This is a really good question that you can put into practice. If you are walking in your backyard or park with your dog on a long lead, do they want to stay with you? If not, it is time to re-evaluate your relationship with your dog. Most dogs will sniff, run and explore their surroundings but usually stay fairly close and check in regularly. This is a great example of earned freedom. If your dog takes off they haven’t learned to respect you. Respect travels both ways on the leash. I learned that from an excellent trainer – Tyler Muto. You need to respect your dog by being consistent with your leash handling skills. In turn your dog will respect and stay close to you based on your energy and communication skills with them. You can do this with or without treats. Body language speaks volumes!
Sean O’Shay coined the best phrase in his book “The Good Dog Way: Love them by Leading Them”. I love that phrase – Love them by Leading Them. Too many times I see dogs being a bit bratty and acting entitled or scared and anxious without any real leadership, structure or consequences. I know many owners “feel guilty” about incorporating rules for their dog or “feel sorry” for their dog and his/her past, but, giving them too much freedom with no consequences will eventually bite you in the a**.
I like to educate owners that providing structure, consistency and yes, gasp, discipline along with affection and exercise will help you enjoy a happy, well rounded dog. If your dog is ignoring you, blowing off your commands, destructive, non-stop attention seeking or displaying aggressive behavior such as growling, biting or resource guarding, it is time to change YOUR behavior to help your dog become successful.
Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing every night and expecting a different result. You must take action TODAY if you want to change the relationship with your dog(s).
Here are a few simple things you can do immediately to help improve the relationship with your dog.
1) Stop feeling sorry for them or thinking about their past. Don’t feel guilty for crating your dog or adding in rules and consequences. Reward good behavior and be consistent in correcting inappropriate behavior. From this day forward, you are focusing on all the good you can do for your dog. Dogs’ want to follow a stable and fair leader. They crave rules and structure. That is how a pack survives in the wild. That attitude will help create a respectful and responsive relationship.
2) Pull up all their toys and only bring them out when you play and engage with your dog. You want to be the most exciting person/activity for your dog.
3) Require your dog to work for meals, treats, water, space and furniture. They can walk politely, offer a stay/place, sit or down, or remain calm for a short time before earning those rewards. Remember that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also applies to dogs.
4)Make sure they have enough physical and mental exercise. Examples are nose work, puzzles, obedience with distractions and duration, structured walking-on leash or on a treadmill or learning a new skill such as climbing on a park bench or running through a tunnel, etc.
5)Give them affection and petting on your terms. Be careful not to overdo it or pet at the wrong time. You don’t want to pet them when they are anxious or nervous. That is the time they need your leadership, calm energy, consistent rules and structure. Your energy and attitude will help them overcome that anxiety. We need to give our dogs what they need, not what they want. Some dogs want lots of petting and loving but it is not what they NEED. You have to recognize the difference and teach your dog to respect you by taking care of his mental, physical and emotional needs.
We would love to hear feedback from you if you try these exercises and what has worked the best for you to help you change YOUR behavior. This link might help to motivate you and help to hold you accountable. https://www.thegooddogway.com/product-category/apparel/