Is it time for couple’s therapy…with your dog?

Nobody rehomes their dog because he won’t sit on command. Dogs are rehomed because people don’t have time for them, they’re misbehaving, they are too exciteable, etc. What do all of these things have in common? Something is is broken with the fundamental relationship between the dog and the human.

Relationships break because there is a breakdown in the ability of the two parties to communicate. For dog owners, this means that we have been unable to communicate to the dog what our expectaitons are and what the rules of the house are. BUT! Don’t forget! Relationships are a two-way street. This means the dog is also unable to communicate to you what she needs.

How do we fix it? It’s as simple as fixing any relationship: It’s simple, but hard to do and it takes time. If your dog is driving you crazy, go back to the basics. Actually write down what rules you want your dog to follow. For example, a rule would be “Dogs go pee and poo outside.” After you write down your list of rules, then it’s time to come up with a gameplan for how to communicate those rules to your dog. It’s too bad they can’t read, otherwise this would be a whole lot easier!

For the pee and poo rule, an easy way to communicate this is to reward the dog every time they go potty outside. Hand in hand with this is making sure that you’re taking the dog out frequently enough that they don’t get a chance to go in the house. Pretty soon, your dog will learn that it’s fun going potty outside! That’s when the understand the rule.

This process needs to take place for each and every rule you want to set. When defining your rules, word them in such a way that it’s about what you want the dog TO do rather than what you want them NOT to do. For example, “Don’t jump on guests” is a perfectly reasonable rule. However, there are a lot of things your dog can do that is not jumping on people – peeing on them, humping them, biting them….. All of these things are not jumping! They are following your rule!! Instead, word it like this, “When guests come over, the dog should sit until greeted.” That gives a very clear expectation and a rule that, when followed, still gives you a behavior you’re happy to see.

By defining these expectations and then communicating them to your dog, you will save and/or improve your relationship!

If you need help coming up with or implementing some of the rules in your house, give me a call! Or, stop by my COMPLETELY FREE office hours every Wednesday night in my VIP Facebook group. You can join the group here!