It can be difficult living with a dog who struggles with the world. We can feel like we have already heard them bark a million times today and walks might feel like more work than relaxation or fun. We can change that though – by working on our relationship through engagement, which is quality trust building time with our dogs. Engagement is a vital part of your relationship with your dog and it’s something that works perfectly to build your bond, to keep your dog’s focus and add glue to your relationship through the tougher times.
A dog who is requesting engagement may bring a toy, bark to ask for interaction or, more rarely, play bow at their person. Dogs love interaction with people and crave engagement in a game or coaching session. Engagement is one of the most important things to procure as part of a successful relationship between dogs and people. It’s also the canine coaching tool that all professionals should strive to perfect. The body language of an engaged dog will be loose, happy and lean towards play. The dog will be predominantly focussed on their handler, for the next instalment of whatever they find motivating.
A dog that is engaged with us will be less likely to run away or respond to distractions because they are focussed and already having fun with their human. To achieve engagement, we simply need to work out what motivates the dog then use it with wisdom. Motivation is always decided by the dog and by changing how the motivator responds.
You and your dog become one through your relationship. Try to consider that the single entity you become has a bank of trust and investment within it. Each time you become engaged with your dog, something is added to that bank and each time you become disengaged or disenchanted with your dog, something is taken away. The unity that is you and your dog sharing a life together changes on a daily basis. Your balance as a single entity changes based on your mood, your dog’s mood, your single and mutual wellness or the experiences you have, whether together or separately.
The more you engage with your dog through bonding activities, such as play, the more stable your bank of trust and investment in your relationship is. Simply put, the closer you are during peace times the more belief your dog will have in you when he is scared. That practised engagement is extremely useful when you accidentally stumble upon a stressor on walks, which is something we cover in more detail later.
Learn how to work with your dog at my latest project over at Canine Principles.