Your dog is happy and relaxed when she feels safe and secure. Safety is more than a fenced yard and leashed walks. She must feel that her family (pack) is strong and will provide the needs of survival. If she feels that this leadership is missing, she will stress and make up her own rules.
So, how do we achieve this sense of security so our dogs trust our decisions and heed our requests?
How do we make sure they trust us enough and understand us to do whatever it takes to follow our rules?
If your dog is unsure, worried, or reluctant to come to you when called, you will need to build a foundation of trust through positive associations. Every time he comes to you, he must be praised in a soft tone and feel he found a safe place. YOU are his safe place. Ensure it’s always a positive experience to have hands near him. If hands are grabbing, scruffing, pushing, holding back, alpha rolling, or controlling in any way, they become a threat. This is a dangerous association for him to have as it could be a child’s hand going near him that he has to ward off based on his past experience.
If your dog trusts you and yet doesn’t comply with your requests, you may be sending mixed messages and he is confused. By communicating in his language, you can quickly establish a connection that helps him feel calm and understood, instead of hyper and confused.
Your body language has a huge impact on how your dog perceives you. If you are moving around, bending over, pointing your fingers, or otherwise erratic in your movements when attempting to communicate, your dog will not perceive you as a strong, capable leader. Standing still and upright and being absolutely calm is how an effective leader acts. Backing up, turning away, sitting, moving towards your dog, waving arms, will teach your dog that you not to be taken seriously.
Your voice tone is more important than your words. Ensure your dog hears a clear and meaningful message at every opportunity. Your job is to teach him whether what he is doing at that moment is correct or incorrect. (After the fact is too late and will confuse your dog). Your tone when he’s making the right decision should be light, soft, and calming. When he’s making an incorrect decision, it’s a growl. The more black and white you are in your praise versus your growl, the easier it will be for your dog to figure out what the rule is. Too many words clutter the message and confuse your dog. Make sure when you use her name, it is in a soft, inviting tone. If you growl or yell her name, she will think her name means she is making a mistake. This is very confusing and your dog will likely either lose interest in you or become worried and less trusting of you.
If you are clearly communicating with your dog and he does not comply, there is likely a lack of respect. He has to CARE what you want. Respect is gained by consistently demonstrating to your dog that you are a leader, not a follower. Training is happening 24/7; either you are training your dog, or she is training you! Does your dog demand attention by pawing your leg, putting a head on your lap, jumping, barking at the door to come in or go out, dropping a toy at your feet? These are a few examples of how dogs start to think they are leading. If you sense that your dog is expecting a response from you, disregard him in that moment. This means no talking to, touching, or looking. It is when he is not expecting it that you can call him to you for a pat or to go outside or to eat, etc. This way you are constantly making decisions for the pack and dictating the day to day activities of the pack. Your dog will begin to relax and sleep more as his job of worrying about you and the household activity is over. If your dog experiences any separation anxiety, this is a likely contributor of her stress.
With these building blocks in place: Trust, Communication, and Respect, you can expect a happy, calm dog and a strong, loving relationship.
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