Many of us may need a relationship makeover with our dogs at times. Many behavior issues arise from some aspect of a dog-owner relationship. When it comes to transforming and improving our relationship with our dogs it is important to remember that spoiling them, giving them treats or educating them with new toys is not the answer. Sometimes a commitment to structure, discipline and leadership is necessary to give our dogs what they need.
Here are things based on the specifics of your current relationship that can help improve your relationship with your dog.
- Pick up the bowl of food and stop ‘free-feeding’ your dog. There are a lot of important components in feeding your dog and free-feeding is a relationship killer. Set timings of feeding with your dog and do not waiver!
- Go for a walk and make a bond with your dog. Go for a structured and organised walk with your dog is a great way to get exercise and spend some quality time with your dog. Walks should be in a controlled position by the dog next to you and while it’s okay to stop for a potty break, don’t let your dog sniff every grassy blade and poop on every pole – keep moving forward! BTW: having a large backyard does not negate the benefits of structured walks.
- Pick up the toys and take control of that resource. This is particularly important if you live with several dogs. Your dog needs to look to you for the things in life they need. When you want your dog to enjoy his toys, pick a few toys and present them to your dog; don’t just leave them out and available all the time.
- Teach them something and get their minds working! Brain stimulation is as important as physical exercise; you would be surprised at how quickly a dog gets tired after a good training session. Teach your dog to lay down, shake or another trick. Even the first stage skills are great ways to get your dog’s mind to work.
- Create a small space between you and your dog. By this I mean chucking the crate out of your bedroom, leaving your dog alone one in a while and letting them exist without you; we don’t always have to be touching our dogs. Often times, separation anxiety can be easily prevented if some level of separation and space is implemented. Sometimes we can be a little better when left alone, but it is the human that suffers from separation anxiety!
- Stop treating them like children and realise that they are dogs. Although certain aspects of raising children and dogs have many things in common, dogs are not children. To prosper, dogs need to be treated like dogs.
- Focus on the past and the present and the future. This is particularly true when you have a rescue dog with a not so pleasant past: we can’t change anything they’ve already done. Coddling them and spoiling them will not cause things to be undone or make them correct. It is important to move on and provide the right interaction and leadership to them.