Gaining your Dog’s Trust & Building a Stronger Relationship With Them… An Often Underestimated Endeavor - by Dogs Made Simple
Here is what I used to think getting a dog consisted of:
- teaching them a few basic commands
- playing with them on a day-to-day basis
- and of course, offering them yummy treats!
Well, that all changed when I got my Golden Retriever, Diesel.
I quickly realized that getting a dog comes with a lot more responsibility. And there are many other factors to consider, along with a lot more efforts that need to happen on the owner's side.
One element I never even thought of before getting Diesel was how crucial building trust and forming a strong relationship with your dog is from the start. I always thought it would naturally occur and all dogs instantly trusted their owners.
I was wrong.
Whether your dog is dealing with resource guarding issues, food aggression, anxiety, reactivity (and the list goes on and on), you as the dog owner need to step up and become the leader and solid foundation in their life. Your dog's behavior directly reflects its relationship with you and your family members.
Most dog behavioral issues originate from fear. So you need to show your dog that they can trust you and come to you for comfort and that no one is out to harm them.
4 Exercises To Build Trust With Your Dog
I went on to do a ton of research on tools and tactics that could help dog owners develop better communication with their dogs and build trust.
Here are four ways that truly changed my life forever with Diesel:
1. Say yes to visiting new places together
Do you remember being a child and so excited to visit new places? Do you remember feeling overwhelmed at times, questioning your environment, observing new things, and meeting new people?
For most dogs, it is twice as stimulating. The first time you bring your dog to a new place or introduce them to other dogs, they will go to you for reassurance - even if they do not show it. You need to be that role model in their life. Show them it is okay. Comfort them. This is a great way for you to prove to them that they can depend on you for safety and quite frankly, that you got their back! Don’t forget to reward them from time to time as they behave properly and stay calm!
2. Don’t underrate the game of tug-of-war
As pet parents, we know one of our duties is to play with our dogs. Playtime is important to keep your dog happy and spend quality time with them, but we sometimes don't realize just how important it can be. One game in particular that has been known for years but definitely doesn't get as much credibility as it should is the game of tug-of-war.
Firstly, know that tug-of-war will not make your dog aggressive or lead to poor dog behavior - this is an old myth. In fact, tug-of-war should be incorporated into your day-to-day playtime routine. Why? It helps build trust and boost your dog’s confidence if you let them win. Pull on the toy, don’t be shy to pull hard, but at the end, let go of the toy and let them win - then congratulate them and get back to playing. Keep a tug toy on hand for a quick game as a break between training sessions
There are many other games and fun activities you can play with your pup to help not only boost their overall confidence but also help you develop a strong relationship with them, such as hide and seek. Hide and seek is especially important for dogs who are food aggressive or showcase signs of resource guarding. Ask them to sit as you place treats around the house. This shows your dog that even if they cannot get to all treats at once, you will not take them and you are not the enemy! Again building trust with your dog.
3. Dogs feel accomplished when learning new things, just like humans
Remember learning something new at school, and you couldn’t wait to get home to tell your friends and family? The same concept applies to dogs. Besides teaching basic commands during training sessions, showing your dog new tricks goes a long way. Take for example “high-five.” At first, your dog will have no idea what you are asking of them. Once they finally get it, they’ll feel accomplished as they know they are making their owner happy. There is no better way to increase your dog's trust.
Another example is crate training. Crate training usually never comes easy, but once your dog slowly but surely develops faith in you and understands that their crate is their safe place, their level of trust and happiness in you will increase tremendously.
To learn more on how to properly and efficiently crate train your dog, visit the first blog post of its series written by Jessica Sims, Founder of Dogs Made Simple.
4. Body language is a thing
As you may already know, dogs have incredible senses. They can feel your emotions. They know when you are happy, sad, or angry. Our body language is one important element we take for granted in training. As stated above, dogs need their owners to be their leaders - someone they can feel safe and comfortable with. No matter the situation you are in, you need to be aware of your body language as a dog owner.
If you are teaching your dog a new command, and they are not grasping it or not listening, you will not get anywhere by getting angry and tensing up. Stay calm. This is an important way to communicate and how to build trust with your dog.
Just like if you're in a scary situation, for example - a dog approaches and comes running up to you on a walk getting in your dog's space. If your body tenses up and you panic, it is very likely that your dog will get just as nervous and act out, and even become aggressive. Instead, stay in control and calm. The outcome will be a thousand times better. It is even more important to remain calm if you have a nervous or fearful dog.
Long story short
No matter how you want to develop a stronger relationship with your dog, positive reinforcement is the most important thing to remember. You may be saying to yourself that this is the obvious - and every dog owner knows to give a treat when their dog obeys a command.
But it goes much further than that. One thing we all tend to forget is to reward our dog for just naturally behaving properly.
Being able to reward your dog's behavior quickly and without breaking attention is important - check out the Wolf In Winter Dog Treat Bag. I've been using it with Diesel for a while now, and it has undoubtedly made a huge difference during training sessions and on our adventures.
Does your dog normally go crazy when they see a squirrel, but for some reason today they stayed calm as a squirrel walked by? Reward.
Does your dog normally welch at the dinner table but today they decided to lie down without being asked? Reward.
Does your dog usually pull a lot on a walk and you have to ask them to heel, but today they just calmly walked by your side? Reward.
Rewarding your dog is the best way to build stronger bonds with your furry loved ones and ultimately help you better communicate what you like and don’t like. Remember, a dog's trust starts with you.
Founder, Dogs Made Simple
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