We want our dogs to be our best friends, but with dog training it’s not just our pets that need to make adjustments. Here are a few just for you…
You talk too much
You definitely talk too much! I may be able to deduce some of what you say – but most of it is noisy gobbledygook to me. What I rely on is to know what you mean by the way you move – your body language. I have to figure out what you’re thinking and even feeling, and I would much prefer to do this by watching the way you move than hearing all those confusing words.
Beware though. It is easy to send out confusing signals. For example, instructing me to “stay” while at the same time leaning forward and holding out your hand is in effect inviting me to come towards you. It’s just too confusing – especially if I then get reprimanded when it was your communication that was wrong! Sounds familiar? It’s like a lot of marriages.
Try going a whole day not saying a word to me. Try to communicate only with your body. It’ll be a revelation I can assure you.
You look dogs in the eye
Eye contact is a powerful thing. You humans see it as an important sign of trustworthiness and focus. But it can also be seen as unnerving and uncomfortable – even domineering. For me eye contact is part of the process of establishing who is in charge.
So if you look a strange dog in the eye, without blinking, that dog probably reads it as a dominating act – or even aggressive. Some of my fellow dogs may act submissive by looking away or rolling on their backs. Others may back away and start barking.
The fact is that for most dogs like me, a stranger looking me in the eye while approaching heralds an uncomfortable situation. The best way to greet any new dog is to approach with your body at a slight angle and eyes averted, and to speak quietly.
You give me no guidance
We dogs love rules! We really do want to be lead and to do things the way you – my leader! – wants them done. What I want from you is structure, rules and boundaries.
Dogs like me are creatures of routine and rules mean life is a lot more predictable, less confusing and therefore much less stressful.
We are confused if exceptions are made to the rules. We don’t differentiate between dog walking clothes and smart or work clothes – if we are allowed to jump up we will do so whatever you are wearing – and whatever the weather!. After all a couch is a couch is a couch, whether I have just come in from the rain or the sunshine!
Simply uttering the word “No” for breaking a rule but doing nothing to rectify my behavior and teach me the rule is NOT enforcement. I need to know where the boundaries are. By taking time to enforce these boundaries consistently and with rewards, you will be building my trust in you as their leader.
You force me to interact with others
I like other dogs have my favorite friends and a few hated enemies. Yet, many of you dog owners fail to read the cues we dogs impart and tend to push us into situations when we would rather be left to our own devices. Many of you also allow strangers to greet us even when we are clearly signaling we would rather be left alone.
By taking small steps to encourage us – especially shy, fearful, or reactive dogs who are out of their comfort zone – giving us rewards for calm, happy behavior, will most definitely help us achieve a balanced life. When we are pushed into social situations against our will, we are more prone to lashing out whether it be with a bite or a full-on fight.
You don’t allow me to explore and sniff
Walks – and I mean walks! – are fundamental. I do not mind a walk at the end of a leash but being allowed to spend time exploring the surroundings is what I really crave, I know the world through my nose. It is as important to me as your sight is to you. You are however too often in a hurry, intent on me toileting, and with no thought for my desire for variety. If I feel like it therefore I will keep my poopoo until the furthest possible point so I can be sure I get my pet’s worth of walkies.
In my opinion at least one walk a day should be devoted to allowing me to sniff. Go slow and let me take in the world through my nose – and try to find plenty of new places for us to explore together,
You keep a tight leash, literally
I am not only amazing at reading your body language. I am also stupendous at reading your tension levels – especially through the leash. So by keeping a tight leash on me, you are simply raising my level of stress, frustration, and excitement, and this is bound to have an adverse effect on you. Please, please, please learn to walk me on a slack leash – .it leads me to feel things are fine and dandy, and there’s no reason to be tense or worried.
It tells me that you are calm and have everything under control. Keeping a tight leash just sends me the message that you’re tense and nervous. If I get the felling you are alert, ready to fight or fly, I am bound to respond in kind. You are the leader so I am afraid you have to lead.
You don’t like me to pull you around, and it doesn’t feel good to me if you are constantly pulling me either. Be aware that dogs like me on a tight leash are more likely to bark or react in some way – even in the mildest of situations. But slacken that leash and I am much more likely to be calm.
You are too tense
I not only pick up your mood when I am on the leash. I can tell your mood from your smell. I can tell you fear smells sweet. The more wound up and stressed you are, the more wound-up you make me. I don’t like that feeling. You might roll your eyes, but the next time I am acting frustrated and tense, check whether it’s you who has been giving off those vibes? I may just be playing the role of your mirror.
When you’re busy being a human it’s boring. You arrive home from work and want to unwind, do a few chores, make dinner and collapse on the couch. But that’s so annoying for me. I have been waiting around all day and want you to play with me.
Can’t you teaching me something new – like a new trick? We could work on some old tricks, play a game of “find it” with one of my favorite toys, or why not take me out for a walk.