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Consolidating or destroying
your relationship
with your dog?

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: April 10, 2006

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'Consolidating or destroying your relationship with your dog'

How often do you see dog owners take their dogs to the dog park, the dog pulling them all the way, and when they arrive, these people just turn their dog lose to play with the other dogs?

And then they complain about their dog ignoring them....!

The dynamics of all relationships

No relationships exist in a vacuum. Marriages and human friendships included. And the relationship you have with your dog (or could or should have) is most certainly included here!

Relationships are built by the two parties mutually satisfying certain emotional needs in the other party. The nature of the relationship completely depends on those needs!

If they include sexual and other intimate needs, we often refer to it as “marriage”, or “long-term relationship”, when we talk about humans. Also friendships are built on mutual need satisfaction, but they rarely include sexual needs. No friendship will continue if only one party gets value from the relationship. This does not mean that both parties have to get the same out of the relationship. But it does mean that either party must have something of value in return for his/investment of time and attention. It is really no different from the necessity of all sustainable business to incorporate the concept of win-win.

Family relationships are no different. In the moment nothing is gained for the teenager from the relationship, you have the well-known “rebellion”, which parents have great difficulty understanding, because they invested “so much” in their care for their kid. However, what matters is not what they gave or give – but how the other party can use what it receives to satisfy his/her own needs. If what you give is not what the receiver needs, the gift has no value. The needs of a teenager are certainly not the same as those of a child.

The same goes for a dog.

What is important for the dog?

The dog’s needs are, in many ways, similar to human needs, although some of the specifics in the details are different.

Dogs are the same. Sure, they need food, water, shelter, etc. – but you cannot use any of those needs to build a relationship with your dog!

It is the emotional needs that matter the most here. For the dog, that would be things like:

  • Do you provide a pack it can feel being a valued member of? Do you provide play and fun?

  • Do you provide some clear social structure in that pack? Do you provide simple and firm rules?

  • Do you provide admirable leadership for that pack? Do you provide mental stimulation and personal development?

Please think very carefully about those questions and their answers. You might want to use the teenage parallel if you want to comprehend why so many teenagers have so many problems with their parents... Answering “yes” to all those questions does take a serious time commitment – and some serious action that only few parents take – and yet fewer dog owners...

Making the long story very short: If you satisfy those needs for your dog, you will be its hero! It will bond to you, and it will adore you.

And, if you don’t, it will have no reason for caring about you...

As explained in greater detail in one of my seminars (on video as “The Dog’s Social Behavior”), these needs are the driving mechanisms behind the dog’s social instincts – which regulate its interaction with you, other humans, and other dogs. The simple proof that these instincts are more important for the dog than food and water is this: When you do tap into these instincts and make yourself an excellent pack leader for your dog, it will be happy to leave food alone when you request it, even when it is hungry, and even if you do not in any way at all use force or violence!

The satisfaction of those social needs is the key to your relationship with your dog.

Just as for a teenager, fundamental mundane necessities, like food, drink, shelter, etc., might be important, seen with rational eyes. But that’s not how the teenager experiences it! Young humans have other things at the top of their agenda for what is important to them!

The common misperceptions and mistakes

Without judging the morality in the following illustration, please think about what kind of impact it would have on a marriage if the wife did not want to have sex with her husband but instead took him down to the local brothel so he could satisfy his sexual needs there, leaving her free of that "obligation"... How long time would you think such a marriage could last?

Wouldn’t the wife be legitimately concerned that the husband would start bonding with one of those girls that satisfied his needs – and one day come back and ask for a divorce?

I know you know the answer. But try now to use that same logic on a dog owner who takes her dog down to the dog park every day – and lets it goof around and play and have all the fun in the world with those other dogs. What chances will such an owner have of making this dog see her as a great companion it would die for maintaining the relationship with?

You might say that I can’t be serious about recommending that you do not let your dog play with other dogs…. And you are right; that’s not what I am recommending. It would correspond to not allowing a husband to ever have any kind of contact with other women.

But I do most definitely do recommend that you are very careful about making sure that the vast majority of fun in your dog’s life, and most definitely the most important fun it has, should be linked directly to you, by being provided by you in such a way that the dog will see you as the great provider of this fun.

If that’s too much to ask of you, then your hopes of bonding with your dog are simply unrealistic.


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

For more information about Mogens Eliasen, including links to other articles he has published, please send this e-mail to or visit or

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Titles available from K9joy®:

Anders Hallgren:
"The ABC's of Dog Language" (140 page book - 1996)
Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Dog's Social Behavior" (2.5 hr. video - 1998, updated on DVD 2006, with support materials on a CD)
How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
"Don't Pull on the Leash!" (40 page e-book - 2005)
The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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