Our fur-babies are special in our hearts, not quite children that grow up and create their own lives. These amazing creatures are our companions throughout their lives. Often dogs enter as impressionable puppies, and grow and age with us.
Each breed is different; each dog within the breed is different as well. Some breeds are a bit more high strung than others, some more intense and determined, some so easy-going and fluid in their attitudes that you’d swear you could do anything and they’d still love you.
[Also Read: How to Beat Dog Separation Anxiety]
In the book, the Accidental Tourist, Ann Tyler writes, “Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul, chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!”
Our dogs depend on us as that alpha hunter to feed them, love them and provide them with all their comforts. We are their leaders and of course what we think they need, and what they think they need, might be a bit different. What stresses out us as humans, often doesn’t bother a dog at all. However, we may not know or understand the psychology of the dogs and what gives them stress and anxiety.
They say dog years are different from people, and so are dog rules. So let’s explore a few no-nos in the dog world and in a dog’s mind.
By using multiple words and gesture the same behavior, it’s like tossing a bunch of Scrabble letters at a dyslexic toddler and asking him to spell his name. By saying “stop!” “shh!” “no” and “quiet” and wagging your finger, waving your hands and stomping your feet at a dog when he’s barking at the same thing. You’ve given him so many different clues. Your dog gets confused, so often he barks even harder and longer in frustration. It’s better to have one word for that behavior that everyone in the family uses.
Dogs don’t understand “special occasions” or “we’ll let it slide this time”. Dogs flourish on consistent rules and solid routine. In fact they take great comfort in it. Getting up to go for a walk every day at 7 am except for Sunday confuses them. Not being allowed in a certain room, except for a special occasion, distresses them. If your dog has been scolded and punished one time for a behavior and then praises another time for doing the same thing, they feel great discomfort and fear. What will the human do next? What is right and wrong?
Dogs are, well, dogs. They aren’t mini people in fur with four legs. They act on instinct as well as the behavior learned from you . Dogs dig, bark, chew, sniff, and the worse behavior that humans hate, they steal table scraps. To dogs, it’s natural. It’s what you are supposed to do. Slippers, toilet paper and couches are sometimes up for grabs in the dog world if the pooch is left alone too long and they are in easy reach.
Rather than scolding and punishing, hid precious slippers, give them something to do, like chew on a Kong, and take them out for exercise or teaching them an “inside voice”. Taking them for a walk to a pond with wonderful things to bark at when the dog learns, “ok I can bark to my heart’s content here and only here” Is another way to smooth out the human dog relationship quandary. This takes patience on the human part. And kindness and understanding. Dogs will be dogs.
.Saying “it’s okay” when your dog thinks it’s not. When our dogs are apprehensive, we want to soothe their worried minds. A strategy that works on grandma going to the hospital or a toddler who is overtired, doesn’t work for dog. Saying “it’s okay” in a soothing tone is what we’ve been taught to do for others, but for a canine pals, it strikes fear into their minds.
That’s because in dog reality, we’re training them to think the opposite. If we use a soothing phrase at the same time we are doing something they don’t like and perhaps even fear. They learn by association that the actually means something really, really bad is about to happen. This leads to stress, and sometimes hiding and extreme times biting.
Shaking your finger is one of the most stressful things you can do. This angry gesture, a hovering stance, combined with a stern tone, will cause anxiety and often he won’t know why you’re upset with him.
Staring at a dog you don’t know, can cause that dog stress. In the dog world, staring is a challenge. And sometimes with your own dog it can cause distress as he wonders, “Why is mommy or daddy mad at me?”
You go off to work and leave the pup alone for hours, then you go to the gym and/or come home to flop on the couch. Your dog needs exercise, little guys can run around the house chasing toys, bigger dogs need to walk, run or even stroll. Fresh air is vital. Take them to a dog park. Or risk an eaten couch, devoured in boredom.
The crackers we so love to set off scare the living daylights out of pets. Ears down, tail between the legs, lookig for a dark corner to hide in – why do we do this to to them?
“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”