9 things your dog wants to understand
We expect dogs to live serenely and effortlessly in a world of human’s making, without showing any signs of being dogs. Then we are surprised when they act like dogs. We need to learn to respect dogs for who they are rather than the fantasy of who we think they should be.
Dogs are not allowed to say no anymore. They can’t get freaked out, they can’t be afraid, they can never signal, “I’d rather not.” We need to accept that dogs should be allowed to express that they are uncomfortable, afraid, angry, in pain, worried or upset. These days if the dog is ever anything other than completely happy, fun and playful every second, he goes from a nice dog to an “AGGRESSIVE DOG”.
It appears that the more we progress into modern times, the more that we expect dogs to be some sort of furry humans that can make critical thinking decisions at the drop of a hat. My dogs are super smart but they are not humans and I don’t expect human intelligence level decisions from them.
Please accept your dogs for the wonderful creatures that they are. Understand that we expect them to live in OUR world, so it requires us to spend time learning about how they learn, so that we can effectively communicate with them. They deserve nothing less than us safely and humanely teaching them to how to live in a world of our choosing. This is nothing more than we would want for ourselves. Below are the just the high points. There is so much more but for now, this will hopefully be some food for thought.
Dogs are entitled to have their meals uninterrupted. This means placing your hands in your dog’s food bowl may make them annoyed! If someone repeatedly but infrequently stuck their hands in your dinner plate, are you more likely to consider violence against them or think them your master? Enough said. This also goes for any high value (or not)chew items that you give to your dog. (If your dogs threatens you when you are near these items, hire me to help.) If you truly want your dog to think you are the best, then drop a piece of something good in their bowl anytime you are near it and then you will truly get the love and appreciation from your dog. Thinking that the former is the way to go is actually a really effective way to create the resource guarding that you are trying in vain to prevent. Please don’t go there.
Along those same lines, dogs are also entitled to sleep uninterrupted. Many dog trainer call outs are around complaints about someone’s dog growling/snapping when touched/petted/hugged while sleeping. I don’t know about you but I am also pretty prone to striking out unintentionally if touched unexpectedly, while deeply sleeping. Add to this equation a newly adopted dog who has not yet formed a relationship of trust with his current humans and you have a serious potential for problems with this expectation. Don’t expect more of your dog while sleeping than you would expect of a human new to you.
Dogs are not robots. It is an extremely unrealistic expectation to want a dog to walk by your side without a lead in a public place. It’s a relationship based behavior, as well being a lovely goal to aim for in areas appropriate for off lead fun. However, this is AFTER a whole lot of training to get to that point. But understand that even then you take your dog off lead, DOGS ARE NOT ROBOTS. They will weigh up their options and if that rabbit or squirrel appear to be more rewarding in the moment to chase, they will do so, regardless of how much training time you have invested. No individual of any species is 100% exactly the same each moment of each day. No matter how many times I have allowed my superbly trained dogs off lead in any given situation outside of an area of secure fencing, I have 100% of the time breathed an sigh of immense relief when reattaching that lead. Free will, dogs have it too. Its important to manage your environment.
Puppies are babies. Babies of any species take time to grow up. This means poo and pee to clean up for months, without a complaint. You signed up for this, remember? House training takes time. Manners training takes time. If you have human children, you know they were not the finished article in a week or two or even a month or two. Human kids do attend school for twelve years for a reason! Learning is incremental. Dogs don’t need twelve years to learn to be house trained appropriately and to have decent manners, thankfully. But they do need for you to not be impatient with their normal progress. They do need for you to understand that they have developmental stages and that those developmental stages all have different levels of cognitive powers. Do not expect your 12 week old puppy to have the level of understanding or the attention span that an adult dog does.
Socialization is a very misunderstood word in the dog world. Let’s say that you were forced as a child to go a lot of places that scared you and you were very stressed inwardly at all of these places yet you never showed how you felt outwardly. Would that then mean that you were socialized to these places simply because you were repeatedly exposed to them? The adult you, knows perfectly well that you did not like these places that you went to as a child, and you will now go out of your way to avoid them. At some point when you felt pushed beyond all endurance, you would likely have a meltdown at such a place if you were forced to go again against your will as an adult. This is exactly what happens to puppies who tolerate places/things/people/experiences as a puppy and then one day when they feel safe with their own voice, “speak up” about how they really feel about these situations. In a nutshell, exposure does not equal socialization. The exposure has to be enjoyable to fall into that category.
Make your puppy’s socialization enjoyable:
If you are a normal well adjusted person, you do not like everyone you meet. It’s an impossible expectation, am I right? Then why expect your dogs to like all dogs? Most dogs actually do not want to greet other dogs when out and about. Of course there are many that do, but they are the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, dogs generally like to spend time with their humans rather than other dogs, even if they do sometimes enjoy the company of some other dogs. The best rule here is that polite dog owners do not allow their dogs to approach other dogs in a huge variety of situations such as on walks, in the veterinarian’s waiting room, in pet stores, anywhere really unless this is a mutually agreed upon by the humans AND the dogs.
Most dogs generally don’t enjoy being touched by strangers. There, I said it. I realize that this comes as a surprise to many people but it’s quite true. After all, YOU generally don’t want to be touched by strangers, do you? So please do your dog a favor and don’t allow them to be put upon like that. There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions.
“He doesn’t know his commands”. That phrase is funny if you think about it. Dogs don’t come to you knowing what words and phrases mean. It’s up to YOU to teach them. But before the words are used, teach the behaviors and THEN attach the meaning to the words. And then instead of calling them commands, call them cues. Because that is what they really are. A signal, whether environmental or verbal, its a cue that triggers the dog to a specific behavior that you have taught them. Dogs are the most forgiving creatures I know of. We treat them badly and still they adore us. Using kind words goes a long way towards promoting partnership and trust, far more than words that convey the need to wield control with an iron fist and ‘commands’. Think of it in terms of children who are emotionally abused by their parents. While they may grow up stronger because of what they endured, there is an equal if not greater chance that they will learn how to be angry easier than how to be kind. Compassion and respect should not be reserved for just humans. All creatures are deserving of this. Choosing words that you would use with humans whom you love, with the dogs in your lives, will go far towards building the trust and respect that creates a wonderful relationship and bond. Words DO matter. Choose them with care.