Now I’m sure everyone who is reading this is probably thinking that they’re relationship with their dog(s) is absolutely perfect. How do I know? Because I used to be one of those dog owners where really, my dog did no wrong, we had a great bond and of course the most important thing, I love my dogs. But the sad reality is that we can love love our dogs and they can love love us back, but the moment they see that squirrel or whatever, your left in the dust on your behind (and yes, I’ve been there too!). The minute I’ve ‘upped the ante’ in my relationships with my dogs, where good enough was not good enough, where I needed and asked more from them, that is where things changed. Here are some things I have found useful for building a really good solid and healthy relationship with my dogs:
Another thing that leaders do is they set boundaries. At first, they might fight you on it but then they will eventually get it if you are consistent enough, but the one thing that will go up is their respect for you. All of a sudden that squirrel doesn’t matter because you have now become their world, their leader, and who doesn’t want that?
Building a good leadership role will also strengthen the bond and relationship with your dog by providing a good basis for communication. Training tools (when used correctly) are great, but do not rely solely on them, because as soon as that training collar comes off, well then, audios amigos!
With or without the tool, you want your dog listening to you.
2. Give them what they need; mentally, emotionally and physically.
Don’t expect to get a well-behaved dog that has been cooped up all day and is now turning borderline aggressive or ‘too much to handle’, because now he has so much energy to even know what to do with! Dogs need exercise but not only that, they need to be mentally stimulated, boredom is not a good thing, especially for working dog. There are many fun and dynamic exercises (both mental and physical) one can do to stimulate their furry loved one, it can be as simple as taking a long hike in the woods rather than going around the block a few times (a new kind of adventure), this will also give them more stimulation, or ‘attention exercises’, where they need to mentally focus on you and ONLY you (a lot harder than it sounds-trust me!).
A good emotional support for dogs I find is giving your dog praise for doing the right thing or trying to do the right thing, such as, every time your dog looks at you give them praise, you are encouraging them to do the right thing (by placing focus and attention on you- the alpha, if that is what you are after), especially if the dog is a naturally pleasing dog and craves for that kind of support and praise, and don’t forget to praise the effort as well, it really is about the journey as much as it’s about the destination. At the end of any session, big or small, long or short, you want your dog happily trotting beside you tail wagging, spirits up and tail high!
3. Spend the time.
Without giving you won’t be getting.
At the end of the day, we spend the most time on what we think is important, don’t forget to show your dog that he/she is important just by spending time with them, especially when they would so much rather be with us than by themselves (hopefully!). I definitely increase my bond with all my animals just by spending quality time with them, either by doing something or doing nothing. For example, I’ve actually developed more of a bond with my horses over the years just by spending time with them, doing simple things like grooming or ground work versus actually riding them. Same thing with my dogs and cats, just by picking up a brush and stroking them I’m bonding, and according to the man himself- Cesar Millan that is, all animals respond to energy first. This is before body language and even words- energy is very important. Whenever I’m around my animals I try to not have my phone on me, so I can really be present, and maybe notice things that I haven’t before.
It is always beneficial to surround yourself with knowledgeable people for support, or if you are having a particular difficult time with your dog(s) investing in a good trainer or a canine behaviorist who can fully understand your particular situation and give you their professional recommendations is even better. You might be surprised just how much you learn about your dog and about yourself, whether you’re a new dog owner or a seasoned one.
One last thing, no relationship is perfect, some days it might be one step forward and two steps back, we are all WIPs (work in progresses), that is just life, the important thing is to keep moving forward and once you have a solid foundation in place, well then, anything is possible, even for a dog who was on death row.
A great book for reference is Mother Knows Best, by Carol Lea Benjamin.
Lucy is an avid pet mom; with dogs, cats, goats and horses to keep her busy! All of her pet 'kids' are fed a species appropriate diet with proper supplementation so she can watch them thrive. Her expertise and experience lie in nutraceutical supplementation and is a health advocate for proper diet and nutrition. Her other passions in life are schutzhund and equestrian riding.