Building the bond with your dog is really quite easy. If you recognize that you have a relationship with your dog, then building the bond comes down to nothing more than increasing the strength of that relationship.
And as with any relationship, building a bond requires:
1.) Spending quality time together.
2.) Getting out in the world and experiencing life together.
3.) Establishing and promoting a level of mutual respect.
4.) Developing a way of communicating so that both individuals understand the other’s needs. (Hmmm… maybe I should be writing self-help books for humans???)
Let’s take a look at each of these key points to see how they can have a positive affect on your daily dog training:
1.) Spending quality time together. Spending quality time together does not mean sharing a beer with Fido while the two of you lay in front of the television. Well, okay… maybe it does. But more importantly, it means committing to a series of rituals and behaviors that you and your dog can look forward to.
For example, I often throw Forbes (the Pit Bull) in the back of the truck when I wake up in the morning and we go for a drive down to the local McDonald’s Drive-thru. For most of the drive, Forbes is either still wiping the sleep out of his eyes, or he’s doing the guard dog routine if someone walks up to the back of the truck. But the highlight of this morning ritual begins when we get home.
It’s Forbes’ job to hop out of the back of the truck and take the empty McDonald’s brown paper bag in his mouth, walk down the drive way, around the gate, into the back yard, and then over to the trash can… where he drops the bag. Sure, it’s a stupid pet trick. But see how disappointed the dog is when *I* insist on carrying the bag to the trash can!
From the dog’s point of view, it’s the 30 or 40 little things throughout the day (that he can help me with) that make his life worth living. And for the dog, this is spending quality. It all boils down to being an active participant in each other’s lives.
2.) Getting out in the world and experiencing life together: It had been years since Bud and Janice’s kids had grown and left the house for college and later, corporate jobs. Bud had wanted a dog for several months and Janice finally gave in. They decided to adopt a beautiful 5 year-old Golden Retriever and proceeded to train “Mac,” using many of the techniques I describe in my book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!” (To learn more about this book, go tohttp://www.dogproblems.com/sl.cfm ).
Janice got scared when Bud came back from his first walk around the neighborhood with “Mac” and ran into the house yelling, “Janice! Janice! You won’t believe what happened!!!” “Oh my gawd,” though Janice, thinking that perhaps “Mac” had bitten a child, or run away. “What happened?” Janice questioned her husband. “You won’t believe it, Janice,” said Bud, “I took ‘Mac’ for a walk… AND PEOPLE ACTUALLY CAME UP AND TALKED TO ME!!!” Imagine that!
Here’s a guy who had lived in the same neighborhood for eight years and didn’t know any of his neighbors until he got a dog and started taking it for walks. Dogs are a wonderful excuse to get you out of the house and interacting with the world around you. It’s also one of the many reasons that handicapped people like owning service dogs… because it makes it easier for other people to come up and start a conversation. And do you think that “Mac” minded all of the attention? Absolutely not.
As a matter of fact, I think that my dog Forbes is happiest when we’re out in the world, meeting new people and experiencing new things together. Two best friends, out on the town. You should see the look on Forbes’ face when two or three beautiful women walk up and start rubbing his belly. Even better… you should see the look on my face!
3.) Establishing and promoting a level of mutual respect. Just like with any relationship, there must be mutual trust and respect. Trust comes with time, and proving to your dog that you will keep him safe and happy.
Respect, just like with human relationships, comes from establishing boundaries and treating any breach of those boundaries with firmness and fairness. Without enforceable boundaries, there is no respect. And when there is no respect, your relationship with your dog will be out of balance. And trust me, when your relationship with your dog is out of balance… nobody’s having fun.
4.) Developing a way of communicating so that both individuals understand the other’s needs. Developing a way of communicating gets back to laying a proper foundation with your dog training. And this relates specifically to making your praise and your corrections motivational. Once your dog understands clearly when he’s doing something RIGHT… and when he’s doing something WRONG… a magical thing starts to happen. You find that you are actually COMMUNICATING!!! And being able to communicate with your dog is what allows you to go anywhere and do anything with your dog and know that he’ll listen to you.
There are four primary ways that dogs communicate with us, and with each other:
1.) Body language.
2.) Vocal tonation and voice inflection.
4.) Scent. All of my dog training techniques try to incorporate as many of these elements as possible.
In sum, you can think of dog training as a word that can be easily substituted for the word, “communication.”