Ever since man appropriated the partnership of the dog as a descendant of the wolves and re-educated him to his ally and friend, the four-legged friend has remained the constant companion of the human world. There are almost 600,000 dogs and over 1.5 million cats in Austria. In many households, both animal species also coexist, because a friendship between dog and cat is possible. This special relationship between animals and humans originally stemmed from the need to have hunting, guarding, and herding dogs to assist humans in their work. Today, many dog breeds continue to perform complex tasks, such as guide and assistance dogs, tracker dogs, rescue dogs, and service dogs.
But what makes a good human-dog team? How do families and owners achieve the special connection and how can the animals better contribute and develop their abilities? Some people, like shepherds or security guards, have almost perfected their relationship with their dogs. There are ways and means that everyone can improve the connection.
Find the right dog
With many animals it is like with a human partner or friend – it just has to spark, even if the relationship can grow over time. Anyone who buys a dog must first document their finances, the space, and the time required. Large dogs need a little more of everything, whether food, space, or exercise, but many small dog breeds are also very agile and active, which dog owners should not underestimate.
If you buy a puppy, you have to bring a lot of time and patience with you, but you can socialize with the dog right from the start and get used to the family and environment. With the right attitude and consistent upbringing, a new family member is quickly integrated. When it comes to dogs from shelters, future owners need to be aware that the dogs can be traumatized and very shy and need very sensitive, consistent, and strong-willed companions.
Before purchasing, dog fans should find out about the characteristics and preferences of the breeds. Siberian Huskies require a lot of exercise and dog exercise, while dachshunds can sprint short distances very well, but long distances are not for them in the long run. Water breeds like the Portuguese Water Dog or the American Water Spaniel love water sports.
These are the considerations prospective dog owners should make BEFORE purchasing a puppy or adult dog so both sides can build a long-term relationship.
The dog-human relationship
A study in cooperation with the University of Bonn examined the effect of the human-dog relationship on the animals themselves and how a good or bad relationship can influence health and psyche. Above all, the research group wanted to find out to what extent husbandry, upbringing, and emotional ties affect animal health.
Over 2789 dog owners were interviewed and their relationships were examined. The result showed in various subject areas what makes a good relationship.
Dog owners who showed a high quality in the connection want to achieve a greater bond with nature or win a friendship by getting a dog. They are not fixated on gaining prestige from any particular breed of dog or just using the dog’s function for themselves, whether as a guardian animal or a plaything.
In addition, with positive relationships, it can be seen that the attitude towards the dog changes, that the animal is not humanized, but that its individual needs are recognized and that the needs of the dog are integrated into everyday life and not the other way round the dog has to be adapted.
High quality through stays in nature
These holders place a special focus on experiencing nature and meeting like-minded people. Many Austrians would like to spend more time in the environment and enjoy it. A survey shows that walks, excursions, but also sports, and caring for pets are factors that bring people back out into the fresh air.
It is important to motivate the dog and train it properly so that the owner’s leadership role is maintained in the wild. The dogs should already listen to simple commands such as “sit”, “heel” or “no” and be able to be led without a leash. Experts recommend learning with the dog playfully, first doing small exercises in the garden and gradually integrating these exercises into the walk. An important exercise, for example, is running away in the other direction when the dog becomes inattentive. The dog will have to learn to always orient itself to its master or mistress.
In the study, the researchers also point out that good dog owners show more responsibility in dealing with their animals in public and show consideration for other people or animals who should not feel disturbed by them and their dogs.
The behavior of the owners and the strength of the upbringing
A good human-dog relationship is reflected in the owner’s calm and attentive behavior toward the dog’s integration into unfamiliar surroundings. A good leader gets the dog used to the new situation and is neither bossy nor hectic. A special feature is the amount of time that such people invest in the care and training of their animals. This includes avoiding overfeeding and responding to disobedient behavior appropriately to the situation. Patience is one of these dog owners’ strongest traits.
The different types of dog owners
The study also presents different types of dog owners who have special characteristics about the human-dog relationship. Three types emerge:
- The prestige-oriented, humanizing dog owner
- The dog owner fixated on the dog, emotionally bound
- The nature-loving, social dog owner
The prestige-oriented dog owner wants to emphasize his self-confidence through the dog and his attitude, get a better reputation, and is described as rather uncontrolled and impatient in dealing with the animals, but also with other people. The dog is less obedient than other owners and, according to the authors of the study, there is a lower quality of husbandry and great dissatisfaction with the relationship on both sides. Humanization is a big problem because the dog often does not understand the communication and the human is frustrated and overwhelmed at the same time if the dog does not “react” accordingly. Extreme examples are putting on unnecessary dog clothes and accessories or being allowed to sleep in the bed.
The dog-fixated dog owner uses the pet as their best friend or even as a substitute for a life partner. Everything revolves around the welfare of the animal, attention, and energy are focused on the best friend. The bond with the dog is very high and communication with the four-legged friend is the most pronounced of all types. He is very satisfied with the connection, and also shows consideration for other people and animals, but is more focused on himself and his dog.
The nature-loving owner sees his four-legged partner as a pet that brings him more out into the fresh air and enables him to be physically active. Usually, this owner is very communicative and sociable towards other people. Social contacts are more important to him than contact with his dog. His great expertise and sovereignty give him the status of the strongest human-dog bond since the animal is the most obedient and is kept in a species-appropriate manner.
The dog-human relationship and its quality, therefore, depend largely on the owners and how they treat the animals and their environment. If you train your dog correctly and consistently but do not see it as a prestige object or a substitute human being, you can build up a high-quality bond. First and foremost, the study mentioned and other experts point out that the quality of attachment not only depends on the satisfaction of the owner but also on the needs of the animal and its interests. It is alarming that 22 percent of the dogs examined are not kept in a species-appropriate manner and around a quarter of all owners are dissatisfied with the relationship. It is important to acquire specialist knowledge and respond to the dog and give strong leadership. Then the quality of the bond can increase.