she said that i can’t be a “mother” to my dog

I recently started working with a new client who has 3 dogs, all the same small breed, 2 of which she rescued as adults. Her challenge? Two adult females jockeying for position and resource guarding “mom.”

During my first conversation with her and her husband, I learned that I am not the first professional she has brought in for help. In the past, she has received consultation from a dog behaviorist/psychologist and another dog trainer. I don’t want to go into a lot a detail here, however I will tell you that all of the dogs, especially the 2 females, are in need of basic obedience training, exercise and, more importantly, leadership. We agreed on an initial approach, they have some homework to do and we scheduled a follow-up visit.

So here’s the thing. As we were talking and I was asking questions to help me determine how I can help, my new client mentioned that the previous trainer she brought in was “hard core.” Specifically, the trainer told her that she can not and should not be a mother to her dogs.  This is very interesting to me. I refer to myself as “mom” when it comes to my dogs.  I tell them that “Daddy’s home!” and dad tells them to “Find mommy!” I refer to my dogs as my kids and I consider them, treat them and love them like they are my kids. As parent-child relationships should be, I offer leadership, trust, love and safety.

I don’t know the full context of the other trainer’s statement and, in the interest of benefit of the doubt, I will assume that her conclusion about solving the challenges in this home are the same as mine. These dogs need a leader and the root of the behavioral challenges is that, in the absence of a clear leader, both females are figuring out how to assume a position of leadership.  This causes to all sorts of behavioral challenges.

For this new client, leadership is our first order of business and it seems that both owners are on board.  Here’s my question… as long as she is also a leader, what is wrong with being a “mother?”

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