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Why ‘gentle parenting’ your dog is a recipe for disaster

Dog parenting styles can be vastly different but here's my experience as a pet parent and where I found success.

Lexie's black dog, Indigo, stands outside in amongst some golden grass, as a pet parent to Indigo, Lexie has found that 'gentle parenting' your dog is not the best approach to dog training.
Lexie's black dog, Indigo, stands outside in amongst some golden grass, as a pet parent to Indigo, Lexie has found that 'gentle parenting' your dog is not the best approach to dog training.

Over a year ago, when I got my dog- Indigo (pictured above and below)- I thought I had all the knowledge of what kind of dog owner I wanted to be. I watched videos on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, of trainers with thousands of followers, all of which, gave vastly different information on how to train your four-legged friend. “You need to do this,” “Redirect them to the treat,” “Make sure they are looking at you the whole time while outside.” All these tools they used; clickers, treats, tugs, balls attached to strings, slow feeders, snuffle matts, the information was overwhelming and contradicting. Firstly, I didn’t have the money to invest into all these things, and secondly, I didn’t understand the real point. My parents had dogs all their life, they had never spent the money on any of these things. All their dogs were great companions, some of them living healthy till fifteen or sixteen years old.


Lexie's black dog, Indigo, sits on a log in the forest, she content with a more structured style of dog training, Lexie, Indigo's pet parent, found that gentle parenting was not the best approach.
Lexie's black dog, Indigo, sits on a log in the forest, she content with a more structured style of dog training, Lexie, Indigo's pet parent, found that gentle parenting was not the best approach.

If anyone had met Indigo when I first got her, they would truly know the extent of what I mean when I say she was like a devil in a dog coat. No one could get near her, nothing about her body language would change before lunging out at someone wanting to say hello, and her bark was always aggressive. She had no confidence in herself, or me to be able to handle the situation. She needed discipline, she needed to be corrected for her improper behaviours.


When Indigo first met Brad’s dog Rocket, I wanted to crawl out of my skin with embarrassment. Rocket could not stand Indigo because she had no civilized dog manners, she was afraid of everything, and did not respect me as her owner. Rocket disciplined Indigo on multiple occasions while the severity differed based on the situation. From lengthy growling, barking, pecking with her incisors, Rocket got the point across swiftly and effectively. After these moments, I saw almost immediate and significant changes in Indigo’s behaviour. Now, they have a bond that has blossomed into something that has ‘Mama Rocket’ (picture below) in Indigo’s top favourite dog spot forever.


A black dog, Indigo, sits on a picnic table beside her canine companion, Rocket, an Australian Shepherd. Indigo has had the best success in dog training with an approach to dog parenting that is not gente parenting your dog but setting clear rules and boundaries.
A black dog, Indigo, sits on a picnic table beside her canine companion, Rocket, an Australian Shepherd. Indigo has had the best success in dog training with an approach to dog parenting that is not gente parenting your dog but setting clear rules and boundaries.

Dog training without treats has been key to our success.


Think about this for a moment, a dog absolutely hates being in the elevator with other dogs. It barks, growls and thrashes on the leash, the owner “redirects” them with a treat. This is not reinforcing anything but the fact that the dog is supposed to bark, growl and thrash towards another dog. Now, it’s almost a year later and the dog who has no confidence around other dogs, attacks another one in the elevator. Here is another scenario; a random dog picks up the ball and holds it in its mouth for thirty minutes. The owner has forgotten their treats at home, so they have nothing to bribe the dog with. I have disciplined my dog for holding things because it could be a safety concern, living in the city, there is no telling what could be on the ground. Now when I say “out” it’s out of her mouth and we keep moving. This is because the first and only time I had to discipline her, it meant something.


When I was younger, my mom had a spatula that was only used to smack on the table if me or my brother were acting up. She never ever laid it on us, but the thought alone was enough to make us think twice about whatever we were doing. This is the same type of discipline that I am speaking about in this post. A swat across the snoot, or under the chin to a dog is the same as me and my brother hearing the drawer open for that spatula. A vast amount of dog owners have humanized their dogs to the point of viewing them as children; allowing them to get away with so much and sometimes even becoming prisoners to their dogs.


Gentle parenting is not something that can be effectively used with animals. Mother bears don’t gentle parent their cubs. Wolves don’t gentle parent their pups. While you might be thinking, ‘but that’s the wild,’ it doesn’t change the fundamental way any animal communicates.



About the Author

Lexie Bargen is alumni of the Hustle Up Dog Trainer Course and a Certified Dog Trainer Educator (CTE) in Vancouver, B.C. She is the owner and operator of Lex Trains Dogs.




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