I am going to start with a truth which I tell all my clients; Not all dogs are treated equally. Small dogs get away with a lot more ‘undesirable or bad’ behaviour than big dogs. In fact I would put it to you that owners put up with 3 or 4 times the amount of bad behaviour in a small dog than they would tolerate with a larger dog.
Does your pet have a favourite spot on the sofa or your bed? Of course they do as I’m sure you do. We are all creatures of habit. But are the habits good or bad ones?
I know clients who have had to race to bed before their large dog got there or they would end up sleeping on a sliver of mattress. Or their favourite chair is no longer Their favourite chair it is now the dog’s favourite chair.
When I ask these owners as to why they have given up their comfort or beloved favourite spot they always answer with ‘it makes them happy’ and have a kinda dreamy look on their face as they look at their darling pooch sprawled in luxury and snoring lazily on the said favorite chair or sofa spot, while they take the ‘less favoured’ positions around the room.
Is this such a big deal? I hear you ask, does it really matter?
Well the answer is Yes, to both those questions because the canine is a species, much like ourselves who lives in a family orientated structure. Much like our own. Within this structure is the people or animals that look after the rest of the family, mum and dad, grandparents, the older, more experienced family members. Were you ever told as a child to not touch that as it was granddad’s or get up and let your mum sit down? That’s because there are certain benefits or perks to having a responsible role in the family. Why not, you look after the family, you bring home a wage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. You keep them safe.
So lets look at it from the dog’s point of view. If the human gives out a lot of signals that are inconsistent, like for instance, they let you up on the sofa beside them for cuddles, great! Next day is the same. The following day you’re not allowed up but you wait til they go out of the room and you sneak on. Your human returns and sits back down and cuddles you again, great! What is your dog learning? That you know your own mind and have rules it needs to follow or that you are a bit of a push over?
Lets add to that. What if your dog has taken on the role of the responsible one for the family, you, your husband or wife, the kids and the cat? What if your dog took his role very seriously about the safety of his family. He chases off trespassers (barks out the window or in the garden), he takes you all out for a walk (he pulls on the lead and has bad recall), bringing you back safe. He might even tell you off if you over-step the mark (by growling or even nipping you). Wouldn’t you want the most prized position in the house for doing that job?
I hate to be the one to break this to you but you are probably not the real decision maker of the family in your household if any of that last paragraph sounded any way familiar to you. Dogs, like humans need boundaries and rules. If there are none of these in place as the dog grows up and matures they will make up their own set of rules to create some kind of structure to their lives, just as we would in a group of human strangers. It is in our instincts and our dogs to have someone in charge to keep the young and the weak safe. With someone making decisions and rules, everyone knows their place and hopefully everyone will survive.
So what if your dog doesn’t see you as that someone?
Usually some sort of chaos ensues in the household as the dog starts making up the rules as he goes along. Remember a dog with little or no experience of the world will be learning everything from scratch. He learns that the approaching footsteps to his door makes him uncomfortable and feel threatened so he starts to bark, the footsteps retreat (most likely the postman, paperboy or delivery man) and the dog has just learnt a valuable lesson. Barking makes the stranger go away.
So if you become your dog’s responsibility, in his eyes. Does it make sense that he feels he has to follow you around the house, especially as you sometimes have the habit of disappearing, sometimes for hours, and then re-appearing again? Does it make sense he feels the need to rush ahead and see what’s on the other side of the door, or that bush, or around the next bend in the path? He’s only doing his job! Right?
If any of this has made sense to you as you’ve read it and thought about it, make one rule today that you will stick to. The dog is only allowed on the bed/ sofa/ chair on your terms and when he is invited and be consistent.
He will love and respect you for it.
Read more about Consistency is the key to Success
Please feel free to leave a comment if you found this article useful or you are having trouble taking back your sofa!
Bernie, The Dog Owners Coach
We all want a well-mannered and relaxed dog around the house. To keep us company when we are on our own or when we have guests over. There is nothing worse or embarrassing when your dog wont leave you or your guests alone! But could it be you that is causing this behaviour?
Mistake no.1 Do you constantly talk to your dog like they are another person?
We’ve all done this, we are human and sometimes I think we just like the sound of our own voice, some more than others! We tell our pets, ‘I’m home! Did you miss me?’, ‘What have you been up to all day, wait to you hear about my day…’, ‘I’m just going out to [friends] house I wont be long’, ‘What would you like for dinner we have…’ and it goes on and on. I hope you’re laughing right now if this is you because we have all wished our pets would talk back to us, just once! But, unfortunately they never do or will because they are a dog.
Why is this so bad I hear you ask? Well for one, this is an exercise in getting things off our chest or looking for some love and attention ourselves but you are also training your dog to become an attention seeker through no fault of his/ her own. He’ll learn that paying you attention while you chat away all day long gets him something he wants too, you. You are his/her reward for just paying you attention, but then when you are busy, running late and in a rush or you have guests over, who’s still looking for attention and getting in your way? You got it!
Secondly, if your voice fills the room, day and night and becomes background noise to your dog. How does he know when you are saying the important stuff? We all learn to switch off after a while, I think they call it ‘Selective Hearing’. If your dog is paying you attention at the wrong times and not, when he is supposed to, it’s not his fault. Think ‘Does my dog need to know this information?’ before you speak.
Mistake no.2 Do you look at your dog a lot or constantly watch him?
I don’t know about you but I hate the idea of being watched. You want to keep looking over your shoulder all the time. This may come as a surprise to you but because dogs don’t speak a language, they use body language as their main form of communication. Eye contact being at the top of the list. OK here’s a little experiment for you to try with some non canine members of your family. Next time you are in a room with another human, don’t say anything and just look at them, keep your face neutral if possible and just watch them and keep making eye contact. I will guarantee you within a couple of minutes you are going to be asked ‘What?’
Do you get it yet? When ever you come in the door and look down at your furry friend and he looks back at you, you have started a conversation and he’s saying ‘what?’ (Probably what’s this nutter looking for now because they never tell me they just walk off and then they do it again and again)
Again we are rewarding attention seeking behaviour because we hold our dog in a constant non- verbal conversation which then becomes a habit. It’s one of the hardest things to do but stop looking at the dog when he doesn’t need to be in the conversation. A lot of ‘busy’ dogs are like this because they have an attention seeking owner! They only lie down and sleep when it’s time for the soaps on TV or the computer goes on. Sound familiar?
Mistake no.3 Do you tell your dog what to do All The Time?
OK this is my biggest bugbear and it’s with the humans, not the dogs. I know parents who do this too, so don’t be feeling left out anyone! You know the ones you visit or see in the park? ‘Stop doing that’, ‘come here’, ‘sit there’, ‘lie down there’, ‘wait’, ‘leave’, ‘I said No’, I could go on but I’m boring myself.
What you then create is a neurotic dog which needs to be around you all the time so you can tell it what to do or what not to do. Why? Because if it’s the only way it’s going to get your attention, good or bad, then that’s what he has to do – trying to work out what the hell the human wants it to do now.
Dog’s like children are intelligent creatures and learn by making mistakes and learning from the consequences of their own actions. If you Tell a dog or a child what to Do all the time then what are they going to learn? Exactly what you tell them and nothing else, probably. Like a robot. How about letting them learn self-control? Don’t laugh, it’s the basis for most positive reward training. Which we know to be the kindest and quickest way for anyone, human or animal to learn. Why? Because we will continue to do a behaviour in which we gain something good from doing that behavior. For example, we teach toddlers that if they say ‘Please’ they will get [name that reward*chips,lolipops,sweeties, etc*] what happens if they don’t say please? Nothing, they don’t get their nice thing. They think about it and then say Please! We aint stupid you know and neither are our dogs. Let them learn for themselves, you reward what you want to see more of, everyone’s happy!
Lets give them a break from our human world and our human ways and let them just be Canine. Be mindful of your behaviour and you will see a different behaviour from your dog if you do.
Happy dog= Happy owner
If you think this was helpful I’d love for you to like it and leave me a comment
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
Have you always wanted a dog like Lassie, Rin tin tin or even Benji? Well I’ll tell you now, They Only Exist in the Movies or with years of training, honing skills of natural or un-natural behaviour and having a very strong and trusting bond with the dog.
It’s time to burst this big bubble that all or even certain dogs – (no matter what breed) are easy to keep, easy to train, are good with people, children, pets etc. No of course they aren’t. Every dog is a single personality, not like their mother or father, not like their litter siblings, not like anyone else. Just like humans, they all have their own personalities, foibles, likes and dis-likes, even from a very early age. Seeing the parents of a pup gives you a degree of certainty that yes they might be social, nice around people or will be healthy but that is never 100% certainty. One certainty you can guarantee 100% is the time you spend teaching your dog skills you want it to have in adult life, they will have in adult life.
If you want your dog to walk nicely by your side as you go for a relaxing walk, or run with you when you go for a jog or pull you if you want to go for a mush, you have to teach them what you want or expect of them. There’s no point in buying expensive harnesses, lines, a rig and put your dog in front, tie him to it and expect him to know that he now has to pull, where as before this you had expected him to walk nicely by your side. You train him and show him how fun this new experience is so he wants to do it again and again. We take driving lessons, guitar lessons, language lessons, tennis or football lessons or ‘practise’ so why should it be any different for your dog? If you want them to have a certain skill then you have to teach them and practise, practise, practise!
I’m not saying you can’t teach your dog to be like Lassie but don’t just expect them to be like her and By the Way… movie and tv Lassie was about 4 or 5 different dogs!
Here’s where some dogs get the short end of the stick when it comes to some people’s expectations. I have come up against people like this when I worked in rescues. The potential new owner wants a dog, ‘OK lets see what type of lifestyle you have so we can find a dog that suits’. They then proceed to tell you they work a 40+hr week, go to the pub at weekends and a couple of foreign holidays a year, don’t do much ‘outdoorsy-things’ and they want a labrador for the kids, are adamant they want one, a big, friendly one. Of course that’s no life for a big energetic dog and most people don’t want to hear that reality. You can change the breed in that story to what someone has in their heads that they want and no matter how much you tell them that they need a lot of grooming /exercise / training etc they don’t see it as a problem, they then find a dog somewhere else and a month down the line there’s a frustrated and angry owner who has no idea how to stop their beagle (any breed) from barking, chasing the neighbours cat or digging holes in the garden, eating the kids toys or going to the toilet inside the house when it lives outside. Later you find out the dog gets 1 walk a day and lives its whole life in the back yard. Sounds to me like the dog is making the best of a bad situation!
When owners call me out because of their dog’s problems they soon realise that respect, interaction, teaching and enjoying each others company is all part of being a good dog owner. I get the phrase ‘it’s a lot like having kids’ when we are in a coaching session and I totally agree. People think long and hard usually before having kids, they need a lot of love, food, clothes, schooling and that’s just the basic stuff. No-one expects their parental duties are over once the kids hit 16, there are driving lessons, college, part-time jobs, socializing, hobbies…. So why do people not think long and hard about adding a 4 legged family member to their household? There’s love, food, vaccinations, bedding, health, education and time all needed there too for the whole of their lives.
It’s time the human race started treating this loyal, patient, forgiving and highly intelligent creature with more care and respect than what it is deemed to be getting here and now in the 21st century. Dont just be a dog owner, be a GOOD dog owner. Dog’s are not an accessory, they are not a short-term phase you are going through to see if you ‘like’ this breed, they should be treated with love and value and as Clarissa Baldwin’s’ very popular adage says ‘a dog is for life not just for christmas’.
Please think wisely, don’t get a dog if you don’t have time for one, if you do have one then give it time and love and you will be wise.
Please leave a comment below if you liked this post.
“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.”
– Edward Hoagland
Canines have been our friends and companions for thousands of years, but do we really know how to speak their language?
Growing up around dogs, I was told I had a natural instinct or affinity for them. I was definitely magnetically drawn to them as a species , bringing any stray I found back home for some food and a cuddle, and still do. As I grew up I started reading books and watching programmes on the canine in general and I found that my logical brain had started taking over some of that natural communication I once had. I didn’t realise this at the time but it was only when I started to re-learn their language that I realised what I had forgotten.
Dog Listening, to me was like learning the magic words to open Aladdin’s cave. It brought back to me what I knew as a child, that a dog was not human, that it did not speak our language (no matter what you see on You Tube!) and they were a species with great kindness and we could learn a lot from them. I wanted to be their friend and enjoy their friendship, hopefully as much, I thought, as they would want from me.
Even if you have never had a dog as a pet, just sit and watch them some time without interacting (if you can, I know it can be hard). You will see their intelligence, their body language, how they interact with other members of the household, other pets and other dogs. Do they start the interaction first or join in later. Do they make direct eye contact or look away?Do they respond better to someone calm or someone who is not? I think we have forgotten in this interactive 24/7 world how to just be still and watch, like I did as a child. It will open up a whole new insight into their world and what they are trying to tell us.
I cant wait to learn what they can teach me tomorrow!
Follow my blog for more insights into your dogs world and how they fit into ours.
A great book (with lots and lots of photos) that every dog owner should own is
On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
I would love to know what you think of this article, please leave a comment below, thank you
As you may or may not know I am a Dog Listener, we use the dog’s own natural instincts and ‘laws’ to work for you and to better understand how the dog sees his world. It is an amazing way to communicate with dogs and it works because it was created by watching wolves in the wild, how they interact in a pack i.e. your family, how their heirarchy works (who’s the decision maker) and what are their survival motivators (food).
Did you know that most dogs living in most homes today think they are the pack leader? I hear owners say ‘No fido isn’t! I make him sit and wait before feeding him’ or ‘fido will do anything I say, I’m the boss’ or ‘I dont let my dog on the furniture or go through the door before me’.
Ok here are a few things to look for which you may not have even noticed before which tells someone like me that your dog is making decisions in your home and thinks he/ she is the Big Dog.
1. Your dog follows you around the house when you’re at home
2.Your dog sits at a high point in your house, like on the back of the sofa (looking out the window), at the top of your stairs, or even just on your favourite chair
3. Your dog is a fussy eater or doesn’t eat much, therefor you leave food down all day for them
4. Your dog initiates play or fuss, they come over and lean on you, drop a toy or ball in your lap or jump all over you when you come home
5. You dont walk the dog, the dog takes you for a walk!
Sound familiar? If so then you have been giving mixed signals to your dog and in the confussion your dog has become the decision maker of the pack. A very stressfull place to be if you dont know what you’re doing! Most dog’s dont even want this job, not all dogs grow up to be a pack leader and therefor they get themselves in trouble….. we call it behavioural problems!
Here’s what people think about the behaviours I have listed above first
1. My dog loves me
2. He likes to watch the world go by, it’s his favourite spot or he’s keeping my seat warm
3. He’s not greedy or a little picky so it’s easier if he helps himself
4. My dog loves it when I come home, he’s so pleased to see me and loves to play games with me
5. He love’s his walks and getting out… he’s energetic
We humanise our dogs more now than ever before and they are paying the price for it with a stressfull job they dont want. Therefore they are then becoming obsessive, compulsive, neurotic pets to some degree and it affects their health just like us humans.
Here is what the dog is doing in the scenarios above from the way he/ she sees the world
1. I am the leader – This is my baby and I have to make sure nothing happens to them while they are in my care so they aren’t getting out of my sight
2. This is my viewpoint to the world where I can see what’s coming and protect my babies, it is my right as leader/ decision maker to have the highest point and claim it
3. I am the leader and I have food so my pack can survive
4. I am the leader and you will give me attention when I ask for it
5. I am the leader so I must go ahead and make sure it is safe for my pack/ baby
What stands out more to you, that your dog is manipulating you or that they are doing a lot of very stressfull jobs? Hopefully the latter and that you want to change that. You can.
I’ll be writing more about this soon so stay tuned!