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Establishing a good relationship

We all enjoy spending time with our dogs, but problems can arise if dogs become too dependent on human attention and get it 'on tap' when they’re with us.


To avoid this, whilst you can spend as much time as you like interacting with your dog, if you want a well behaved and calm pet follow these simple rules. 


Start all interactions

  • You decide when you want to talk, pet or play– remember you are rewarding whatever your dog is doing at the time. Unless you want a dog that jumps up or nudges your elbow ignore these behaviours. Instead teach your dog that sitting quietly is the best way to get your attention!
  • Initiate interactions whenever you like, except for when your dog is demanding attention.
  • Don’t talk, pet, play or even look at your dog if he/she demands attention from you. But don’t just ignore your dog – remember that it is just as important to teach him/her what does work to get your attention!


Finish all interactions

  • You decide when you want to stop talking, petting or playing.
  • Give a signal that you wish to stop, say a word such as “finish” or “enough”, and then ignore them until they settle down. Always use the same word, so your dog learns it’s meaning.
  • When you come home only say hello if your dog is quiet. If your dog is excited or greets you over-enthusiastically, ignore him/her until he/she settles and then say hello.


If your dog is worried about something and you always respond by giving attention, they may become anxious when left alone. Not giving your dog attention ‘on tap’ whenever they ask for it will help ensure that your dog is confident on their own when you are not ‘available’ to give reassurance.


By following these rules you can make sure all interactions with your dog are positive and consistent. At the same time this helps ensure that your dog doesn’t become too dependent on you.


Acknowledgements are made to Dr Rachel Casey, Dr Emily Blackwell and Dr John Bradshaw. Read more about our Expert contributors.