I believe that just like you and me, our dogs should be given the freedom to give consent. Allowing your dog to give or withhold consent is so powerful because it helps to build trust between us and our dogs.
Imagine your right to give consent was taken away from you. Imagine having to go through things that made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe against your will because something or someone was forcing you to. How would you feel about that situation or person? You probably wouldn’t trust them that’s for sure. And, you’re certainly not going to go through with what they want without putting up a fight.
Well, it’s the same for your dog. When we don’t give our dogs the freedom to give their consent and we continue to force them into situations that they don’t like, we chip away at the wall of trust that we’ve built with them. Eventually, that wall becomes so chipped and worn, that it breaks down completely until there’s nothing left.
Consent empowerment could be the very thing you’re missing in your relationship with your dog. Equally, it could be the very thing that helps to build trust and bring you closer to achieving a brilliant partnership with your dog. All it takes is a simple shift in your mindset and in this post, I’m going to share why and how consent empowerment can help improve your connection with your dog so that you can both reach the next level of trust and collaboration.
The power of consent
Inside my Brilliant Partners Academy (BPA), I help dog moms build a trusting, harmonious and deeply connected relationship with their dogs through my holistic, heart-to-heart partnership lifestyle framework.
When my members have questions, I try my best to answer them and offer my support. Many times, I hear stories of dogs who are reactive in certain situations such as when they’re at the vet or being groomed. At times like this, you might think that you can’t wait around for your dog’s consent because, in all likelihood, you’re not going to get it.
However, I would argue differently. In many cases, all it takes is a shift in your own perspective on what consent means and how we can offer consent to our dogs – even when it comes to necessary procedures such as a visit to the vet!
I often talk to my members about stepping into a role as a professional. Let me explain, when we think of professional roles in our everyday lives, what type of people come to mind? For me, it’s doctors, firefighters, policemen/policewomen, lifeguards, veterinarians and so on.
The level of trust that we feel from these professionals is profound. In many cases, we trust them with our lives and so, when I say things like, “you need to step into your role as a professional,” this is what I mean.
“I help dog moms build a trusting, harmonious and deeply connected relationship with their dogs.”
You have to be the professional in your dog’s life. Your dog needs to trust you with their life. Yes, I know it’s a big ask. But if you stick to the principles that I teach inside the Brilliant Partners Academy, you WILL get there. Trust me.
Stop trying to fix your dog!
When a member from BPA told me that her dog became reactive at the vet, I had to be honest with her. Whether she realized it or not, she was still trying to “fix” her dog instead of listening to her dog. It’s very easy to get into the habit of attempting to fix the things that we think are wrong with our dog but it’s usually our mindset that needs fixing.
There are different layers of partnership. As you build trust with your dog, you’re ready to move through the different layers. If your dog is reactive whenever you try to brush their coat, or they hate going to the vet and try to escape any chance they get, you need to be careful with regards to your mindset, thoughts, and expectations.
So, if your dog hates going to the vet, that’s okay. It’s not something you have to fix, but it is something you have to support. You have to support your dog in times of discomfort and distress. Assuming your dog should sit calmly at the vet and be okay with strangers approaching them, handling them, and so on, is probably asking too much from your dog. They haven’t necessarily consented to what’s happening to them.
So, how can you give your dog the freedom to give their consent? Let’s talk about it…
Giving your dog the freedom to consent
The more you give your dog the freedom to give their consent, even to the smallest things like putting their collar on, the more they will come to trust you.
Yes, there will be times when something needs to be done because it’s important and while your dog may not be fully on board with going to the vet, it’s a necessity. However, the more opportunities you give your dog to consent to things, the more likely they are to give their consent to things like going to the vet. It’s about building trust.
When your dog trusts you, they trust you to be their advocate in more and more situations. My dog Sue is a perfect example of this. A while back, she was in a critical condition and became insulin dependent. In addition to that, she lost her eyesight. One day she could see perfectly fine and the next, she couldn’t see a thing.
It was awful but thankfully, she was a candidate for lens replacement surgery. Following the surgery, she required eye drops and insulin vaccines. She was great with the insulin and would stand and wait for me to do that for her. She stood freely and gave her consent for the insulin. BUT… when it came to the eye drops, she was not a fan!
When it’s time to administer the eye drops, I tip her nose up gently and put the drops in. Sometimes she gives me her full consent and it goes smoothly. Other times, when I go to tilt her nose up and tell her it’s time for her eye drops, she drops her head. It’s a brief moment but I know that it’s her taking away her consent.
When she takes away her consent like this, I don’t force her into anything. I smile and ask her if it’s okay if we do the eye drops. She looks back at me and again, I rest my head under her chin and gently tip her nose up. If she lets me, I will put the eye drops in. If she dips her head away, I wait and repeat the process. Patience is key.
Of course, I know that it wouldn’t be an issue if I just put the eye drops in even after she dips her head. She wouldn’t resist it at all… but I don’t do that because she didn’t give me her consent. By waiting until she gives me consent to put her eye drops in, we’re continuing to build the trust between us even more. So, it’s worth the wait.
“Allowing her the freedom and the agency to give consent for me to put her eye drops in is significant in our relationship and our trust.”
At times, you will have to step into the professional role that we talked about because hey, your dog needs their collar on to go for a walk, or they need to visit the vet to get better, etc. But, if you keep looking for the micro moments of allowing your dog the freedom to give consent, paired with stepping into the role of a professional when you need to, it helps your dog to trust you more with each passing day.
As the trust continues to build, your dog becomes more willing to give their consent because they know they can trust you no matter what.
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 96, which you can listen to here.
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrolment!
Watch a short video trailer of the episode below: