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26/01/2019 - Living with Dogs


There is nothing more important than trust.

Trust from your dog that you will meet their needs, that you won’t do anything to harm them and that you will keep them safe.

You may have heard of a ‘trust account’. How, if you make lots of deposits into your dog’s trust account, they will forgive the occasional withdrawal.

This week has shown me the power of trust and of having a nice, overflowing trust account.

My own dog loves the water but had a loss of confidence recently in a swimming pool. We hit the water this week to help him over that. I’ll be honest, my training plan was a bit shoddy given that I’m a professional trainer. But what I do have is an incredibly trusting relationship built on years of force free training, giving him choice, keeping him safe and listening to him. There was a moment where he caught my eye and I realised that my criteria had been to big, but that he was trusting me to keep him safe. Trust trumped my training mistake. If I hadn’t had that trust, we may have made a backwards step. 

Move forward a few days and I have a consult with one of my favourite clients whose dog is looking at possible surgery. We were preparing him for the vet visits, examinations and other intrusive actions coming his way - "playing doctors and nurses" as I put it. 

Because his owner is awesome and has built an amazing trust account we moved forward faster than most people would be able to. He always had choice to move away but he chose to engage and have novel poking and prodding. I do wonder what he thought us silly humans were up to. If they didn’t have such a trusting relationship, I don’t think they would be able to suitably prepare in time.

So how do you build a trust account?

Firstly, learn to read dog body language and start listening to your dog. If your dog is uncomfortable about something, acknowledge that and move them to a distance they feel safe. Then teach them from that distance or volume that the scary monster is not so scary (I do recommend getting help from an IMDT or other force free trainer)

Give your dog some choice in their life. You control EVERYTHING in your dog’s life - where they eat, sleep, drink, pee, poop, walk, EVERYTHING. If there is opportunity for them to choose something, even just the direction of a walk, let them (I promise they won’t take over the world!)

Allow them some control over their environment and what happens. I often do consults for dogs that have had bad husbandry experiences and the power of not restraining them and giving them several exits is amazing. Add to that my willingness to listen to their body language and stop at the slightest sign... you soon have a dog willing to let you touch them. 

Spend time with your dog just chilling. Mooch about together. Build a relationship.

Trust me, when the time comes you will be so happy you did.