Dating Your Dog

Since January is National Train Your Dog Month, I wanted to take each week to help you build your relationship with your dog and give you a few nuggets of information about adjusting some behaviors in your dog.

The difference between myself and a whole mess of professionals out there that call themselves trainers is that I use relationship-based training. I use lots of motivations, including, but not limited to, treats, to convince the dog that working with me is the most amazing thing that they could have dreamed of… much like dating!

Most of you would agree that people get a dog and think, I provide everything you need and love you, so therefore you should just do what I ask you to do because I asked you to do it! Well, if people worked the same way, a guy might say to a girl, “I really like you. I’m going to take you home, take care of all of your needs, but I need you just to do what I say when I say it.” That’s called kidnapping. People don’t work like that, and neither do dogs.

Although I have never been married myself, I have many friends, family, and clients that have been together or married for many years. Some are still dating, some are engaged, some have been recently married, and then some have been together for 20, 30, 40 plus years! I ask them all the same question… did you “woo” each other in the beginning? The ol’ fashion term was courting, and apart from the rare whirlwind romance, the process is always the same in most cases.

The first few weeks of dating – there are lots of “treats” whether it be dinner, flowers, gifts, special surprises that mean something to the other… if you want the other person to stay interested, you have to increase the “value” you bring to the table. If you really like someone, you’re willing to “up the ante” and make yourself “worth it” to the other person to date you! This goes on for a few months… maybe a year or two. And then people get comfortable. This isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s usually indicative of security and peace.

As time goes on, the story adjusts. The “wooing” or “treats” that were so heavy and frequent in the beginning fade a bit. The intensity, the value, and the frequency of those “treats” all change. They don’t go away altogether, but they do change. When at first, your partner was “treating” you and dating you and surprising you… now they are making breakfast in bed on special holidays. Maybe they take out the trash, make the phone calls you couldn’t make without you having to ask, or taking care of the kids so you can sleep in or rest. And THAT is amazing because it doesn’t happen all the time, so the value is SUPER high. If you’re really lucky, your partner still “treats” you all the time, and they work hard to keep their “value” in your relationship… high! Guess what?? This works for ALL relationships… including the four-legged one!

You see, most people go heavy on the treats at the beginning with dogs to teach the basics and then stop altogether. If the people in human relationships stopped “treating” after the first three months when dating, no one would EVER get married.

You have to date your dog… get them to say “YES!” to enter into a lifelong commitment with you and then continue to work on your relationship for the rest of your life. This relationship with your dog will get them to trust you, and they will want to please you as well by doing what you ask them.

Now, I KNOW dogs, and I am an expert in building relationships with them. Humans are a bit more complicated, so, just to be clear, I am not a marriage counselor…don’t go to your human partner telling them that you need more high-value treats…LOL…you might get a different response than expected.

I hope you take this month to work on your relationship with your dog. I know that it will help tremendously in the goals you have for them, AND, Since I am good at counseling relationships between dogs and their owners, please let me know how I can help you build your relationship with your dog!