New puppy, exciting times! You are now responsible for another creature with an entirely unique agenda that is much different from yours. Whether this is a new puppy, an adolescent or an older dog you are adopting; I’m sure you have some ideas concerning the behavior or your dog and what you want him to do for you. Common things that top most people’s list are not mess up the house with bathroom accidents or destructive chewing. Not pull you when you walk on leash together. Sit and down when you ask. And to come a running quickly when you call. Okay you’ve got your plans now what about your dogs?
Learning about what makes a dog uniquely ‘doggy’ is something that anyone caring for a dog should aim to do.
This means learning things other than how to teach your pup to sit or walk with you. This is about understanding what makes your dog tick. This makes you that much more compassionate and scholarly. A pet dog ethologist! This is really doing right by your dog.
You might be surprised to learn the following about your beastie
1. Most behaviors that we perceive as a problem are natural for your dog.
Some examples to help illustrate this point are; your dog wants to walk fast in lots of different directions and explore and sniff. They might want to eat gross things or roll in smelly things. They want to jump up to say hi and greet you and sniff and lick your mouth. They don’t want you to brush them or bath them or trim their nails. They don’t want you to leave them home alone.
2. Most behaviours that we want from our dog on a regular basis are unnatural for the dog.
Walk nicely beside me. Don’t jump up to say hi. Stay still; let me clip your nails. Stay still while I give you a bath. Don’t chase that squirrel! Don’t pee there!
3. Dogs don’t know the difference between what we deem as right and wrong. They are not concerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.
They learn to do things that we want when we take the time to teach them with compassion and respect, using force-free methods and positive reinforcement.
Our dogs can also suffer undue stress and learn to not trust us because they may perceive us as volatile and dangerous for reasons they don’t understand. Here is an example. Arriving home to find a mess the dog gets yelled at. So people coming home starts to become a predictor of yelling and anger. The dog slinks and offers appeasing behaviours that people misread as ‘guilt’… his ‘admission’ to his ‘bad behaviour’.
Far different are the emotional lives of these dogs from their fellow dogs educated gently and compassionately with science backed, force free methods.
4. Dogs are concerned with what is safe and what is dangerous.
This doesn’t mean that they naturally understand the concept of crossing a busy street as being dangerous.
Dogs learn from their experiences, be they good or bad. If, after a certain behaviour, something good happens, they are likely to repeat that behaviour. Conversely, if something unpleasant occurs after the behaviour, they are less likely to repeat it.
5. Dog’s never do things out of spite or jealously. To impart these emotions on them without understanding more fully why they behave a certain way is irresponsible.
They may try to keep other dogs away from you at the park when you have treats but this is because an important resource is at risk of being nabbed by an intruder.
6. Dogs are predators, they love to chase, catch and chew.
Providing a pup with these outlets by playing games is an important part of having a dog.
7. Dogs are not born with a desire to please us.
This is a tough one for many people. This doesn’t mean you can’t build a beautiful relationship with your dog. But the Walt Disney myth of the dutiful dog is a pile of BS.
Dogs are interested in what’s in it for them. Who can blame them for that?
I applaud anyone who goes the extra mile to really understand the nature of a dog. I think one should be interested in learning about the finer points of their dog. This will certainly contribute to a deeper more fulfilling life together. I have three continued reading picks to offer you now. Every dog person should read these and keep them on the bookshelf to refer to!. They were all game changers for me. I am grateful to the women who wrote them.
Jean Donaldson’s – The Culture Clash will change your life. How you look at your dog will never be the same. Reading this book and taking it to heart will make you a better person.
Suzanne Clothier’s – If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered… Bones Would Rain From the Sky You will laugh and cry and become that much more of an advocate for your dog.
Patricia McConnell’s –The Other End of The Leash Another inspiring, uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable read. It will elevate your knowledge to new heights and your sense of dog.
Does anything you have learned here surprise you? Which of your dog’s behaviours might you look at differently now? Perhaps with more compassion, wisdom and an educated eye.