Here are some quick tips to quickly improve your dog’s life and strengthen your relationship with your dog:
Learn your dog’s language
Some of this is specific to your dog and will take time and practice to observe. However, learning to read dog body language in general can get you started with undertanding what your dog is telling you. A good resource for this is Lily Chin’s book Doggie Language.
Learn your dog’s preferences
Figure out your dog’s favorite foods and toys. Do they love food or toys more? Understanding this goes a long way toward knowing what motivates your dog and what you can use as reinforcement for training.
Give your dog choice
Giving your dog autonomy and agency whenever possible will give you more leeway with them in situations where they don’t. Giving your dog the power to say “no” will also mean they will say “yes” more often.
Give your dog variety
Food variety and treat variety are pretty easy to accomplish. If your dog’s food comes in more than one protein variety, switch it up every time you buy it. If this isn’t an option for your dog due to allergies or intolerances,
Swap out toys periodically. I have a large tub where I keep my dogs’ toys and every few weeks I wash the ones that are out in a toy basket and put a few new toys out in their toy basket.
Change up how they eat — put their food in different toys, feeders, and so on.
Provide them with a variety of enrichment, a variety of games, variety of exercise, variety of socialization. This can be as easy as changing the route you walk if you walk your dog daily!
Listen to your dog
Be open to what your dog is teaching you and telling you every day – take their “feedback” seriously and make adjustments accordingly! No one is perfect, and this goes for both you and your dog, but realizing that your dog’s behavior is communication about what they want or don’t want, what they like or don’t like, will make you a better listener.
In everything you do with your dog, be compassionate. Remember that he or she is a sentient being with their own learning history, genetics, and motivations. They are doing the best they can with the education you’ve given them. Contrary to what some pop culture trainers say, your dog is not your adversary and isn’t trying to dominate or manipulate you. They are just doing what works for them to get what they want. If what you want conflicts with what they want, find a way to teach them to want what you want and use rewards to make them want it too!