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Relationships: Safety, Trust, and Confidence.

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

What characterises a ‘good’ relationship?

I think the qualities that determine this are the same whether we’re taking about a human/human relationship or a dog/human relationship.

One of the basic qualities of a ‘good’ relationship is that it provides safety for both participants.

Feeling safe builds trust, and experiencing trust, builds confidence in each other.

So, what do we and our dogs need to experience safety, and build trust and confidence, in our relationship together?

  • · Feeling safe means that we don’t harm each other. This builds confidence and optimism. We learn that when we are together, we have a good time, we have fun, we feel relaxed.

  • · We trust each other. We are reliable and consistent. This builds confidence and optimism, and grit and determination. We know that if we try again our ‘partner’ will have our back and encourage us.

  • · We pay attention to each other and respond appropriately – builds focus and flexibility.

  • · We listen to each other – this builds, focus, thinking in arousal, and tolerance to frustration.

  • · We want to ‘hang out’ together and be close to each other – proximity and confidence and optimism.

What does it mean in a relationship if our partner (our dog in this case) doesn’t want to hang out with us?

What does it say if every time you let them off leash they head for the horizon and better things?

What does it say if every interaction you have together ends up with both of you being angry and frustrated?

What does it say if every time your dog sees you, they are happy to be in your company and stay close to you?

What does it say if you let your dog off the leash, and the first thing they do is turn towards you waiting for you to tell them what to do?

What if when you both meet something new, your dog looks to you for guidance about what they should do?

Building these concepts between you and your dog will build your relationship together.

A relationship could be likened to a bank account. You either are in credit or deficit. When you are in credit you have resources to use, when in deficit you are often in trouble. So, if we think about our relationship with our dog as a joint bank account, we need to think about what we are both paying in and taking out.

We’re paying in when things are going good in the training. We’re having fun together, we are communicating well between us, and things are ‘hunky dory’.

When we are withdrawing from the relationship account, we are becoming frustrated, angry, reactive, and not paying attention to each other.

When we notice that we are withdrawing rather than depositing, this is the point to stop training!

I would recommend ending on a ‘good note’. Ask for something that you know that your dog can do easily, reward, and have a break.

If your dog is too stressed to even perform a known behaviour, give them a reward and some hands-on praise.

This is more important than insisting on your dog doing something that you want. The relationship is the most important thing and when you come back to doing more work together you want your dog to have a positive association with your last contact together.

Sometimes as humans, we must swallow our pride, and accept that things are not going well, and be the bigger person, as well as the bigger brain!!!

We need to be able to ‘let go’ and sometimes just reward our dog for just being there! This is paying into the relationship bank account. Whenever we reward our dog for just 'being with' us, we build our relationship.

If you want to explore this way of working with your dog and your relationship, get in contact:

07544 729237

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