Where do I start??
The key to most things in life is relationship, be it dog training, marriage, team sports, working as part of a group of people etc etc
Relationship involves finding common grounds, common interests and participating in events that are enjoyable, challenging or productive in some way. There should always be compromise in relationships for them to be fair for all parties, not a dictatorship or run by a narcissist that has end goals of control games and harm to others.
Working with and living with dogs is based in relationship...and some of these do lead to divorce, abuse based issues from both sides or simply just not understanding each other enough to form good communications and a healthy bond.
Here are a few key points in regards to relationships in general, be it between humans or inter species:
What are the 5 keys in a relationship?
To help better understand, we have condensed the keys into five main topics – positivity, empathy, commitment, acceptance, and mutual love and respect. These five topics are further emphasized by proper and continuous communication.
What makes a relationship toxic?
Your relationship may be toxic if it is characterized by behaviors that make you feel unhappy, including disrespect, dishonesty, controlling behaviours, or a lack of support.
What 10 things make a relationship work?
These tips apply to all kinds of relationships: friendships, work and family relationships, etc
Keep expectations realistic. ...
Talk with each other. ...
Be flexible. ...
Take care of yourself, too. ...
Be dependable. ...
Fight fair. ...
Be affirming. ...
Keep your life balanced.
When we bring a dog into our lives, be it adult or puppy then we need to get to know each other. If you have done your research on breed/s, dog's history to date, met the parents and the breeder, asked a heap of questions as far as the dogs life experiences to date etc then you can at least have a good starting point to move forward from.
It takes time to get to know each other and to form a bond, many dogs coming through the rescue system may already be feeling displaced and will need months to settle and find their feet in the new home.
Creating clear communication from that first introduction will give the dog clarity and this provides comfort to an unsettled mind. Provide structure and boundaries, be reliable and fair and most of all be patient.
Advocate for both yourself as well as the dog, do not allow/reinforce controlling or abusive behaviour from the dog at any time. Have personal boundaries! Have a way of moderating behaviour by stopping/blocking access to outlets that are unsuitable. Shut the door so the dog cannot access areas without permission, build a pen so that the dog cannot access escaping type behaviours, use a lead at all times until you have created the right pathways of behaviours. Simple physical means of creating the pathways that lead to success are a baseline here, without them then you have no hope of achieving the goals you have set.
From here you can then do the following:
There are many ways to create a good balanced relationship with a dog:
Create a work ethic:
No freebies, everybody needs to earn a place in the house and be responsible for their own actions.
Use the food intake as teaching opportunities and fast track your communications.
Why waste calories and appetite?
A single sit for a whole bowl of food is a waste of opportunities for the dog to learn value.
Working with the daily intake also avoids resource guarding issues, stealing from another dogs bowl, scarfing food down food too fast and risking bloat etc etc.
A whole bowl is xmas dinner, a single morsel held in the hand and used as a lure for teaching or a reward on the release cue is a very different picture. We can reduce the emotional load and hence reduce the intensity of a behaviour by reducing the portion sizes.
Teaching the dog to respect your fingers is part of this too, no snatching or grabbing out of turn, taking the food only on cue. Earn what you get...nothing in life for free. The knock on effect from this programming is that the dog learns to ask permission rather than using aggression/barging/jumping/clawing to just aquire a resource via opportunity.
Sharing your meal with a dog is a priviledge to them not a right, have consistent routines for them to avoid scabbing and staring, knee nudging etc. Imagine sitting in a cafe and the guy at the table next to you stared you out of your meal? You would think that rude and unacceptable behaviour and yet how many times to we give into that sad furry face at our feet?? I save the 'dog tax' on my plate and at end of meal I will divide it between the dogs.
The current rate with inflation seems to be about 30%....
That said though they are not allowed to block me from the other dogs, play spatial pressure games or watch me eat. I have the 'go away' cue to give me space as well as the 'look away' so that they do not stare. Both Easily taught.
Use Play as a way of teaching impulse control, drive outlet, healthy stress relief, engagement.
Creating relationship via play is a critical factor of relationship.
People will say to me "oh but my dog doesn't like to play" Multiple factors here to look into.
Do you know HOW to engage in dog play ? It is a skill set unto it's own
Do you know how to activate a toy so that it stimulates play/prey/predatory type drive in your dog?
Do you have a level of trust with your dog that allows it to relax and play?
Have you already punished the dog for taking stolen articles and hence suppressed play?
Has the dog been suppressed by an older dog and learned that trying to engage with a toy will get you a flogging?
Is the dog horribly overweight so any form of play is too much effort?
Is the dog carrying pain in any way?
Does the dog prefer to 'self game' as it is a 'safer' option for them both physically and emotionally?
Are you just a boring/uptight human to the dog with no association of safe play??
If the environment or another dog provides all the play your dog requires then I am sorry but unless you polish your skill set then you are a very sad second choice for your dog.
Your other option is to deny the dog access to any other form of play but if you do this then you really need to make sure that you have the time and the energy to fulfil ALL of the dogs requirements via play engagement games. If you don't then you will have a raft of behavioural issues to then address due to lack of genetic fulfilment, boredom, excess energy, anxiety, build up of stressors etc.
If you can get 'play' games right then they are an incredibly powerful teaching tool, they accelerate learning by up to and over 40%. Not only that but they bring many opportunities to raise the level of motivation, drive and hence impulse control opportunities. Hey sometimes we get it wrong, we zig instead of zag and the poor timing leads to bleeding and crying but nothing worthwhile comes for free. The odd time it goes wrong teaches as much as the times is goes beautifully right!
Touch, trust, bonding:
Some breeds are just not as into physical proximity, especially without an already trusting relationship.
Many of the dogs I work with for the first time take their time and we build relationship via food and play first before they come into my space and ask for a pat. The pat is usually quite perfunctory and short duration until the dog is OK with more. Sort of like that quick pat on the back to a workmate, more than that would require a deeper relationship or you risk a bop to the nose. Not much different to dog's really, they just use bite instead.
So on that note, when a total stranger wants to fondle your dog then see it from your dog's point of view.
Some dogs are total tarts, happy to accept physical displays from anybody but other dogs are not.
Either of these are OK!
Have a realistic expectation of what your dog can handle and always advocate for your dog, give them time to warm up to somebody and make sure that if they do not want a pat that you stop n block any incoming idiot from taking that liberty with them. This is turn builds trust and relationship. Your dog is not a public petting zoo, it is OK to say NO!
On the flip side, maybe your dog is of the total tart variety and insists on encroaching on everybody's space, be it human, dog etc. This requires you to set boundaries for them so that they do not injure others and do not get injured themselves. Your duty of care requires this, it is part of the relationship you took on by getting the dog.
Think of it as you are your dog's safety officer, blocking/stopping them from doing dumb things that will lead to mishap and mayhem. You will need to keep them on lead to do so until they have reliable good responses instead of random acts of chaos as the go to behaviours when they see an opportunity for engagement from strangers.
If you do not do this for your dog then many issues arise as a knock on effect:
Noboby wants to be around your dog so they/you never get invited to play dates/functions/holidays etc.
Walking your dog is exhausting as you are pulled from one train wreck encounter to the next
You end up getting abused by the people/dog owners that your dog has just trashed so you feel embarrassment.
You lose any enjoyment from taking your dog off the property so it ends up staying at home bored and unfulfiled...then the boredom behaviours start up.
THE worst fallout of all is that you have taught your dog that anybody in all the world is far more fun than you and that the pathway to fulfilment is from the environment. The only association they then have with you is the opener of doors and food containers and that you are the dead weight they drag to get to the prize.
In summary, this blog could easily go to full novel length to even get close to the info required to understand the concept of relationship when it comes to you and your dog. Above is food for thought, not meant to guilt or shame in anyway at all. Strong Relationship does not just 'happen', it is built gradually and carefully through an enormous amount of planning and work.
We need to be able to control many factors so that the need for relationship is channelled in the right directions but we also need to accept that compromise is a huge factor.
We should not expect to be the winner in all things, there are things we need to 'give up' as part of a relationship.
In this house it is clean floors, a house that smells not of dog, disposable income, privacy in the bathroom/bedroom, clean car, holidays without dogs, etc etc.
My dogs welfare is always forefront in my mind, are they well fed? are they happy? Do they need grooming? Are they bored? Where are they right now? What are they up to? What is that in your mouth???
For myself this is OK, what my dog's bring to my life far outweighs the compromises I have made for them to be such a large part of me and who I am.
For others sadly, the reality of living with a dog is not what was expected and may well be resented.
An expectation of if I love/have bought the dog then it will be 'loyal' and respectful, listen to me and do what it is told.
I say to people that 'Lassie' is a script, it was a bad one too. Setting people up to have ridiculous expectations of their dog.
Dogs will wander if given the opportunity, they will find ways of fulfiling needs and wants, kudos to them!
Some owners have unrealistic expectations that their pet will never want to 'just be a dog' and that it will want to only do the things that you as a human find rewarding to do.
Not even human to human relationships last if this is the thinking behind it! Inter species is even harder to find common ground and mutual respect as well as clear communication.
Relationship is two sided, work on both and you stand a chance of a long term and happy one.