Understanding your dog’s behaviour and “what makes him tick” will enable you to look at things from his perspective, make training him easier and will certainly increase your enjoyment of him.
Because humans often love their dogs so much, they find it difficult to understand why the dog does not think the way they do. Dogs do not share our values and don’t appreciate things we do.
For example, a dog does not understand why we want to have a beautiful garden full of flowers or a sofa that hasn’t been chewed, which looks better than one which has.
A dog that digs up the flowers we have just planted does not understand the amount of time and expense that went into making it look good. He may think a big hole and a pile of earth looks good! He certainly did not do it out of malice. Digging and chewing are perfectly normal dog behaviours.
Inappropriate behaviour is often due to underlying emotional reasons such as anxiety, frustration and lack of fulfilment of the dog’s needs. Hugging, kissing and cuddling your dog fulfils the owner’s needs, but a dog whose needs are not met will become mentally and physically frustrated, and will tell you by excessive vocalisation, destructive and attention-seeking behaviour.
Many owners have the habit of attributing human characteristics or behaviour to their dogs. This is called anthropomorphism. Owners who perceive their dogs to be little people in furry coats, who are seen to be “guilty”, ashamed””, “spiteful”, “sneaky”, and so on do their dogs a massive injustice and cause terrible stress for the dog and themselves. Overprotecting and pampering a fearful dog, for example, very often results in the dog displaying fear, aggression, protective aggression, insecure dominance and separation anxiety; in other words, a dog lacking in coping skills.
Dogs do not have the complex emotional system to be capable of spite, guilt, shame or jealousy. Humans have the monopoly on these delightful emotions. Owners often complain that the dog “knows he was wrong”. A typical example is a dog chewing a specific object.
The owner comes home and sees the object chewed. The owner gets annoyed and the dog appears to behave sheepishly. “Ah ha! He knows it is wrong to chew the pool net!” The dog has no concept of right and wrong - he is simply picking up on aggressive body language and trying to calm his owner down.
If he repeats this unwanted behaviour is he being spiteful? Certainly not. He has been taught that chewing the pool net gets him attention - any attention is equally rewarding at this point. The most important point to remember is that dogs do not understand the difference between right and wrong. In fact, they do not even have a “right” or “wrong” as we know it.
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