I was considering including this post in the series on Rewards, but decided that it has a much more important purpose – to reinforce the bond to your dog. As the first post of 2015 I wanted to emphasise the most important thing behind all training – the relationship you have with your dog.
As dogs have been domesticated and brought to live in the human world, dog owners provide food, shelter, and enjoyment for their dogs, and sometimes, in abundance. Dogs are obviously not conscious of this, and often seem to forget their owner has a role in their life at all. When dogs are constantly overwhelmed by toys and treats and pets, they sometimes begin to see the owner as nothing but a shuttle to get to the park.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide a stimulating life for your dog, but make sure that you are part of that life. If your dog does not see you as having an important role in its life, it is also very unlikely to pay attention to anything you ask it to do. If there is no connection between you and your dog, it makes no sense to it to listen to you. As a result, your communication and training will suffer, and ultimately, your dog’s freedom.
So how do you get connected with your dog? – Be the Source.
Be the source of everything that enriches your dog’s life, of all fun and enjoyment, but also of clarity and guidance. Limit your dog’s access to rewards in order to provide them later. If your dog can get whatever, whenever, these resources loose value, making it difficult to incorporate them in training. All the good stuff in your dog’s life should emerge from you. Make your dog wait and give you eye contact before it receives a reward, so that you are part of, and associated with, the process. Be the source, and the center of all rewards; whether it be playtime, a drink of water, or coming through the gate to the park, and you will soon have an attentive and connected dog.
Stay tuned for our next post on Leadership, or how to and be the source of clear information and guidance.