We live with dogs because they offer us companionship, closeness, unconditional love and loyalty, and these can be strengthened by sharing our space and love in the best way we know how through physical closeness and sharing of resources. However, traditionally we have been told we will spoil our dogs with such ‘indulgences’. People worry they can only have one or the other, a well-behaved dog at the detriment of a close bond, but you can have both through boundaries, confidence and enjoyable training sessions.
Dogs need boundaries, it gives them predictability and consistency and these are vital for a well-behaved dog. Think about the most important things you want your dog to know and work on these rules every day, just like you consistently taught your dog to sit for his meal every day (or sometimes multiple times per day) move on and work on a new skill. Your dog does not need to learn everything all at once, move through your list concentrating on only one-three skills at a time. If you like to spoil your dog with lots of love, resources and affection make sure you have some firm boundaries in place to balance things out.
Knowing what you want to teach your dog will give you an immense amount of confidence so you can lavish love on your dog and steer their behaviour in the right direction. Set your dog up for success by learning to anticipate his unwanted behaviour and redirecting it to something more appropriate. For example, if your dog jumps all over you when you get home carry a toy out to him and engage him in a game with it. The toy will take the focus off you and over time your dog will learn to greet you with a toy for a game rather than jumping on you. You can also lower yourself to the ground so your dog can greet you without having to jump on you and if he has a toy in his mouth it saves your face from dog slobber (unless you like dog slobber on your face). Don’t be afraid to work with your dog and his favourite things to get what you want, this is not spoiling them.
Training for your dog should be enjoyable, it’s not spoiling him to recognise his currency and learning to use it to your advantage, this is called a win-win situation and anyone will agree this is the best protocol for building a bond. Do not be hurt by thinking your dog should learn through love/respect alone, the quickest learning and bonding will only occur when you are using the correct currency. Spoil your dog with anything he values when you like the behaviours he is giving you and eventually when your bond is strong enough he will cooperate out of love for you.
So enjoy your dog, allow yourself to get what you want out of the relationship and give him what he loves too, but balance it with training and boundaries and watch your relationship flourish.