3 Handling Mistakes That Can Damage Your Relationship with Your Dog

You started your puppy on the right foot using positive reinforcement training, managing the environment as needed, and preventing unwanted behavior. Congratulations! You are establishing a relationship based on trust and love that will endure years to come and result in a lasting friendship


However, these 3 mistakes can damage your relationship, add distrust and, even make your dog afraid of you.

Mistake 1 – Surprising your dog with a husbandry, handling, or grooming task that appears easy to us as humans, but is difficult and fear provoking to a dog.

We sometimes take for granted that our dogs should accept examining their ears, adding a cold and uncomfortable ear drop, pulling hair as we try to untangle mats, or even worse, getting them in a tub with water. All of these unpleasant surprises can erode the trust our dogs have on us and create a dog that runs away, hides, or fights us every time a husbandry item must be done.


Mistake 2 – Distracting your dog with food, rather than taking the time to train each husbandry, handling or grooming task at their own pace.

Most of us have seen the videos of dogs licking peanut butter during a bath or nail trim. While this trick may work in some cases for example a very motivated dog or during less aversive experiences, it can also backfire and damage your relationship. Dogs may stop eating peanut butter altogether if they are afraid of what has happened in the past. While distracting can be useful in a pinch, it is not a long-term solution as dogs tend to learn over time that the distraction predicts painful or uncomfortable things will happen to them.


Mistake 3 – Starting the training, but rushing to finish the task, even when a dog is over their limit or tolerance. -

It is human nature to want to finish the task. “Just one more minute” or “I am almost done”, we tell them. However, pushing our dogs over the limit of what they have learned to accept is sure to backfire and set us further back than where we started. All the hard work you have put in to teach the dog to accept the task is now undone as the dog is now more afraid than before training started and has learned to not trust us.


So, how can you avoid these mistakes, teach your dog they can trust you, and perform the husbandry and grooming tasks needed to keep your dog healthy? That is where cooperative care training comes into play. Cooperative care is teaching our dogs not only to tolerate, but to opt in and cooperate with tasks that are needed for their health, such as ear cleaning, brushing or taking a bath.


Want to learn more about cooperative care? You can take your relationship with your dog to the next level and join us for a webinar to discover how easy and fun it is to teach your dog to cooperate for grooming, handling and husbandry tasks needed for their care.