The Human - Dog Relationship - Rebuilding Trust

I have something to confess, my dog's (Duke) recall isn't always reliable. And as you can imagine, this is an issue.

For a long time I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Why wasn't it reliable? We spend all day together, we do so much. And then it hit me. When I'm walking a pack of dogs off-leash, my focus is on my clients - not necessarily on my own dog. So when I practice recall, I make sure to follow through with my clients. But with Duke, I will call his name and then immediately focus on another dog or another thing (like picking up poop).

By calling him and not making sure that he comes straight back to me and praising him for it, I've taught him that he doesn't need to come back. And when I get upset that he won't come back the first time I call, he doesn't understand. One minute it's ok for him to look at me and then continue what he's doing, and the next minute I'm upset for exactly that behaviour.

Suddenly he's confused about what I want. Even more confusing is that he doesn't know which of his actions earns praise, which earns my frustration, or which earns no attention at all (Russian Roulette anyone?). He can't trust me because he doesn't know what I want or how I will respond.

So, we have to rebuild our trust.

I have to step up and make sure that EVERY SINGLE TIME I call him it's:

1. In a moment where I know I have his attention i.e. he's looking at me

2. I make myself seem fun, exciting and inviting

3. I praise him with all my love

Slowly we will rebuild our mutual trust and strengthen this element of our relationship.

Try this at home:

Think about your own interactions with your dog where a certain behaviour might receive different reactions from you. How can you be consistent with your reactions so that your dog knows exactly what is expected of them?

Until next time,

Holly, Duke and Jax