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Affection Do's and Don'ts

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  • Do not reward bossy soliciting with affection. This includes mouthing, jumping, pawing, leaning, etc. To do this undermines the nature of your desired relationship and lessons the value of your most abundant reward.
  • Do not give affection to a dog that does not desire it from you. Take your time to establish a bond through interactive activities – such as walks, treat training, play, etc. If a dog does not respond to your open palms and invitations with a low tail wag and engagement, do not force affection. To do so makes you the one wanting acceptance and not the other way around. You will become the asker and not the controller of the relationship. Set the pace correctly. To give affection prematurely to a dog of a more difficult personality type may also cause him to bite from fear, or as a correction for stepping over the boundaries of the undeveloped social relationship. Sometimes it may be a combination of both reasons.
  • The (about) 10 second rule – This is not set in stone, but definitely do not give affection for longer than short spurts. To do so lessons the value of the petting, potentially may shift you to the “needier” position, and may fuel other behavior problems from the dog such as separation anxiety if the dog becomes addicted to it.
  • Don’t be “actively submissive”. Just because you should be controlling the affection does not mean you should chase a dog to pet him or crawl up to a resting dog to pet him. In our world it seems sweet, but unfortunately in their world communicates begging /weakness and with some dogs will result in a bite for disturbing their peace.
  • Do not assertively kiss dogs. Many dogs tolerate it, some show submissive licking from it, and others may bite you for the potential miscommunication it may cause (we are generally bending over the top of the dog and looking straight into the dogs eyes which can make a dog feel uncomfortable). Judging by their body language, few really enjoy it so it is better to set dogs up for success by not forcing this upon them. Even minor face bites draw a lot of negative attention to a dog that may have never otherwise had a serious bite.
  • Hugging is never a good choice for showing affection to a dog. The equivalent in dog body language is domination. It may be tolerated by most dogs but, like kissing, will be sure to set some confused dogs up for failure.
  • Give affection from the heart and give it in short meaningful spurts. This becomes a powerful reward for dogs that have learned to appreciate it and want it. Most affection should be reserved for when a dog responds to our requests. That could be something as simple as asking the dog to come a couple feet toward you.
  • Give affection during greetings. Doesn’t matter who initiates it here. If you are both happy to see each other this is normal! After the initial greeting set the pace as the initiator during your time together. If you desire a calmer greeting from your dog – be calmer yourself during the greeting. If you are having behavioral problems, such as jumping or mouthing that may be a result of the excitement, then ignore your dog for a few moments before greeting and keep your greetings calm.
  • It’s OK to receive kisses. If you are on the dog’s level you may turn your head and allow dogs to lick your face if you have a correctly established relationship. This is a respectful way for a dog to beg for affection or attention.
  • A tummy rub for a dog that rolls and shows his belly to you with a wagging tail is different from crawling to a resting dog to “actively submit” to and pet.  Brief tummy rubs to a begging dog should not harm a proper relationship – especially if you call him over to receive it.
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