There’s always more

Without going down a huge rabbit hole, take a moment to consider what your own world would look like if you felt confident there is always more of whatever you wanted – food, money, land, opportunities, or simply, more chocolate. Crazy idea huh? Did you experience a brief moment of calmness? I did.

The cool thing is that we can actually make this world a reality for dogs, but we need to be aware of their current world, and if they trust this world.

Think about how many things are taken away from dogs on a daily basis. To name a few, balls are pulled right out of their mouths, toys are put away, food bowls are picked up and their freedom to move is restricted by the length of their leash. Some dogs are perfectly fine living in a world like this. But not all dogs are comfortable with these restrictions and can act in ways that we see as inappropriate. By nature, dogs protect what they have out of fear of it being taken away. The way it’s often displayed is through growling, snapping or even biting. This, alone, does not make them bad dogs, they are just doing what is often instinctual to them.

Now I’m not saying we should leave all these things out for dogs and give them everything that their hearts’ desire, quite the contrary! I’m a firm believer that freedom and fun actually need to be earned, just talk to my children about that one…However, I believe it’s our responsibility to teach others how to share and to understand the benefits of rules. This is done through building up a trusting relationship with dogs, as well as a trusting environment.

The bigger picture is that if dogs are not comfortable in a particular situation or don’t trust the process, they are going to let others around them know.

How we react to what they are communicating is what will set the stage for future interactions. Herein lies the challenge – we don’t always know what they are saying, or we don’t even notice they are trying to communicate because they are so subtle in their methods. Furthermore, if we watch their actions in one circumstance, they may act totally different during the next.

The solution is to structure an environment where it’s easy to get more of the good stuff!

Just as it’s important to “baby proof” a house, it’s equally important to “dog proof” some rooms as well. Create a space where a dog will have limited access to your precious items, where they can freely wander and play without getting into danger. This is the space where they can begin to learn that all good things happen to those who are patient, calm, and well-mannered. Then start to implement some of the ideas below, where good things are always added, instead of being taken away.

  • Instead of taking a ball away, add another ball (or two, or three) to the game of fetch.
  • Or better yet, celebrate with a dog that they have a ball in their mouth – praise them, pet them, and reward them with treats for parading around with their ball. They have to first trust and understand it’s OK to have a ball in their mouth before they will feel comfortable letting it go and giving it to others.
  • Instead of grabbing a toy right out of a dog’s mouth, swap it out for a different one.
  • Prior to even using food bowls, practice giving your dog treats or kibble from a variety of different sources – interactive food toys, your hands, friends’ hands, the veterinarian’s hands, plates, plastic containers, boxes, the list could go on…
  • When putting a dog on a leash, let them drag it around the house for a few days before trying to control their movements with it.
  • Lastly, remember how hard it is to eat just one potato chip! Create situations where dogs can easily get more of things they enjoy; i.e. food, treats, chew items, play, affection, and even sleep.
  • Help them live the dream of residing in the “land of more,” because they can!

Once they understand they can trust you in this environment, then start to expand their world, a little bit at a time, always building upon the foundation of trust already established.

If you or someone you know has a dog that doesn’t trust the process and is not good at sharing, please reach out to me, I’m experienced at giving dogs choices so it’s a win-win!