First Steps in Forming a Trusting Relationship With Your Dog

In this article, we will talk about how to build a balanced and trusting relationship with your dog and how to conquer the fundamentals to become a good dog parent. 

Welcoming a new individual into your home is a great joy but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. All the more so when this new individual is someone that does not communicate in the same way as us and does not have the same social codes. We sometimes quickly find ourselves helpless and overwhelmed by all the learning that needs to be done, whether with a puppy or a newly adopted adult dog. Building a balanced relationship with your dog based on trust is essential for the well-being of the dog and its owner.

Understanding Your Dog

To build a balanced relationship with your dog, it is, therefore, advisable to learn as much as possible about the subject in order to:

  • Understand intra and inter specific communication (between individuals of the same species and between individuals of different species)
  • Identify the different types of needs in order to answer them in the best way (physical, mental, olfactory, masticatory, socialization and familiarization)
  • Know the principles of learning and acquiring new information, which are the same for all living beings (including humans)
  • Know how to establish a progressive training plan to develop the skills of your dog

It is our duty to give our dog the necessary skills to evolve in a world governed by human rules, while respecting their emotions and showing kindness through these learning processes.

A Constructive Exchange

Dogs are constantly learning, whether we decide to intervene or not. From the moment they are awake, their brains make associations, develop abilities and register new information. We must therefore be not only a reliable and quality teacher, but also a stable emotional support.

First of all, a dog parent must have appropriate tools to work in good conditions. Thus it is advisable to have:

  • A treat pouch with appetizing and high value rewards
  • A three-point leash (also called an adjustable or multi-level leash)
  • A 10 meter lanyard (rope or biothane)
  • A harness adapted to the physiology of the dog (and if it is necessary, it can be an anti-traction harness)

As for treats, diced ham, turkey or chicken is very well suited. They can be found in the supermarket in the bacon section but you can opt for other, fancier things as long as your companion likes them, such as slices of sausage, pieces of cheese or dried meat. These treats are called reinforcers (R+).

If your dog does not have a high appetite, you can work with other types of reinforcers, such as a toy, petting, praise etc. But keep in mind that the reinforcer needs to be irresistible to your dog.

Preparation for Learning

When you want to set up a training session, it is necessary to prepare yourself to make these training sessions successful and not be overly tired.

Also, make sure that your dog is physically available (that it has done its needs and has properly exercised beforehand) as well as emotionally available (relaxed and able to concentrate) before starting.

Prepare your equipment and work area beforehand

Clearly define your goals and write down your training plan (shaping plan)

Keep a notebook to follow the progress of your training

Be progressive in your exercises to go from success to success in small increments

Keep your sessions short but regular 

Keep in mind that it is always easier to anticipate and build new behaviors, rather than waiting for troublesome behaviors to take hold and then having to modify them later. 

However, dogs, and indeed all living things, learn throughout their lives. If you adopt an adult dog, you will obviously be able to teach him new things and modify others. It may take a little more time and patience than with a puppy where you would start from a “blank page”.

The Methods

For all breeds and whatever the character of your companion, it is possible to work with positive methods. This does not mean being overly permissive. It is important to teach your dog what is allowed and what is not allowed.

Put these rules in place as soon as your dog companion arrives in your life. Indeed, your dog will not understand why during the first week he can have access to the sofa because you consider that he is adapting and must take his marks. And that at the end of this initial period, access to the sofa is forbidden because now it must meet your new requirements.

Many educators in positive reinforcement methods will say that good behavior must be reinforced and bad behavior ignored. This is true but it is also incomplete because ignoring bad behavior often generates negative emotions such as frustration. It is therefore necessary to teach and reinforce the desired behavior in parallel.

Listening and Being Realistic for a Balanced Relationship 

Your dog has no idea what you expect of him, he is not able to read your mind. And very often our expectations have nothing logical or intuitive for him because they are governed by human concepts. So think about putting yourself in your dog’s shoes. Ask yourself, “What would I want my dog to do instead of this behavior that I find disturbing?” and teach it to him.

If there are only two words to remember concerning a general vision of education and animal behavior: consistency and benevolence. These two things are the pillars of any good relationship. The respect of the emotional state of the animal remains a fundamental and especially a priority, whatever the objective to be reached and the desired results. 

Non Conventional Ways to Strengthen Your Bond

Once you have mastered the basics, you can indulge in some non-conventional ways to strengthen your bond with your dog. Your dog is part of your family and they need to feel that.

Dogs love to see their owners and themselves in pictures, so a professional photoshoot in your dog’s favorite spots (at home, at the dog park) is a good idea. Later, you can look at the photos together and your dog might even suggest the activities he/she loves most by judging their reactions to them.

You can also turn these photos into amazing pet portraits, something that can hang on your walls forever and that will make your dog feel precious and appreciated. 

Getting exercise together is also a great way to strengthen the bond with your dog! It is not only an activity that will be beneficial for your bond but it is also healthy for both of you on an individual level! Make sure you can do this regularly as routine is very important, so if you can’t do some exercise together at least once a week, it is better to not start it, especially not in the first months of being together!

In the end, it is very important to relax and take it easy. The whole process is superior if you enjoy each step of your training and don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself or on your dog!

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