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What small changes can dog owners make to ensure they are supporting their relationship with their dog?

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The most important thing to bear in mind is that most dogs, like small children, are emotionally dependent on their owners. Many, therefore, hate to be left alone – they have little sense of time, and seem unable to reassure themselves with the idea that the separation will end eventually. Unless you can keep your dog with you 24/7, training your dog how to cope when it’s on its own is one of the kindest things you will ever do for it. (See page 175: “Home Alone: Can Dogs Be Trained to Cope?”

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2 Responses to What small changes can dog owners make to ensure they are supporting their relationship with their dog?

  1. rescue dog owner says:

    will buy the book but doubt it has answer to my question. I adopted a 5 yr old female shiba mix 6 months ago,recently spayed, has had litters, was a stray in CA. she is mostly interested in sniffing, eating, sleeping, and being petted by anyone/everyone. Wont play with toys or me or other dogs. How can I get her to be a joyful companion? she acts like an old dog, no tug of war, no fetching toys or balls, etc., and is only playful with unfixed males. perfectly healthy vet says, and we go to behavior classes, on walks, and bicycling. she is very food oriented, almost to the exclusion of all else. any ideas?

    • admin says:

      It is never straightforward to explain the behavior of a dog that has been a stray: early-life experiences, especially traumatic ones, can produce profound and long-lasting distortions of what a dog finds rewarding and what it finds unpleasant. My guess here is that she was formerly starved (hence the food obsession, which I’ve seen in many other former strays) and also at some point was punished severely for playing. However, just because she isn’t exuberant doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not joyful; her life with you must be better than it was before. My advice is, first, be very careful never to punish her, since it’s likely that she is over-sensitive to punishment (try raising your hand slowly up alongside your shoulder – does she cower?). Given time and patience, you should be able to teach her to play again, by using shaping techniques. In a food-orientated dog, clicker training is a good way to achieve this: if you’re unsure how this works, and your behavior class can’t help, there are recommendations for books that will show you how to do this at the back of “Dog Sense”.