There are many ways you can drive your dog crazy, and you may not even know you are doing it.
Dogs try to be our best friends, but sometimes we make it difficult. Here are some of the things we do that can make dogs wonder if they want to remain best friends or cut ties entirely:
Using words more than body language
We are a vocal species.We love to chat, even with our pets, who cannot understand the vast majority of what we are saying. Dogs could figure out what a few keywords mean: walk, treat, play around, and even learn hundreds of words like some border collies have. But they cannot understand human language. What they rely on to figure out what we mean is our body language. Dogs have evolved to be expert readers of the human body and can discover what you are thinking and feeling before you even realize that you are thinking and feeling it. But we can easily send mixed signals if we only pay attention to what our mouths are saying and not what our bodies are saying. If you go to a beginner dog training class, you will see many people saying one thing, doing another, and a confused dog trying to figure out what is wanted of them in the world. For example, telling a dog to "stay" while leaning toward the dog and extending a hand like a traffic cop, in body language, actually invites him to come closer to you. But when the dog does, he gets a reprimand for breaking his staying order. It's all so confusing!
A great experiment (and something that will likely make your dog sigh in relief) is trying to get through an entire day without saying a word to your dog, but only communicating with his body. You will realize how much you "talk" to your body without realizing it, how to use your movements and body position to get the response you need from your dog during training, and how involved a conversation can be without making a sound.
Hugging your dog
Although you may like to cuddle with a furry canine friend, most dogs hate cuddles. We as primates believe that hugs are great and we express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It's totally normal for us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Canids do not have arms and do not hug. Instead of camaraderie, if a dog places a front paw or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. Regardless of its hugging intentions, a dog is programmed to watch the act of hugging while exercising dominance. Many dogs will gracefully tolerate it - the smiling face of the familiar golden retriever with a child's arms around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just abhor the sensation, and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is the reason many dog bites occur. Furthermore, the same dog that enjoys a person's embrace may react completely differently to another family member who tries the same thing. It would be difficult to find a dog that really enjoys or seeks cuddles.
If you're wondering if your dog hates your cuddles, just pay attention to her body language when you go to hug him. Does she tense? Does he tilt his head away from you? Avoid even a hint of eye contact? Lick your lips? Keep your mouth shut? Put your ears against your head? These are all signs that a dog is feeling uncomfortable. Yes, even the dog licking his lips while being cuddled is not showing that he is overwhelmed with love, but rather showing submissive and even nervous behavior. So the next time you want to give a hug, pay close attention to whether the dog agrees or not. After all, you are putting your face right next to a series of sharp teeth.
Petting a dog's face or patting its head
Do you like to be patted on the head? My guess is no. Having someone come up and touch us on the head, no matter how lovingly, is not something that most of us enjoy. It is annoying at best and painful at worst. And we really don't want the hands of strangers to touch our faces. If someone were to reach out to your face, I suppose your reaction would be to throw your head back and walk away, and get a little tense about the invasion of personal space. However, most humans think that dogs like to be patted on the head. The reality is that while many dogs will tolerate this if it's someone they know and trust, most dogs don't enjoy it. You may notice that even the dog of the loving family may lean slightly when it reaches your face to pet it. She will leave you because you are the boss, but she doesn't like it. It's as much a personal space issue for dogs as it is for us. This is the reason why responsible parents teach their children to gently pat a dog's back or back, but don't pat, and definitely don't go for the dog's face. If you really want to reward your dog for being amazing, don't hit their head, but give them a back rub right by the tail. They will be grateful to you!
Walking towards a strange dog while looking into her eyes
We all know how powerful eye contact is. While we consider constant eye contact to be important, as a sign of trustworthiness or focus, we must also be aware that eye contact can be unnerving, uncomfortable, and overbearing. It's creepy when a stranger looks into our eyes without breaking contact, especially when they're getting closer. Clearly your attention has focused, but what is your intention? We have to read the rest of his face for the signs. Eye contact is part of establishing dominance in many species, and in humans, we can use the smallest detail about the rest of the face, the smoothness or hardness of the muscles around the eyes and mouth, to determine if the look is friendly or not. And still, it's still creepy to have a weird look on us! It feels the same way for dogs. When you look a strange dog directly in the eye, without blinking, you may be smiling and trying to warm them up, but the dog is probably reading it as an act of domination or even aggression. They may show a submissive response, looking away, moving the pets around a bit, turning on their backs, or they may start to back away and bark. Either way, for most dogs, a stranger looking directly into your eyes as you approach is not a comfortable situation.
If you want to greet a new dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you, approach with your body slightly bent (not shoulders towards the dog), eyes slightly averted, and speak quietly in a soft voice. All of these friendly body language cues will help a dog understand that it means no harm. The dog doesn't want to have anything to do with you yet, but at least you didn't get close in a scary way that could provoke a defensive or aggressive reaction.
Does not provide structure and rules
Dogs want, need and love rules. You might think that having strict rules makes life boring or unhappy for your dog. But dogs really want to know what their leader says. And really, it's not that difficult to relate as humans. Children thrive when they have a consistent set of rules to follow, and they do worse in environments that provide a free life for all. Think of well-rounded, well-behaved children you meet, and spoiled children who lack social skills or throw tantrums when they don't get what they want. What set of children are the ones with consistent rules and limits? And which ensemble tends to be more consistently happy? With dogs, it is more or less the same. Rules make life much more predictable, much less confusing, and much less stressful.
And speaking of confusion, dogs don't understand exceptions to the rules. They don't understand that they can jump on you when you have leisure clothes but not when you have work clothes. They do not understand that they are allowed on the couch after a bath, but not after they have come out of a roll in the mud. Also, saying "No" for breaking a rule but not actually doing something to help the dog stop the behavior and learn the rule does not count as an enforcement. Dogs thrive when they know where the limits are, and when you spend time setting limits consistent with positive rewards, you are also increasing their confidence in you as a leader. You are preparing the conditions for a very happy dog!
Forcing your dog to interact with dogs or people that he clearly doesn't like
Like many other social species, dogs have their favorite friends and their enemies. It's easy to see which other dogs (and people, for that matter) a dog wants to hang out with and which ones it would rather not associate with. However, there are many dog owners who deny this or simply do not read the signals that their dog gives them. It's common for overzealous owners to push their dog (sometimes literally) into social situations at dog parks when their dog prefers to go home. Or they allow strangers to pet their dog even when it shows clear signs of wanting to be left alone.
It is important to note that there is a difference between a positive stimulus with shy, fearful or reactive dogs. Taking small steps out of their comfort zone and rewarding them for any amount of calm and happy social behavior is important in helping them live a balanced life. But knowing the difference between a gentle, reward-based push and forcing an interaction is vital to your dog's safety and sanity. When dogs are pushed too far in social situations, they are more likely to lash out with a bite or a fight. They've given sign after sign, ignoring, avoiding, maybe even growling, and they've finally had enough and deliver the clearest message of all with their teeth. What is possibly even worse is that their trust in you as a protective leader is eroded, and they have an even more negative association with a park, a certain dog or person, or a general social environment. So do your dog a favor: read the body language he gives you when he doesn't want to be around other people and don't force it.
Going for a walk with no chance to explore and smell
There are rides, and there are rides. It is definitely important to have a dog that knows how to walk obediently on a leash. However, it is also important to allow a dog some time to explore his surroundings while obediently walking on a leash. Dogs see with their noses and place as much importance on the sense of smell as we humans attribute it to our sense of vision to interpret the world around us. It's probably safe to say that dogs appreciate the smell of a tree trunk in the same way that we appreciate a beautiful sunset. Dogs hate not being able to enjoy their world for at least a few minutes a day, and too often humans focus on going for a walk for the sole purpose of exercising or going to the bathroom. We walk the same old route, often without any variety or sense of leisure, and in too much of a rush to get home.
Do your dog a favor and dedicate one of your daily walks to having a "scent walk" - go slow and let your dog have fun with his nose. Go to a whole new place, explore a different neighborhood or trail, let your dog sniff a spot until he's satisfied, even if it's for minutes before moving on. To help your dog know the difference between a walk where he should be obedient and stay by her side, and a walk where she is free to explore, you can have a special backpack or harness that she uses only for scent walks. Just make sure it's something very different from your usual collar and leash setup, so the different goal for the walk is obvious to your dog. These walks are a wonderful opportunity for your dog to receive some of the mental and sensory stimulation that makes life more interesting.
Keeping a leash tight, literally
Just as dogs are amazing at reading our body language, they are amazing at reading our tension levels even on a leash. By keeping a tight leash on a dog, you are raising the level of stress, frustration and excitement for your dog, and conversely, for yourself. I know what you might be thinking: “I don't want to be on a tight leash, but I have to. My dog is the one who shoots, not me! ". But this is why it is so important to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash.
An incredible amount of energy is transferred between you and your dog through that little strip of canvas or leather. By keeping a loose leash, you are letting your dog know that everything is fine and that there is no reason to be worried or tense. With a loose leash you tell your dog that you are calm and you have everything under control so that your dog also has the freedom to be calm. On the other hand, by keeping a tight leash you are sending a message to your dog that you are tense, nervous, alert, ready to fight or fly, and your dog responds in a similar way. Just as you don't like to be pushed around by your dog, it doesn't do your dog any good to constantly pull you over and therefore give you the signal to be alert. They are also aware that they cannot walk away from you, even if they think it is necessary. A dog that walks on a tight leash is more prone to barking or being reactive in even the most benign social situations. But a dog that can walk on a loose leash is more likely to be calm. This is a difficult thing to master, and something most dog owners can sympathize with, but having nice walks with a relaxed dog is just as important.
Leash tension isn't the only way a dog can understand how you feel. You can see when a person around you feels tense, even if you don't realize it. Dogs have the same ability. The more stressed and exhausted you are, the more stressed and exhausted your dog will be. And dogs, just like us, don't like that feeling. You can roll your eyes, but next time your dog is frustrated and uptight, check it out. Have you been feeling that way for the past few minutes, the past few hours, or the past few days? Your dog could be acting as your mirror. If you need a reason to meditate, helping your dog calm down is a great experience.
To be boring
Do you know that feeling of being stuck with someone who is totally boring? Think: do you remember having to be with your parents while they were running errands as adults? None of which revolved around a toy store or park, of course. Remember that feeling of barely able to contain yourself, of wanting to squirm, growl and complain. You couldn't participate in the adult conversation, which was boring anyway, and they told you to stay still and quiet. But oh boy did you ever want to just soooooooooo Just run around the block or something to break the monotony. This is how your dog feels when you are busy being as boring as an adult. Dogs hate when we are bored. And it's hard not to be! We come home from work and we want to kick back, do some chores, make dinner, kick back on the couch, and relax. But that's the most annoying thing we could do to our dogs who have been waiting all day for us to finally play with them.
If your dog is causing trouble - crawling into boxes or cabinets, eating shoes, or chewing on table legs - you're basically showing him how incredibly bored she is. Fortunately, there is a quick and easy solution to this: training games. Teaching your dog a new trick, working on old tricks, playing a game of "find it" with his favorite toy, or going for a walk as an opportunity to work on urban agility are all ways to stimulate your dog's mind and body. . An hour of training is worth a couple of hours playing a repetitive game of fetch in terms of leading a dog. While exercise and walks are of course important, adding some mental work will make your dog happy, tired. Even just 15-30 minutes of trick training a day will make a big difference.
This should be obvious, and we will not spend too much time on it. But it's worth noting because a lot of people still think it's fun. Don't bark at a dog when you pass him on the street. Do not shake or talk to a dog that barks at you from behind a window or door. Don't pull on a dog's tail. The list can go on and on, but in short, don't do something that you know drives a dog crazy just because you think it's fun. It's not funny to the dog and it can lead to serious behavior problems, and perhaps deservedly, you get some new dog-shaped teeth marks.
By Jaymi Heimbuch
Original article (in English)