Bonding with your Dog
My first Thought is about the complex issue of bonding with your dogs. As with children, all our dogs need to feel that we as parents and owners will look after them whatever the situation. Many of the dogs in rescue homes were probably not thoughtfully socialised and did not have that reassurance from their previous owners, this would have led them to feel that that they should be the ones to deal with problems and take over as Leader. This lack of confidence and insecurity regarding their status, can manifest itself in aggressive or nervous behaviour. Dogs don’t need just formal training, they need to understand their place in modern society, and their place in their own home. Their life with should form a partnership, but we as owners must always act as their benevolent leaders.
There are numerous steps you can take to reassure your dog that you are there for him, - you might like to jot down some ways you can organise his life so he clearly understands what is expected of him.
Make sure that your dog understands the importance of having good manners, this will entail you teaching him to immediately know how to Stop, Stay, Sit, Lie Down, Come, to never jump up on anyone. Learning these commands will enable him to quickly do as you ask in times of trouble, thus putting you in a much better position to take on the role of leader and protector.
Help him understand dog body language and the rules of Dog Play, and encourage him to use appropriate body language when meeting a new dog (respect the other dog’s space, ask to play before wrestling him to the ground etc). Read ‘On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals’ by Turid Rugaas, and then observe the signals given out by the dogs around you, communicating with our dogs is much easier if we can understand their body language.
When walking if you see a loose dog approaching fast or someone whom your dog may find threatening, step in to immediately assume control, if you can, turn and walk the other way. Few owners understand how threatening their dogs can appear to be to others. If this loose dog persists and gets close enough to push his face into your dog or starts demanding he plays, your dog’s hackles may rise and he may growl, don’t punish him, understand his anxiety, help him resolve the situation peacefully - after all how would you like a complete stranger rushing up to you and sticking his face into yours and start pushing you around!!
Establish the rules of the household, which rooms are available, can he sit on the sofa or on your bed, rules around meals, how to greet visitors, door etiquette (dog waits while the door is open, you check all is clear, dog goes through, sits and waits for you to lock up,) this is very much a safety issue, it is very annoying and potentially dangerous when your dog rushes out in front of you or leaps out of the car the minute the door is open. Once these rules are set, adhere to them, be consistent. Dogs really like to know where they stand, we have to put this in place, not them!
So to sum up, training is vital, but is only truly effective when our dogs understand what their position is in the household and when we are rigorous in keeping to the rules we have set.
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