I’ve read a lot of books about dealing with “problem” dogs. Not all of them, but a lot. Out of all that intake, I’ve learned one thing.
The thing that you need, and the thing that your dog needs, is a connection.
We fake it with training equipment. Everything from a harness to a shock collar is intended to substitute, to some extent, for having an ideal working relationship with your dog. That Platonic ideal of dog relationships happens naturally, sometimes. I see those dogs around from time to time, so in-tune with their owners that I don’t even notice they’re breaking the leash laws.
The rest of us have to work at it. Some of us (raises hand) probably forever. But how? What does building a great relationship even look like?
I haven’t found a single resource that says it all. Suzanne Clothier’s Bones Would Rain From the Sky is close, but she’s frustratingly slim on details.
So here’s my list, cobbled together from my reading and classes we’ve taken and from my own experiences:
Have clear expectations.
Set boundaries that your dog can understand.
Be present when you interact with your dog.
Have patience for mistakes, your own and the dog’s.
Tune in to your dog’s problems and challenges.
Adjust your expectations to match the circumstances.
Help your dog to understand desirable behaviors.
Be considerate of your dog’s preferences.