Ever since I came to really understand natural dog behavior I could not help but take notice of the way people interact with the dogs around them. More often than not, the communication between the canine animal and the human is not in sync. Knowing people do not want to hear random dog advice from a stranger I started wishing I was not seeing the interaction because it is hard to watch and not help out. I decided to write down what I see in hopes of helping others out there understand how to communicate with their canines. This list will be added to on a regular basis.
1. Dog runs in road. Owner comes out of house, stops at doorstep and starts screaming at the dog, very emotional. Dog ignores human. Dogs do not listen to unstable beings. When one dog wishes to tell something to another dog, it does not scream and yell.
2. Dog barks at human to beg for the food the human is eating, human absentmindedly hands the dog a piece. This is not respectful in the canine world. A lower member of the pack would never dream of barking at a pack leader while eating.
3. Dog sees another dog and starts to bark. Human tells dog, "No" and proceeds to pet their dog on the head, giving affection. This is really like saying, "Good dog for barking." Some mixed signals going on there.
4. Dog is on a leash and pulls the leash tight to sniff where it pleases as the owner talks to another human. This is bad leash manners. Asking the dog to wait patiently would provide the dog with a mental challenge, which all dogs need.
5. Owner corrects the dog by yelling the dog’s name over and over again, but never actually addresses the dog with any type of body language. The dog does not know what it is the owner wants. There is no follow-through. Human proceeds to have a conversation in human words with the dog, stating they are going to put the dog in the truck. This human needs to speak "Dog," not "Human." On top of that, one should only use a dog’s name for positive things so the dog associates his name with something good.
6. Owner allows their small dog to greet a human by putting his paws on a person's leg. In the dog world this is not a respectful way to greet another being. There is no difference between that 5-pound Yorkie and that 90-pound German Shepherd in regards to the meaning behind the behavior.
7. Owner corrects a dog long after the deed was done and the dog has moved onto other thoughts. Whatever the dog is doing at the moment you make the correction is what the dog will think you are upset about.
8. Dogs only being corrected 'some' of the time. Bark bark... Allowed... Bark bark. Dog’s name yelled. Bark bark. But no real correction, no body language used. No follow-through, no real communication, no consistency. When you are not consistent your dog will not listen to you as she will know that 'sometimes' she is allowed. Also, the dog’s name should not be used in the correction.
9. Dog is walking slightly in front of the person holding the leash. Then the human expects the dog to ignore other dogs when LETTING the dog lead. Mixed signals—you are my leader, but listen to what I say. Do you know how confusing that is for a dog?
10. Humans approaching a gate, or doorway, and let the dog nose its way first. The leash being loose does not make it OK. Dog should be sent back a step and be watching for the human’s cue for the dog’s turn—no pushing.
11. Humans attempting to go first through an entranceway, telling the dog to wait but never following through. Dog paused, but still had her snoot in the doorway and was tense in posture, showing she did not give in to the idea. Dog should have stepped back and relaxed before the human allowed the dog to pass.
12. Owner picks up small dog. Dog wiggles and/or whines to get down and the owner obeys, reinforcing the dog’s power over the human.
13. Dog barks at another dog. Human corrects dog by saying "No." Dog turns head to avoid eye contact with the human. Human turns the dog’s head back to get the dog to look at them, thinking the dog should look at them when being reprimanded. When actually the dog turning away was the dog communicating to the human that the dog did not wish to challenge them. In the human world making eye contact when being spoken to is respect, however in the dog world staring straight into one’s eyes can be taken as a challenge.
14. Tiny dog is being carried by owner and barks and growls at another person. Owner laughs, grabs dog’s snoot, says "stop" in a neutral tone. The laugh by the owner and the tone were praise in the dog's eyes. Dog barks and growls even more. Owner repeats the "correction," laughs and states to stranger that the dog has “little dog syndrome.” Later dog is seen pulling on the leash. All humans, including the stranger, laugh thinking the aggression coming from such a small dog is funny. Owner states to stranger that the dog is "All talk and would never bite." That is a biter in the works.
15. Owner is sitting with tiny dog on lap. Tiny dog barks at someone passing by. Owner pulls the dog close to her body trying to get it to be quiet. Owner just gave the dog affection for barking.
16. Another dog walks by a small dog that is on its owner’s lap. Owner covers the small dog's eyes to try and stop the small dog from barking. The small dog’s excitement escalates as dogs do not need their eyes to know another dog is near. They can feel it, smell it and hear it.
17. Small dog is on owner's lap and barks as some kids run by. Human hugs dog to their body while smacking its snoot. Affection and smacks?
18. Little dog is in a heightened, excited, dominant state as it barks at people and other dogs passing by while sitting on owner’s lap. Owner gives dog hugs, kisses and scratches behind the ear while telling little lap dog in human words to "be good, do you hear me?"Human words 'be good' mean nothing to the dog. The affection tells the dog you agree with how it is feeling at that moment. Good dog for being excited and dominant.
19. Owner holds barking dog back by the chest, creating even more tension.
20. Dog barks. Owner grabs dog’s snoot to hold its mouth shut. This only creates more tension.
21. Dog wanders too far out of the yard. Owner calls dog back. Dog lowers its head and walks back to owner. When dog gets to owner, owner smacks dog and says, "You are not allowed over there!" Owner just told dog it was bad for coming back.
22. Owner walks puppy down the street. Another dog comes running over. Puppy jumps up and places his front paws on approaching dog and growls. Owner gets the puppy down, pats the puppy on the side and soothes him, "It's ok, it's ok." Owner just told puppy that acting in a dominant manner is good. Puppy will most likely grow up to be dog aggressive.
23. People trying to win over an aggressive dog's affection with words of praise and affection. When one sweet-talks a dog that is in a defensive or aggressive mood it is like saying, “Good dog, I agree with how you are feeling.” Food should only be tossed to a dog for rewarding good behavior, not during the bad behavior. Remember, however the dog is feeling or acting at the time of the reward is what you are telling the dog you agree with.
24. Owners going for a family walk with the kids and allowing the dog to walk in front of the stroller or a walking child. This is communicating to the dog that the dog is above the human children in the pack order.
25. Example of dog being misunderstood: Dog has an injury and is supposed to take it easy for a while. Company comes over and dog starts to get a little too excited. Dog is asked to go into a crate to prevent further injury. Guest asks if dog feels he is being punished. No, no one yelled. Time-outs for dogs do not work as punishment. Dog did not feel sorry for himself and did not feel punished. He was simply in a crate. However if the human feels sorry for the dog inside the crate, the dog will view that human as weak-minded and/or may associate the crate with something negative.
26. Example of dog being misunderstood: Dog has an injury. Guest sees second dog lay down next to the crate that the injured dog is in and comments that second dog looks worried about the injured dog. In reality, second dog was just tired and going to sleep. The human who thinks the dog is worried, feeling sorry for either dog, will be viewed as weak by both dogs.
27. At the vet in the waiting room watched a 12-week-old Great Dane puppy, cute as can be with huge paws and big floppy ears, jump on their owner while they were sitting on the bench and get petted for doing so. This dog as a puppy is not being asked to be respectful. When the dog gets older this owner will most likely struggle with "training" their dog. When in reality it will not be a training issue but a respect that was never established.
28. A lady was visiting her friend’s house. The friend has a German Shepherd dog that is about a year old. She says when she arrived, the GSD jumped on her. The owner told the dog to get down. Then the dog jumped on her from behind and once again the owner told the dog to get down. A few minutes later the dog jumped on her a third time and bit her arm. The owner called a well-known dog training school to ask for advice. The trainer told her to lock the dog in a crate for the rest of the day so the dog can see that if she behaves like that she has to stay locked up. That was the sad advice given by this well-known company. Dogs live in the moment; this was not a planned attack on the dog’s part. The dog was no longer thinking about the lady she dominated and eventually bit. Locking a dog up for the day in a crate to sit and think about what she did earlier in the day and expect that to fix the dog's behavior is so far off the mark in how dog’s really think it's astonishing. These types of trainers may be good at teaching a dog to sit and do tricks, but they will never fix behavior issues with that lack of understanding of the dog’s true nature. This owner needed to call a dog behaviorist, not a dog trainer.
29. While out on a walk I often see owners attempt to teach their dog not to react to my dogs by completely stopping and trapping their dogs in a corner. Some owners continuously put food in front of their dogs telling them to stay, others use corrections to tell their dogs to stay. What these owners are doing is teaching their dogs that passing another dog is a big event. What you should be doing is teaching your dog that passing another dog is no big deal and to keep on walking. Whether you like to use food as a distraction or if you simply wish to tell the dog to walk because that is part of life, be sure to keep moving. Stopping and making a big deal out of the other dog creates anticipation. It is teaching the dog that other dogs are indeed something to be concerned about. When you continue to walk you help the dog's mind move onto other things.
30. When you arrive home after being gone do not perform a "happy dance" with your dog. A dog does not see the ritual the same as the human sees it. To the human it is a "happy dance". To the dog it is an excited behavior where the dog watches one of their followers reenforce why they need to be the leader. The dog jumps all over their follower who is giving off weak energy. The human is bowing down to the dog and praises the dog for being dominant. The dance is for the human. Something the human likes. It is not something a dog needs or craves.