Periodically, this question drives me crazy.
What is respect? In particular, what constitutes the kind of respect dogs are supposed to have for humans?
About 95% of the time someone tells me their dog respects them, or points out a dog who respects people, the dog is visibly afraid of the person. Is that respect? If that’s what it is, I am not interested, and it’s a very easy discussion for me.
I’ve had herding instructors tell me, “your dog does not respect you.” Does that mean my dog does not fear me? If I ask, the answer is something like, “respect means she does what you ask right away” or “does not pull on the leash” (*oh shit*), or something like that. But when I ask, “how do you teach that,” they tend to wiggle a bit and not have a concrete answer. And I’m pretty sure that when they teach if to their dogs, it involves at least partly instilling an element of fear; of “or else.”
Can respect be earned by humans without using fear? If so, how? I’m pretty sure I’ve done all those things — controlling resources, being fair, teaching the skills so my dog understands, etc., with Mellie, but it’s also still pretty clear that there are times she’s just going to do what she wants and is “blowing me off.” For example, leash walking. Or thinks I’m a raging incompetent (“if you wanted me to go over that jump you should have told me in time”). is that a failure of respect?
I’m truly at a loss with this. I know people I respect, so I’ve asked myself “what is it about those people that makes me respect them?” The answer is usually that they are fair, fairer than usual; or stronger than most people (especially myself) would be in a similar situation. I have enormous respect for some of the young single moms I’ve met who are also going to school and working one or more jobs. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t ever have done that; it’s enormous. Just an example. And this really does not translate well to “dog respecting a person,” because it requires all sorts of theory of mind and abstract thinking which dogs don’t appear to do.
I welcome comments. I’d really like to hear what people mean by this, and how they teach it.