The domestic dog has NO choice
Around 20.000 years ago some wolves started loitering around camp fires, scavenging in human settlements, became less fearful of people and chose to hang around with humans of their own volition.
When domestication process started we slowly reduced dogs choices to almost zero.
80-100 years ago dogs had more freedom, specially in the countryside where they were roaming around all day, meeting other dogs and living their lives. Urbanisation took this away from dogs.
Nowadays, pet dogs live alongside humans all across the globe, often as an integral part of our families, but we take full control of their life. We decide about everything: what, when and where our dogs eat; when they can toilet; when the can sleep; when they are being separated from their biological mother and siblings; what jobs/sports they do; what they wear; if they are going to be spayed/neutered, breed and at what age; what toys they have; we choose their partners and play mates. At the same time we expect them to behave better than average human child, often we set new, unrealistic standards for our dogs almost as they could be re-engineered as computers or robots. Yes, we do love them dearly, but often our expectations are too high and we challenge them too much. We must strive to better understand their needs and their nature, we should give them an opportunity to have a choice.
From my personal experience, I can give you few simple examples of how you can give your dog a choice.
My favourite one is a ‘taster plate’ - simply put different types of dog safe food on a plate/chopping board/licking mat or into muffin tray and let your dog to decide what they want to eat. It is fascinating watching their preferences :-) One of my dog, out of meat chunks, egg, fish and cheese chosen asparagus - I would never though she likes green veggies! Also, providing variety and fresh products in our dogs diet can prevent cancer - but I will leave this subject for another time..
I like to let my dogs decide which way they want to go when we leave our house or the car.
Or, I will take 3 toys out and let my dog decide which one she wants to play with.
Another great thing you can do with your dog is letting them choose what they want to do for fun. I have tried many different sports, training methods and classes with my dogs. Nella, my older boxer is a perfect show dog, but she did not enjoy being in a ring at all! Instead of putting her in a situation she doesn’t want to be I take her for agility classes (yes, a boxer runs agility!) and she loves it. In the training arena her body language is totally different, her face is smiling the whole session. I’m sure is she could talk, to a question ‘what you enjoy most?’ she would say -agility!
Remember, work with the dog in front of you, not the one you wish you had. Give him/her a choice and enjoy the amazing relationship you have together!