What is relationship?

Relationship is a hot topic in dog training. It’s something we talk about a lot, we say you need to have a relationship with a dog. But do we know what are we talking about when we say it? Or is it just another label we put on our training?

Relationship is a history of events, behaviors connected with a certain person, dog. Apart form good and bad relationship we discussed below, there are many shades of gray in between.

Good relationship is a history of positive reinforcement we experienced from this person or animal. It’s a trust, based on this history. Trust that behaviors of other party will be predictable, consistent and positive. Using our history of reinforcement we create a rules, a contract between us and the dog. Breach of this contract will influence the trust and thus relationship. Building relationship takes time, because it takes time to build positive reinforcement history.

Bad relationship is a history of negative reinforcement and punishment we experienced from this individual. It’s lack of trust often presented as inconsistency in behavior, using punishment or negative reinforcements.

Relationship can be changed but history can not be erased.It is always good to look at our behavior when we work with animals and think how it influences our relationship. To change the history of learning is something time consuming and difficult, and we all know that good relationship is crucial to work. Otherwise how can we achieve mutual goal without trusting each other.

Agnieszka Janarek Dog Trainer