1. Set Some Rules/Boundaries
Get your family, friends and all those who interact with your dog to have a clear, black and white set of rules for your dog to follow. Those who live with the dog especially should be on the same page as it makes it much easier for your dog to understand the rules. Dogs don’t so well with maybe, they need yes and no, black and white. Be sure your rules are fair and that you follow through with them. Sit down and make a list of the rules you want your dog to follow, and have others do the same, then come to an agreement on the main list that you can implement daily. Make sure if you set a rule, don’t waiver on it – if you allow it some days, and other days you don’t, you will just confuse your dog and create stress in the environment.
Proper exercise is one of the keys to a well behaved dog, but is also a great way to build your relationship and spend quality time. One of the best things to do with your dog is to go on a structured walk. It enables you to spend time together, offers great training opportunities, expends energy, is great for both your dogs health and your health, and socializes your dog to its environment. Hikes are also another wonderful way to build valuable relationship time. This enables to get your dogs out into new environments, experience nature and allows the same for you – this can be a huge stress reliever to both humans and dogs.
Most dogs are like perpetual puppies and play is very important to their health and well-being. Take time to spend 5-15 minute minimum a day to play with your canine companion. Our favorite games with the most value are fetch, tug and find it. All three games do need to be taught, and should have some clear rules, but all three games enable you to work both your dogs mind and his body, expending even more energy at a higher value then just a walk. Play is fun, energetic, and builds great engagement and value for the owner.
A very important part of the relationship with your dog, it enables a greater range of communication, allows for control, and offers the ability to maintain a well behaved dog. It is not necessary to spend hours a day training your dog, but everyone should understand that when you own a dog, training should be part of the lifestyle, not a one time thing. Your dog is learning every minute, of every day, so make it count. Training doesn’t need to be formal obedience either, it can simply be teaching the dog to be polite, stay out of the kitchen while you cook and eat, stay calm when you have down time, not to chase the kids etc. Training formal obedience is important as well and dogs should have a minimum of a great recall, a loose leash heel and a stay or place. Formal repetition a few times a day and maintenance after the dog has understood the concept is your best approach. A balanced training program that includes both yes and no is very important for your dogs ability to understand and retain.
5. Working and Earning Rewards/Affection
Many people give everything away to their dogs for free, and in doing so, create a highly unbalanced relationship where the dog becomes the “trainer” and the owner becomes the one to cater to the dogs needs. Try your best not to fall into that trap. Make sure your dog works to earn things like more freedom, affection, treats, play, walks etc. If your dog is pushy or demanding a good practice is to start ignoring your dog (but you still need to train them, walk them, and play with them) and don’t give them so much attention. Make them work for what they want – a simple sit before a pat, showing appropriate non-destructive behavior before being given more free reign of the house, waiting before being fed and not just diving on the food etc. It is important not to give in to demanding behaviours such as whining to be pet, barking for attention, barking and carrying on to get out of a crate, biting/nipping to get play, jumping for attention and touch etc. A balanced relationship doesn’t put the dog on top, and when you, as the owner, clearly show the dog its your rules, your house, your rewards, your limits, it helps to create a less stressful, more stable environment for the dog which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
The best relationships are build on great communication, and great communication builds the best relationships. If you can communicate clearly to your dog your desires, requirements, wants and rules, you have a dog who clearly understands you and a dog who is under much less stress then when the communication is muddled, confusing or not their at all. A big part of communication is how we interact with our dogs, our energy, our body language and our training. If your dog seems confused, take a step back and look at your side of the communication process.
Be consistent with your rules, wants, training and play – consistency produces clarity with removes stress and helps to maintain a calmer environment. Consistency means rules don’t change randomly and expectations aren’t there one day and gone the next. Inconsistency breeds stress as your dog never knows what to expect. So if you require no jumping on you while wearing a suit, require it as well when you are wearing your grubby clothes. If you require your dog not to nip at and be pushy with your children, require that same thing for yourself.
Consequences for both yes and no help greatly in the communication and consistency department. Don’t just use one or the other, as understanding both clearly helps to eliminate confusion and sets the dog up for success. Consequences can be good, like a food reward for a job well done, or they can be interruptive, like a leash correction or verbal reprimand for an inappropriate behaviour. Consequences don’t have to be harsh, or crazy over the top exciting, but they should be consistent and clear to the dog in order for the dog to understand what’s good and what’s not so good behaviour in their world.
Often times freedom is a huge reward that is giving out for nothing in a dogs life. Freedom to do and choose what they please whenever they please. Freedom should be limited for new dogs/puppies and dogs who are displaying brattiness or behavioural issues. Freedom is something that should be earned and not just awarded. Reducing freedom allows you to gain more control, and offers an environmental reward option for dogs showing good behaviour. If you’ve given your dog too much freedom too soon, claim it back, and make your dog earn it.
Yes, feeding, depending on how it’s done, can greatly enhance the relationship with your dog. Control your dogs impulses around food is a great start. Require the dog to sit and wait before being released to his meal is an easy way to start. Another option is hand feeding – take your dogs meals, divide them out for the day into baggies, and have your dog work for their meal throughout the day, feeding parts of the meal as a reward instead of handing it to them in a bowl. Meal time can also be training time by filling the bowl and teaching your dog some new tricks or practicing obedience commands before they get their dinner. This gives you control over a very important resource for your dog, but also forces you to spend some quality time teaching your dog.
Owning a dog isn’t always easy or stress free, and it does require work, however, when you focus more on the relationship, you can help to eliminate stress, build better communication and start to enjoy the time spent with your canine companion, rather then view it just as work. A good, balanced relationship is key to gaining and maintaining a dog whom is a joy to live with rather then a burden and these 10 tips are a great starting point.