When we live with our dogs, often, we can get into the habit of allowing many bad habits to form which we just ignore and/or try to justify with some excuses (e.g. it is the breed, it is the abuse, l don't mind because it is so funny when he does that, he is just a lazy dog, he just loves to play, he is only a puppy...).
One of the biggest problems l have witnessed over and over again is a lack of engagement between the dog and the owner.
Lack of engagement is hard for many owners to understand. Firstly, many new owners have not seen a dog that is truly engaged so they think what they have is normal. Moreover, they usually don't see this problem right away because many of them naturally think their dogs love them and they just assume their dogs must want to be with them - although it is true that their dogs love them, love does not breed engagement automatically.
A very simple test is what is your walk like. Does your dog pull, mark, sniff everywhere and pull you to other people/dog constantly?
Another test is also very simple: when your dog is naked (no collar) and you have no food, toy...what does your dog do? If you are on a hiking trail and he sees another dog, will he just dart to that dog and ignore you? If you are watching tv at home and you ask your dog to come, will he get up from his cozy bed next to the fireplace and come right away or do you need to get up, repeat the command, and may be bring out the treats or make lots of sounds and so on?
How about this: will your dog just come to you and look really eager to work without any training tool on (food, ecollar...)? Or does he totally change and become much more motivated only after he sees treats or have his training collar on?
Engagement is about your dog wanting YOU.
It is not achieved solely with food and high pitch voice or with only aversion and compulsion.
Like a human relationship, it takes time for two people to love, respect, and really desire the company of each other.
Engagement is about cultivating this special relationship which is not based on what you have around the neck of the dog or what you are holding in your hand, but because of who you are to your dog.