be... and would become as it grows. How entitled. How bossy. How unmanageable. How unreasonable.
Because no one is explaining the world to him! No one is teaching him that order exists, that figuring everything out is not a burden that rests on his little shoulders. No one is telling him that there is someone older, wiser, benevolent, and more powerful in control and committed to helping him through life.
Nor are they telling him that his actions have consequences. That the world isn’t his to rule. That there are certain things that make living in this world either difficult or easy, for him and others, depending on his choices.
Sure, sometimes it's really fun for him. But the rest of the time, he's vainly trying all sort of things in an attempt to find some sense in the world.
Dogs actually crave rules and order in a way that a 3-year-old does not. Unlike a child, if there is a power vacuum, the dog will take it upon himself to fill it--because SOMEONE around here has to be in control.
This desire--no, the inherent directive--will likely manifest itself in highly undesirable ways if it's allowed to. It can take forms such as entrance/doorway guarding, high-priority location guarding (e.g., bed, couch, etc.), possessiveness of his people (VERY often mistaken for "protectiveness"), and punishment aggression (if you try to make him do something he doesn't want to, he bites, growls, etc.). This is dominance by default.
In a more naturally submissive dog, the lack of order will more likely result in greater confusion and fearfulness. It's terrifying to the dog if no one is in control or demonstrates an understanding of the world through communication and consistency.
This is the dog making rules and applying order to his world.
So make rules for your dog. Take care of that responsibility for them. They could be as simple as 1) you don't eat until you sit and wait, 2) you don't cross a threshold until I do first and then give you permission, or 3) no dogs on the furniture/in that room/up those stairs.
These types of rules and limitations provide structure.
And the best rules of all?
That provides communication, mental stimulation, and relationship! Many of those dominance by default behaviors will often disappear simply because you began asserting yourself and improving your relationship through obedience training. And for scared dogs, the communication and clarity will help them relax knowing someone is in control.
Obedience training can work wonders on your dog.