Think about how you have felt during this pandemic or perhaps at other times in your life. Did you feel a lack of control in your life? Did you feel stressed as a result? I know I certainly did and still do, at times. A loss of control makes me feel powerless and sad.
So now, let’s think about our canine companions. They often have very little control over their lives. We dictate when they eat, go for a walk, eliminate, as well as other important aspects of their lives. Giving your dog more control can be as rewarding as giving your dog a piece of chicken. It can also reduce stress.
Some dog trainers see control as a way to train a dog. We do not. We look at training as a relationship and a partnership. Typically, dogs do what we ask because of our relationship. Similarly, you might do something for a good friend because of your relationship with them and because they asked.
There are lots of ways that we can give our pets some control over their lives. For example, let them decide which way to go on their walk, let them ask you for things in a polite manner, or let them initiate pets or play. One of our previous dogs that has since passed away, would bring us a different toy for different things he wanted. He would bring us a hedgehog toy for a treat (he brought us that toy often), he would bring us a stuffed dog toy to go to outside and a different toy to go for a walk. Of course he couldn’t have what he wanted all of the time, but none of us can. However, he also knew he could ask.
Another way we can give dogs choice or control is with Happy Handling, where we teach canine companions to consent for handling such as teeth brushing, grooming, and nail trims. They can also ask us to stop procedures if they are uncomfortable. With the animals cooperation we can get them to enjoy or tolerate handling. We have had cases where dogs who did not like handling or grooming start to ask for it.
We would love to hear from you! What are some of the ways you give your dog some control or choice?