Dognitive Therapy is something that starts with human parents/owners/guardians/friends (whichever label you give your relationship with your doggie). You should first aim to take the reins of your life in your own hands through calmness and assertiveness. Do you know what your dog is actually saying in a variety of situations? You should focus more on understanding your furry friend’s point of view and with proper adjustments and cooperation, your entire perspective on a healthy and fulfilling relationship will transform for the better. This is something that both you and your fur ball deserve!
Before delving deeper into some common situations where you need to understand what your dog actually wants to say, it is important to state that communication is majorly non verbal in these cases.
Digging is natural behavior as far as dogs are concerned. They may want to keep cool and create a space for the same or even hide food from rivals or even for fun. Excessive digging, however, is a sign of two things, i.e. frustration (release of pent up energy/dissatisfaction with quality of life) or separation anxiety. The latter is when they panic at being left alone and start showing destructive behavior after you leave the household.
Anxiety is very common since dogs are thrust upon human environments and are expected to be able to control and predict their environments. If humans cannot take care of this, dogs become stressed. These are dogs that are prone to separation anxieties. You may have accidentally rewarded any such anxious behavior. Mistaking anxiety for happiness and rewarding the same is a big mistake many owners make.
If you have a highly anxious dog, reward him/her only for relaxed, calm and submissive behavior.
- Jumping Up
Dogs usually jump when they are anxious or needy and it gets the attention of their owners about how they are feeling. If it works, they continue to do it. The golden rule for training your dog is consistency. If your doggie continually jumps up and sometimes gets ignored but rewarded at other times, you have a confused soul who will continue doing this.
Consistently ignore each jump and walk away. Give him/her a chance to be calm and reward the same behavior. Rewarding dogs when they jump is a sign of poor leadership on your part.
Anxiety is a major cause of aggression along with frustration, fear and more such factors. Dogs do not wish to hurt and attack if they do not have to. These attacks happen mostly because dogs try to communicate their mental state but do not succeed. Respect your dog’s needs and look out for such signs. Through proper leadership, your dog will learn to respect, value and trust you even in uncontrolled environments.
Your dog should look up to you for guidance. Conditioning your dog to associate people or dogs positively is essential and needs desensitization. Professional consultation is important prior to aggression modification in your dog. Predatory aggression has a different motive behind it and this is another aspect that you need to look into.
You should look out when your dog barks excessively and this can be a sign of frustration where it becomes a way to release pent up energy or even for demanding attention. You should not reward attention seeking barking. This can even be a sign of separation anxiety.
- Anxiety when left alone
Dogs who do not have a consistent leader to look up to, tend to panic when they are left alone which is because they do not have confidence and self control. This also occurs when they are completely emotionally dependent on their owners. Owners who make a huge fuss about arrivals and departures and who reward needy and unwanted behavior contribute towards this predicament. Reward independent behavior and show your doggie that being alone is a time for relaxation instead of being the end of the world.
If your dog escapes when you are at home, you should introspect as to how close your relationship is with him/her. Do you invest time in building a bond through playing, affection, exercise, etc? Are you quite predictable? The first step is to improve your relationship with your dog. If your dog escapes when you are away, it is because he/she wants to find a safer location and probably wherever you may be. If you own an intact male dog, it may be to find a female. It can be dangerous to own a dog that escapes and you should probably neuter your dog unless you are a registered and responsible breeder. Separation anxiety comes into the picture here along with noise phobias like gun shots, loud sounds or thunderstorms. Does not come when called- Understand the motivations behind this. If your dog is off the leash and prefers to play with other dogs than come to you, you do not have many options at hand. Training the recall when your dog is on the lead with few distractions, going up to longer leads and more distractions. When you are certain that he/she will come to you when called outdoors, you can then trust your dog off the lead outside. Turn this recall into a game, rewarding them when they come to you and then releasing them to what they were doing before. A dog will not come to you if you only take away their fun or punish them.
From objects to noises, phobias are aplenty. If the first experience is felt alone and in an unsafe environment, it builds up phobia. To overcome this, build up positive experiences in similar situations for your dog and give them control over their environments without avoiding the phobia altogether. Do not push your dog however before they are ready since this will dissolve respect and trust in you.
Dogs do not like everyone’s company and this can create several issues, particularly if he/she has a bad experience with a poorly socialized dog. The first 16 weeks of life are what shape a dog and you should look to teach good social behavior and confidence in the company of other dogs. For adult dogs, ensure that social outings are positive and non eventful. Meet up with friends and their dogs in town. Good social skills can be learnt but you have a huge role to play in this regard.
- Pulls on lead frequently
Your dog pulls on the lead since they have got what they desired at some point through this activity. Reverse this training and stop instantly when they pull the lead. Bring them back to you and wait for them to settle. Move on thereafter. Consistency pays off along with repeating this training on a daily basis. Dogs wish to explore, sniff and walk but show them that it is all possible only if they walk beside you. Once your dog understands this, he/she will contrive to create enjoyable and cooperative walks. Train inside the house with the lead attached to your waist. Reward your dog every time he/she sticks to your side while walking. Work towards more distractions and then the first walk outdoors.
Dominance is not a behavioral trait for dogs as shown by research and several studies. Instead, it hints towards the relationship function for a dog with another person. If a dog shows pushy behavior and does not obey another person or demand things from him/her, this does not point to dominance. It means that the human has failed to assume consistent leadership and the dog feels the need to assume control of his/her environment. Owners wrongfully reward such behaviors and further contribute towards the controlling state of mind.
You should also refrain from dominating every choice that your doggie makes including when to eat meals, when to go through doors, socializing and even sleep times. These relationships disempower dogs and they may only behave well to avoid punishment instead of sincere cooperation with the human leader. This is not healthy at all.