Building a Healthy Relationship with Your Dog:
Building a good healthy relationship with our dogs is important. And while this may seem obvious to everyone, there are a few things (As the people in the relationship) that we should keep in mind.
One is we truly are the center of their world. We're more than just a play pal who throws a ball or the guy/gal that fills their bowl a couple times a day. We provide everything for a dog. Love, companionship, structure/rules, food, communication, health needs, grooming and value. While we see our dogs as a cherished part of our family, WE ARE our dogs family.
Most of us try to set aside time each day playing or cuddling or walking with our dog. The truth is, your dog is always receptive to you. They do wait for you to come home, they wait for you to finish dinner, or homework or time between ourselves and other people.
What most of us don't realize is that our relationship with our dogs isn't just during the couple times a day most of us set aside specifically for them. Use all of your time to be aware of your dog. Ever notice how your dog is ready to go for that walk or trip to the park every time you ask? It's because they're always receptive to us. The dog isn't thinking out the day, they're waiting for your lead.
Be aware of your dogs personality traits. Take the time to understand them. Watch them around people. How do they respond? Are they aloof, are they consistently friendly? Are they friendly around women but not men? Men but not women? Ever notice how a perfectly friendly dog will sometimes back away, unsure of young children? It's probably not because they don't like kids, it's because they don't know what's expected of them, and they can generally sense a child is smaller and fragile. Be aware, your dog is looking for your lead.
If you adopted your dog after their puppy years, try to gain some knowledge about their life before you. All these things can be important when we're trying to understand the animal we're sharing our lives with. The more we can understand our dogs the stronger our relationship with our furry family members will become.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. And over the years through several pups, and varying types of breeds a couple things always rings true no matter the breed, size, sex or age of a dog. The first is consistency. Consistency in being aware of your dog is extremely important. Remember, your dog is YOUR responsibility, so when they wonder, sniff and become curious about the world around them, it's the consistency YOU provide that dictates the structure in their lives.
Dogs aren't going to think, "Should I do this?" So we must communicate what's acceptable and what isn't. The more aware you are of your dogs personality, interests, and dislikes, the easier it becomes to anticipate good situations from bad. When we go for a trip to a dog park we have to know how to handle some situations BEFORE we find that situation.
I've had dogs that loved the dog park and were perfect every time at 'off leash' parks. I've had a dog that I knew I not only couldn't take to a dog park, but couldn't let him off leash outside our fence. He wasn't aggressive or mean, but I was aware he wasn't interested in other dogs at all. I had a 140 lb. mastiff that could walk for miles right next to me off leash everywhere. Other people, other dogs were fine, but he knew his place was right next to me. I've owned three American Pitbulls, and two of them drew 'he's beautiful' comments every time I'd take them out, but they never got off their leashes because I was aware of their personalities. I owned another pitty, and he absolutely loved anyone and everyone. My point is this, DON'T ASSUME your dog's personality has anything to do with their breed. IT DOES NOT!! Personality is unique to each dog. Habits are determined by the people that own them.
If WE understand that every time we feed our dog, we're building habits, every time we take our dog in public, we're building habits, every time we go for walks, we're building habits, every time we play or cuddle, we're building habits.
Don't be afraid to set limits with your dog. I don't know how many people I've met that just don't know what they can do to teach their dogs what they want them to do. When I ask about what their habits with their dogs are, it's amazing to me how often so many TEACH bad habits unknowingly. Many think it's okay because it's 'just at home' with them. 'JUST AT HOME' is EVERYTHING to a dog. If you teach your dog it's okay to expect food from the dinner table at home, what will they do everywhere? If you allow the dog on the couch at home, what will they know at somebody else's house? If you allow the dog to jump on you to greet you when you come home from work or school, what will they know to do whenever another person comes over? How you teach them to interact with you IS how you're teaching them to interact with everyone else!!
Your consistency in expectations leads to their consistency in behavior. A consistent dog, is a stable dog. This directly leads to building healthier relationships with your dog.
The last thing I'm going to touch on this piece is the importance in staying calm with your dog. Good and ESPECIALLY bad behavior. Yelling frightens and confuses the dog. Dog's are exceptional at reading body language. If you remain calm when addressing and correcting inappropriate behavior, the message will be much more well received, processed and learned. Yelling can frighten and confuse the dog. Then you have to calm the dog down, and by then too often the opportunity to teach a specific lesson is passed. Our dogs don't speak our language, so recalling a specific part of a situation is nearly impossible with a dog.
If we remain calm, and keep our dogs attention, it's much easier to relay a situation and your desired outcome to the dog. Then repetition of the situation and consistency with our expectation to that situation are what develop good habits!! Also, many of us may call our dogs our children or our babies. I understand this totally, mine have always been my baby boys. However keep in mind that they are not children. While with our children we may realize there may come a time when we as people learn to learn from our mistakes, please don't make this mistake with your dog.
The best way to develop good habits is to never allow the bad ones to develop. The longer you allow your pup to do something you think 'I'll teach him/her later', the harder it's going to be to correct the inappropriate behavior you've allowed them to learn. It takes people years to mature into the ability to problem solve. Dog minds don't have nearly as far to go from the typical eight weeks old we usually get our puppies to the six-nine months old when their basically fairly full grown. While dogs do mature over the years, if you take advantage of using those puppy days to establish good habits for your dog, they're actually very capable of learning more than you may realize at a pretty young age.
The more proactive we are as the people in their lives, being aware, consistent and calm every single day from the very beginning, the easier it is to develop a healthy relationship with our dogs.
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