Trust Counts

Trust is a central theme of soap operas, TV dramas and political relationships. It’s lauded as being the keystone of good marriages and partnerships. Teenagers are reminded that they will not be allowed to stay home on their own, or out late, or have the keys to the car until they can be trusted. For many people the realization that trust has been “broken” can lead to a lengthy or impossible reconciliation.

If one was inclined to look at the importance we place on trust in a marriage from a biological point of view, the risk of raising someone else’s offspring, or losing the support of a good partner to someone else, could impact the long-term success of one’s own off-spring. But mostly, when someone discovers that their partner was not “faithful,” babies aside, it feels really bad- poem-writing, sad song singing bad.

Dogs are among the few species on the planet who allow us to break trust with them, and not make us pay for it, consistently. Yell at or physically reprimand a cat and you might not see them again, or are at least likely to have to clean out the scratches you received in return. Few believe that the lions in the cage being kept under control with a whip are to be trusted to safely snuggle on the couch with their “tamer.”

We can and do break the trust with our dogs routinely and there is a price. It’s bad enough to wonder if your partner is trustworthy when they call claiming another late night at the office. It’s another to wonder if the person approaching you is going to physically restrain, hurt or scare you. Being at risk physically, even if it’s done leaving no marks, is not something one forgets or puts aside easily.

The risk of losing trust with a dog is greater the shorter the relationship or the smaller the existing trust account. If we, from the moment we meet and handle a dog demonstrate that we are safe and worthy of their trust, and should we have to withdraw from the trust account we’ve built, we are less likely to lose it all. We are less likely to get bitten, or growled at by a dog and more likely to have them come when we call them. A dog’s behavior can tell us as much about our relationship with them as it tells us about them. Trust counts.

 

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4 comments so far

  1. jet on

    totally! I am big on building trust. I think even cats have a ‘trust account’ – mine certainly seem to.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Cats, kids, pigs, elephants, birds, you name it!

  2. Susan on

    We just brought home a female pit bull from a young couple who couldn’t keep her. She is very fearful and I have never worked with a fearful dog. I do realize I have to build trust with her. Luckily we have another dog and so she is more comfortable with him although he is rather indifferent. I hope to be able to get to the rewarding part of the relationshiip but realize I need time and patience and I’m ordering your book to guide me. I also want to get exerperience with this because I want to volunteer with animals when I retire.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s good of you to take on this dog and want to help more. I would highly recommend you visit behaviorworks.org for lots of good info.


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