Levels of a Relationship

I continued reading and I have more to share! There are different levels of a relationship with a dog.

The first is the mechanical level. This is the level where someone will ask a dog to do something and they respond.Often time, when someone is on this level, they will use force. For example, someone will ask the dog to sit. If the dog doesn’t respond they will use force to push the dog down and pull the collar up. This level may help your dog with shows, or commands, but the good, soulful relationship is missing. This is not a partnership, this is forcing your will and needs upon the dog.

The next level is motivational, which many people are on. This is where you figure out what your dog wants, what motivates them. You learn more about your dog on this level, but some people take this level of a relationship into a bad area. They will use negative motivation. Suzanne uses the example of a person, and someone asking them to do something while waving cash in their face. A dog may also be motivated through fear, pain, or deprivation (such as shock collars, witholding affection/attention. Suzanne speaks of how she got stuck on this level for many years, not necessarily using negative punishment, but using treats/rewards and nothing else.

The third level is the spiritual level. On this level, you are not asking the dog to do something. You are asking yourself, “How do we accomplish this together?” Suzanne describes this in detail, but it is where you and your dog “do the dance”. Your dog is always watching you. From their eyes your motions and actions build or take away from their relationship. You must always be thinking of how things will impact your relationship with your dog. For example, if your dog hates getting tick preventative drops on them, and they run away, you need to think how will this impact my relationship with my dog if I force it on them. Well, really it will show them they can’t trust you, and you bring fear, not pleasure. So instead you might think of another way to prevent ticks, or figure out how you can work together to do this. It’s thinking as a team.

If you never get to the third level, it’s okay. You can still have a very loving relationship with your dog, but you will not have that full companionship. I find this true. In the beginning of my training and life with my dog, I started at the first level. I went to a standard puppy training class, where you ask the dog to do something, and they have to listen. Then I progressed to using motivation such as treats and toys to get the actions I wanted. At this stage things got hairy. Not just the dog, but the training. My dog started reacting towards people and dogs, especially after being attacked by another dog in the neighborhood on a walk.

I wasn’t listening to her. She would tell me she was afraid of walking outside, and afraid of dogs and people. She did this through freezing and through physical signs. I didn’t listen, and things got worse. Eventually I started researching, reading, and found an excellent trainer who holds similar views as Suzanne and myself. We started making recipes, building a basis (started trianing, building a relationship and basic skills). I fed her and said her name (associating her name with good things). I threw her treats to build a relationship and build the foundation, just like baking. Suzanne uses that in her book…if you start cooking or baking you build a basis with a cookbook, but eventually you don’t need the book, and you and and take away things based on the needs. Same with the dog. I built the basis, with things from a book, now I go to training and we do what she needs. I also listen to her now. She is much happier and I have seen lots of progress.

For example, outside today she laid on the porch. People walked in the distance and she just looked. A fly flew by, she tried to eat it. This may seem little, but she used to be terrified of flies. She would freak out and panic with big eyes jumping around, anxious and wouldn’t relax. She now is at peace at home, and on walks. She can walk around the neighborhood without freezing all the time, and can turn and walk away from other dogs on call. I believe this is because I am listening, our relationship has improved, and we built a basis to build upon.

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