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Finding the relationship with your dog

My personal dogs name is Venom, he is my Working Line Belgian Malinois, personal protection dog, detection dog, demonstration dog, but above all of these, way above them is the fact that he is my best friend.

What is a best friend?

Well I guess I might try and narrow this down into a few things or I would be writing all day, so here goes with a few must haves: –

  • I can trust him
  • I like him
  • I admire him for what he is
  • We understand each other
  • We meet each others needs

I can trust him

He is reliable in all circumstances where I expect his training to be, which really means he is 100% reliable if I am working on training maintenance often enough. If I stop rewarding his behaviours after a while I guess he would stop giving them, simple.

Finding the relationship with your dogI trust him with my children, he is gentle, forgiving, patient, accepting and he gives them enough affection to make them feel important.

He does not attack my friends, but is deadly to my enemies and he lets me choose who is on what list.

He is patient and unassuming with the puppies I breed, he teaches them dogs are dogs but not much fun, just the way I like it and he never disciplines them. he knows that is not his role.

He waits for me to: – well anything, train him, play with him, wake up, come home, finish work etc and he never complains how long it takes.

He accepts not everything we do is what he wants to do.

I like him

Venom is all I love in a dog, now you need to know right now that I have had similar relationships with German Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers etc so it is not a breed thing, I want you to know that you play a huge role in making the dog you want to live with.

I need to consider his needs before I can expect him to consider mine. Since he was a puppy I showed him the world in just the way I wanted him to see it, I continue to show him just that world and reward him for good choices.

I admire him for what he is

Finding the relationship with your dog
Venom as a puppy

I know he has huge prey and food drive not only do I accept that, I find it highly desirable in my personal dog. This means that I am very clear of when these drives will be a good choice and when they will be unwelcome.

It is common for me to walk down the street and people say “I thought Malinois had a lot of drive?“. Venom understands when high drive is not useful and he can walk calmly down the street. He also has buckets of drive when I ask for it. I don’t get upset when I take him out of his crate in the morning and his jaws are snapping very close to my body, I know he wants to play with me and this is his way of showing enthusiasm.

We understand each other

Finding the relationship with your dog
Venom at about 18 months

I may have been better to say, “we have come to understand each other” because as a puppy, all he wanted to do was bite me, and every other thing he could get his mouth around. Unlike most people I do not ever discipline this out of a dog, I manage the puppy better until I show him what is good to bite and when.

I know he needs some prey drive success and I maintain his training by using his prey drive as a reward system, this is one small element of my Training in Drive System.

He knows I cant play with him 24/7 and his expectations are very reasonable for the dog he is, he isn’t a dog that I have to run around trying to keep him busy etc.

He knows sometimes I have to do things like work around the property, do things with the kids and work and he fits in well with all of that.

But again I raise them this way.

We meet each others needs

Like any true relationship, we can’t have it all our own way, so I know that he needs certain things and I provide them, training, stimulation, drive satisfaction, company, affection, communication and so on and he knows that I need a dog that will come when he is called, go into drive on my cue, go out of drive on my cue and live with the day to day excitement of my life.

So I would like you to now focus on the things I didn’t say, things like: –

  • He knows I’m the boss
  • He is submissive to me
  • He is my subordinate
  • He thinks I am the ALPHA

These things are not really discussed in the relationships I have with my dogs, sure if Venom makes a mistake and I tell him he has, he acts like he did the wrong thing, but would I say he is submissive to me? My subordinate? My lower ranking pack member? No.

In fact I have never seen Venom submit to anything since the day I picked him up, and you know what, I hope I never do.

It certainly has not in any way compromised his responsiveness, desire to please me, manners or respect we have for each other. Imagine that…

Finding the relationship?Finding the relationship with your dog

So I hope by reading this you may have tweaked that I don’t “find” relationships with my dogs, I create them based on a give and take basis and a heavy bias on the give for quite a long time after I get a dog.

I start with the foundations and management is a huge part of owning, raising, bonding and training a dog for me. If you ever get a chance it is worth while looking at a short course I run on canine management, you can email our office on or call us between 9-5 weekdays on 02 45 789 789.

Strained, difficult, frightening and conflict based relationship?

Some people who have a problem with their dog understand and describe their relationship in these terms, some others have not yet come to realise that there is even a relationship to discuss. Clients sit down with me so very often and say something like “I was walking down the road and the dog lunged at the man“.

I ask “what should he have done?

There is always silence and I am met with a confused face and some scrambled thoughts rush together, and after a few moments I often get “not that!

In which my response is “OK, here is a blank piece of paper, if you can draw me a picture of ‘not that‘, I can train it for you“.

Humans can be hard to please, they let their dog run into the house and do zoomies around the house and laugh for 100 days straight, then scream and punish the dog on day 101 because it had rained outside and now the couch is covered in mud. To the dog you are just punishing today what you rewarded yesterday.

This will never stop your dog doing zoomies when muddy by the way, the dog will just start to avoid you.

Undesirable Aggressive Behaviour

Aggression is a real problem because it is socially unacceptable and in many cases illegal when a dog displays aggression in almost all circumstances, so it has to be brought under control. If you don’t have a good relationship with your neighbour and you charge over when he is mowing the lawn and scream “NO!” you can pretty much expect to be ignore or thumped! But what would happen if you had an excellent relationship with your neighbour and did the same? He would likely stop, ask what is the matter and try and resolve the problem, right?

How is this different to altering a dogs behaviour? It isn’t. You cannot have little to no relationship with your dog and go around making demands because you wont get the desired outcome, what you might get will depend on the dog.

The attention seeking dog – yell at him and you are paying him, he got your attention.

The frightened dog – he sees a dog and is fearful, and then you start yelling at him?

The dominant dog – he ignores you to a point then when you won’t let up he attacks you because your attacking him.

The overstimulated dog – ignores you because he is so focused on the stimulus, he is learning that when he is overstimulated, he can ignore you, your treats and or toys.

When you come to work with me, I work on the relationship and the exercises and games I give you will only develop, build and strengthen relationships between you and your dog.

If you describe your relationship with your dog as strained, difficult, frightening, uncontrollable, toxic or conflicted, I will bet that you have a lot of problem behaviours in your dog, learn how to meet each others needs and these problems will dissolve.

What I do is diagnose and highlight the problems, explain why they are happening and coach you how to learn to first manage these problem behaviours, then teach new target behaviours and reward those.

Yes I teach you… You will learn how your dog thinks and how to teach your dog to align with your lifestyle and expectations.

If you would like to improve your relationship with your dog, come and see me!

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