As I reach down for my little one, a towel draped across my arm I see the telltale signs of stress in my boy's eyes. He's not the one I'm reaching for, no I'm reaching for Jessie but Luke knows where we are going and is stressing that he is next in line. He honestly never misses a beat. No, he does not enjoy a bath time, at least not at the beginning although he does seem to realize just how wonderful a warm water massage is by mid scrub.
As I call the dogs outside, I have a flashlight in hand and the concern starts. "Oh, oh, Mom's doing something to us." Although they are slightly concerned as to what it might be that I will be doing, one by one they come and lay by my side and await the procedure. They trust me immensely, I have never, ever given them cause to not trust me. Even my nervous Luke with his heavy breathing stress will lay quiet and let me "see." I have taught him that "see" means I must look at something on his body. This, so that he is never left not knowing what is going on.
Trust is huge with dogs, and this is why you must be trust worthy from the get go. Boy, let one thing happen and a dog does not forget easily. Sure over time an incident may fade but it can take forever to undo something that accidentally was ingrained. I have never had to be quite as careful with any other of my dogs as far as my actions as I am with Luke. You see Luke is a watcher and worrier, while my girls are both extremely intelligent, Luke just seems to have an extra something, like perception. He reads me like a book and the slightest wrong body posture can send him into a state of unnecessary worry.
Building trust can take some time, of course there are dogs like people who trust everyone and every approach. Repetition of the positive is the only way to build trust, and the more nervous a dog is the longer it takes. If a dog has had a past of broken trust as many true rescue dogs have it may take years to regain a real solid trust. Dogs in general are much more trusting than we humans aren't they? They put their complete trust in us to take care of them to the best of our ability, and that doesn't always pan out for them but yet they are willing to try again.
But even dogs who have been betrayed by a human in the worst way possible, abandonment, abuse or malice can and do trust again.
Luke came to us as a young puppy; he is a naturally nervous dog. As I pull him down to me so that I can give him his weekly physical, teeth scraping or ear cleaning I explain to him what I am planning. His nervous breathing slows, our eyes meet and we have an understanding. I feel his body relax as he puts his complete faith in the fact that he trusts me unconditionally. That my fellow dog lovers, is what it is all about.