Relationship – the relationship we have with our dogs is all about the bond we develop, not how much control we have over them. Connection is so much nicer than control.

Quality time – how much quality time do we spend with our dogs? Try making a note of all your interactions and see how much quality time you actually have with your dog (and I don’t just mean their walks).

Body language –our dogs are communicating with us all the time, but we often miss it or misinterpret it. We should take time to learn about how our dogs communicate.

Fun training – in all walks of life, we reap what we sow. We get out what we put in. Sessions should be short, 5 minutes can make all the difference and if it is fun, force free and we set our dogs up to succeed, our dogs will want more and it helps build our relationship with them.

Play – most dogs enjoy play of some kind. Different breeds will play in different ways and some dogs may have never experienced play. Five minutes’ play will help build our relationship with them.

Scent work – dogs have the same primary 5 senses as humans: smell, hearing, sight, touch, and taste. However, a dogs two primary senses are smell and hearing. Use a portion of their food to play scent games, hide treats around the house or garden, get a snuffle mat or use an interactive food toy.

Dogs have feelings too – shouting at a dog is at the very least, pointless but much worse is that it can cause anxiety, stress and even fear and will be detrimental to your bond with them. Dogs do not set out to defy us, to annoy us or to punish us (and they certainly do not try to dominate us)! It is not guilt they are showing – it is stress, anxiety or fear!

Be consistent – it is important everyone in the family is consistent with their “rules” and interactions with the dog. Although dogs quickly work out who will give them a treat or affection if they are persistent enough, inconsistency can cause confusion or even stress for our dogs.

Walks – use a harness and take a nice slow walk and please, let them sniff. We tend to use lots of verbal communication with our dogs. We often bombard dogs with cues – we should try using body language and try to stay quiet on walks! Walks with our dogs helps to build a great relationship and bond.

Safety – help your dog to feel safe. If they are wary of something or even scared, the worst thing you can do is make them see more of the scary thing(s) or get closer to the scary thing. Quietly move your dog away and then work out how to desensitise them to the scary thing – not flood them with it. Distance is key for helping dogs feel safe.

Have respect –we have dogs in our lives for many different reasons: as a companion, to fulfil our need to nurture, to provide assistance with certain tasks, for unconditional love, someone to welcome us when we get home, for health benefits and so on. There is nothing wrong with these reasons but we must remember, they are not miniature humans. Let dogs be dogs.

© Dog Behaviour Clinic 2017

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