Surviving or Thriving?

Many dog guardians are simply surviving and getting through the day-to-day with their dog without thinking about what they want and need from their dog and the relationship. They are simply trying to minimise the difficulty of a particular behaviour such barking, instead of thinking what their ideal pet would look like and how to work towards improving areas they are struggling with. 

Often people fight day in day out, trying to do the same things instead of stopping and deciding how their life could be easier. It can be massively overwhelming to be a dog guardian. Everyone has an opinion and tells you things you should (or should not!) be doing.

It is your relationship and lifestyle with your dog.  Would you like your dog to stay on their bed while you cook? Would you like your dog to be on the sofa on their blanket? Would you like your dog to bark at the doorbell or not bark at the doorbell? The choice is yours. There are no right answers as long as your dog does not have any behavioural issues and you are working with their personality and needs. 

Frequently guardians battle through walks because they feel they should be walking their dog no matter what happens. They might have a dog who is lunging or barking on the lead, who is fearful or is just generally struggling. They still feel compelled to walk their dog every day or even twice a day. Guardians think they are doing the best thing by giving their dog a walk when actually the dog is finding the walk itself stressful. It might be kinder to give the dog a short break from walking and play some enrichment games with them and then reintroduce walks in a calm relaxed way. 

What behaviours does your dog do that you find frustrating? Do they jump up at the food bowl or beg at the table? All of these things can be improved. It just takes a little bit of focus and time for you and your dog to enjoy every day together.  You are not alone every guardian has something they would like to work on with their dog and learning never stops. How can you help your dog thrive?

Train When You Don’t Have To

Let’s face it, we are all busy and people are often trying to rush things and then get frustrated when it does not go right first time, every time. A typical example is getting your dog used to getting in the car, you are rushing for the school run or need to take your dog to the vet, in your head you are thinking this has to happen now! In reality, do you really need to take the dog on the school run? Can you walk to the vets or would it be better to pay the missed appointment fee for a non-urgent issue and rather than stressing your dog? When we start to rush and get stressed our behaviour changes and often make the dog more nervous. How many times have your rushed and it has gone wrong then when you are just going for a leisurely walk your dog hops into the car as if it is easy? They are reacting to our behaviour.

People often feel like they have to complete a behaviour sequence, when I have to ask why, they often do not have an answer other than it is what they would expect from their dog. This is when I ask: how have you trained the behaviour? Often this is confusing for people as they see the car as a nice thing for the dog because it means a nice long walk and why wouldn’t the dog like that? However, the dog might not understand this.

The trick to successful training, is to train when you don’t have too. Train your dog to get used to a muzzle, hop in and out the car, walk round a garden centre when you don’t need anything, go and sit outside a café with a takeaway cup so you can walk away if you need to. This way there is no pressure on either you or your dog and you can build up the behaviour as and when it suits you. When you are training it is best to work in small sessions that are successful without stressing your dog rather than one long session.