I look at the dog, straining against the leash. I can read his mind: "Oh, if this leash weren't clipped, I'd be gone. Free. On my own!"
Another dog stands quietly, tethered to his humans, staring silently out the window. He responds to their cues, mostly, but doesn't have fun doing it. He looks away from them or - when they put their face in his - he politely looks right through them, as if he doesn't even see them.
Neither dog thinks very much of his person. Their worlds do not intersect, save for the fact that they happen to occupy the same house.
It's hard for me to see dogs this detached from their people. Because I know how rich a dog-person friendship can be. I know how fulfilling each can be for the other.
The dogs I described above have no connection with their people. They're not on the same page. They don't find their people exciting, interesting, or even likable.
Take a look at the picture: that's Nemo, sans leash, enjoying a quiet moment at Lake Anna with my husband. They're just hanging out together, enjoying the sunshine, taking in a moment. Both are enjoying the day - and each other's company.
Stop for a moment and think: what would your dog do if he slipped his collar and were free to go wherever he wanted? Would he take off without a glance over his shoulder at you? Would he take a few steps, then wait for you to catch up? Maybe he'd dart out 100 yards, then rush back to you, excited to begin exploring his new found freedom with you?
You want your dog to care about you: where you are and what you're doing. You want them to want to be with you, not count the seconds until you walk out the door.
How do you create a relationship, a connection, with your dog? Just like you would with a person. Find out what interests them, what their idea of fun is. Spend time just watching your dog...at rest, at play, all the time. Do you know if your dog likes his ears rubbed or his tummy rubbed? Which one does he prefer? Did you know that some dogs don't like being petted. Is your dog one of those? Have you ever stopped to watch your dog when you pet him to see if he's really enjoying it or merely tolerating it?
Spend some time with your dog, just hanging out together. I don't mean multi-task and pet your dog while you're watching tv. Nope, that's not nearly good enough. I want you to take 15 minutes and just be with your dog. Watch him, pet him, interact.
I'll write more about this topic in my next post. I've got to go outside and hang out with the dogs.