You will probably never be perfect. You’ll have bad days and good days, and there will be times when you don’t have the energy to give your dog everything you want to give them. But that’s okay!
New Delhi, September 22, 2019: Calling yourself a terrible dog guardian and beating yourself up may motivate you to do better, but it’s certainly not a fun way to navigate your relationship with your dog.This application of positive punishment (“I am terrible and my dog deserves better!”) and negative reinforcement (“I took my dog on an extra long walk/played fetch/did a long training session; I’m not too terrible, I guess. ”) may be effective for changing behavior, but it just cycles you through periods of misery and relief. We want better for you; we want you to feel joy in your relationship with your dog. So what can you do to change your self-training style to be asking and gracious as your training style with your dog?Find things to reinforce.
You’re doing something right with your dog. In fact, you’re probably doing a lot of things right with your dog. Rather than focus on the areas where you could do better, acknowledge the places you’re doing well and reward yourself. If playing with your dog or going on a long walk makes you feel good, that may be sufficient reward, but if not, it’s okay to positively reinforce yourself with something else.
Have a delicious snack, take a long, luxurious shower,or watch a favorite movie or TV show. Just as you would reward your dog for a job well done, reward yourself, too!Lower your criteria and work back up. You don’t train a dog a new behavior by giving the verbal cue and waiting for them to figure it out. You start with a food lure, or capturing, or you shape the behavior through increasingly close approximations.
The same works for human behavior modification. If you and your dog are fairly inactive, you’re probably not going to get up tomorrow and take them on a five-km run. Even if you think your dog is ready for that, you probably aren’t. You can,however, work on increasing the lengths of your walks, then incorporating a few jogs into your weekly routine, and so on.
Find things you can enjoy together. If exercising, enriching, or entertaining your dog means doing something you don’t enjoy, it’s going to be a chore. If you hate running, so taking your dog on long runs would be work for you. But dogs find joy in so many activities that there is no one right formula for a happy dog. If your dog is using their mind and working their body, they’ll be happy, whether that exercise comes from a long walk, a round of nose work in the living room, a long game of tug with a favorite toy, a clicker training session…the possibilities are endless. Have fun with your dog! That’s probably why you got them, after all.You will probably never be perfect. You’ll have bad days and good days, and there will be times when you don’t have the energy to give your dog everything you want to give them. But that’s okay! Resist the urge to beat yourself up in those moments. Focus on all the joy you bring to your dog’s life, all thethings you do well. Your life, and your dog’s life, will be better for it.
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