The Missing Links – Respect, Leadership, Communication

Q            I give my dog everything she needs: love, care, the best food, exercise – she lacks for nothing, yet I feel there’s a missing link. It’s as if she decides not to hear what I tell her and she sometimes chews things like my shoes or chair legs! I just don’t know what more I can do.


A            Sorry to say so, but it sounds like your dog doesn’t respect you, despite being the provider of everything she needs. Dogs test our limits, treating us as equals and sometimes they are totally perplexed as to what we want of them. We need to be the decision-makers; be decisive and correct unwanted behaviour to enable the dog to have clear guidance. Many dogs are confused by our actions and body language; when they do things we don’t want them to we are often afraid of hurting their feelings, which perpetuates the confusion. We get frustrated, we may shout or get angry, but all this serves to do is perhaps stop the behaviour at the time, not solve the problem. This is the route to long term bad behaviour and the breakdown of communication between us and our dogs.


For a dog to adopt good behaviour, manners and respect for us, we must show sound leadership, just like a good manager does in the workplace. Making calm, measured decisions is essential for any company to function at its optimum level; similarly so, we must be calm and confident so that what we do radiates to our dogs. Assertiveness illustrates that we are in control and your dog will thank you for it. Very few dogs want to be leaders, in fact most prefer to follow, similar to the number of employees in relation to employers. There has to be a decision maker in families, companies, government, schools and of course amongst dogs.


So as well as providing all your dog’s physical needs, go one step further and provide the missing link, that is, make the decisions so that your dog will feel protected and show that you are trustworthy. Set down some rules and boundaries within your home and relationship. Take the grey areas out of your relationship and I am sure that when she knows exactly what you want she’ll give you the respect that she wants to give you and you deserve. She may love you even more!

Attention Seeking – Are You The Problem?

Attention Seeking – Are You The Problem?

There is an argument that dogs suffering from separation anxiety are blameless and that we, the owners, are the cause of the problem. It is a valid proposal: the problem is complex, but in my experience when dealing with dogs and their owners over many years, I have observed that we inadvertently condition our dogs for our own psychological comfort and to fulfil our needs. We may not notice or recognise changes that occur in our homes that alter the dynamics of how we go about our daily lives, for example, changing jobs, acquiring a new partner or bringing a new baby into the home. This affects the pet dog in many ways.

The amount of attention and affection given to the dog may be substantially diluted, so she has more time to get up to mischief; more time to spend home alone and more time to experience boredom. In other words, the dog is not needed as much and reacts to the new circumstances by attention seeking; it is also the classic scenario for separation anxiety to develop.

Insecure dogs enjoy company and attention on demand. They follow the owner around the home, paw when the owner may be relaxing or involved in a sedentary task; when frustration reaches the point of exasperation the dog may also bark incessantly to gain attention, even being shouted at or punished, which are forms of attention, may be worth the risk.

When we comply with the dog’s demands, the successful action becomes a habit embedded in the dog’s repertoire of methods to get attention. It works!

When the dog is left alone for any period of time – the owner may be at home in another room – attention seeking becomes a behaviour, which has the potential to develop in separation anxiety. When the owner is getting ready to leave the home, the dog may become boisterous, excessively excitable, quiver or nervously shake and once she is left alone barking and destructive behaviour are common responses.

Problem Solver: Be a Balanced Leader

1            Ignore attention seeking

2            Tell the dog to wait until you are ready to interact with her

3            Ration strokes and cuddles. When your dog demands attention, send her away from you; after a short time call your dog to you for a fuss.

4            Attention should be earned, so simply by calling the dog to you means that she has responded positively to you and can be rewarded with    your affection.