7 Things You Might Not Know About Your Dog

young woman standing on a dock with a dog. They are facing away from the camera looking out over some mountains. The woman is carrying a backpack. They look like they are about to set out on an adventure together.

Big Plans!

New puppy, exciting times! You are now responsible for another creature with an entirely unique agenda that is much different from yours. Whether this is a new puppy, an adolescent or an older dog you are adopting; I’m sure you have some ideas concerning the behavior or your dog and what you want him to do for you. Common things that top most people’s list are not mess up the house with bathroom accidents or destructive chewing. Not pull you when you walk on leash together. Sit and down when you ask. And to come a running quickly when you call. Okay you’ve got your plans now what about your dogs?

Learning about what makes a dog uniquely ‘doggy’ is something that anyone caring for a dog should aim to do.

This means learning things other than how to teach your pup to sit or walk with you. This is about understanding what makes your dog tick. This makes you that much more compassionate and scholarly. A pet dog ethologist! This is really doing right by your dog.

You might be surprised to learn the following about your beastie

 

A Jack Russell puppy is biting into a chew stick which is being held by a man's hand.

1. Most behaviors that we perceive as a problem are natural for your dog.

Some examples to help illustrate this point are; your dog wants to walk fast in lots of different directions and explore and sniff. They might want to eat gross things or roll in smelly things. They want to jump up to say hi and greet you and sniff and lick your mouth. They don’t want you to brush them or bath them or trim their nails. They don’t want you to leave them home alone.

 

Dog laying upside-down in the mud,

2. Most behaviours that we want from our dog on a regular basis are unnatural for the dog.

Walk nicely beside me. Don’t jump up to say hi. Stay still; let me clip your nails. Stay still while I give you a bath. Don’t chase that squirrel! Don’t pee there!

3. Dogs don’t know the difference between what we deem as right and wrong. They are not concerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.

They learn to do things that we want when we take the time to teach them with compassion and respect, using force-free methods and positive reinforcement.

Our dogs can also suffer undue stress and learn to not trust us because they may perceive us as volatile and dangerous for reasons they don’t understand. Here is an example. Arriving home to find a mess the dog gets yelled at. So people coming home starts to become a predictor of yelling and anger. The dog slinks and offers appeasing behaviours that people misread as ‘guilt’… his ‘admission’ to his ‘bad behaviour’.

Far different are the emotional lives of these dogs from their fellow dogs educated gently and compassionately with science backed, force free methods.

4. Dogs are concerned with what is safe and what is dangerous.

This doesn’t mean that they naturally understand the concept of crossing a busy street as being dangerous.

Dogs learn from their experiences, be they good or bad. If, after a certain behaviour, something good happens, they are likely to repeat that behaviour. Conversely, if something unpleasant occurs after the behaviour, they are less likely to repeat it.

5. Dog’s never do things out of spite or jealously. To impart these emotions on them without understanding more fully why they behave a certain way is irresponsible.

They may try to keep other dogs away from you at the park when you have treats but this is because an important resource is at risk of being nabbed by an intruder.

6. Dogs are predators, they love to chase, catch and chew.

Providing a pup with these outlets by playing games is an important part of having a dog.

 

A Vizsla running full out across a field.

7. Dogs are not born with a desire to please us.

This is a tough one for many people. This doesn’t mean you can’t build a beautiful relationship with your dog. But the Walt Disney myth of the dutiful dog is a pile of BS.

Dogs are interested in what’s in it for them. Who can blame them for that?

Continued Reading

I applaud anyone who goes the extra mile to really understand the nature of a dog. I think one should be interested in learning about the finer points of their dog. This will certainly contribute to a deeper more fulfilling life together. I have three continued reading picks to offer you now. Every dog person should read these and keep them on the bookshelf to refer to!. They were all game changers for me. I am grateful to the women who wrote them.

Jean Donaldson’s – The Culture Clash will change your life. How you look at your dog will never be the same. Reading this book and taking it to heart will make you a better person.

Suzanne Clothier’s – If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered… Bones Would Rain From the Sky You will laugh and cry and become that much more of an advocate for your dog.

Patricia McConnell’s –The Other End of The Leash Another inspiring, uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable read. It will elevate your knowledge to new heights and your sense of dog.

Does anything you have learned here surprise you? Which of your dog’s behaviours might you look at differently now? Perhaps with more compassion, wisdom and an educated eye.

Everyday Moves – Life Beyond The Classroom

 

“Lately I have been calling behaviours like sit, lie down, come, loose leash walking, leave it and off ‘Everyday Moves’ ”

 

The more I learn, grow and evolve in my field, the more I dislike the word ‘obedience’. It denotes subordination. Our dogs don’t owe us, if anything we owe them. I think a solid education taught without force and with plenty of positive reinforcement would be a great starting point.

Lately I have been calling behaviors like sit, lie down, come, loose leash walking, leave it and off ‘everyday moves’ or EDMs. These are things the pup already knows how to do; it is just much easier, fun and safer when he does them reliably for us. I think that the ‘EDMs’ we would like our dogs to do are similar to our parents teaching us manners as we grow up. Knowing how to do particular things and behave in certain ways in certain situations can help us get along better in life. Perhaps be welcome in more places too. When we are gracious and patient we make the world a nicer place for ourselves and for others. The same goes for our pups. When we take the time to teach them certain behaviors this may allow them to be out with us more often and to feel safe and calm in life.

 

A young woman sits at a table doing needlepoint while a beagle sits next to her on a chair with his head resting on the table while watching her work.

 

The pet industry is a multi billion-dollar industry but the dollars in the dog sector are barely being spent on education. The majority is being spent on food and vet bills with a tiny piece of the pie going towards training classes. Preventable behavioral problems remain the number one reason dogs are relinquished or euthanized so it seems to me more attention to training and behavior could go a long way to help ensure that our dogs are able to live long, happy lives.

 

“There is a process involved in your dog’s education; a series of steps necessary in order to achieve a particular outcome.”

 

There is a process involved in your dog’s education; a series of steps necessary in order to achieve a particular outcome.  This process often requires a financial investment and it will require your time and energy as well.

The early steps look like this:

1.   Decide what you want to learn and who will teach you. Special consideration is to be taken with puppies that should not be denied an early education. They have specific needs that must be met within a certain time frame.

2. You learn.

3. Your dog learns from you.

4. Use everything you and your dog are learning and apply it into everyday life.

Continue reading

Shut the Front Door!

Small brown dog is peering out the front door or a house.

Front door etiquette for your puppy is an important set of skills to teach early on in the game plan! And no I am not talking that malarkey about your dog having to go out the front door behind you!

The doors and large windows in our homes can elicit excitement in a pup. There is the opportunity for viewing or smelling or greeting that can cause a puppy to become over aroused or stressed and ultimately become a problem.

As with any of the preventative exercises that we do, we embark (pun intended) on them with a knowingness that this is predictable doggie behavior that just might get them into some serious hot water (putting it nicely) if we don’t pay attention and do our due diligence.

You can teach your puppy that the front door is not such a big deal. Even if their favorite person arrives bringing treats and toys. Santa, is that you! (I know your weren’t expecting him to use the front door) No matter what is happening at the door you want to be able to get your pup to settle with relative ease and play it cool.

Hey all you puppy people, games are the way to go! Your training sessions should feel like a game. Aim to make them fun, short and lighthearted. With some practice under your belt you can start to put these skills into play in ‘real life’ situations. Just like all the magic that happens with your pup’s education, training is all about layers. Teach your puppy basic skills and build upon them as he learns and matures.

Here are some foundation behaviors for you that teach a puppy the ins and outs (pun intended) of door etiquette. Continue reading

Dogs will be Dogs

woman running on dock with a lighthouse in the background. She is running towards viewer and has a dog on either side of her running along in a carefree manner.

I have a challenge for you. For one day I want you to observe your dog, play with your dog, and work with your dog without judgment!

I have a vivid childhood memory of being at my Grandparent’s place. We were celebrating a birthday for my younger sister in their beautiful back garden. My Sis and I were messing around as sisters will do and my Grandpa Johnny got impatient with us. What I remember so clearly about this was what my Mom said to her father, she gently chastised him and informed him that kids will be kids. I felt so good when she defended us from my stern Grandfather. It felt liberating and safe to be me!

I think the quality of any relationship can be enhanced with an absence of judgment. This is no easy task! We are constantly labeling and defining everything in our lives. Events and people are condensed down to good or bad. Things make us happy or make us sad. Maybe we are missing some of the richness of life when we view things this way.

We have a propensity to do this with our dogs too. Whether it is teaching a puppy the ways of the world, or working on more complex moves with a more mature dog.

New puppy parents frequently want more from their pup than what is realistic. Or get impatient when everyday behaviors, like come and loose leash walking take time to train to fluency.

I am not going to call any of this bad. That would be judging and today I am taking myself up on my own challenge : ). Today I am going to hang around with my dog and simply be with her and have fun. We will work on moves, some that I have been working on for months! We will play and walk. Sometimes she will pull me, sometimes she won’t. She will mostly always come running when I call. I hope that I contribute to her feeling good and safe and free to be her, I think I do.

If you feel inclined to take us up on this challenge maybe you will share some of your experience of that day with us here.

Walk This Way

This is an illustration of a woman and a puppy. The woman walks in a straight line towards a tree. The puppy walks all over the place, ending up at the tree. #puppytraining #puppycoaching #puppysocialisation #looseleashwalking #politewalking #karenpryor

Picture an ape swinging from the jungle canopy making her way from point A to point B. A pod of dolphins leaping skyward out of the water and then splashing back in again, a frog hopping or swimming through a pond. How each of these animals moves on the earth is different. Swimming, swinging, slithering, soaring, hopping, no legs, two legs, four legs, wings, fins! Wow!

Imagine if you were required to keep up with a pod of sea lions, take a walk with a kangaroo or keep pace with a snail for a day. Hmm.

With that image fresh in your mind picture what it means to teach our four-legged puppy friends to walk with us. Let’s think about the finer points involved in teaching another species to amble along at our pace. To not do the things they want, but instead pay attention to us.

pull quote: Brace yourself, they don’t want to walk with you.Does a dog naturally walk in a straight line the same way you do? No. A dog will move forward in different directions, often making turns and big circles, choosing not to follow a sidewalk or a well-worn path but rather, their nose!

So this is the first thing to consider when we complain about unruly pups on leash. How are we going to interest our dog to walk this way? Continue reading