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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How We Helped Our Nervous Dog Finally Feel Safe

A Strong Relationship is Built on a Foundation of 
Mutual Trust, Respect, & Devotion.

Dog's have different personalities just like humans do. One thing that I think is very important is choosing the right personality that best fits your family when you are looking for a dog. This sets you up for success in the long run. In adopting Dante and Ziva we were looking for very specific personality traits and they've been amazing!

We adopted Ziva knowing she had some anxiety issues we would be working through with her. The key is working WITH HER.

The best advice I can give someone with a nervous or anxious dog is to keep working with them. Don't give up! Don't push them too hard yet either. In Ziva's case she trusted us, as long as she wasn't panicking or trying to run away we slowly kept exposing her to the things she was wary of.

This is essentially threshold training, you bring your dog as close as you can while maintaining a positive experience until their discomfort causes you to back off - but only as far as you must. Slowly over time you build up to being closer to objects, and increasing your time spent around them. All the while praising your dog and rewarding their bravery.

I love my girl!

Practicing, "Look".
I have treats and a tennis ball hidden in my pockets!
Not many people fully experience a strong relationship with their dog, if you have experienced it you know it is addicting and wonderful! Dog's are truly amazing creatures, and they can teach us soo much.

Every time you work with your dog you are either strengthening or weakening that bond. If you hit, kick, scream, use a shock collar or other pain causing device you are damaging your relationship.

Rewards, praise, time spent together, and training builds up your relationship with your dog. If you allow your dog to rule the house, no discipline, no training, they drag you on a leash... you are not actually building a relationship their is no mutual respect or teamwork involved, in fact most likely no relationship really exists except in your mind. As far as your dog is concerned you are the bringer of the food, you've barely scratched the surface of what your relationship could be.

Dogs are a lot of fun! But you have to be willing to work at it.

How To Build your Relationship with your Dog.
  1. Spend Quality Time Together.
    Just like with another person, spend time together. Get off your phone, put it away. No texting either! Building a relationship means sharing experiences. Just go out and play, or walk, look at the trees together. Watch birds, run around in your backyard, be silly with your dog. Rub their belly, or scratch their favorite spot - you know right where it is... Ziva loves her ears being rubbed. Even grooming your dog can be quality time - take your time, don't be in a hurry.
  2. Train Your dog.
    A well trained dog is more trustworthy, they can (breed/individual dog depending) be allowed off-leash because you know they will return when called. Training relaxes you, which relaxes your dog. Training also reduces the frustration you may otherwise experience with your dog for displaying bad behavior. Dante and Ziva displayed such wonderful manners thanks to all our training that they were invited back to our friends' vacation home! A home where he never allows dogs, EVER. The Advantages of Pawsitive Pet Training.

  3. Be a Clear Communicator.
    Everyone hates a misunderstanding, keep your words consistent. Hubby and I are consistently checking in with one another regarding what vocab/signals we are using. When you say, "stay" mean it. Practice it, work it in different scenarios. Be consistent with your signals too, in agility I've noticed dogs get frustrated if their handler is not clearly signalling what is to be done, and then the handler gets frustrated because the dog isn't doing what is being asked! I've noticed the Australian Shepard's seem to do it the most - they tend to jump, bark, whine, and mouth at their handlers clothing when frustrated during training sessions in our class.
  4. Care About Your Dog's Health.
    Tasty food shows you care, but don't care so much to the point of obesity please! Exercise your pup, a healthy dog will live a longer, happier, healthier life. Pay attention to their body, watch your dog's feet, check them thoroughly after hikes for ticks or injuries. The more you care for your dog, the more they trust you and the more likely you are to notice and catch the beginning stages of a medical problem.
  5. Don't Get Angry At Your Dog.
    Yes, your dog may know that the did something wrong. But maybe in the heat of the moment they were overwhelmed and that rug that they ate represented a mighty dragon they were fighting in a fierce battle over the house! Just kidding..but seriously awesome relationships are not built on a foundation of yelling, screaming, and anger. Never hit your dog, or punish them just because your are mad - that is you taking your frustration out on your dog, you are not actually teaching them anything in this case.
  6. Find Out What Drives Your Dog.Dante loves to tug, we've been revisiting his recall training because it was getting sloppy. We were spending so much time training, and working with Jack that poor Dante was getting playtime but no training himself.

    Jack is food driven.

    He started to ignore us when we called, and he quit checking in (giving frequent looks in our direction) be it on a walk or off-leash. Well this led to no more off-leash time, he could no longer be trusted. It isn't that your dog is bad though, they need practice. Our bond was clearly slipping. Your dog needs to find you to be the most fun thing around! Practicing re-call with Dante we would take his favorite tug toy, hide it in our jacket, let him sniff about but not get too far. Then yell, "Come!" And whip out his toy!

    He quickly figured out that sticking nearby was worth it if it meant he could play. Working with him several times a week has really helped his recall. We also hide pieces of hot dogs, and cheese in our pockets. When he comes when called, he is rewarded.

    When we're out on a walk, every time he looks at me I reward him for checking in and in just two weeks we've noticed a huge difference in his attentiveness.

    Flyball has also really helped with Dante's attentiveness!
Working on our off-leash "heel" after some exercise.
7.   Consider Learning a Sport!
Their is a sport for every dog, barn hunt, dock diving, lure coursing, agility, flyball...
I would highly recommend looking into classes in your area. Sports are a great way to strengthen your relationship, socialize, and get out and have fun with your dog! Not to mention you're surrounded typically by other awesome dog people. 

Remember, while training is important it isn't everything. Your dog should find you to be fun, they should desire to come back to you because they know you represent positive rewards as opposed to punishment.

How Do You Build Your Relationship with your Dog?

Positive Pet Training Hop


  1. Great post, so many great tips!
    -Spencer the Goldendoodle

  2. Great tips! :)

    I know beef and hot dogs is what drives Bain, he is not at all interested in toys as a reward. I take him out with his Staffy "girlfriend" in the field for off leash time. I'm going to start bringing some meaty goodies so I can work on his recall.

    1. Hmmm... our dogs love hot dogs too, unfortunately I had to stop giving them as treats due to the bad gas they caused. LoL we now use cooked chicken hearts and cheese. :-)

  3. I love this post so much! Great job! These tips are awesome. I also think you have a point with making sure you get a good personality match. So many people pick dogs out because of the way they look and they don't consider what the dog's personality is. I know someone who does this and she's picked breeds that are not right for her or her lifestyle and then wonders why they are eating the house.

    1. Thanks Lauren!!
      As for personality that's one of the biggest reasons dogs end up turned in to shelters/rescues, and homeless... People don't research the breed they are getting and then they pick a dog that is too much for them to handle. It really is sad. But I can totally get it, Jack and myself are not a very good match, but we didn't pick him he just showed up.

  4. Wow! What a great post! Dogs are always learning; we are always in the training mode, whether we are conscious of it or not. And training isn't just being strict, but respecting and appreciating your dog too.

    1. Thank you! I do have to remember to be patient sometimes though, because you are right training is happening all the time.

  5. Shared on twitter! Thank you for another great post!

  6. I'm one of those who picks dogs on looks, but it's more about a look in their eyes and a good smile. The thing is, I love dogs so much that I appreciate all different personalities. I never would have deliberately picked a high-energy dog like Ruby, but I fell in love with her and have learned so much from her. She and Boca are like night and day, and I actually adore the balance they create. I think Boca alone would not be quite *enough* dog for me - she is such a lazybones! - but it's nice to have one dog I can take on a relaxed walk, and one I can do more challenging things like trick-training with. Like you say here, it's all about the relationship and what I love most about dogs is their individuality. I definitely love more independent dogs, always have. Labs and retrievers - not for me. Wonderful post!

    1. Hahaha! It's good to know which dogs are not for you. I tend to like a challenge as well at least up to a certain point. :-)

  7. I enjoyed your post - thank you! It was a good reminder to think about command (words/hand signals) consistency! I admit to getting sloppy with this now and then.

    1. You're welcome! Thank you for stopping by! *wags & kisses!!*

  8. Lots of helpful tips in your post! We do a lot of trick training. Mr. N also really enjoys off-leash hiking. Thanks for joining the hop!

  9. Great post - love your point about getting angry and about practice. I tend to get lazy and it shows up right quick in Jack's behavior.

    1. Thanks Slim! Dante is my dog that lack of practice shows up in, if i'm not working with him regularly then his recall especially goes downhill pretty quick as well as his attention. :-)

  10. All very helpful tips. We're not so good with #3. Between me, Rob and Rob's mom, we're not always on the same page with what we ask of the dogs. But I'm all about #5. I can never get angry at them. No matter what they do, it's not their fault! They're dogs!

    1. I can understand that, it can be hard to keep everyone on the same page.
      Thanks for stopping by! *wags & kisses!!*

  11. Great post and tips.

    I've found that it's the relationship that has taught Honey to do things I never thought she would do. For instance, wanting to be with us on the boat has gotten her over her fear of ramps.

    But she has gotten a little sloppy on her recall when we've have little time to play her favorite games. And unfortunately we're in a place that's not safe for us to walk her off leash. So we'll need to find some new ways to work on training in a new setting.

    Relationships and training are constant and always need work.

    BTW, you should be glad you live so far away. Because I adore Ziva's face and would be tempted to steal her if I could. :)

    1. Thanks Pam!
      I remember reading about Honey's ramp fear, you guys did great helping her to conquer it!
      And Ziva is such an angel..I hope we can meet you guys someday!

  12. I totally relate to #6. When we got Lincoln, I was spending so much time working with him my daily training touch ups with Brodie and Ellie slipped. I started getting "blown off" quite a bit and realized I hadnt been engaging them enough.

    1. The training never stops, some people think that taking just one class will solve everything boy are they wrong! :-) I notice immediately when we haven't been working on something recently. LoL

  13. Great tips - these should be handed out to everyone that adopts a dog!

    1. Thank you! I would love it people had to take a class before owning a dog on behavior and training. :-)


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