How to Establish a Relationship with your Dog?

What kind of relationship do you want with your dog? Chances are you want to form a strong bond. Here are some tips to build trust, respect and affection.

January 22 2020
How to Establish a Relationship with your Dog?

Training your dog is not about doing something to him. The relationship cannot be based solely on 'dominance' or 'submission' although on some level these are certainly aspects of the relationship. More so, educating your dog is about establishing mutual trust, respect and understanding. 

Your dog doesn't consciously think about whether you're in charge or they are in charge. How we interact tells them who the decision maker in the relationship is. Your dog doesn't wake up and think about trying to "take over". But your dog will do things to test their position in your family's social structure. They know your routines, and we are creatures of habit, so they will often anticipate the next thing we're likely to do. Does that mean that they are trying to direct the action? 

Let me give you an example. Let's say your dog loves to swim and you have a pool in your backyard. If you pick up a swimsuit, your dog assumes that it's going swimming. Your dog may go to the front door. If your pool is in the back why would he go to the front door? Because many people train their dogs to pee before they can go in the pool. You get your swimsuit and your dog anticipates the next action. Is this a test of leadership? No, not really, but it does tell your dog something about your relationship. It tells your dog that you are consistent.

When you're consistent, your dog will feel safer and more secure. You need to have rules. Because your dog is already at the front door does that mean your dog is calling the shots? Before going through the front door, your dog should be required to wait until you invite him/her out. So even though your dog was already at the door, who is really in control?

You should also make sure your dog waits to be invited back inside. If it's pre-swim pee time, they should run to their pee spot, quickly pee and run back to the door and wait..  Are you in control or is your dog? Neither of you should think about it in those terms. It's been established that you have rules and you should be consistent. Your dog should know what the rules are and your dog follows the established pattern. 

Let's take the routine one step further. After coming in from peeing, your dog should be taught to sit so you can take off their collar. You may not want your dog to swim with their collar on. So they should come in and then sit. There should be no contest, no battle of wills. If your dog forgets and rushes towards the back door, you should just stand and wait. Once they remember what they are supposed to do, they should come back and sit. Neither of you is consciously thinking about who is the one in charge. Your actions determine the relationship.

Your dog should trust that you will be consistent. In turn, once he is properly trained, you should be able to trust that he's going to follow the rules. However, we all make mistakes. You are a human and he's a dog, so neither of you is perfect. If you forget, which does happen, or you let your dog get away with things, he's likely to push the envelope a bit more because you're not being consistent. Your dog may become antsy or unsettled. If you are consistent and follow the rules you and your dog have established, your dog will be calmer, more relaxed and happy.

You should let your dog know when he makes a mistake. When he does, get him refocused, guide him toward proper behaviour, then praise to reinforce a good habit. Your dog may let you know when you make a mistake, often by showing confusion. You and your dog should be able to trust each other to do the right things. Each time you are unfailing, the trust grows stronger.

As the trust grows so will the strength of your bond.  You should both be secure in your relationship. You should each know your roles without thinking about them. Because you know, respect and trust each other, you should also quickly forgive each other's mistakes.

Trust develops over time. As your dog is being trained, you will have to work harder at the relationship because there is a learning curve. You will have to understand your dog's needs and provide for them so he can learn how to fit into your family. Will it be easy? Not always, but it will be fun if you are patient and stick with the process. 

Just like with people, your dog's brain needs to stay active. You should constantly be trying to come up with new things to teach him.  It's an ongoing process. When you are successful, you should celebrate together.

If your relationship with your dog is not what you want it to be, contact your local trainer. A dog is never too old to learn, so we can help you get the relationship back on track very quickly.  At Bark Busters, our goal is to teach your dog to love and respect you, not fear you, control you, or create chaos in your home.

Changing Your Dogs Behavior

One question Bark Busters dog trainers are often asked is: "How long should it take to change my dog's behaviour?" Although you will notice immediate results if you follow our program, there are five characteristics that affect the learning process.

First is their relationship with you. If your dog believes they are the Leader, then they will not likely follow your instructions. From a human standpoint are you the boss at work or an employee? If you're an employee then you are not as likely to influence the boss's behaviour as he or she is to influence yours. The same holds true in our homes with our dogs. If you're the boss, you get to make the rules. If your dog is the boss, they get to make the rules. Of course this is from the dog’s perspective.

Second is your dog’s willingness to learn. From the human perspective consider reading a book. If we can't spell or don't understand the meaning of the words we won't be able to read a book. We need the foundations first. The same is true with your dog. If you haven't built a good foundation first, then you're not as likely to be successful. Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean.

Let's say your dog Scruffy has a tendency to not listen when you're out in public. Does he listen when you are alone and there are no distractions or does he only sometimes listen? If he doesn't listen without distractions, he's not going to listen when there are other things vying for his interest. You need to build the foundation first.

Scruffy also pulls on the lead when on a walk around the neighbourhood. How about in the house or in the backyard? If he doesn't follow you or walk with you in the house or in the backyard, he's not likely to do them in the neighbourhood. Again, if you haven't built the foundation, he's not ready to learn in a more challenging environment.

Third is the actual environment itself. I spoke with a woman whose dog is aggressive to other dogs. I asked if anything bad ever happened to her dog and she told me that her dog had been attacked five different times while walking in her neighbourhood. It wouldn't take five attacks for me to avoid going someplace. The neighbourhood itself could be part of the problem. Dogs learn by association. Who, what, when, where and how, matter. If you continue putting your dog in a stressful situation and he/she keeps having bad experiences, they will associate those bad experiences with who is there, when they happen, where they take place, etc.

If there are young children in your home and they are running around playing and yelling, which is certainly normal, your dog might not be able to concentrate on learning, especially if it’s a puppy. The puppy will most likely want to join the fun and run, play and jump along with the kids. You might find that you have to find time when things are calmer and quieter to teach. Again, the environment can be a big factor.

Fourth is your dog's personality and temperament.  If your dog is a shy or nervous dog then he or she is going to have problems relaxing when facing new experiences such as meeting new people or seeing new things. If your dog is more confident, then your dog is not likely to worry about those new situations. That doesn't mean that the nervous dog can't learn to accept new situations, but it is likely that you'll have to go a lot slower.

Dogs are individuals, with their own personality and temperament. What one dog finds easy to learn another might find a real struggle. What one enjoys another might dislike. It's important to learn about your dog's likes and dislikes. Just as we learn in different ways, so too do dogs. 

Fifth is communication. Remember that dogs are pack animals and communicate in a canine way, primarily non-verbally. As dog owners, we typically communicate verbally. This can lead to misunderstandings. When you learn to speak some canine and communicate with your dog in a language he understands, the learning process can go faster. That's where Bark Busters is invaluable. We teach you how to "speak dog" so you and your dog are on the same page as far as expectations.

There are other factors as well - your dogs’ breed characteristics, intelligence and previous experiences are also part of the equation. These can also add challenges or assist in changing your dog's behaviour. 

So how fast will Rover learn? That depends.

Understand the factors and take them into account. Work on establishing your dog's respect and trust along with building a loving relationship. Build a good foundation first and expand the lessons from there as your dog shows you he/she is ready to progress. Work in a suitable environment for what you are trying to achieve and communicate with your dog on a level they understand. When we put that all together we know what happens. . . a well-behaved dog!