Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
When Tender loving care is not enough; Conclusions Part 4
In last week article, I finished with the following statement:-
Most owners cannot understand how showing a normal human caring attitude is in fact the worst thing they can do for their dogs their dog becomes worse they incorrectly assume it must be a problem with the dog when it is not. It seems incredulous to us that ignoring a dog’s fear rather than comforting it is the right thing to do but it is and it works to produce a calm sociable dog.
Last week a regular reader noted that many months ago, I had previously stated that unfortunately there is no one pill that solves all problems. He had noticed that in many of my replies to pet owners there in fact were many common and regular answers for very many differing problems. He wanted to know why.
He is indeed correct but this is because it is a dog problem but it is the owners that needed to alter their position within the human/canine pack. Whilst humans do show their pets lots of tender loving care as you will have read in these last group of articles, this has not produced the desired and normal accepted human response. Such kindness may well work with humans it does not work with dogs. The only reason it appears to produce similar human type responses from the dog is because it for a different reason.
How many times when you felt upset, your dog has come over to you and rested its head on your lap. Is it showing you that it cares in the same way as would any human or is there possibly some other reason.
One word I never use yet I hear banded about by behaviourists is anthropomorphism. Do not rush to your dictionary as it only means that humans have a habit of humanising their pets. This is not normally a bad thing, as I for one would always call my dog “Come on Son” as if I were calling a child. We all know they are not related but it is an easy way to give commands to our dogs and induce into us the correct body language that dogs can understand. What we must not do is fall into the trap that dogs are humanised by us. They still read us as would a Wolf and so there is a miss match in interpretation.
For the dog to show us that it cares when we feel upset is not correct. The dog simply does not recognise the body language and comes to check its position within the hierarchy. A pleasing greeting from the owner and the dog goes away happy. If we do not show such a greeting the dog may well pester the owner to make such a gesture, as it needs to feel secure. Often some dogs do show distress but it is again not concerned with the owner’s reason for feeling upset.
I know many owners will say “No, my dog knows when I am not well”. This is because owners want to see or feel our companion has become humanised and unless there is a problem does it really matter.
I recently received an email from an owner living in Hong Kong who is the proud owner of a Siberian husky. His concern was that when he left the house his dog would howl all the time he was away so he had to take his dog to work or face a 20,000-dollar fine. He explained that he kept the dog on a lead both outside and inside the house. His idea was that being constantly by his side when he went anywhere it would always remain by his side similar to heel work.
The idea of such repitition does seem quiet logical but what happened he had rebuilt an umbilical cord with the dog and it was unable to survive without him. Anyone who has heard such dogs howl will understand that the kneighbours would soon have been ringing in complaining.
I emailed him a reply as to what he should do to correct this problem. The first sort of frequent reply was to ignore his dog. No eye-to-eye contact. Never let the dog have a fuss when it demands attention. He should wait until the dog is settled then call the dog over for some fuss. I then ask him to play with the dogs food so his dog no longer saw him merely as the waiter but the leader eating first them giving it to him when the leader felt like it. The dog should be moved out of the bedroom preferable with the door open so it knows it has no place in the leaders bedroom. I needed him to go in and out of the house but never say anything to the dog but simply walk out and on return totally ignore the dog until later.
I received a reply that he would try these when he returned home. Later that day I received a reply saying that he had played with his dog’s food as if he had been eating it before placing it down on the floor. He found the dog ate all of it straight away. Normally it left some for later. He told his dog to go out of his bedroom many times and it would stand just on the threshold but would not enter. That night apart from a little whimpering, it was content to sleep in the lounge on its own. Again, when he got up he found one very happy dog but the owner ignored him until after he had coffee and his breakfast. Eventually he called his dog over fussed him for a moment then walked off into the bedroom. He left the dog for an hour and no barking howling or whining was heard.
Now the dog is left out on the rooftop and never makes a sound. It eats all of its meal in one go and waits for his owner to call him over for a fuss. He also found that when he walked his dog it stays by his side not because of the constant lead training but because it recognises him as his leader and the correct place to be when they venture out into the outside world because by the leaders side is the safest place to be.
So whom did I train? Was it the dog or the owner? The dog already knew how a leader should interact with him and now his owner was giving off all the right signs of a leader. This for the dog was a comfort and everything now fell into place.
I agree from our point of view such actions of ignoring the dog etc may not be a human thing that we would do to another human but dogs are not human and you cannot humanise them. We simply miss read their language in a human way and assume that dogs have learnt to express themselves in a human way. They do not. In most cases I do nothing to the dog I simply improve the owners leadership skills. This is why I do seem to be using the same pills.