There has to be commitment in every relationship. If our hearts and souls aren’t in it, then we’re less inclined to continue, especially if we encounter difficulties along the way.
My philosophy in life is that any relationship is built on a two-way street of mutual respect. If respect is lacking on one side, then the relationship is out of kilter. That applies just as much to those bonds between us and our dogs. Owning a dog is the same as having a child: it’s a huge responsibility.
I place a lot of importance on this mutual respect. In my book that means recognising that my dog is a sentient being and allowing her the space to ‘grow’ into her full potential. There’s no place for force or dominance if there’s mutual respect.
To help my dog reach that full potential, I train her, look after her food and health needs to the best of my ability and all in a loving fashion. Most importantly, I give her direction, not as an Alpha leader, but as a parent gives a child. I don’t mean that I treat her like a child because that would be disrespectful, but I show her what I want and thus give her choices.
And with that responsibility and respect comes trust. As our relationship grows and deepens, I trust her to respond to me when I ask her to do something even in places of distraction.
Dogs trust us to give them love and direction. Just loving them doesn’t work because they will lose respect for us. Never assume that dogs know what to do. We expect them to live with us on our terms but wonder why it goes pear-shaped because we’re not teaching them HOW to live with us. If we abdicate that responsibility, they will simply do as they please and start challenging us.
As dogs are ‘black and white’ in their thinking, they like to know what we want from them. When we put in the boundaries through training, we’re teaching them a way of living with us. Consider it a bit like a Sat Nav to help them on their journey with us. The clearer our guidelines, the easier it is for our companions to understand.
Once there is a meeting of minds, so to speak, it’s like both parties are on the same wavelength. As we all differ in character (and I include dogs in that as well), it’s often easier to connect with one pet more than another. That I feel is because the energies synchronise with less effort. However, with perseverance, it’s possible to make a meaningful connection even where the energies are slightly off key. And, in a way, the rewards of teaching the less receptive animal are much greater.
But how do you do that when each of you is pulling in a different direction? I’m thinking of the wilful puppy that you welcomed with open arms who, after a few short weeks, has turned into a manipulative tyrant.
Here are a few tips to help you make and deepen that connection with your dog:
• Try very hard to focus on your dog’s good points.
• Remember that no matter how bad yesterday turned out, today is a new day with a new opportunity to start again.
• Try to be as positive as possible.
• Don’t have an argument with your dog. He’ll probably learn to ‘answer’ back! Ignoring him is a much more powerful tool.
• If your dog is being bold, replace that misbehaviour with a more appropriate conduct.
• Praise every good behaviour you get during the day. (We all thrive on a bit of praise as long as it’s sincere!)
• Consider whether your own behaviour towards your dog is prompting an adverse reaction from him.
• Never over-train or use forceful behaviour. Ultimately, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
• Remember the importance of ‘quality time’ with your dog. Just choose that time with care. He’s not going to respect you if you’re always praising and indulging him when he’s done nothing to deserve it or has just peed all over the sofa!
• Teach him to use his brain, to think for himself and, thus, reach his full potential. If we don’t allow him to thrive with some independence, we will have a robot who waits to be programmed.
Life with any dog is never dull but life with a dog that is happy, self-confident, and fulfilled due to your commitment to help him reach his full potential will bring you your greatest enrichment. You will suddenly find that your dog knows what you want even before you think it. That’s because your training and commitment has brought about a true meeting of minds. That experience is the highest reward you’ll ever attain!