Does your dog bark at you, pull at your clothes or attempt to squeeze his way out the door in a frantic attempt to either stop you from leaving, or
With this in mind I would like to ask you to consider a couple of situations.
If you were doing grocery shopping with your toddler in tow, and you knew she was likely to ask for sweets, chocolates or sugar rich snacks, and was likely to throw a tantrum when you said no, which one of the following do you think you would do:
- Purposefully push your trolley with your toddler sitting in it, down the sweets aisle just to see what her reaction might be. After all, you already told her prior to coming to the shops that she can’t have any sweet snacks.
- Continue down the aisle and ignore her protesting because that’s the best way for her to learn that she can’t have everything she wants.
- Go down the health food aisle instead and offer your child a couple of interesting and tasty products on the shelves that you think she might like, knowing this would be a much healthier choice for her.
- Get the basic essentials and leave the shop as quickly as possible so that your child doesn’t get bored or tired and start to nag for a sweet snack, because her sugar-level is now low. Then go home and make a healthy and tasty snack that you can both enjoy together.
Which of these choices do you think will build trust and cooperation in the relationship and leave both parties feeling good? And, which of these choices is likely to erode trust and confidence and leave at least one of the parties feeling bad?
Now I would like to ask you to consider a similar situation where you are taking your young dog for a walk to a place where there are lots of distractions including other dogs, children playing and things he might find super tasty like rabbit droppings or someone’s dropped ice cream.
In this scenario, which of the following options do you think are likely to build trust and confidence between you and your dog, and which are not?
- Wind your way through the distractions, pulling your dog away and saying ‘No!’ every time he tries to go towards something he would love to sniff, chase, eat or play with. You have him on a leash anyway, so you can control the situation easily.
- Sit on a bench and watch the comings and goings with your dog leashed beside you, ignoring his protests to go and play or interact with everything he can see and smell from there. You think this might be a good way to teach him self-control.
- Make a wide circle around the park/play area and stay engaged by happily chatting to your dog as you walk along to another area where there are few/no distractions around, and you can let him sniff for treats which you have placed in the grass for him. Or, engage in a short game of fetch. In both activities you ask him to sit and wait before he goes to sniff or fetches his toy, so that he is learning self-control at the same time as having fun.
- Instead of going to the park where you know the distractions will be too difficult for your young dog to resist, you call a friend who has a similar aged dog and you arrange a play-date. The pups have fun during a short play session and then you go home and enjoy some relaxing snuggle time on the couch together.
After considering the above, what choices will you make today and going forward to ensure that you are providing the best opportunities for your young dog to learn, and simultaneously building a great relationship?