Cesar Millan takes a break from training a dog.

If you’re a parent, you know that you don’t always agree with what your kids want. Sometimes you do, like when they want something specific for their birthday and they’ve been good, so you indulge them. But other times, it’s not a good idea to always agree with your kids, especially when they want something that you know, as a parent, isn’t good for them.

Always agreeing with what our kids want would lead to disastrous results. (The same is also true in relationships.) As a parent, our job is not to indulge every wish and whim our children have. Rather, it’s to protect our children from themselves, and it comes naturally.

I find it ironic, then, that people who humanize their dogs seem to do it in every way but one.

Discipline is Important

They love their dogs like their children, they pamper them and indulge them, but then they don’t discipline them like they would their kids. Even the most doting parent disciplines their children when they misbehave, but I constantly see people who are unable to discipline their dogs in the same way. And remember: “discipline” does not mean “punish.” It’s related to the word “disciple,” or follower, and to discipline a person or a dog is simply to teach them to follow you.

There are a lot of reasons that people don’t discipline their dogs, but here are the ones I see most often. First, people are afraid of hurting their dog’s feelings if they say “No,” or correct them from misbehaving because they don’t want their dog to resent them. (Hint: the dog won’t.)

Another reason people don’t discipline their dogs is because they see the misbehavior as “cute” — whether it’s dragging the toilet paper off the roll and all over the house, jumping up on guests and licking their faces, or trying to hump the cat. A dog that can make people laugh seems to be able to get away with anything.

Don’t Give Up

Probably the worst reason that people don’t discipline their dogs is because they just give up. They think they’ve tried everything, haven’t seen results, and decide that they can’t control their dog, so the dog takes over the entire household.

Parents have no problem, when their child doesn’t want to do something and demands to know why, in replying “Because I said so,” and enforcing the rule. Dogs don’t ask why. They either comply or they don’t. The big difference between children and dogs, though, is that children will rebel against discipline while dogs want it. Your dog is happiest when it has rules to follow, and you enforce them with calm, assertive energy and in a consistent manner.

Just as a parent’s job is to protect their children, a Pack Leader’s job is to provide protection and direction, and to disagree with the dog when it’s good for them.

I always tell people not to humanize their dogs and think of them as furry children, but this might be one area where doing exactly that will help. When your dog is misbehaving ask yourself, “If I had a kid who was doing this in public, would I be embarrassed and step in to stop it?” (If you don’t have children, then replace kid with “friend” or “significant other.”) If the answer is yes, then be a Pack Leader, provide discipline, and remember that this is exactly what your dog wants and needs from you.

Stay calm, and agree to disagree when you have to!

* * *

Last Thursday was my (and Junior’s) birthday, and I was overwhelmed with all of the greetings, cards, messages and well wishes I received from all of you, as well as the surprise party my office pack threw for me. Be sure to check out my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts as I share the fun in the coming days.

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