Do you ever come home after a long day and give your dog a big hug while telling him all about your day? In your eyes, you may be having a happy interaction with your dog, but he could be interpreting things differently. Below, we’ve described some behaviors that are normal to us but really bother dogs.
Using words more than body language
While dogs pick up on words that are used a lot that they can recognize (bone, walk, treat, go…), they rely mainly on body language to figure out what you’re trying to say. If we aren’t careful, we can sometimes say one thing while our body language tells our dogs something completely different. Try to see how long you can go without saying words to your dogs. Instead, try “talking” through your body language. You’ll be surprised how much you can communicate with gestures.
Hugging your dog
This one is tempting for people of all ages, but dogs interpret hugs as an act of dominance. Hugs make them feel uncomfortable and threatened. Dogs’ ancestors never used embraces as a sign of affection, so the gesture is unnatural for them. If you want to show your dog the love, scratch his back right above the tail; that’s a sign of affection they can really get behind!
Not providing structure and boundaries
Dogs thrive when they are provided with boundaries and a strong example of how they should behave. Without these rules, dogs can become bored and destructive. This also applies to enforcing the rules. If your dog does something he’s not supposed to and you say “no” without stopping the behavior, he is receiving mixed signals and won’t see this as a strong boundary. Dogs aren’t able to understand exceptions to rules. If one day you feed your dog scraps and the next day you scold him for begging for food from company, he will only be confused and frustrated.
Are you gazing lovingly into his eyes or challenging him to a fight? In a dog’s eyes, a long staring contest is a sign of a challenge and can make him feel threatened. Although your own dog may trust you enough to not lash out when you stare, strangers’ dogs don’t have this level of trust and could respond aggressively. You can admire dogs without staring so that they don’t feel the need to be defensive.
Forcing your dog to interact when she doesn’t want to
Dogs are very similar to humans in that they hate being forced into a situation where they are uncomfortable. If your dog clearly does not want to interact with another person or animal don’t force them. It may lead to the dog feeling trapped and lash out in an aggressive manner.
We’re all guilty of being tense in the presence of our dogs at one time or another, but remember that the more stressed and tense you are, the more stressed and tensed your dog is. Our dogs feel and feed off of our emotions, so whenever we come home angry after a rough day, our dogs become anxious too. Displaying a calm and assertive attitude around your dog keeps him at ease
By this point, you’ve probably noticed a theme: your dogs hate a lot of the annoying things that you also hate. Included in this is teasing, which covers things like playing a game of keep-away without ever giving up to your dog, a long and tedious laser pointer game, taunting a dog that’s barking at you from behind a fence, and more. Teasing your own dog can lead him to feel frustrated, and teasing other peoples’ dogs can lead them to lash out. Maintain a calm and authoritative demeanor around dogs, and respect their space by not teasing them.
Too much alone time
Dogs are pack animals and enjoy the company of their human pack. Being left alone too much can lead to boredom and destructive behaviors. Working full time or a busy academic schedule may leave your dog alone for longer periods than you’d prefer. A solution for this is daycare where dogs can play with their friends (canine and human!) while you’re at work. Not only will your dog spend his day with fun company, he will also be able to have an outlet for his energy all day, so that he is not bored and destructive in the evenings at home.
While dogs respect a “tight leash” when it comes to setting boundaries and rules, a literal tight leash while on walks can cause frustration or anxiety, causing them to pull harder and act out. It’s best to train your dog to watch you during the walk and walk with a loose leash. Your trainer can offer advice for breaking your dog’s habit of pulling on the leash during walks.
Just like dogs like consistency in the rules, they like having a predictable routine and schedule. As creatures of habit, dogs are happy when they can rely on consistent walks, meals and play time. For example, you’ve probably noticed your dog acting distressed if you sleep in on the weekends. Creating a similar weekend schedule to your workweek one will lead to a happy pup on the weekends.
Respecting your dog’s need for personal space, attention, and consistent boundaries will lead to a stronger relationship with your pet and a better-behaved animal.
Just like people, dogs don’t like being left alone for long periods of time. Instead of leaving them bored and lonely at home, bring them do daycare where they can play with their friends!