Yesterday I was in my office trying to finish up Elsa's flying book when I heard a whapping noise. The all too familiar sound of Elsa's tail hitting the floor as she gets silly trying to catch my attention. She wants me to focus on her and get away from my computer. I push out my chair and the thumping gets louder, only stopping once I am on the ground. Then I get the teeth display, she's in a goofy mood. Rolling onto her back she hovers there for a belly rub and then it's up for play time. She does her sideways walk trying to draw me to the door. Giving her a good slap on the rear I tell her "you are pretty bold," and we head out to play.
Once we are outside she immediately gets her ball. I like to make the rules so I ask her to get a different one or I'm not throwing it. Searching the yard she finally finds what she is looking for and comes back with something on her face. Asking her to "let me see," I grab her entire muzzle in my hand and pick of a stick that got stuck on her lip. She waits patiently for me to de-stick her and then we play. The slap on the rear and holding her muzzle make me realize how much she trusts me. Neither of these actions create any sort of concern in her, she trusts me completely.
Complete trust does not always come easy; although just like in people there are those who trust more than others. In dogs, trust is earned. When a puppy comes into a home they first feel things out. They get their feet under them so that they are comfortable with their surroundings. Next they test out those who live in the house. The dogs, the people and anything else that might happen to live there. My dogs know me and know that the worst physical response that my dogs will receive from me is a poke. That is when I need to get a fast and serious message across. Because my dogs do not wear collars I do not control them this way. I also do not raise my hands to my dogs and they know it. A raised hand can mean many things to them but it does not mean anything bad.
I use a great deal of body language with my dogs. It is how they speak and so they understand even the slightest of movements, stares or gestures from me. I also use my voice, but again I rarely raise it unless my dogs can't hear that is. I don't like to yell and use a low rumble sound to communicate my displeasure. Trust is huge; we are together in this life and I am here for my dogs. We are here to protect them and I take my job seriously.
Luke took a much longer time to trust completely. He is and always has been a nervous type so teaching him that I would never hurt him took some time. With Elsa, teaching her to trust touch was a challenge just getting her to stop long enough. Very similar to the sort of thing when you try to pick up a toddler who has just learned the joy of walking. They've got people to see and places to go. So you take it slow, you never fight them because that goes against the whole trust thing.
Pushing the boundaries of where a dog is comfortable will be different with every one of them. Some dogs never care what you do with them while others like Luke have concern over small things. Turning Luke onto his side was always an issue; he never understood why. He's a thinker and for him it took baby steps to get to a point where he didn't worry about it. Having to apply medication of any sort can be a challenge if your dog doesn't trust you. If you are rough when mad, hit or hold your dog in anger then trust may never come. NEVER raise your hand to your dog, EVER.
This is one reason that I cannot stand conventional choke collar training, the constant yanking or "corrections" as they like to call it. Inflicting pain is how it all works and that my friends goes against the whole building trust thing. When I accidentally bump or step on one of my dogs there is a big follow up commotion. They are concerned that I am mad; I am concerned that I hurt them. We have a hug and kiss session, often they look right into my eyes to discern my mood. Luke has to touch my face with his and Elsa smiles. I don't hurt my dogs so this incident always throws them.
If something happens and I need to do something unpleasant to my dogs I try my hardest to make it not so bad. Drops in their eyes result in tons of yummy treats, kissing and hugging. If I need to check something on their stomach then they get a full body massage as well. All of this work results in a constant building of trust. They trust my touch and if they ever have doubts, we work through it until they have no more concerns.
After all if our dogs cannot trust us; who are they going to trust?