The biggest mistake dog owners can make with their dogs is to treat them like humans. The human race is such a kind, compassionate species that we tend to look at our canine companions as little humans, when in reality, they are canines and have a very different thought process. This is what differentiates mankind from other species in pack societies; there must be a specific order, from the leader on down to the last follower. Everyone has a place. The leaders are the strength of the pack, while the followers need the leader to guide them. Dogs have an instinct to constantly test the being above them and an instinct to know they will always be tested by the being below them. Instinct tells them that if there is not a strong being in charge, their life and the lives of the rest of their pack are at stake. This primal instinct keeps the pack secure and happy.
It is a well known fact that dogs have not only a better sense of smell than humans, but have senses that humans do not have or are not in touch with. For example dogs can sense fear. It is believe they can smell the pheromone. Some dogs can tell a few minutes before a human is about to have a seizure even before the person knows. Dogs can tell how a human feels. There is no hiding it. A human can hide their feelings from another human, but never from a dog. Dog's just know. It is said that dogs can feel energy, but what does that mean? If you break it down to simple science, the kinetic energy a dog detects might simply be a frequency. Light, sound and heat are all frequencies. It is very possible that our bodies let off some type of frequency that a dog can detect. Does your dog ever just seem to know something?
Dogs instinctually crave rules to follow, and limits as to what they are allowed to do. When dogs live with humans, the humans become the dog's pack. For the relationship to succeed, humans must become the dog's pack leader. The mistake is made when the humans in the pack only give the dog love, and overlook the other needs of the dog. To a dog, constant affection without rules and limits goes against every grain in its instinct. While dogs enjoy being given affection, it does not satisfy the animal and it is not what makes them well balanced, stable minded, secure and happy. Dogs love affection, however that alone does not make a dog happy, satisfying its instincts do. You need to provide proper emotional stability in order to achieve this, and showing you have an orderly pack with rules to follow is what the dog needs. Giving your dog affection is important for the human, and enjoyed by the dog, but must be done at the correct times.
A dog is an animal and does not possess the same reasoning skills as a human. Dogs do have emotions, but their emotions are different than those of humans. They are simple creatures with instincts, and their emotions lack complex thought process. They feel joy when they know you are pleased, they feel sad when someone dies. However, they do not premeditate or plan ahead, and do not dwell in the past or future. They live for whatever is happening at the moment.
Let’s say that you are upset over something that has happened in your life, for example, your girlfriend or boyfriend just broke up with you. Your dog will know you are upset, but it will not know why. Your dog is unable to reason out in its head that you have just been broken up with. Its interpretation of you will be that you have unstable energy and it will see you as weak.
Similarly, when a human shares its affection with a dog that is in any other state of mind but a calm, submissive one (for example, aggressive, obsessive, shy, skittish, fear or hyperactivity, etc.) and you give it a hug or pat it on the head and tell it all is OK, it is comforting to the human, but intensifies the dog’s current state of mind. You are telling the dog it is OK to feel that way. While a human feels they are comforting the dog, the dog sees it as a weakness, as you are not providing strong energy from which the dog can feed. If your dog has a traumatic experience and you show it affection during that time by trying to comfort it, rather than letting it work through the situation in its own mind and being a strong leader it can feed from, you leave it stuck in that state of mind. Later when your dog faces this traumatic situation again, when you comfort the dog, this intensifies the situation even more. You are creating the problem. Dogs do not see comfort and affection in the same way we humans see it. Dogs are always looking for a strong stable being to feed from.
On the same note: when a dog is constantly leaning on you, putting his paw on you, using his nose to make you pet him, and always feeling the need to be touching you in some way, this is not your dog loving you, it is your dog displaying dominant behaviors. In the dog world, space is respect. A dog that is constantly nudging you and leaning on you, is not only disrespecting you, it is being the alpha dog.
Here is a video clip that perfectly illustrates humans giving affection to a dog at the wrong time. This is a result of many years of being treated like a human. The dog is terrified of the thunder and fireworks she hears outside. This dog is in a weak state of mind. The humans in this clip are comforting the dog in a way humans understand, but not in a way a dog can understand; the comfort means two different things to the human and the dog. The dog sees it as everyone around her being weaker than she is. For a dog to be in a weak state of mind, then to be surrounded by pack members who are in an even weaker state of mind, well, this really messes up a dog's psyche and intensifies her fear. While watching the clip, keep in mind how the humans feel they are comforting, and how the dog instinctively does not see it that way.
This also holds true for dogs with medical issues. For example, if a dog has an operation and you feel sorry for the dog—at a time in the dog's life when it needs a strong pack leader more than ever to feed from—you instead become weaker in the dog’s mind.
If you show weakness to your dog, the dog instinctually takes over the role of leader whether he wants to or not, because there must be a strong leader and an order in a dog's pack. If the dog does not feel he is strong enough to handle the role of leader it can be very stressful, and even terrifying, for the dog to have such a heavy weight on its shoulders, as it tries to look after all of the humans around it. Humans often give the dog mixed leadership signals, which throw the dog off balance, confusing his psyche, and causing many of the psychological/behavioral problems we see in dogs today. Mental tension and energy build up within the dog, which lead to many common canine misbehaviors: eliminating in the house, obsessive behaviors, neurotic behaviors, chewing on themselves, being overly excited, barking excessively, whining, not following their owner’s commands, not coming when called, running off, getting into the trash, destroying things in the house, obsessively digging, chewing the furniture, tail-chasing, scratching, aggression towards other dogs, animals, or humans, snapping, biting, growling, and becoming just plain old uncontrollable (just to name a few). Whatever the problem is, it is more likely than not, traceable back to the way you treat your dog. In some cases it may appear the dog is just nuts, or psycho, and there is nothing one can do about it.
This is also the number one cause of separation anxiety. In a pack, the leader is allowed to leave; however, the followers never leave the leader. If your dog is instinctually seeing you as its follower and you leave it, the dog can be so mentally anguished that it will often take its frustration out on your house or itself.
Taking your dog for a walk is an important ritual in keeping your dog mentally stable. Dogs are walkers/travelers by instinct; packs of dogs get up in the morning and walk. Simply having a large backyard is not going to satisfy this instinct in your dog. To your dog, your backyard is like a large cage in which it is trapped. For a dog to be mentally stable, you as an owner must take your dog for daily walks to release not only physical energy, but also mental. The proper way to walk a dog is with the dog walking either beside you or behind you, never in front of you. This may seem petty in a human's mind, however it means a lot in a dog’s mind. Instinct tells a dog that the leader goes first. When you walk your dog correctly, the dog is not supposed to sniff the ground or relieve itself where it pleases, rather the dog should concentrate on its handler while walking. The person walking the dog decides when the dog is allowed to sniff or pee, not the dog. A lack of exercise and the mental energy that can only be released by a proper walk can cause many behavioral problems in a dog. Getting a dog to walk properly on a lead is not as hard as it may seem—yes, even for your own dog(s).
Dogs pick up on the energy of their humans. They can tell if you are hyper, nervous, scared, or calm. You will be able to communicate successfully with your dog if you use your body’s energy rather than excited words. For example, if your dog does something wrong and you yell and scream at the dog or beat the dog, it confuses the dog. This is not the way a pack leader corrects his followers. However, if you approach your dog in a very self-assured and calm manner to correct the dog at the moment he is doing the unwanted behavior with an assertive voice correction or a touch to their neck, your dogs will understand this, because you are mimicking the way dogs correct one another—with calm, self-assured body language. If you want your dog to do or stop doing something, you need to first convince yourself it will happen. Stay calm and self-assured as your dog will pick up on your emotion. Remember, the dog must be doing the deed at the moment of correction in order for you to successfully communicate.
We humans have successfully domesticated the dog, but we will never be able to de-animalize a dog and remove their natural instincts. We cannot change a dog into having human characteristics, as this is how behavior problems arise. While we think we are treating a dog in such a way that will make them happy, we are in fact doing just the opposite. By not satisfying a dog’s natural instincts we create confused and unhappy dogs. To happily coexist with man’s best friend, we need to understand our canines and satisfy THEM, rather than only satisfying ourselves.
Dogs do not live in the past or the future, as humans do. They live for the moment. Because a dog lives in the present, it is much easier to rehabilitate a dog than a human. If you begin treating your dog in a very self-assured manner, giving love to it at the right times, and correcting it at the right moments, you can change your dog into a happy and mentally stable dog. The more stable your dog is, the more calm and submissive he will become and the more you can give it affectionate love. It's a "win-win" situation.
As the saying goes, "Treat your dog like a human and he'll treat you like a dog!"
Written by Sharon Maguire© Dog Breed Info Center® All Rights Reserved
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! At last a website about dogs and dog training that makes sense and cuts out the rubbish being sold by so many dog training sites and trainers. A site that sees it from the dog's perspective (thereby respecting dogs for the magnificent animals they are). I have been a professional dog (person) trainer now in England for 4.5 years since I retired from a life career in the British police service. I consider my real job is to assist people to train their dogs rather than me training their dogs for them. My biggest challenge so far is trying to explain and to convince dog owners that their dogs are animals to be respected as such rather than people (children) dressed in a fur coat. My experience is the reason it is so difficult to get most people to understand things differently is that that's what they are actually looking for... a person (child) in a fur coat. It seems they go and get a puppy very often to fill a part in their lives that has actually existed before but is now missing (the child that has now grown up and has flown the nest, the life long partner who has passed on, the human brood that has not been created yet). I find many younger couples go and buy a puppy then try to treat it as a baby person. It's almost as though they think they can practice for the real thing.
When one tries to explain a dog is not a replacement person the response is so often disbelief, sadness, bewilderment and on occasions right down anger at someone saying it! At least now I can refer people to your site which says,so well, so many things I am trying to convey to them. It gives my words more credibility being written down in black and white. I could go on praising your site for a very long time but for now once again
Trev Woolgar —Kent Dog Whisperer