"When this happens - a dog giving to us unconditionally - and in only a few hours, it is so amazing and beautiful. The trust and bond is formed..."
Today we are hosting a lovely VIP - a Bouvier.
For Martin and I, it is 'our defining moment' and why our care is so uniquely different.
Every dog evaluates every human. In a temporary care situation, it is like they are asking themselves; is this someone who I can trust to care for me when my owner/caregiver is away?
As Professionals, we know trust between a temporary caregiver and a dog needs to be earned. We also know that people mistake a dog's gratitude with trust, dependency with bonding. We don't work on a dog's gratitude where they are showing relief that someone will care for their basic needs. No, we focus instead on a lofty goal: bonding through trust. The challenge is found in not having months or years to create a trust relationship with a dog - we have hours.
We begin today much like we always do. We will quickly read her body-language, and determine her mental state at being left without her owner: upset, stressed, anxious or totally into exploring a new world.
If stressed, she will first be soothed in the zen room with aromatherapy and music, sending signals of calm and asking nothing of her. It will relax her mind and she will make better judgement calls in our favour. We then move onto observing her.
If she is curious, or is now calmer, we observe and catalogue her personality nuances, chatting with one another about what we see, looking for body signal, micro-expressions, and vocalization to indicate her feelings and emotions. We work through her likes and dislikes.
Once we have a fairly good hypothesis of her style and unique personality, we will engage her in new experiences. It is a confidence-building moment, where she stretches her current capabilities. We watch until she shows true happiness that she can do something new. Then, most importantly, we signal to her that her happiness makes us happy. Then the bond is made, trust is seeded and the rest of the day we work to deepen the trust.
At some point in the day, we receive hugs from dogs in our care. They normally walk over on their own, calmly and slowly, just because they are content, and then they lean in. This isn't gratitude. It is not a stressed-out cry for help, seen in a frantic jumping, panting and licking. The dogs are not asking for anything, they are giving. We are receiving a doggie-hug. When this happens, a dog giving to us unconditionally, in only a few hours, it is so amazing and beautiful. The trust and bond is formed, and we can now add to joy with other pleasures, like warm towels, belly rubs and scratches, and all the pleasures we offer to Dogs at the Resort.
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'Sparky' Smith is a Canine Behaviorist and Practioner, educated through the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, earning her ISCP.DIP.CANINE.PRAC.