There is no better measure of a deeply bonded relationship than the constant peripheral attention paid by a dog to her human.
In a safe place such as a yard or enclosed area (so that your pup can be off-leash)*, say “Let’s go!” to her and start walking. She need not stay at your heels, but she should be shadowing where you go. She’s free to sniff and wander but her attention should still be on you in a peripheral way, either with an occasional glance or a flick of her ears in your direction. Occasionally change directions and see if she follows. If she’s gotten distracted and is not attending to you, quietly go off somewhere and hide. Keep tabs on your dog from your hiding place to make sure that she’s safe but also to watch her behavior. At some point, she will no doubt become aware of the fact that she’s lost you. If she acts concerned, wait a bit for her to find you but, if she starts to panic, you may want come out of hiding and continue your walk together. Quite likely your pooch will now keep closer tabs on your whereabouts so as not to lose you again. If, however, she notices your absence but does not seem all that concerned about it, that tells you a little about your relationship. Perhaps an NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) regimen will help to remind her that you are the giver of all good things!
* Additional note: You can do this with a human assistant if there are no safe places to let your dog off-leash. Have the assistant hold the end of the leash and follow around after her. The handler is not to offer any guidance to her but merely assure that no danger befalls her.
Laura Garber, CPDT-KA
Behavior Manager, Pennsylvania SPCA
Laura believes strongly in strengthening the bond between human and companion animal. For this reason, she regards training as an exercise in building relationship rather than obedience. Such an approach promises greater understanding and symbiosis within our family packs.