Bridging Communication Divides with Dogs
It’s the weekend, a rainy Sunday, and I’m staring down at the family dog, PuffleBunny (his actual name is Miller). He’s got me thinking about what feels right and good in our relationship. He is stretched out next to me like a basking seal and he is relaxed; very relaxed.
This is a big change from our early days after my family adopted him, when we gave him the nickname Space Man to respect his needs.
Even before the honeymoon period wore off, Miller showed us he had some discomfort with people being too close (including us, depending on the environment), hands reaching out for him, people looming over him, dogs running up into his face. (Suzanne Clothier’s take on “My dog wants to say hi” is a great read for that issue) . He showed us quickly that he was a lovely dog in many ways, and he also had some fears.
Luckily, Calvin came first.
Calvin, the dog we had before Miller (also an adult adoption) had his own set of fears. We learned a lot when we had Calvin and put it to good use when Miller showed us he had some worries about the world. Over the years with dogs we’ve learned a lot about dog-human communication. We’ve learned about impact of stress on a pregnant dog, early rearing, significant fear periods for puppies, the impact of single event learning, and the importance of solid early socialization. We’ve learned about dog body language, and positive training. In the last year we’ve started using TTouch and Miller has responded beautifully. We’re committed to ongoing research and learning for the whole family.
We have put all this to work with Miller, and more. As we did with Calvin, we have worked to build a trusting relationship and trained him with positive reinforcement. He never would have been comfortable snuggled next to us in the months after we adopted him. Now he rests easy. A comfortably resting dog is a beautiful thing to behold.
Note: I’m not a certified dog trainer, just passionate about the best outcomes for dogs. If your dog needs support beyond your own skill level, please choose a certified trainer.
Photo: Miller, along the trail in Delta, BC.