Mama Sally: I was reminded of just how important trust is in training dogs this past week. I have a new dog that is a puppy mill survivor, and he’s six years old. He was rescued from the puppy mill at 3 years of age, and he’s been in a foster home….which was apparently just a step above a hoarding situation for the past three years. Not a whole lot of anything good for this little guy until he landed in his current home…which is truly wonderful!!
The problem is not his current home. The problem is his past. Dogs and puppies are hard wired to trust and to bond easily to humans. However, for the first six years of this little guy’s life, he’s really had very, very little interaction with humans, and certainly not anything that would have created any meaningful bond or trust between dog and human.
For many of us who have rescue dogs, we forget that if they’ve never had good human experiences, they may not know how to trust. Or, like Rugby, they may have had good experiences along the way, but they’ve been abandoned time and again until they just decide that it’s not worth it to continue to try and they just give up.
Trust is THE foundation for any meaningful relationship between you and your dog. If a dog doesn’t trust his owner, I can’t make any progress in moving forward to moderate behavior. So….for some of you who are struggling in making progress with your dogs, take a good look at the trust issue. It could very well be the culprit!
In all honesty, I really felt as if Rugby really did trust me in our early days together. He never seemed afraid or distant from me. He was ready to play….sought out attention from me, snuggled, loved being handled….none of the usual things that are clear to indicate a lack of trust.
But I saw it when I had him out in public, and he was getting stretched out of his comfort zone. There was a look in his eye, and it was as if a light switch turned off, and I could physically see that he was consciously making a decision to not trust my leading.
This was a very different look than what I see from a dog who is just too distracted to follow his leader. This was a careful consideration from Rugby. He looked me up and down….and I could see the wheels in his head going round and round. And it was almost as if he just shook his head and said, “Nope. Not going to do it.” And at that point, in every training situation….I knew we were done at that moment.
When I finally could see that behavior very consistently from him, I had to take a step back and let him catch up in the trust department. Everything I did was dedicated to foster trust between us, and when that bond was really solid, I started stretching him out of his comfort zone to go forward again. It’s taken years to build a good trust relationship with him, and I guard it like crazy!!
Just remember and understand that trust is everything to your dog! It’s that invisible thread that helps him understand his safety and security with you. Please don’t take it lightly, because it’s really all that your dog has to give to you, and it has a very high cost to him!
Rugby James: I just wish the Mama could understand everyfing what I has gone frew in my previous homes. I wish she could know that
sumtimes when she sayes fings or does sumping here and there, it triggers fings what scared me, and sumtimes, I just react out of that fear. I doesn’t mean to be ugly about stuff, but I gotsa protect myself, and I’m the only one what I know I can count on to do that.
When udder Uprights gived me back, it maked trusting the next ones that much harder, on account of the first trust gotted brokened. When that happens to doggers over and over after they go frew a bunch of homes or back and forth to shelters, it just gets to the point where it’s really hard to try anymore.
Every time I went to a different home, they had different rules, and they changed their minds all the time. Sumtimes I gotted to do stuff and sumtimes I gotted in trubble for it. And then they gived me back. Only I never could really understand why they didn’t want me anymore. I just ended up in a new home or in anudder shelter.
And let me tell you, when you’re a lil pupper….like I was, it’s purty scary to have to live that way. You don’t know what Uprights is gonna be kind or who is gonna yell at you or hit you, or stuff like that. When I commed to live wif the Mama I only weighed nineteen pounds, and that’s a lil bit compared to Uprights what is so big and scary when you just don’t know the rules.
The Mama started me off wif a leash on, sos I could stay close to her. And she maked sure that she had really fair rules, and everpawdy at home followed the rules. I hadda watch them for a really long time to see if they was gonna keep fings the same or change them all the times. And the Mama did a whole lotta playing wif me where I didn’t get corrected or scolded for doing fings wrong. She letted me earn good fings, only I didn’t get in trubble if I did stuff wrong. She maked it sos I would win a lot.
And for a lot of years, I was really worried that when I gotted scolded….that they would give me back. And I worried that when sumpawdy left the house….they weren’t coming back for me. And I worried that when sumpawdy new commed over to the house….that they were gonna take me away wif them. It really has taked me a long, long time….years….to really feel safe here. And when I started to feel really safe, I started to be able to trust. I doesn’t worry so much about day to day stuff any more….and that feels really nice. It has taked a lot for me to trust the Mama, but so far, it’s been purty good, and I’m hoping I’m here for good!