Dogs are people too… right?

March 10, 2014 at 3:25 am
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For thousands of years, we have come to appreciate more and more that dogs make our lives better. From serving in duty to herding our sheep to even pulling our sleds through uninhabitable terrain; dogs have without a doubt contributed to the success of man!

More recently, dogs have added another job to their repertoire: to be a human child. As a behaviourist, many of the people who contact me have issues with their dog because of this role. The role of being a human child is a very difficult one for a dog to fulfil, inevitably setting the owner and the dog up for failure.

As much as I LOVE my dog, talk ‘baby’ to him and cuddle him like he is my whole world, it is my job to respect that he is a dog. When we put pressure on our dogs to fulfil expectations that they physically and mentally cannot, we tend to see behaviours that are often symptomatic of anxiety, frustration.

If you feel you may be a little guilty of treating your dog like your baby, don’t feel bad, but here are some clues to help you recognise this relationship:

1. Your dog barks/whimpers at you for attention
2. Your dog growls when others approach or embrace you
3. Your dog has destructive tendencies such as chewing and destroying house items particularly when you are out
4. Your dog tends to be manipulative or controlling of things they want
5. Your dog may growl at you when they do not want to do what you ask.

You see, our interpretation of a dog as our young child comes across very differently from the dog’s perspective. To a dog, receiving free affection/food whenever they want it and having inconsistent expectations of what their boundaries are indicates that their human is not the leader they need, and so, with no human leader around, someone has to control this family environment. Who is willing to do this? The dog is.

How can you overcome these concerns with your relationship?

Start to think from the dog’s perspective. As much as you love her/him and as much as they fulfill your needs, think about their needs too! Imagine this world from a dog’s perspective. This world is confusing enough for us, let alone for a dog. There are things around every corner that a dog cannot control or predict, making for a very stressful environment. Your role is to provide leadership where your dog can trust and respect you to take control, keep them safe and enjoy life together.

To do this, begin by only rewarding what I call the Three C’s:
- Calm state of mind
– Compliant behaviour
– Choosing to please without being asked.

If you are consistent with your expectations, meaning you follow through 100% and set your dog up to win, all of a sudden your dog will feel the weight of the world off his shoulders. You can still love and adore your dog and engage in all the activities (well most of them anyway) you did together beforehand, but now there is a clear role for both of you.

The one thing a dog and a child does have in common is that a dog has the cognitive ability of a three-year-old child. The main difference is that children grow up, dogs can’t.

Respect your dog, trust who they are and you will receive this in return. You and your dog deserve a relationship where both your needs are met. For further information, check out our website dognitivetherapy.com or join us on Facebook.