| We cannot force the dog to want to be with us, no more than we can force someone to love us. Using the leash, pinch collar, flat collar, electric collar, or even food and toys to force or hold the dog in a relationship is a recipe for failure. As soon as these props and tools are gone, the façade of this relationship crumbles, and you are left with a dog that wants to be anywhere else but with you, when it's just you.
In a relationship, both parties take the time to learn about each other. What are their interests and hobbies? Favorite movies? Favorite foods? As the relationship develops, they learn more meaningful things about each other. How does this person handle stress? What’s it like to work together to accomplish a task? What’s their work ethic like? How do they view life?
Unfortunately, we can’t just sit down with our dogs and talk with them, ask questions, and hear their responses. Instead, we must find other ways to get to know our dogs, their likes and dislikes, how they view life and work, how they handle stress, etc. So how do we do this? We can develop a working relationship through Interaction, Play, Good Communication, Trust, and Engagement.
To develop a relationship, we must do stuff with our dogs. Spend quality time with the dog, engage in play and personal contact, as well as training. Take the dog on walks and car rides and errands. Include the dog in daily life and develop that connection with him. Through interaction and play, we learn his likes and dislikes, his mannerisms and behaviors, his body language cues to his particular moods. Just like in relationships with people, the more you do together, the more you learn about each other.
We all want that fun, well behaved dog we had envisioned in our mind, but sadly these dogs are not born that way. Some love to beg for food, while others enjoy surfing the counter tops and there are those too who love to try and run out that front door if given just a little bit of an opening. For some, the relationship becomes a “love-hate” situation and other finding themselves saying, “he really is well behaved except….”
"I have a new Puppy, what should I teach them? How many commands should they know? How long until they are doing XYZ?"... We hear these questions far too often from new GSD owners and the answer to those questions is simple. In the beginning we focus on Teaching the puppy/dog to LEARN, don't worry about commands as they are meaningless. Your objective should be creating an 'active' dog rather than a ‘reactive’ one. For those of you with children, think of it like this. What behavior would you prefer, a child who cleans their room and completes their chores on their own OR do you want to have to ask, manipulate, bribe and argue with to get them to clean their room and attend to their chores? “Learning to learn” is a concept based in both Operant and Classical conditioning which makes them both an active learner and an active participant in training. The opposite approach is to use coercion to make the dog do something instead of the dog being internally compelled to do it.