My dog Flash passed away in December 2017, it still makes my heart ache to think about him even though we had a tough start he ultimately became my best friend. Where ever I went he went to, its funny because today on my Facebook memories a photo popped up of Flash sitting by my weekend bags, that was his way of saying ‘I am NEVER letting these bags out of my sight Mum, you’re not leaving without me!’. He knew that I had packed for a weekend away and he was determined that where those bags he was going too.
Flash and I had an unbreakable bond, but that didn’t happen over night either we had to put a lot of work in together. Because of the bond he trusted me when I took him be a blood donor (don’t worry I knew he would love it and he did), he never strayed far when he was off lead, he knew could ‘nag’ me to do something by sitting in front of me, looking directly at me and huffing – oh yes he huffed! Flash walked slowly for me when I suffered with Sciatica and I still had to go out to walk him. He smiled all the time and people always commented how lovely it was that Flash would just sit to look at me – see the first photo.
When the time came to say goodbye after only a little over 4 years together, aged 5 he passed in my arms happy and looking at me with his smile. I hate the world that we had such little time together but I am at peace because he trusted me without a doubt to be there for him… and I was always.
What exactly is a bond anyways?
You will already have a bond with your dog by providing him with a warm home, a cosy bed, food and safe place to live. A bond is that invisible rope that ties you both together, it goes beyond love. It helps you both gain trust and confidence in each other these are the foundations of the bond. This bond is what keeps your dog from taking off without when he sees an open door or you let him off lead in the park. Its keeps him engaged and listening to you, it is in short a big deal.
A dog will need to learn to put his faith and trust in you to ensure he survives, its down to you to show him that this is a two way street. I am going to share with you the games I love to play with dogs, perfect for growing confidence and trust.
Its really important that you are constantly watching your dog, remember that all dogs ‘speak’ to us with their bodies and this will help you right now. He will show if he is happy with a relaxed body, if he is scared or nervours by showing you calming signals like a head turn away from you, becoming slow moving and avoiding eye contact. Go with your instinic if you feel your dog isn’t happy no matter what you’re doing then stop.
Bond Building Games
Nose Boops aka Nose Touches, this is a game that gets your dog to touch their nose to your hand. But its more than that, this game helps your dog build up their trust of you, by creating a positive association of touching your hand and getting a reward for it. It builds his confidence of interacting with hands too. This is also a great game to use as a distraction for you dog too.
My dog Ally is a lovely little (OK big) girl she is very friendly and sweet. She isn’t a big fan of lot of traffic too much she gets very stressed. When she is stressed Ally stops listening to me and pulls on her lead, she is in short overwhelmed by the noise and movement. I generally avoid busy roads but its not always possible.
Its important that I manage her stress levels and I do my best to avoid High traffic areas. Sometimes this isn’t always possible so I work on distracting her and thats where Nose Boops come in handy. By getting Ally to watch and target my hand as we walk her mind is taken off the traffic. I can keep her listening to me which is always handy in a high stress enviroment.
Stuck in the Middle is a fab game that asks your dog to weave around your legs and then sit in between them! You’re probably thinking what is point of this exercise and how can it help right? It is really useful if your dog feeling nervous or scared because sitting between your legs provides them a safe space.
It builds up your dogs confidence of not being physically close only humans but by being close to you too. This game helps teach your dog to follow your hands too. This is mine and Erick’s favourite trick and I love doing it with him.
Little tip from one of my former clients Gail has a lovely Labradoodle called Biscuit a crazy happy dog. When ever Biscuit is getting too enthusiastic and over the top playing in the park, Gail calls Biscuit back to her, asks for a Middle to give Biscuit a time out so she calm down a little.
Obstacle Course – the perfect way to build confidence as a team and I play this all the time with my dogs, in my 2nd floor flat too. The aim is to get your dog to jump on, jump over, jump out of, get inside, stand on, move around, put their face in lots of different furniture that you will guide them through.
Ideas for in the home – Sofa Cushions piled up, dining room chairs, foot stool, computer chair, cardboard boxes, wastepaper bin, hula hoops, Blankets, Buckets. I could go on but you get the picture. Even if you don’t have much space you can still get a cardboard box which your dog can jump in, sit in, jump out of, walk around and stand on. Thats 5 things to do to create a mini course with just one box!
Once your course is set up, grab some treats and lead your dog around the course. With a treat in your hand, hold it at your dogs nose height to lead him where you’d like him to go. Don’t force them if they are unsure but do reward them if they look at or sniff something scary.
By teaching your dog to follow your lead, you are really encouraging him to listen to you. You can easily play this on your walks by going under benches, weaving around lamp posts, jumping over logs and walls. You’ll not only be having fun with your dog but you’re making your walk super exciting, if you’re being exciting then your dog has no reason to go off and find his own excitment!
Hinder or Help Bonding
Who doesn’t love a hug right? Well as along as it comes from the right person I do like a good hug. Dogs not so such a fan of a full body hug, it can make them uncomfortable.
I love it when any dogs come and sit next to me when I sit on the floor, they tuck their butts in right next me, so I usually sling an around them and stroke their back and shoulders. Then when I am in bed sleeping Erick does sometimes come and lie next to me, I usually sling an arm over him. These are about as much of a hug a you can give a dog. In each example the dog has the freedom to remove himself from the contact.
Dog kisses, I love them and I am all for a lick on the side of my face, this is a lovely sign from your dog if you get it. Licking you is a sign of trust and its their way of greeting their family. Never demand a kiss from your dog because its the same as making them submit to you which means you’re removing their choice. Good rule of thumb invite a kiss don’t demand or make one happen.
A head pat, freaks most dogs out as a hand suddenly coming down over the top of their head is scary and a could be considered a threat. It can also be tough if your dog has had previous bad experiences with human hands not being very nice. Remember initiate strokes under his chin or side of the neck because you guessed it, this provides your dog with a chance to move away if he wants.
If you’d like help with getting your dog to listen then get it touch by clicking here. I have a short course to teach your dog to listen to you or I have 121 private training which is tailor made to you too.
Chief Canine Happiness Officer.