Trust, Earned or Learned

I may be totally wrong on this, correct me if I am, but I believe trust is earned.  If trust is learned, then when do you click and treat and what response is to be looked for when teaching trust?

Honey usually runs off to either her sanctuary or to the furthest recesses of the yard when something abruptly scares her.   She will return to whatever we were doing after a short timeout and she realizes whatever the scary thing was, it wasn’t going to eat her, plus there may be a treat waiting her return. (Is this the training part? hum)

Last evening after dinner and prior to lights out and during a hellacious rain and wind storm, we were out in the covered side yard talking and working on stuff, the usual hand targeting, treating, etc. stuff, when a major gust of wind hit.  I leave her kennel door open 24/7 so she can cruise the place, it didn’t occur to me to secured the door in the open position, lazy I guess.  The wind gust grabbed hold of the gate and slammed it shut with a vengeance and clang so loudly I jumped.  Honey could have run off to one of her hiding places behind the car or recycling bin, but didn’t.  She jumped at the sound and scooted right behind me then peered out to check on what the heck that was.  She most likely thought “hey, I may be able to run a lot faster than you, but you’re bigger, handle that will you.”  As I fixed the gate, never to be blown shut again, she watched with cautious interest, again from behind me.

This is, as I believe, the first time I earned her trust in protecting her from a scary event, but then maybe she learned I will protect her the best I can.


Posted on November 22, 2010, in Our Blog. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Interesting article George. I think learned vs. earned is really kind of the same thing. The trust is earned by teaching the dog that the requests you make of them don’t result in danger and usually lead to good things happening. By not forcing dogs to “face their fears” they learn to trust our direction. Eventually we hope they overcome their fears by trusting that we will trust them if they decide something is still just too scary.

    Nice little blog you have going here. I will be reading with interest.

    • Thanks Kevin,

      I believe what you say is right on. I just was wondering why when something is scary to Honey she looks at me first then at the scary thing, then back to me again. I know she’s reading what I do, so maybe the trust is building in that she has or is deciding I may be coming her comfort zone. What ever it is, it’s so cool.

  2. This is an interesting post George.

    Gracie is pretty much like Honey when things scare her, she runs back to her ‘safe’ place. Depending on where she is at the time, it could be her bed, if inside the house or back to the house or car if we are out. She has never, as yet turned to me for safety as such. It used to upset me that she preferred to run away from me to get home or to the car and I thought that she obviously didn’t ‘trust ‘ me yet. However as time passed and I learned more about Gracie’s behaviour I changed my opinion on that.

    She allows me to handle her, to stroke and pet her, to groom her, clean her teeth and cut her nails. She does this willingly and without fuss, especially the latter, and the other day she had a thorn in her paw and came to me carrying the injured paw up.
    So I think she’s ‘learned’ to trust me in that way because I take care of her and her needs and therefore I’ve become predictable, so she feels ‘safe’ around me.
    IMHO, I really don’t think that training comes into it.

    As for the running back home or to the car, well we’re still working on that!

    • Lizzie,

      Thanks for the comment. I believe it’s earned through predictability that they learn to trust. In watching honey over the past, I can’t believe 11 months, she really had two modes, now hopefully three.

      At first something scared her, gone. Then it progressed to, if something was strange or different, she’d look at me first then back to whatever it was and back to me again. After which she may scurry off or just back away, but she seemed to always check in before she’d split. Now with the gate crash and her response, no looking just moved behind.

      Running home or to the car will come, then you won’t be able to get her out of the car.

  3. That is just delightful, George. Sure sounds to me like you’ve established alot of trust with Honey for sure. And, I’ve never thought about trust as something that is “trained”…to me trust happens as a *result* of training and loving predictability.

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