• 63°

Trust is earned: Obedience training can help

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

I read an article in Whole Dog Journal this past week on building confidence in your dog. I would like to enlarge on this by promoting building trust first.

Trust is earned: whether it means humans trusting other humans or an animal trusting a human. Children learn to trust humans by the care and example of their parents. Animals learn to trust other animals by the example of the mother and they learn to trust humans when they are cared for and motivationally trained in proper behavior for different situations.

My first dog did not trust men. Fortunately I found a male trainer who liked the challenge of getting the dog to trust him and eventually other men too. This trainer advised me to allow my dog to sleep in my bedroom. He explained that dogs are pack animals and they bond with other members of the “pack” which often consists of only humans. It is impossible for a dog to bond and trust if he is chained or penned out in the yard, or confined at night to the basement; only seeing humans briefly when food and water is provided. This is a great setup for producing a neurotic dog.

Obedience training is a super way to earn your dog’s trust. I promoted the “Stand for Examination” command as a help in teaching the dog self-control. For example, I had a very timid dog who loved working with me on heel, sit, come, down and stay. She just couldn’t bring herself to stand on command. (Standing is dominant in the dog’s mind.)

I spent a week working with her each night until she stood for at least a few seconds. Finally at the end of the week she mustered enough courage and trust in me to stand and stay until heeled off. The next day she was used as a substitute in a drill the 4-H dog drill team gave at a nursing home. The stand command seemed to make her braver as she was used several times after as a substitute.

I have found that if your dog trusts you, caring for it in the case of an emergency is much easier. Another example: one of my standard schnauzers dug up an ancient chop bone and somehow got it wedged across the roof of her mouth. I let her out in the yard as a perfectly healthy animal and five minutes later looked out the window at a dog that couldn’t close her mouth, so saliva streamed down her beard. Yes, my first thought was rabies, but then I realized that she wouldn’t have symptoms that fast, so I went out, pulled her head up and saw the bone. I drove to the doctor and the doctor took something that looked like pliers and yanked the bone loose. The doctor turned and said, “I couldn’t have done this without a tranquilizer on most dogs, but your dog trusts you.”

Since obedience training encourages trust and it provides fun activities for both you and your dog, I recommend it.