Thursday, September 9, 2010

Understanding Dogs

“Why does my dog dog that?” Because they can, because they are a dog, because they have been inadvertintly taught to do it, have not been trained to do something else instead…those are the answers, or at least some of them.

I tell people nearly every day that the problem is not the dog. What you see dogs doing are normal dog behaviors and for the dog they are not a problem. There are however dog and human communication issues, human to dog expectation issues and lack of teaching issues. Tthe majority of “dog behavior problems” are actually created by the humans in the dogs life. I do understand some dogs are born wrong or have physical issues, but they are the minority I can assure you.

Dogs do what works. Dogs do what gets them things and attention. Behavior that is reinforced has a higher likelihood of repeating. If you leave food on the counter and the dog is able to get it, he will. He has now been reinforced for counter surfing and will continue to surf the counters looking for more reinforcement again, and again and again.

Dogs do not waste much time or energy on any activity that does not allow them to win. Dogs are wonderful at conserving energy. You can avoid or minimize problem behavior by ensuring these behaviors lack reinforcement from humans. Dogs really like to do things that are rewarding and worthwhile (to them), so will expend far more energy to do it.

Dogs really are beautifully simple and do not wish to take over the world or dominate you. They do not dwell on the "wrongs" you may have done them or the toy you took away from them. When you aren't around, they are probably sleeping (provided you have thoroughly exercised them before you leave). If they are doing “naughty things” it is out of boredom. loneliness, a need to do something, hunger, or anxiety.

Dogs are social animals and as such need social contact with other beings. They follow you around room to room because they wish to remain with you, because you were gone all day, because you are their only social option or because they really like being with you. They get excited when you return, no matter how long your were gone, they jump up and perform other rituals they know. They aren't doing these greeting riturals to dominate you or take over, but rather to say “hi”, to smell all the great smells from the places you've been and the things you've encountered, and out of sheer joy to be reunited.

Dogs are not four-footed people in fur, they are a different species just trying to survive and function in a foreign world with beings that don’t understand their language, their exercise or social needs or their commitment to being there. They are wonderfully loyal and tolerant of things humans would never live with and do it with grace and style that cannot be matched. Spending time with your dog could be the highlight of your day if you learn to communicate and interpret correctly your dog's communication.

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