If you want to train your dog to perform obedience, the basics, sit down stand stay etc or you want to get rid of undesirable behaviors, having a basic understanding of the background in dogs and their inherent traits is a good idea.
Our Dog’s Are Jealous
Dogs are born with inherited instincts. Regardless of what people may think, our dogs are not humans. Our pet dogs live in a human environment, but they do not live, act or breath the same way us humans do. There is a term that is used whereby us humans apply our human characteristics to our pet dogs. That term is call ‘Anthropomorphism’.
Wikipedia states Anthropomorphism as:
‘Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Subjects for anthropomorphism commonly include animals and plants depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse, forces of nature such as winds or the sun, components in games, unseen or unknown sources of chance, etc. Almost anything can be subject to anthropomorphism. ‘
In other words, we apply our human characteristics to our dogs as if they were humans. For instance, emotions such as jealously, anger, sadness, spite etc.
Dogs do not understand these characteristics. We may identify our dog’s responses to certain situations as such, growling at the new born baby when it arrives. When we pat another dog they push their way in front of that dog, or other such situations where we pay attention or not to our dogs. What we need to do is see our dogs as members of a pack.
You see, when our dogs are born, they learn a lot of their basic characteristics from their mother and their litter mates. They quickly learn, through a pack mentality who are afforded the privileges through strength and determination and who are not. During the first 6-8 weeks of a young dogs life, you can pretty well determine which dog can carry through a personality for the duration of their life.
It’s when we take our dogs home is when things start to get messed up. A lot of people tend to treat their dogs like a child. Molly coddle them and let them sleep with them in their bed or otherwise, give them privileges that would be afforded to the top dog in the pack. If we begin to give these privileges to the young dog, they soon begin to see them as their right rather then a privilege, and may begin to exhibit growling or nipping to reinforce their position. Something that is exhibited in their young dog pack to the leaders within that pack.
The best thing anyone can do, from day dot with a young pup, an adult pup from a rescue situation or a dog that has behavior problems is to establish rules that they communicate to the dog, they are a subordinate within the dog/family pack.
Recommendations for a dog are:
- establish a sleeping area separate away from the family. Preferably in a kennel or cage. A lot of people do not like this as they ‘think’ (like a human) that the dog would like to sleep with the family. Of course it would, but behavior problems can arise if they sleep with the family. They may perceive themselves as an equal to the family pack.
- establish elimination training (outside) away from the main family area. This also reinforces the main living area or the main members and ensures cleanliness and routine for the dog.
- don’t allow the dog to move freely around the house or main living area. As soon as it sees that it can have free reign of wherever it wants, this may lead to problems down the track with sleeping on couches, rooms etc.
- try to initiate all instances of integration with the dog. If the dog is constantly ‘wanting’ to play or hounding you for attention, this may lead to the dog showing behavior of attention or whining. A lot of people mistake the whining and howling as signs of boredom. This is often the dog showing its sign of dissatisfaction of the situation at hand.
- always try to make the dog ‘EARN’ pats, food or attention via a command of sorts. Whether it be a sit for a food morsel, a stay before walking through a gate or door or some other behavior that allows to perform some basic maneuver around the house. This establishes the fact that you are in control of the environment and not it.
Always remember this, we have our dog for our pleasure, not the pleasure of it. Once a dog understands the rules of its environment and its place within the family pack, it is a happy dog. Too often once a dog is afforded privileges that are afforded to higher members within the household, or those to which it believes it is its right, the dog may then begin to exhibit behaviors that we deem undesirable. ie aggression, barking, scratching digging etc.
What do we do then?
Start treating your dog like it is a dog and not a human. We do not want the dog to be the leader of the pack, we want it to be a part of the pack. Dog’s are pack animals and should be treated as such. Pack leaders are afforded the privileges amongst the lower members of the pack. Those pack leaders then reinforce their position with violence and aggression. More often than not, (other than a medical problem) this is the root cause of a lot of behavior problems with dogs.
The old saying, prevention is better than the cure rings true with dogs. If you can establish rules early on, instead of being molly coddlying mother with the dog, you will do better in the long run with your dog. I am not saying to ignore and cruel to your dog, what I am saying, if you want a long lasting positive relationship with your dog, establish the ground rules early and you will not be in a position whereby you think you need to dispose of your dog to a rescue centre or worse, put it down due to the fact that the dog is annoying the hell out of you and you see no other way out.