Many of my customers pile their purchases on my counter and look at me with a guilty face. “I spoil my dog,” they say with a shrug. I laugh with them and tell them that they’re in the right place. But is buying your dog a few toys and bones (or a lot of toys and bones) truly grounds to call him a spoiled dog? You might be relieved to know that it’s not. (And I say that with my dog trainer hat on, not my pet products retailer hat!)
Yes, spoiled dogs exist, but not because their people buy them heaps of stuff. A spoiled dog gets that way because of the way he’s treated by his person. Do you reward him with food when he begs at the table? Does his demand barking get you to throw the ball? Do his nudges and pawing for petting work every time? Does he refuse to sit until you show him that you have a treat for him? Much like a child, the spoiled dog acts like a brat in order to get what he wants. Also much like a child, the blame for the inappropriate behavior usually falls on his parents’ shoulders.
Rehabbing a spoiled dog is straightforward. If you keep in mind that dogs do what “works” for them, you can stop the inappropriate behavior from working by not giving in to it. Ignore the begging, barking, pawing dog instead of acquiescing. Wait for an appropriate behavior, like a few moments of quiet, or a patient sit, before you throw the ball or give a scratch. You can also reduce brattiness by asking your dog to “say please” by sitting for everything he wants. Before you open the door so he can go out, throw the ball, give a treat or basically do anything for him, ask him to “Sit”. It’s a quick way to teach your dog that manners, not pushiness, will get him what he wants.
I say bring on the “spoiled” dogs with baskets full of toys, eating high-quality food and sleeping in plush beds strewn around the house. (That would be both of my dogs, mind you.) As long as they’re polite canine citizens, they’re not spoiled in my book!