Trust is something that you and your dog should develop within your overall relationship. Trust must be earned, by you and your dog. You need to trust your dog in that he won't pull on the leash so hard that you get dragged to the ground. And your dog needs to learn to trust that you are a confident leader who will protect him from getting into situations where he feels that he needs to react to take care of the issue (such as a scary dog who is coming into his space).
There are a lot of ideas about developing a relationship with a dog before starting the training program. Many feel that building a relationship isn't necessary when starting to train. I would agree to a point. When you train, you naturally start to build a healthy relationship. But what about the dogs who are terrified or not in a good overall mindset. This is the dog that needs to understand what just happened in his world. Before I can effectively teach a dog, the dog must trust that I have something to teach him and that I won't hurt him. This is where I started with Kobe.
Kobe came to us as a terrified toddler. He was about 5 months old and didn't have a lot of life skills because when he came home, he was so scared that he wouldn't come into the house, couldn't be touched and definitely couldn't be on a leash.
Whenever I work with a dog who is exhibiting so much fear, I immediately slow everything down and I don't work off of a time line. A typical board and train program is 2-3 weeks. Kobe was with me for 6 weeks.
How I begin is with lots of longline work, and I mean a lot. We spent hours together with the longline before I even thought of putting a collar on him and teaching him how to walk on a leash. The longline work was easily three weeks.
When I'm working with the longline, I'm working the dog in and out of his natural drives (prey, pack and defense drives). Kobe had a big pack drive. He loved his family and wanted to be with them. But Kobe had a HUGE defense drive. When Kobe was pushed, he would immediately go into defense drive (flight) and if I pushed to hard, he would go into fight. I tried to avoid pushing him into fight drive, but there were times where it was unavoidable, like when he slipped his leash in the training yard. He was off leash for the first time and if I tried to catch him, he would go into fight.
This was our first serious lesson in trust. I had to trust that he would come into the house, on his own and go into his crate (his safe place) without any help from me. And Kobe had to trust that I wouldn't chase him all over the yard or try to catch him. He eventually made his way to the front door and laid down. I calmed my mind, relaxed and thought of him calmly walking into his crate. He did it. He did it all on his own. From that moment on, our relationship changed. We could work together. I could push him harder without him getting upset. We started to put collars on and off. Introduced loose leash walking and we were able to start taking adventures together. He blossomed into a confident, calm young man.
When I brought him home, he was going into a new house. He was nervous and timid. We worked him through that and as I was leaving, he stuck his whole head into my chest and just held it there. What a moment for us all. I love that dog.
Dogs come into our lives to teach us something. I learned so much about myself as I worked with Kobe. I learned to trust myself. I learned that if I am present and in a calm mindset, it will help Kobe to do the same. I worked on my patience level and to work off of a set timeline. I owe such a debt of gratitude to Kobe and his family. I'm sure Kobe feels the same.