Building a relationship with your dog takes time and empathy. It’s not about training, above all, it’s about safety, trust and understanding. Be patient, get to know your individual dog to build a trusting, fulfilling happy relationship. Here I give you a few key points to consider as you move forward together.
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Mental health & your dogs’ happiness
As their guardians, our aim is to guide them to become the best version of themselves. For a dog to feel supported and understood for who and what they are is paramount to having a happy, relaxed stress-free successful relationship with your dog. For our dogs to be who they truly are, we need to be mindful of the effect the environment and all that encompasses has on their mental wellbeing.
Stress causes illness both mental and physical. Give them the right food, become fluent in canine, know your individual canine character, and guide them to make great choices so they can live happily, in harmony with us and within our modern world.
9 key points in building a relationship with your dog
- Be their safe zone. You are their guardian, mentor, and trusted companion.
- Understanding of who and what they are.
- Observe and watch. Understand their language. All they do shows us how they feel.
- Calm, consistent & patient. Every dog is an individual, with the right mentor in the right situation they will thrive
- Age-appropriate goals
- To learn your dogs’ likes and dislikes within play, affection, own time, favourite places, friends and family
- Understand their own character and personality
- Understand that their needs are way more important than your wants.
- Find what your dog responds positively to and grow from there.
Who’s talking to who? Understand how dogs talk
Communication works both ways. No verbal communication is what you do on a daily basis. Your dog watches and learns best when we are not conducting a formal training session. Your dog is 95% nonverbal. They do understand familiarly spoken words. They understand us more than many would appreciate. Studies have shown that they like us have left side bias ( gaze left to see our facial expressions) so understand our emotions and feeling extremely well. Other studies show they have very similar emotions and understanding as a 2.5-year-old child.
Canine is their language – they’ve no idea we are not fluent in their language. It is wrong to think all a dog needs is to be controlled and not heard. We simply confuse them with our rushed, verbal, and at times impatient ways. Frustration on both sides results in breaking relationships.
Safety, trust & understanding builds relationships
Create space with new encounters to give them time to evaluate in safety. Gives them time, to stop and think is important for them to them decide whether they wish to engage in new or not. If you see that the new dog is not a good gentle mentor or friend you can decide to walk your dog well away.
If you see your dog is still presenting with negative emotions then stand between your dog and the other to break their eye contact. Your dog may then be able to relax and walk off with you. Your dog will be thankful. Either way, trust in you to keep them safe grows.
So whether encountering a dog, car, person, bike & any unknown object stationary or moving, how you calmly let your dog view at safe distance and help them to make safe decisions will enhance your relationship.
Building trusting relationships means we take others’ feelings into consideration and help them through confusing and difficult times. Celebrate their achievements and help them become the best version of themselves. A rush to be everything to everyone and everything else takes our eye off building our own relationships.
Positive thoughts, emotions & actions build relationships
Dogs mirror our emotions. When you are positive and confident your dog will be too. How you feel, think and react in any given situation has an effect on your dog and whoever else you are with. Take building your relationship slow and steady. It’s not about conforming to rules of obedience.
Dogs mirror our emotions. Science confirms something those who have had animals in their lives know already. Looking after our mental health and stress levels keeps not only you happy and healthy but also your dog for sure.
Location, environment, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions are most important when building trusting relationships. Be in a location where you can connect and show confidence and patience. Home initially. Then low stimulus outside areas ( Industrial estates and wilderness locations) As you build your connection you can move to places where you can build trust at a distance from the triggers or distractions. Be in the moment with your dog and enjoy watching your bond grow strong.
Educate slow but sure, be patient and work with the dog you have today as opposed to fast track to the dog you want tomorrow.
Be mindful of what your dog is communicating and be proactive when you need to be as opposed to reactive. You’ll get there with patience and when you go not only at your capabilities but also your dogs.
When do you educate & build your relationship?
All the time you are with your dog. Learning is a gradual progression, with no time scale, but simply moving forward with kindness and empathy.
Age-appropriate skills and to know that every dog archives in their own time and they can only achieve the best they can be when we are the best we can be.
It’s about living together and learning together. Also to understand that you do not always know best.
In a nutshell, training, education, and relationship building is not something you pick up and put down when it suits. It happens all the time with your dog, more often than not when you are relaxed and not formally training is when you learn about your dog and your dog about you.
Be inventive & positive.
Learning occurs when you are happy, relaxed, and confident. Make lead work and recall fun and rewarding as opposed to something they have to do. When you are lighthearted and their trusted companion, your dog will choose to be with you. It is about how you use your body and how you feel. So ditch the constant food treats and think of how you need to be to inspire your dog to want to be in your company.
Understand your dog as an individual
Every dog is an individual. All dogs speak dog but of course, do have breed-specific traits. However, they all present with the same language. Everything they do is a message to you in how they feel in any given situation. Any dog can guard, can bark, can chase, can decide to come when called or not.
Every dog can only be itself. All dogs need guidance in our overpopulated, fast-moving world to fit in. So they are able to use appropriate canine communication skills to live a safe, happy, and fulfilled life. Free of stress.
No one size fits all in dog training
Dogs need to fit into our unnatural world as naturally as possible. They need guidance to make that happen to be truly happy and relaxed. Dogs need us to feel good about ourselves in order for them to be happy also
In recent times we have been led to believe that training in sit, stay and heel is all that’s required to bring a dog up. Dogs learn far better when we are not teaching these regimented tasks. We can very easily remove their natural canine communication skills by purely concentrating on what we see as creating the perfect dog.
Many times when we train, we ignore what our dogs are saying. It’s a will-do attitude as opposed to understanding why they can’t do it. Building relationships is about respecting each other for who they are and what they need, as opposed to us telling them what we think they need and what we want.
About Caroline Spencer
Caroline has over 30yrs experience with dogs from gundogs to pet dogs. She has written “Why Does My Dog Do That? and is Co-Author of “Parenting Your New Puppy” With Lesley Harris. Caroline also designed the Happy At Heel Harness to help educate dogs to stop pulling. If you’d like a consultation via Zoom or in-person do contact Caroline via the following email address for details email@example.com