Saturday, January 22, 2011

Connecting with your dog

As I sit here in Dunn Brothers, I overhear two conversations in the background. The woman to my right expresses her initial frustration with a rescue dog she adopted that didn't bond with her immediately. Now the dog eagerly tries to wake her up each morning. The second describes a dog that runs from door to door when family members leave. She finishes her narrative with, "She is a good dog."

I kid you not. I'm overhearing two conversations, and they're both about dogs.

But dogs do get anxious, for a lot of reasons. And rescue dogs are particularly prone to that sense of disconnect. I can't tell you how many dogs have come into my home that refused to make eye contact for months.

Not to worry. There are ways to increase the connection and, thereby, reduce everyone's stress.

If your dog is anxious--whether or not you brought him home this week or six years ago--try working on your bond. Do you take him for walks? If so, do you get his attention regularly throughout? Does she look you in the face when you stop at corners? If not, try a simple exercise, called "Right here."

If your dog is food motivated, show her a treat, and place it between your eyes. Then say, "Right here," tapping the bridge of your nose with your treat, if you like. When your dog looks you in the face, praise her immediately. "Nice!" Then hand her the treat. Do that a few times, and your dog is bound to start checking in with you more often. And that will lead to a more connected dog. Trust me.

And now, I'm off to more eavesdropping.

Until next time . . .

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