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Sunday, December 14, 2008

10 Things To Know About Dog Behaviour

We had our dog professionally trained a few years ago, and learned some really fascinating stuff about what makes dogs behave the way they do. Here are some of the things we learned.

1) Eye contact can be seen by dogs as a threat - never stare down an aggressive dog. (This was surprising to me, considering the fact that the opposite is true for humans. Avoiding eye contact is threatening to us, and making eye contact is a way for us to connect. Who knew dogs are bothered by it!)

2) Where everyone sleeps at night is a big indicator to a dog of pack rank. If your dog doesn't listen well, stop letting him sleep up on the bed with you - as long as he is allowed to do this, he sees himself as your equal.

3) "Alpha" is earned not just by superior brawn, but also by superior brains. If your dog can manipulate your behaviour, he will think he is smarter than you and therefor alpha (an example of this would be if he stands in your way and makes you walk around him - in doing this, he has manipulated your actions).

4) All attention, even scolding, is a reward to most dogs. The quickest way to curb undesired behaviour (assuming it's not dangerous or destructive) is to walk away and ignore it. Once the bad behaviour has ended and the dog is doing what you want, THEN you pay attention and smother him with lots of praise.

5) The reason that dogs "bow down" to the person who feeds them is not only because they like food - it's also because the distribution of food is done by the alpha. (Also, the alpha eats first). If you are having issues with your dog not respecting your kids, an effective way to change this is to, as often as possible, have the kids be the ones to give the dog food.

6) Tug of war is a bad game to play because it teaches dogs that it's OK to play with humans using their teeth.

7) Fence running can increase aggression. This is because the dog is trying to protect his pack by chasing the "monsters" away from the yard - he runs the length of the fence barking at the person walking by, and lo and behold it worked - they're gone! This perceived success reinforces the dog's aggressive behaviour.

8) Dogs should, and want to, spend most of their time in the house with you. The house is their den, and your family is their pack. They are social, group animals, and asking a dog to spend the majority of its time alone in a yard is a misunderstanding of his needs.

9) The quickest way to curb leash pulling is to understand why the dog pulls - he wants to go! As soon as he pulls, you should stop, and remain stopped until he lets the leash go slack, at which point you can start moving again. He'll soon figure out that in order to get anywhere, he can't pull on the leash.

10) If your dog growls at another dog, it's because he feels that it's his role in the pack to protect you. If you pet him to try and calm him down, he will perceive this as fear on your part (because you're rewarding his protective behaviour). If, on the other hand, you calmly take his collar and pull him past the offending dog, he will perceive you as being in charge and therefor not afraid, and it will help him calm down faster.

It's amazing how, once you have some insight into a dog's behaviour, how much more he will respect you. It's all about learning to speak the language of the dog so that they'll be able to listen.
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2 comments:

Brandy said...

Very interesting post! Some of these facts I did know but others are new to me! I appreciate it! Thanks for following my blog! ttys

JEANNE said...

Thanks :-)

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