Relationship Quiz—How Strong Is Your Bond?
To gauge the strength of your bond with your dog, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Does your dog check in with you during walks? Doe she occasionally look up at you, or is she at the very end of her leash the entire time? A dog who keeps her pace similar to yours and checks in (looks at you every so often) is acknowledging your presence and participation in the walk. You’re sharing the experience.
2. Are you afraid that if your dog slipped out the front door unleashed, she’d take off running and not come home? If you’re going through complicated rituals to make sure that your dog can’t slip past you when the door opens, it’s time to revisit basic training and give some thought to just why she doesn’t wait to see if you’re coming out, too.
3. Do you think your dog is “too stubborn” or “too dumb” to learn basic obedience behaviors? The first obedience class was fun, the second was tough, and then you gave up somewhere at the third or fourth week because your dog was the most excitable dog in the room, or the slowest dog in the room, or because you didn’t have enough time to get to class, or you just didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would. And now your dog is saddled with a label that she doesn’t deserve.
4. Does your dog seek you out in new environments (for example, at a crowded dog park)? In the hierarchy of what’s important to dogs, other dogs are right at the top of the list, so it’s no surprise that you’re invisible when you first arrive at the park. However, you should be more than your dog’s chauffeur and gate opener. The bonded dog wants to know where her person is no matter how intriguing the surroundings.
5. Are you frequently frustrated with your dog? There’s a degree of frustration in every dog-human relationship, but the word frequently in my question hits at the real problem. If frustration, which is only a few steps away from anger, forms the foundation of your relationship with your dog, how can there be any room left for joyful communication?
Is it ever too late to build a bond? No. The fact is that if you want to strengthen your relationship with your dog, you can. It’s never too late, your dog is never too old and your scenario is never too screwed up to commit to nurturing a stronger relationship. The process will be subtle. You may experience gains that are two steps forward, one step back—which can itself be frustrating—but have confidence in the fact that you’re making progress and your relationship is changing for the better. Both you and your dog will feel the change, and be happier for it.
Victoria Schade, Certified Pet Dog Trainer and creator of the DVD New Puppy! Now What? can be seen on Animal Planet's Faithful Friends. Sumner, the good-but-not-perfect Boxer, makes frequent appearances on Victoria's blog. lifeontheleash.com gooddogobedience.com