Do not underestimate the importance of a good chinwag with the dog!
We all know that playing ‘fetch’ is a great way to play with your dog, but a new survey by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, shows that only 1 in 5 dog owners think that playing and bonding with their dog includes actually chatting with him* - something that dog behaviour experts say is essential for cementing the unique dog/human bond.
The survey also shows that female dog owners are much more likely to have a chat with Rover, with 81% of female owners - compared to 65% of male owners - admitting they natter with their mutt all the time**.
Around 42% of owners say they do not speak with their dog when walking him, with 13% of owners saying they talk on their mobile phone instead of interacting with their pet***.
Dogs Trust’s senior behaviour and training advisor, Alasdair Bunyan, believes we are getting it all wrong when it comes to funtimes with Fido:
‘Intermittently talking with your dog is an important and easy way to strengthen your bond of trust and friendship. It can be done anytime, anywhere, and it’s free. Over half of dog owners we asked, 57%, claimed that it’s lack of time which prevents them from playing with their dog, yet I’d say intermittently talking to your dog is something you can so easily do while you’re doing other things - like cooking or watching TV!’
And it’s strengthening this bond which Dogs Trust believes will help all other areas of the dog human relationship, but especially dog training.
‘Forming a trusting bond by building a two-way communication system with your dog will make the next steps in your training journey so much easier. You’d never send a kindergarten child off to secondary school, yet that’s exactly what we are doing with our dogs when we begin their training with ‘sit, ‘stay’ ‘come back.’ That’s A-level stuff; we need to concentrate on building up our relationship first by understanding our dog’s needs, having a two way communication system and simply having fun together, and that includes eye contact while chatting to your dog.
To me, there is nothing sadder than seeing a person glued to their mobile while walking their dog - it looks like an empty relationship. Your dog walks are the perfect opportunity for you to really communicate with each other, using play, which can be simple tug games or more complex interactions such as search games.’
Alasdair advises that the best ways of bonding with your dog are:
- Speak to him regularly, with eye contact. Attention and focus are the very baseline for successful training.
- Establish a clear communication system, which could be a clicker device or a word, which communicates to the dog ‘that’s correct’
- Short, daily training sessions, where you ensure your dog is able to do the thing you’ve asked him, as this helps build your dog’s trust in you. Successful training is key.
- In the early stages use your dog’s daily food portions either in training or interactive toys, such as a food-filled kong, or portions of the food can be used to reward him for appropriate behaviour.
- Daily play sessions should include interactive games such as tug, chasing and retrieving, and simple search games
- Take your dog to many different environments for exercise. Dogs love to explore new areas and owners should be a part of this excitement.
Dogs Trust’s magazine, Wag, contains Alasdair’s full length article about having fun with your dog.
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WHAT THE SURVEY SHOWS:
(Survey carried out by Opinion Leader Research 8/10/15 – 15/10/15, with 1,000 dog owners. www.onepoll.com)
*What does ‘playing with your dog’ mean to you:
1 Play fetch – 76.2%
2 Play tug of war – 62.2%
3 Take him/her for walk 54.4%
4 Rough and tumble session 53.9%
5 Pat on the head 34.6%
6 Have a chat 20.8%
7 Agility or obedience training 16.5%
**Do you ever talk to your dog?
Yes all the time: female 81.57%, male 65.27%
Occasionally: female 16.42%, male 30.31%
Never: female 2.01%, male 4.42%
***When walking your dog off lead, do you:
Talk on your mobile - 13.40%
Talk to other dog walkers - 48.6%
Talk to your dog – 58.10%
Throw a ball – 51.2%
None of the above 3.80%
None – I never take my dog off lead – 17.50%