29/07/2021 - Advice
I can remember being a really small child and being desperate for a dog of my own. I was obsessed with watching Lassie (that’s giving away my age!) but had to settle for spending time with my cat, which I would build obstacle course out of boxes for, she wasn’t that interested though.
A dog represented a buddy to have adventures with, a friend to keep my secrets, unconditional love and a magical relationship. When I finally got a dog I wasn’t disappointed – dogs really do give us something that you just don’t get from people or other animals.
When I ask people in our online groups or training classes why they wanted a dog there are a range of different answers from as a friend for my children, a walking companion, a pal to snuggle with on the sofa or a dog to compete with in agility or the like. Even though people may give slightly different answers for why they wanted their dog, it essentially boils down to wanting a furry family member to share your life and to make it better.
When bringing a dog into our lives it’s easy to get wrapped up in our fantasy of life with a four legged friend and then come down to earth with a bump when we hit a stumbling block and it doesn’t quite work out as planned; we are after all 2 different species.
If you asked my dogs what they really liked doing you would probably get suggestions for activities such as rolling in poop, barking at the neighbour’s dog (well he started barking first) and digging up the newly planted borders in the garden or nabbing the strawberries off the plant just as they get ripe. All of these behaviours are totally normal in the dog world but we humans would probably rather our dogs didn’t indulge in them and this can bring us into conflict. From the dog’s side of things, some of the activities humans want to do must seem just as weird to them and that can result in a culture clash.
If you find yourself looking at your dog and thinking that they just don’t quite live up to the dream dog you created in your head before you brought them home take a step back, take a deep breath and consider why you got your dog in the first place and then think about what you can change to get to that magical bond you dreamed of.
What is it you would like to be able to do together?
What does your dog currently love doing?
Have a look at the answers to those 2 questions. How many of the things your dog loves doing involve you? If nearly all of your dog’s likes are things that they can engage in without you they are probably learning that it’s more fun to play on their own or with other dogs and that humans are no fun anyway. That makes it harder for you to get your dog to engage with you and can lead to frustration on both ends of the lead. Are there any things that your dog loves that you can change slightly to allow you to play together; for example, if your dog stops to sniff on a walk do you hurry them along or give them time to check their peemail at leisure. If you have a digger can you make a digging pit and hide toys in there them search them out together and have a game. If your dog is a foodie can you sneakily throw a handful of food onto the grass then discover it and encourage your dog over so your dog starts to think “wow, humans are actually pretty good at finding noms, better pay attention to Mum in future”.
Have you tried our free Wonder Walks course? It has a series of great activities for increasing engagement on walks and helping to strengthen your bond with your dog. https://www.nosey-barker.co.uk/online-academy/wonder-walks/
When we bring a dog into our home we bring them into our world and we expect them just to be able to fit in with us. We choose when and what they eat, who they interact with, where they sleep and where they go on walks. Giving them choice where possible can be a powerful tool to build our bond; let them choose the direction on some of your walks, give them a choice of long lasting treats to choose from, consider what options they have for sleeping and if they are able to select a spot with the right texture and temperature for them.
Of course there are some natural dog behaviours that we don’t want to encourage and we want our dogs to behave in a way that is acceptable to us and our household. We owe it ourselves and our dogs to invest time in training them to be compatible with our lifestyle or to put management in place to prevent behaviours we don’t want them to practise. It’s important to remember here that what is desirable for one household won’t be the same for everyone and it’s ok to have a different idea of what’s acceptable as long as everyone in your family agrees.
You may have seen a recent image we shared with the caption “when we shift our perspective from ‘dog ownership’ to ‘dog companionship’ we open our hearts to an even more magical bond” and at Nosey Barker we truly believe that when we live in partnership with our dogs, considering their needs and wants as well as our own, both human and canine are much happier and fulfilled and we are more likely to achieve our dream of what having a dog would be like.
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