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How To Build Your Dog's Trust In You!

Holly Leake
Trust is an essential part of every relationship we have. I'm sure you would agree that once that trust is broken, it's very hard to get it back again. Although we may not acknowledge it, trust is also an essential part of the relationships we share with our dogs and just like any relationship, our bond with our dog can also be broken as a result of our actions. With this in mind, this blog is going to consider how you can build your dog's trust in you.

"Friendship is built on two things. Respect and trust". Unknown

Respect is a concept that many trainers drone on about in their training, however, more often than not, this respect is one sided and very much expected from the dog and not us. These very same trainers are often the ones that will encourage you to correct and punish your dog, despite exposing them to distressing situations that elicit negative behaviour. Can you imagine being put in a situation that terrifies you and then the person you thought would help you, punished you for being afraid. How would it make you feel? Could you even trust that person again?

Sadly, canine behaviour is often misunderstood and this leads many to believe that their dog is deserving of punishment, when in reality they need kindness and guidance to understand how to behave and cope in certain situations. Using pain force and intimidation isn't going to build your dog's respect and trust in you, in fact it will certainly break it. Any “submissive” behaviour you may observe will be a result of fear and that's not a healthy foundation of trust or respect.

So in order to build our dog's trust, we need to ensure that we use kind and ethical training and that we always consider the reasons behind the behaviour, so we can do what's best for our dog in that moment. For example, if our dog is terrified of other dogs, we can build their trust in us by teaching them coping strategies and giving them the option to move away. Making our dogs feel safe is a huge part of building trust and the more secure they feel the better their behaviour will be.

"The best proof of love is trust". Joyce Brothers

To truly love, is to trust and our dogs love us so unconditionally. Love moves us to empathise and to do everything we can to make our dogs happy.

We may show love by providing lovely food, treats, toys, medical care, walks and a home, but all these things are not enough if our dogs do not trust us. If we force our dogs to be groomed despite their growling, we break their trust. If we use pain or force with our dog, we break their trust. If we knowingly expose them to stressors with no escape, we break their trust.

The removal of choice can be the very thing that breaks your dog's trust, regardless of all the physical things you provide. Therefore it is critical we avoid forcing our dogs into situations they can't cope with and implement positive training until they feel more resilient in those situations. It really isn’t relevant if we feel these situations don’t warrant fear. It is our dog’s perception that counts and it is our job to change their perception to make them feel more secure.

Without us, our dogs have no voice, thus it is up to us to advocate for our dog, in order to be their voice. There's a lovely saying that states, "Advocacy is to change what is, into what should be" and we can only accomplish this if trust and respect is mutual. Therefore, the key to building trust is to ensure our actions always demonstrate we are someone that our dog can always depend on, showing love and empathy in our training, providing choice and always advocating for our dog, no matter the situation.

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