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Levels of trust

I was recently reading a book by former monk Jay Shetty, in which he reflects on love and relationships between people. It’s such an interesting and insightful read, but of course as a #dognerd, I kept thinking how applicable his thoughts about trust are to our relationships with animals.

Jay outlines what he sees as the four levels of trust within a relationship:

Zero trust - the starting point - when we first meet someone and know nothing about them - no trust exists at this stage.

Transactional trust - they do something for me, and I do something for them. For dogs, this stage means learning that their immediate needs - such as food and shelter - are being met by you.

Reciprocal trust - you do things for them without needing anything in return - for example when your dog greets you at the door or comes when you call, without an external reward being provided.

Unconditional trust - a rare and special kind of trust which also means real love. A fall or betrayal of trust from this level is the most devastating.

It can take a long time for dogs to feel real trust towards their people - especially rescue dogs who have no reason to trust or love humans. Trust isn’t a given, and it isn’t built in a day - it’s a slow and gradual process which requires kindness and consistency. Dogs don’t owe us trust, but I can tell you that gaining the trust of a scared dog is the best feeling in the world.

Can you imagine, then, how difficult it is for dogs to trust complete strangers? Why they might bark at the postie or the plumber who suddenly appears in their home? It’s no wonder that so many people come to me for help with these things.

If you need some help fostering and building trust, let me know, I can help 🐾

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