This post is prompted by my observations of dog owners and how they communicate with their dogs. As humans we talk, and we talk a lot. Overtime dogs learn to ignore most of our neverending blah-blah-blah. However if you want your dog to pay attention and do what you ask, make sure you don’t repeat these five common mistakes.
A few days ago we received a letter from the local council stating that someone has complained about dog barking. To say that we were shocked is not enough. Milo is never left alone for long periods of time except for the two days this year, when we had to leave him for the whole day. The only people, who could have complained, are our upstairs neighbours. When we asked them about it, they said that they were concerned for Milo’s well-being, because he barked almost every day for 10-15 minutes at a time. I’m not going to share my annoyance with the fact that they failed to tell us first. After all, how on earth could we know that he barks, when we’re not home? Moreover, I seriously doubt, that Milo actually barks that often. Next day after we received the letter, we installed a web-cam. I was on holiday for a few days, and Milo was home alone, while my husband was at work. We haven’t seen or hear him bark once. He was sleeping like a log on the sofa, which is pretty much his favourite pastime. Anyway I’m going to share a few tips on how to make your dog comfortable while you’re gone. From now on, I will make sure that I stick to them myself, although being home alone had never been an issue for Milo before.
Just like people dogs vary in their threshold of what kind of touch they consider appropriate. A dog’s reaction to being touched can range from joy and relaxation to growling and biting and everything else in between. Teaching your dog to be comfortable with touch will make trips to the vets, bathing time and other necessary activities less stressful. Moreover, a dog that has serious body guarding issues can be a threat to your safety. There are a couple of things that you can do to teach your dog to accept and enjoy being touched.
Trainer Trisha’s post made me think about the things I have learnt about dog training. I was lucky to begin my journey into dog training, when the harsh and often cruel methods were no longer taught. I wanted to write “no longer used”, but it is not true. Choke collars are still being sold, and I still hear about people giving advice based on the old-fashioned ideas of hierarchy and “what wolves do”. I often face the challenge of persuading the owners that their relationship with their dogs should not involve concepts like “domination” and “punishment”. Relationship with a dog is about leadership and guidance, not dictatorship and competition for the “alpha-male” status. Would you really compete with a creature that is, let’s be honest, intellectually inferior to you? Our dogs look up to us. They want to please us and make us happy, because it makes them happy.
The most important thing that I have learnt is that dogs don’t misbehave, because they want to be mean. They misbehave, because we taught them so.
I have mentioned that Milo’s behavioural problems are to the most part a result of these old-school methods such as choke collars and severe punishment. I didn’t know then, but when I look back at what was going on, I feel terribly sorry for him. He lost his trust in people almost completely and it took us a long time to earn it back. Although he still has some bad habits learnt back then, Milo is the most affectionate and loving dog. Every time he shows his trust and confidence in us, I am sincerely flattered and amazed. I am greatly touched, when he lets us clean his ears, when he asks for help and when he is worried, if he lost sight of us during walks. I think: “Wow, how did I manage to earn it?”.
After all, this feeling of being needed, trusted and loved is the very reason why we want a dog companion, isn’t?