I’ve got a confession to make: since getting our dog Lawrence in November 2017, the relationship between Mo and I has suffered.  This is a little tough to admit because I don’t want to be a failure as a dog mom or as a dog trainer in training.

When we first brought Mo home, Mo and my husband bonded quite quickly, but it took a few months for Mo and I to really connect.  However, once we connected, that bond was strong.  I could anticipate his needs, he was reading my emotions and body language, we were making strides with training, and he was happy.

Larry has a good relationship with everyone. He’s big on kisses!

Adding the Larry to the mix has disrupted Mo’s only child status.  Mo has always been wary of his personal space, but there has been an obvious increase in Mo’s sensitivity to touch and stress levels.  When you first bring a new dog home, you hope that it’s all going to be okay, but it’s not always rainbows.  I’ve had to take a hard look at the needs of each dog to figure out how to make sure everyone is happy and comfortable.

Relationship Bank Account

I’m looking at Mo and I’s relationship and we are definitely not as connected.  Sean Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, talks about a concept called the relationship bank account and it’s a great way to visualize how trust in relationships works.  It’s used mainly for humans, but it’s also a great idea to apply to dogs too!

Here it is: imagine a piggy bank, actually let’s make it a doggie shaped bank.  That bank represents the relationship between you and your dog. Currently, it’s empty, so your dog may not have a bond with you.  Maybe you don’t get a lot of eye contact or the dog doesn’t seem too interested in hanging out with you.  

Pay Day

The good news is, you can make deposits into that account and build trust and a bond. Here are a few ways to make deposits:

  • Tug of war
  • Fetch
  • A walk
  • Your full attention
  • Positive training
  • Allowing possession
  • Pets
  • Directing them away from a potentially bad situation

You might notice after making some deposits, that you have a better relationship with your dog.  They might seek you out, initiate a snuggle, bring you their favorite toy, be more responsive in training, etc. because you are building a relationship.

At the office you don’t go the extra mile for a new boss you don’t have a relationship with and you don’t bring flowers to the cashier at the grocery store you don’t have a bond with.  Until you start adding to the bank account, you are “in neutral” with that person.

Bad Day

On the other side, you can make withdraws. This can sometimes happen by mistake and that’s okay, but make sure that the bank account is full before a withdraw. When you withdraw from an empty account, you get a credit and this can cause serious trust issues and relationship damage.  You may notice that your dog is avoiding you or that their training isn’t progressing.  Here are a few ways to make a withdraw:

  • Yelling at your dog
  • Hitting
  • Not providing enriching activities
  • Putting them in unsafe environments

Trust me, we’ve all been there.  With a reactive dog, the barking can get so annoying and on a bad day, it’s so easy to yell.  Or a puppy chews on your new shoe and you lose your cool.  These are moments to learn from. Take a step back, leave the house, do some yoga, stop training.  There is no point in continuing in that moment, because you’ll only do more damage and stress yourself out more.  If I have a training session planned with Mo after work, but work was rough, I’ll skip it.  I know it’s better to not push and have a calm evening with no training, than have a frustrating and potentially damaging session.

This happens to our human relationships too!  If a spouse lies or a friend forgets your birthday, those things are withdraws from the bank account and your relationship suffers.  It’s always best to have some deposits in the account for cushion.

Awesome Article Roundup

I’ve compiled a list of articles about the relationship with your dog.  Whatever point you are at, you just got a new dog, have a suffered serious relationship withdraw, or  you want to maintain the great relationship you have, the links below have some great ideas and resources for you.  And if you have any ideas or links about relationships and your dog, please share in the comments!

1. 9 Ways to Improve your Relationship with your Dog from BARk

Super simple relationship builders to incorporate in everyday life.  Nothing out the ordinary, but these things can make a huge impact!

2. 5 Ways to Building a Better Relationship with your Dog from Dogington Post

Great tips for maintaining a good relationship during dog training.  Expecting too much from our dogs or getting frustrated with them during training can be a withdraw from the bank account!

3. How to Improve the Bond with your Dog from Modern Dog Magazine

A little history on the relationship between dogs and humans.  Also, tips to improve the bond and a quiz to see where you and your furry friend sit!

4. 16 Ways to Bond with your Dog from BuzzFeed

A lighthearted article with some easy to do ideas and lots of adorable pictures.

5. 6 Ways to Connect with your Dog on a Deeper Level from Dogtime.com

A couple more suggestions to take it to the next level.

6. How Dogs Stole our Hearts from Science Magazine

A scientific look into why dogs and humans can have such a strong bond. This might explain why they might have become domesticated in the first place.

7. Health and Psychological Benefits of Bonding with a Pet Dog from Psychology Today

Read about all the ways a bond between a human and a dog can benefit the human.  Plus an interesting story about Colonel Deems and his dog Riley.  I’ll probably be looking that one up later!

8. Dogs are People, too from The New York Times

Science shows us that dogs have emotions. That means if they’re feeling things, a relationship without trust or affection could be affecting their mental health!

9. 6 Simple Ways to Help Your Dog’s Mental Health from PawCulture

Here are some ways we can help their mental health.  Providing a well rounded life to our pups is really important!

Hope for a Happy Ending

In my situation, bringing Larry into our family took my attention away from Mo and that was a major withdraw for Mo.  Now I make it a point to spend some alone time with Mo. We’ll take a walk together, do training separately, or we’ll go to another room and he’ll chew a bone by my side.  We might not get back to where we were, but that’s okay because relationships grow and change, so maybe we’ll be somewhere better.

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