Everyone wants their dog to be perfect. That much we can agree on. Then comes the tricky part, define perfect. When you ask a room full of dog-owners what a perfect dog is like, you get as many different answers as you have people. Me? I want a high-drive dog. One that would lose its mind if it didn’t have enough work to do. My dogs would drive most pet-owners insane. Quickly! Mom wants a small dog that likes to follow her around the house and sit on the couch with her while she reads – she’s not into my dog that keeps bringing her another toy, and another, in hopes that one of them will inspire her to play a rousing game of tug or fetch.
Hopefully, before you chose your dog, you thought about your lifestyle and what type of personality your “perfect dog” would have. If you didn’t (and didn’t get just plain lucky), you’ll probably have to meet your dog somewhere in the middle. Regardless of personality types (yours and your dogs), there are two vital components to a perfect relationship between you and your dog. Trust and Respect. Neither of them will do it alone – you need both – going both ways.
Let’s talk about respect first – that’s the easiest to build. First –respect your dog. Even the smallest dog comes equipped with a first rate self-defence weapon – a mouth full of sharp teeth. Respect the fact that your dog could hurt you if he wanted to. Reality is that most dogs just never choose to hurt anyone, regardless of provocation. Respect from your dog is based on consistency. The rule is the rule. If the dog is not allowed on the bed – he’s NEVER allowed on the bed. Or develop an “only with and invitation” rule, but be consistent!
Trust can sometimes be tougher to build. Most puppies come with a healthy amount of trust built in. But due to circumstances often beyond your control (especially if you’ve rescued an older dog), they may have lost that trust in humans. You can rebuild it, but you have to be determined to work at your dog’s pace and give him the time he needs.
The two rules for building trust are:
1) Cause no harm, neither physical nor emotional. Your dog needs to believe that it is safe to be around you, that you will not hurt him, and that you will return if you have to leave him alone. This can be a tall order for some dogs, in extreme cases, you may need a qualified trainer to help you develop a plan to turn your dog’s fear into trust.
2) Again, consistency. Your dog needs to feel confident that you won’t change the rules without warning. If you do need to change the rules for some reason, work it out in advance. Decide just what the new rule is to be, making sure everyone in the household is comfortable with it and then go “cold turkey”. When the “new rule” comes into effect, it is 100% from that moment on. And be a little patient until your dog figures it out – he doesn’t understand your carefully worded explanation of why he’s no longer allowed to jump up and kiss great-aunt Suzanne… just because he now outweighs her…
Remember, be fair, be gentle, and be firm. If you can’t figure out how to get a behavior from your dog – consult a professional trainer. Anything your dog is physically capable of doing, he can be taught to do!
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