You are Giving Commands – Not Suggestions

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Rhodesian service ranger sitWe have discussed the concept of building a negative vocabulary with your dog, as well as using communication with your prong collar and a high quality lead to have an obedient and stable dog.  I also recently addressed the misconception that many people have regarding dogs and biting.  But another very important concept to understand is that are giving commands to your dog.  These are not suggestions, they are commands.  Your dog must obey your commands.  There is no other option.  This is for both your safety and his as well as all those around you.

Giving Commands and Not Suggestions

Please allow me to demonstrate this concept to you.  Imagine you are in your front yard with your dog.  Doing whatever it is you might enjoy doing out there. You hear a truck coming down the road and mentally note your frustration that the driver is going faster than he should on your small road.  Then you catch a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision.  You glance over to see your dog running full speed toward this truck.  You yell for your dog to stop, but there is no reaction, then he is in the road, then he is under the truck.  Or, if the driver swerves to avoid your dog, there may now be an injured person and significant property damage.

Or how about this situation, you have a family relative over.  They do not visit frequently and have not seen you since you got your dog.  For whatever reason, your dog has acted slightly different since this person arrived.  While you are ensuring that hospitality is taken care of you hear your dog’s claws on the floor. Suddenly there is a scream and you look up to see your dog biting this person.

Last scenario, you have determined to keep your dog with you as much as possible (which I highly recommend) and you are walking down a crowded street. There are adults and children alike.  You notice a mother with her 3 young children who are all pointing and admiring your dog.  Suddenly, one of them breaks from his mother and runs toward your dog, intent on wrapping his arms around his neck and loving on your furry companion.  But due to the stress of the situation, your dog has focused on what he determines may be a threat, and when the unexpected hug comes from the child, your dog turns aggressively and snaps at the child, biting him in the face.

Consequences of Giving Suggestions

All of these situations have happened many times over with dogs that were never trained to bite.  They all occurred because the owner did not have control of their dog.  The owner did not have control, because they did not understand that the dog does not have a choice.  He must obey.  You as the owner must ensure that he does.  If you tell your dog to lay, then it must lay.  If you tell them to wait, then they must wait.  If you tell them to leave it or that its ok, your dog must accept this situation.  If you tell your dog to stop and come to you or lay or return to their place, then this most certainly must happen.  You as the owner are responsible for everything that your dog does and fails to do.  This is easy to understand for military personnel, but sometimes is a new concept to those not familiar with highly structured authority systems.  As a dog owner (or the owner of any pet), you are accepting responsibility over that animal.  So I implore to you take your ownership seriously.

Foundations of Responsibility

These concepts are clearly pointed out in the following verses of Scripture:

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10

It is natural and the sign of a righteous person to love your animals and to take care of them.  It is also an indication of the type of person who would injure an animal without need or cause.  But what does it really mean to love your dog?  Is it allowing reckless abandon and freedom?  Or is it requiring disciplined obedience?  Let us consider the following:

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.” Exodus 21:28-30

This case law established the responsibility of owners of animals to maintain control over their animals.  If you have an animal that suddenly causes injury to another, you may be acquitted from responsibility of their possible death, but you have an obligation to repay the victim and/or their family.  However, your animal must still be put to death.  The American laws of animal ownership are founded in this case law, and the results will be the same.  If your dog bites another, or causes property damage, then you as the owner are responsible to make it right.  And who among us would want our dog killed due to our own failure to require disciplined responses to our commands.


I hope you can see how it is loving to your neighbor, your family and your dog to be responsible and to require obedience at your first command such that your animal is disciplined and under the control of yourself and your family.  So be consistent, do not build that negative vocabulary, and understand that you are giving commands that must be followed for the love of your dog and all those around you.  This does not mean that you cannot allow your dog to run free for a time or throw a ball with your dog, but each of these things must be done underneath the banner of obedience.

In the next article, we will talk about playing with your dog while reinforcing obedience and discipline.

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