What Is the Dog/Human Relationship All About?

Who among us dog-lovers does not remember the fantastic dogs of their childhood? I do remember! I could say everything to these dogs and do whatever I liked to them. These dogs who loved to follow us kids on our bike rides, to lie down next to us, to wait patiently for our return from school. Dogs who knew how to protect us, or at least made us think they were able to if called upon.

Most of the time it was a crossbred dog, we loved to tell him about the joy and sadness of our everyday life and he used to respond with a deep sigh and an expressive look, with his head on our lap, which meant so much to us.

At that time, nobody would talk about relationship between dogs and human beings, hell no! We’d rather stay with the souvenir of this extraordinary dog we had the privilege to live with, this dog whose only lack was language, this dog whose strength was to understand children…

However, we had no goals to really train that dog and in the same time he didn’t know so many things, but for sure he followed, looked, waited, sat and rested like his kids’ friends.

If kids called him, he was coming at full speed with no reserve. If a kid asked him to jump in the car, even if he disliked it very much because he was afraid, he would do it. The kid never reprimanded him for that, he whispered to his ear: “Come on, jump in!” he kneeled next to him, patted him and repeated in a calm and low voice: “Come on, this is for you own good”. Children are sure that dogs understand when words are coming from the heart, maybe they’re right, maybe dogs do understand the heart of their beloved.

So why did that dog, who couldn’t be trained by anybody, just jump in the car when he was requested to do so by his child? Perhaps the dog simply wanted to be near the child more than anything else.

The child loved the company of the dog and the dog loved the company of the child, thus it was not that rare that parents touched by the relationship, gave their approval for the dog to sleep in the child’s room, and it wasn’t scarce either when the dog, clever as he was, waited for the light to be turned off to jump on the bed and sleep with his friend.

It would never have come to the parents’ mind that such a dog could do harm or attack their child. And it would never have come to the child’s mind to do anything that would physically or emotionally damage his dog friend. The furtherest he would go would be to get moody with the dog because he wasn’t there at his return from school, occupied as he was with the neighbor’s bitch on occasion.

Everyone who has experienced such a relationship with a dog during childhood now dreams, as an adult, to recover the same perfect relationship with another dog. Most of the time, the search for this dog is based upon several visual souvenirs: same size, same color, same breed or same shelter… a common point.

Unfortunately, if it’s quite easy to approach the beloved dog of the past in physical terms, it’s not so easy to build a strong relationship with a dog, especially the natural way children do so.

But what is this thing that children have and we adults do not?

The answer is - play. Children love to play and they like to be happy with what they are doing: throwing the ball, tossing a toy, laughing, rolling over the ground, running into the fields, building wooden huts, riding their bikes, wandering around, eating sweets, being in good company. And what does a dog like: wandering around, playing games, catching the ball, running and sniffing around, being in good company and sharing the sweets!

Children and dogs are sharing the same life drive.

Here’s what children have and we adults do not have: the willingness to be part of social interactions.

Thus, if it’s trendy to talk about relationship rather than training, let’s remember when we were children, just laughing and thrilled because our dog was sitting after we said, “SIT”. Because at our child level, it was already a trick, with such a magic power that made us look at our dog with our eyes wide open.

For those who didn’t have the chance to meet this fantastic dog in their childhood, it is not too late, start now! There is no age limit to have fun with a dog and to share your joys, secrets, and disappointments with him.

Dogs understand when something comes from the heart. Don’t you think the secret of a good relationship is a reborn spontaneity, coupled with a strong excitement for living joyfully? Dog training is ALL about relationship.

Musings from France
Catherine Collignon
Pet Dog Trainer and Behavior Counselor