Mama Sally: As a dog trainer, I often hear questions from my clients who are trying so very hard to understand their canine companions. Dogs can produce puzzling behavior that makes humans shake their heads in bewilderment. I get it. Rugby produces some very wacky behavior at times which leaves me scratching my head trying to figure out why.
At the end of the day, we just have to understand that our dogs are just that: DOGS! This means that they think like dogs, process information like dogs, and behave like dogs. They just are not humans, as much as we try to make them so. They are dogs. They rarely produce behavior for no reason at all. Typically, there’s a reason that we see the behavior that we do…and it can be a bit of a puzzle for me as a trainer to try to figure out why a dog is behaving in a given way…so I know what training technique to use to modify that behavior.
I think a good part of the difficulty in understanding our furry friends is that humans desperately want dogs to be more like humans than they really are. If we attach human emotions to what we see, I promise you, we’ll see a skewed image of what’s going on. We’ll be looking through a cloudy lens.
More often than not, that cloudy lens produces a negative opinion about the dog, and who wants that? Don’t we want to believe the best about our dogs, and know that we’re accurately understanding what makes them tick?
Part of the reason we see naughty stuff from our dogs is because many dogs in America are bored spitless! We do everything for them, leaving them with nothing to do except play with a few toys that we provide, and snuggle with us. They have no work to do…no thinking to do…no problems to solve, and so they get into trouble, because it’s fun. It makes a boring day more exciting.
When a dog shreds a roll of paper towels that he stole off of a kitchen counter, that’s a pretty good day’s work! I think it makes them look back on the mess with a sense of pride…knowing they did all of that…all by themselves….and it was a job well done! Dogs who get a good balance of physical and mental exercise are far less likely to get into mischief because they’re stimulated in other ways!
I see parents who expect their family dogs to enjoy and allow the children to climb on them, sit on them, hug them around the neck and kiss them. Parents like that behavior from their children when their kids show affection to their parents in that way, so I think they assume that dogs won’t mind it either.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Dogs don’t enjoy any of those things for the most part. That’s a dog bite waiting to happen. And the dog will be blamed….and most likely lose his home….and sometimes, his life.
Do yourself a favor and learn some things about dog behavior and how dogs learn! It’s fascinating!! Knowing how dogs learn and process information is so very interesting, and it will really help you to understand your dog better so that you can be a better pet parent.
Rugby is such a little nutter at home, but he really loves to learn, and so I continue to teach new tricks several times a week. It’s something that he really enjoys, and it gives his dogger brain a good workout and some wonderful bonding and interactive time between us! I love watching him problem solve, and try different behaviors until he can figure out what a specific trick means! Most dogs are really good at trying different things until they solve the problem we present when we teach a trick.
One of the most wonderful things that you can do for your dog in this new year, is to let him just be a dog. It’s simple. Embrace the messy, stinky, slobbery, fur covered critter for who he is and know that he is an absolutely amazing creature. You’ll smile more, you’ll laugh more, and you’ll fall deeper in love with your pooch.
Rugby James: The Mama really does get how doggers learn. She’s very good at letting me do stuff what I fink is fun, and not just stuff that she finks is fun! Like if there’s a skirrel outside, she’ll go get me sos I can go chase it. And I getsa bark at it too. And if the next door neighbor’s dog is barking, I getsa bark right along…but only for a lil bit, and then I gotsa stop.
I getsa sniff the Mama all over when she comes home. She doesn’t get mad when I sniff her on account of I’m just trying to gather information about what doggers she has trained that day, and she gets that about me. Mostly she just stands still and lets me finish sniffing, what is very nice of her to do for me.
She lets me earn stuff like special snacks, and extra lubs and snuggles and new toys and outings to new places sumtimes. It gives me stuff to do every day and that makes me all kindsa happy!!
Sumtimes, she puts my kibbles in a puzzle feeder sos I hasta work to get them out, and it’s like being able to play wif my food too!!
She mostly treats me like a dogger. She doesn’t make me her baby or nuffing like that….but sumtimes she does make me wear goofy stuff and takes photos what I doesn’t like very much. But mostly, she just lets me be nekked and happy, just being who I am!