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I thought this would be a fun thread where we could come up with ideas on things we can do as owners to strengthen/build upon the bond between handler/owner and our GSD's.

What do you do with your dog to strengthen the bond you share?


These are some of the things I do (I am sure there are more but these were off the top of my head):

1. Marker = treat EVERYTIME, even if *I* mess up.

2. Corrections are never given out without thought or reason. Corrections are fair.

Have I taught the command properly? Does the dog understand the command? What can I do to help the dog understand what is being asked? Have I proofed the command/task? Did I communicate the command/task properly?

3. Ensure that he has sufficent excerise, training, socialization, basic needs are met daily.

4. Reward desired behaviours, even if it is just sitting quietly at your feet in the house.

5. Play with my dog - like REALLY play.

6. Allow my dog time to "be just a dog".

7. Understand *my* dogs needs and provide for them on a daily basis. This will be different day to day and dog to dog.

8. Provide my dog with opportunities to excell and also to grow (when to apply pressure and when not too).

9. Teach my dog in a happy, fun, positive manner.

10. Spend quality time with my dog doing things he enjoys (hiking, playing ball, swimming, playing in the snow, walking, etc.).
 

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well on top of what you said...belly rubs, pets and cuddling
 

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I'd love if people would get really specific.

One thing I do, when training - such as loose leash walking - is to stop every 3 mins or so and use my excited voice to tell her what a good girl she is and we play for about 30 seconds or so before going back for another few minutes of training. Eva seems to love it and I am more relaxed after each play time. We both seem to have a better attitude and she's more engaged with me during that session.
 

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For Victor it is playing ball with him and brushing him. He loves to be brushed. He will rub himself up against you and that is how he shows love to us. He is a great dog he just does not show it to anyone else but us.

Jamie-cuddles in bed at night and in the morning. She is a big talker too when it is cuddle time. Jamie is a love bug which is great.
 

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I will try to give examples of each.

1. Marker = treat EVERYTIME, even if *I* mess up.
If I click or mark with a "YES!" too early or too late, I still give him his reward because the mistake was MINE.

The marker is always a signal that the reward is coming, this keeps the communication between handler and dog clear.

For an example, the other day I was teaching Stark a new behaviour. I wanted him to ring these bells on the cue "Jingle Bells". I hung the bells on the door and had him nose them. As soon as his nose touched the bells "Click - treat". One time he went in for the bells, didn't touch them yet but I thought he was going to so I clicked, he looked at me expecting his reward - my mistake, not his. He got the treat.


2. Corrections are never given out without thought or reason. Corrections are fair.

Have I taught the command properly? Does the dog understand the command? What can I do to help the dog understand what is being asked? Have I proofed the command/task? Did I communicate the command/task properly?
Before I correct my dog, especially young dogs I ensure that he knows what is being asked. I never correct lightly.

I always try to re-direct behaviours into something more desirable but when the time a correction is needed, I make darn sure that *I* did everything in my power to ensure the dog understood what was being asked.

For an example, I was babysitting another dog for 2 weeks. Both dogs were off leash. The new dog does not have a lot of training, so I didn't expect her to come when called. Stark is EXCELLENT off leash, KNOWS what "heya" means (my recall command), I gave the command. Stark looked up, stepped toward me, looked back at the new dog then back at me and ran to the new dog, totally ignored my command. He was told to platz and was put on a long lead for the rest of the time outdoors. Correction for not listening to the command. His recall is very good under almost any distraction and so that behaviour was just bratty teenage behaviour. I have proofed it enough times, in enough situations, in enough places to know that my dog understands the command.


3. Ensure that he has sufficent excerise, training, socialization, basic needs are met daily.
This is different for every dog. I know how much excerise my dog needs to be balanced, a good hour of off-leash time, a couple of walks and some training throughout the day will keep him pretty content. We live in an apartment building so socialization happens every time we step out our door whether we look for it or not. We meet new people, dogs, etc. every time we go potty.

He is fed daily, water changed few times per day and any thing else that needs to be done to keep him healthy and happy.


4. Reward desired behaviours, even if it is just sitting quietly at your feet in the house.
I try to reward any behaviours that I want to keep. Quiet play in the house, walking nicely on a leash outdoors, being friendly to people while in public, laying down when I am chatting with someone, etc.

Let the dog know he is doing good.


5. Play with my dog - like REALLY play.
This is huge for us.

My dog is NOT food or toy motivated. Play is huge with Stark, especially when it comes to training.

He likes to play rough, jump on me, mouth my hands or arms, be pushed around and to push me around. Play bounce at me and me at him. Keeps my dog motivated and engaged with me while working. It also helps build our bond by him knowing what pressure is acceptable with me and what is not.

He is NOT allowed to play like this with ANYONE else. JUST ME and JUST when I SAY so.


6. Allow my dog time to "be just a dog".
Allow him to sniff on walks, allow him to mark (when off leash - not while walking), allow him to play with other dogs his size and energy level, allow him to be off leash and explore (safely).


7. Understand *my* dogs needs and provide for them on a daily basis. This will be different day to day and dog to dog.
My dog is not a huge fan of chidlren, he is scared of him. I have worked with him to a point where I can have children approach him calmly and have them pet him, play ball or walk him but I know he gets nervous when they become loud, rowdy or are nervous of him.

I understand this and ensure that I don't put him in situations that make him uncomfortable like that.

He will not be approached by a child running at him (I stand infront of him to give him so 'peace'), I intercept children and show them how to interact with my dog

8. Provide my dog with opportunities to excell and also to grow (when to apply pressure and when not too).
During training I know when he is ready to move on to the next step and when he is not. When to add a little pressure (say distractions, corrections, etc.) and when not too. When I need to go back and re-teach something or re-think how to do soemthing.


9. Teach my dog in a happy, fun, positive manner.
If I get frustrated (this is a hard one for me because I like everything to be perfect the first time around) - walk away.

Training and owning a dog is fun and should remain that way, otherwise stop doing what you are doing until you can remember that again.


10. Spend quality time with my dog doing things he enjoys (hiking, playing ball, swimming, playing in the snow, walking, etc.).
I try to do this on a daily basis but with life being so busy, sometimes it's hard to accomplish but we do managed to get out there and do "fun things" atleast once or twice per week. Such as swimming, hiking or going to train at the club which he LOVES.
 

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Elizabeth,
This is nicely written. I'm saving it as my K9 10 Commandments. Thanks for putting it together.
 

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Elizabeth,
This is nicely written. I'm saving it as my K9 10 Commandments. Thanks for putting it together.
Ditto

Give your dog a sense of importance, responsibility, and most importantly, a sense of humor.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks everyone, I was talking to someone from my club today and the topic came up so I thought I would post this here.

I would be interested to know what others do with their dogs as well.
 

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Yea this one helped me out a lot as well...until reading this I felt at a total loss with my dog.


A few clarifications though if you dont mind... When you (and any others that want to chip in) mention corrections how do you go about correcting them?

For example: I believe every dog needs some off leash time. However when I go to a dog park, no matter if there are 10 other dogs or just me and her, when its time to leave I can give any command i choose and she will just look at me then keep sniffing...you can imagine how long it takes for me to get her to come home.

She does not get excited about food or toys so rewarding (but more importantly corrections) is exceptionally hard for me. Other than leashing her like you said what other forms of corrections can be used short of anything physical?

Thanks for the advice!
 

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For example: I believe every dog needs some off leash time. However when I go to a dog park, no matter if there are 10 other dogs or just me and her, when its time to leave I can give any command i choose and she will just look at me then keep sniffing...you can imagine how long it takes for me to get her to come home.
I'm not sure the age on your dog. But, how I taught Madix his recall seemed to work exceptionally well - as it did for my other lab. It will be the way that I teach it from now on. Perhaps you can try a couple of the things I do and see how they go over...

When he was a baby, I'd wait for him to wander away and then I would make some noise and jog in the other direction, making noise and glancing back - it would inevitably bring him running. As soon as he came it was HUGE party time (I know you said your dog isn't very treat/toy motivated, perhaps this might be a good time to toss in some treats and toys to make them seem more desirable as well) - sometimes it was just me so we did a little rough-housing and lots of excited talking and petting and maybe some short spurts of chase and if I had treats/toys, those as well. I did this ALL the time. In the house, outside, while he was on lead, off lead, with distractions, without distractions. Also if he just happened to be heading in my direction, same story. I was THE fun place to be!

I never, ever use his recall word when he's been naughty. Not to say that I don't call him to me, because I do - and I know that is controversial and some may frown on that. However, he's 1.5 yrs, when he's naughty and he sees me find out what he's done and he takes off, that is not ok. I make him come back and usually do a lot of frowning and pointing at whatever he did (shredded paper, etc), combined with my "mad mom voice". Then he has to stay in the vicinity while I clean up whatever, then it's over and done.

The results of these two - I have been able to call him off running people waving toys (this was a deliberate test), squirrels, rabbits, other dogs, a tennis ball I threw (that was by far the hardest) etc etc. PLUS when we come upon people at the park or when hiking, he ALWAYS comes straight back to me immediately - because people might have treats, but Mommy is more fun first!
 

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Clicker training is the one thing that has made me & Skylar bond so well, so fast! She loves doing things for me, she gets REALLY excited/proud when she learns something new (so do I!) I will never train my dogs any other way then clicker training, it's incredible how much it makes you bond. I make her training sessions into a game and we both have so much fun.
 

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I think each dog should be treated differently. What works for one may not work for another. You utilize your foundations (like training techniques) but tweak them to best fit the dog you are working with.

Hondo is a very sensitive dog. If I ever struck him or even thumped him, he would fall apart. A stern voice is all it takes to make him melt. And even that - I have to vary my voice to match the action he created.

As a young dog, he is going to mess up. I have to allow him the ability to learn from his mistakes. An example would be if I told him to 'wait' and he broke it. Everything stops, he has to return to the original spot and 'wait' again. I don't punish him for breaking, I just keep repeating it until he performs the task I am asking him to do.

Once in a while he'll get into a mood where he tests me. When that happens, I make him lay down by me and stay, like a time out. It lets him know I'm in charge, and I'm not happy with him, but in the same moment I still love him and want him by me. This works for Hondo - when at rest and not being punished, he lays by me.

I think a bond is formed when you respect your dog as much as he/she respects you. Love comes with time - but respect has to come first.
 

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And even that - I have to vary my voice to match the action he created.

As a young dog, he is going to mess up. I have to allow him the ability to learn from his mistakes.
I live by these two things as well!! I use uh-uh or I don't think so when he's doing something that is not really desired, but not horrible. I use "NO!" when he's REALLY bad, or doing something harmful and I very, very rarely use bad dog.

I LOVE your second statement here. I think it's the biggest key to getting a dog that WANTS to work for you. If they offer a behavior or don't "get" it and you tolerate and are patient and reward for trying if it's in the right direction and let them keep attempting. It makes for a WONDERFUL companion who wants to please you and tries his hardest to offer behavior that has gotten positive responses in the past. This is actually my favorite part of training, seeing what Madix will offer and working off of that.
 

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good info!

Me and my boys just patrol the area trying to pick up chicks. They bring in the hot looking women who pet them which they love and I get to talk and get a phone number or two from it.

We bond this way alllll the time. :)
 

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I have found that working on Banjo's paws has helped with trust. Most dogs, at least in my experience, are weirdo about fiddling with their feet. I have spent many an hour poking and prodding at his paws. I now am able to grab a paw and do pretty much whatever I want. It's great for nail trimming and general inspection (torn pads etc). In fact, a gentle rub and massage of his paws will settle him down. He will now offer up a paw for rubs, and trust me with said paw.

Pink Belly: Slap the dogs belly till it turns pink. Sounds horrid, but my dog at least goes ape-poo over this game. Slap hard enough to be sorta uncomfortable to the pooch, while trying to keep the dog on it's back. Once the dog manages to roll over and regain it's feet you HAVE to allow the dog to gnaw and fight back. I wear motorcycle racing leathers when I play this game as it gets my dog incredibly revved up.

All that nonsense being said, if I even begin to raise my voice my dog goes submissive. I can hit him with a punch that would lay a person out and he loves it, if I say something loud he cowers awfully.
 

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Ace, that is funny, thanks, I needed a laugh today!

I strengthen my bond with Heidi by taking her with me whenever I can, running errands, shopping, everywhere; we're a team. Also, I talk to her all the time. I'm not mistaking her for a human, I know she doesn't understand many of my words, but she likes it when I talk to her.
 

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good info!

Me and my boys just patrol the area trying to pick up chicks. They bring in the hot looking women who pet them which they love and I get to talk and get a phone number or two from it.

We bond this way alllll the time. :)
LOL, that is so true. Don't know why my wife disapproves.

As for bonding, I 'handle' my dog a lot. As a pup she didn't like being touched, now she's addicted to pets, massages, tummy rubs, etc Trimming nails and grooming is a snap.
 

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Good pointers on this thread! Thanks guys! I always make an effort to give my dogs individual attention. I taught Brody to "come close" and he comes and leans into or goes between my legs and I give him lots of love. I do this alot in between training and playing ball with him.
 
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