Cheat Sheet for Building Trust

5 simple ways to make your dog feel more secure.

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Dogs are so ready and willing to accommodate our lifestyles that it’s easy to forget they have needs of their own that go beyond feeding and walking and petting. Here are five steps you can take to help your dog feel safer and happier in your world.

Don’t yell. Don’t just refrain from yelling at your dog, who cannot comply with your wishes as well when you are angry with him. Don’t yell at others in your household, either. Raised voices unnerve dogs. They are lovers, not fighters. Even aggressive dogs are aggressive out of fear, not bravado, and need communication between family members to remain calm.

Give your dog some unadulterated “we” time every single day. So many people stroke their dogs absentmindedly while watching television or scrolling through the text messages on their cell phones as they walk their pets. But dogs really need some undivided attention. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day — or a couple of minutes a few times a day — pet your dog or rub his belly while doing nothing else. And don’t use your strolls outside with him to catch up on phone calls or email. They’re not opportunities to kill two birds with one stone. They’re times to really be there with your dog and let him know your excursions outside together are for him and him alone.

Keep his spaces clean. It’s true that dogs are okay with all kinds of odors that bother people. But don’t kid yourself. A dog really appreciates when you wash his doggie bed or other spaces that are all his own. He knows it means you care about him and are tending to him.

Use consistency in your “parenting.” Believe it or not, a dog would rather never be allowed to have table scraps than be given them sometimes and be yelled at other times for begging. They will be much more confident, happier pets knowing the rules so they can always be sure what’s expected of them. “Never” doesn’t make you mean. To a dog, it makes you easy to read.

Protect your pet. If your dog is afraid of something — another dog, another person, the sound of loud trucks — move him away from those things. Let him know that you have his safety at heart. A dog will not lose his fear because you push him toward something that makes him nervous. Helping him get a handle on his fear requires very gradual and systematic reintroductions to the thing that scares him, with rewards for any positive response on his part.

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