How to Show Up for Your Dog

How to Show Up for Your Dog

By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA

I listened to a great podcast today-Canine Conversations: Human-Canine Behavior Connection Parts 1 and 2. They featured Marissa Martino, CTC, CPDT-KA, who wrote a book titled: Human-Canine Behavior Connection – A Better Self Through Dog Training.

Marissa encourages people to think about what emotions come up in reaction to our dog’s behavior. What is your response to your dog’s behavior? Are you embarrassed? Angry? Frustrated? Panicked? It is important to stop and think about those emotions and how they then affect our relationship and training with our dogs.

This kind of self-examination can be uncomfortable, especially if our emotions are negative. It is worthwhile though, as our reactions to our dogs can influence our training sessions (and of course, our relationship with them)! There will be times when you will have all of the emotions (embarrassed, angry, frustrated, panicked, etc.) and that is okay. The important thing is to recognize when you feel this way and to own it. Get curious about your emotions and allow yourself to feel them. You don’t need to suppress the emotions (they will come out in some way if you do)!

Another important part is changing the language you use (to others, to your dog and to yourself). The show host talks about how adding “yet” or “right now” can change how you think about your dog’s behavior. For example, “right now, my dog can’t be trusted off leash” or “my dog isn’t calm when greeting others yet.” It automatically creates a shift in our thought process. It seems like a small thing but can actually be incredibly powerful. In my classes, I regularly talk about the importance of language: using the word “cue” instead of “command” and “listen” instead of “obey.”

Also, what does your dog need? Marissa talks about not projecting our own needs on our dogs, but rather to think about what THEY need. That may mean that they need to stay home when you are going out in busy downtown St. Pete because crowded areas are stressful to them. Or maybe they need a digging pit as an outlet for their natural digging behavior. Not addressing your dog’s needs can lead to poor behavior choices. 

Above all, maintain trust with your dog. You can do this by reading their body language and being their advocate. Another way to do this is through the power of choice. A few examples they gave:

  • Allowing them to make the decisions on where to sniff during a walk.
  • Allowing them the choice to remove themselves from a social interaction with another person or dog.
  • Allowing them the choice to choose the treats or toys you engage with during training and play time.

Celebrate the small successes and keep showing up for your dog and yourself! 

You can listen to part 1 of the podcast here:

You can listen to part 2 of the podcast here: