This used to resonate with me, as hearts used to get broken all the time back then, because people would say "I love you" and not really mean, or "sure let's go out friday night" and not really mean.
We also had feelings that we were either too timid to say out loud and at our worst, we were too angry to say what we really meant - instead we would just yell and hurt each others' feelings.
All of this causes a lot of confusion, sadness and broken relationships and to this day, I still think that simple slogan, if followed, is one of the easiest ways to get people to respect you and ultimately, to like you.
So what does this have to do with dogs? In short, everything.
Your dog knows a lot of other things too - do you follow through on commands you give? Do you provide the things your dog needs to be happy? Do you need your dog to fill a void in your own life?
Trainers love to bank on the fact that your dog knows just how to manipulate you and how to avoid behaving well. So often, my clients have a wild, uncontrollable dog and then they give me the leash, and the dog just stops their bad behavior. This always makes us look good to clients, but the truth is, they are mostly just doing it for two reasons:
- Our handling skills with a leash should be better than yours, and...
- We are unknown quantities to your dog. We start with a blank slate where as you are dealing with a lifetime of "broken promises" and experience the dog has with compromising with your rules.
If you only enforce your sit command 50-60 percent of the time you give it, then your dog knows when you say "sit" there is a little wiggle room for them to challenge. If you have a no couch rule that you get tired of fighting every once in a while, you've created a dog that has good reason to believe he should try to get on the couch. When we bring board and trains in, they may jump on the couch once or twice, but when they realize that's not a place where they are allowed to go, it stops almost immediately.
Aside from that, your dog also knows if you actually "mean" the promises you tell yourself. A lot of us get dogs and say "I'm going to walk them every day." Then suddenly, it rains outside a little or your foot hurts and the days off from walking start outweighing the days that you actually do walk. Or, you move into a house with a big backyard and the walks stop all together.
What many don't realize that being a leader of dogs or even a family is a 24/7 job - and your dog knows whether or not you are fulfilling the promises of that leadership and will act accordingly.
So, always remember: mean what you say and say what you mean.