Importance of Agency and Choice in a Dogs Life

As pet owners, we all want our furry friends to live happy, healthy lives. But have you ever stopped to think about what that really means for your dog? For many dogs, a fulfilling life means having a sense of agency and choice in their daily routines. This is where the four L.E.G.S. model developed by dog behaviorist Kim Brophey comes into play.

The four L.E.G.S. stand for:

  • Learning

    white dog with blue harness and a happy face

    Agency and choice in a dogs life is essential for a happy, well balanced dog

  • Environment
  • Genetics
  • Self

These four components work together to create a dog's overall behavior and well-being. Let's break them down further:

Learning: This refers to a dog's ability to learn and adapt to its environment. Dogs are constantly learning from their surroundings and experiences, and it's important to provide them with positive reinforcement and opportunities to learn and grow. This also refers to how your dog learns and what they have already learned from their past experiences.

Environment: A dog's environment plays a huge role in its behavior. This includes everything from its physical surroundings (such as its home and outdoor spaces) to its social interactions (with humans and other animals). It's important to create a safe, stimulating environment that allows your dog to express its natural behaviors and instincts.

Genetics: Just like humans, dogs have genetic traits that influence their behavior. Some breeds are more prone to certain behaviors, such as herding or guarding, while others may be more independent or playful. It's important to understand your dog's breed and individual traits to provide appropriate training and care.

Self: This refers to a dog's individual needs and preferences. Just like humans, dogs have unique personalities and preferences. Some dogs may enjoy playing fetch, while others may prefer cuddling on the couch. It's important to listen to your dog's cues and provide opportunities for them to express their individuality.

 

Why are L.E.G.S. important to understand?

Now, why is the four L.E.G.S. model important for dog owners to understand? By focusing on these four components, we can create an environment that allows our dogs to live fulfilling lives with agency and choice. Dogs who have a sense of agency and choice are more likely to be well-behaved and happy. But how do we achieve this?

This is where a credentialed dog trainer comes in. Working with a trained professional who understands the four L.E.G.S. model can help you create a personalized training plan that addresses your dog's individual needs and preferences. A trained professional can also help you identify potential problem behaviors and provide strategies for addressing them in a positive, effective manner.  A credentialed dog trainer will also show you how the four L.E.G.S. come together to form the dog before you and will help you understand how to meet your individual dogs needs.

At Milwaukee Paws Pet Care (and our sister facility, Canine Einstein), we understand the importance of agency and choice in a dog's life. Our licensed Family Dog Mediator, Dawn Jacques, has the expertise and training to help you create a safe, stimulating environment that allows your dog to express its natural behaviors and instincts. By working with a credentialed dog trainer who understands the four L.E.G.S. model, you can help your furry friend live its best life.

Understanding how the four L.E.G.S. interplay allows a dog trainer to help you and your dog by fine tuning the environment and enrichment opportunities for your dog.  Dogs have natural needs that must be expressed, although many of them are not well suited for our urban living, such as chewing, chasing, shredding, dissecting and thrashing.  When we fully understand our dogs needs, and that they are needs, we are able to provide outlets for those needs that are fun for the dog and appropriate for urban living.

Some dogs are social, and need to be with other dogs to run and play. Others prefer to keep their inner circle smaller.  By pushing an introverted dog to be more social, we create pressure and stress for the dog. The same is true if we do not allow the social dog an outlet for their sociability. It's important for us, as pet caretakers, to provide choices and outlets for our dogs.

In conclusion, the four L.E.G.S. model is a valuable tool for understanding the factors that influence a dog's behavior and well-being. By focusing on learning, environment, genetics, and self, we can create an environment that allows our dogs to live fulfilling lives. If you want to provide the best possible care for your furry friend, it's important to work with a credentialed dog trainer who understands the four L.E.G.S. and who can help you provide your dog with the opportunity to have their needs met in a manner that is both safe and appropriate for them.

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