You may not realize that what your dog is thinking can hurt you.
As often happens, your nurturing instincts kick in as you begin to do the things that you think your dog needs and also satisfy your needs in the relationship.
You were going to obedience train your dog but you got a little lazy in your relationship with him.
If you have a particularly bossy dog, he may be thinking he can manipulate the relationship by getting free affection and getting into your personal space anytime he wants without asking.
Before you know it, what your dog is thinking can hurt you.
Then one day it happens
One day your dog decides to growl at you when you come close to his food bowl at mealtime. If you are startled and jump back, then you have just reinforced growling because in your dog’s mind growling kept you at a distance from his bowl. It worked for him.
Growling, snapping or biting is not necessarily limited to controlling food. Your dog, as you may have already found out, can also guard space (beds, couches, chairs or space on the floor – especially space that leads to the bedroom.
It’s important to know that your dog’s intentions to guard things can be subtle at first.
Here’s an example.
If your dog steals something of yours and you reach down to take it away, he may raise his lips and growl saying, “Back off, it’s mine!”
It’s important to note that it may not stop at a growl. It could escalate to snapping or biting.
With these frequent demonstrations, your dog is reinforcing his leadership while denouncing your leadership. He’s thinking he can make these decisions.
What your dog is thinking can hurt you if you don’t take steps to change this thinking.
What dogs need and want
Dogs need and want to be told what to do. They need to be told what to do everyday consistently so that their stress is minimized. Otherwise, they do what their instincts tell them to do.
It’s not complicated, a simple sit will do
If you don’t tell your dog to sit before giving him affection, then his instincts tell him he controls the relationship as he nudges your hand demanding attention.
If you don’t tell your dog to sit before coming up onto the couch, then his instincts tell him that you cannot control your resources (personal space is a resource.)
If you give your dog a command and he looks away (avoidance) his instincts tell him, as he is telling you with his head turn, he’s controlling the relationship. He chooses what to do or not to do on his terms.
Ask yourself this question: Who’s really in charge?
Your dog’s subtle and not so subtle ways of communicating one consistent message to you every day is telling you who is really in charge. And at this point, what your dog is thinking can hurt you.
It’s time for a change in your favor
Avoid these costly dog behavior problems by beginning a program of change by using tactics that are non-physical and non-confrontational as you begin to develop a solid working relationship with your dog so that he respects your consistent daily leadership.
Put structure in his life by requiring sits for everything
Obedience train your dog to get him to respond to rapid-fire commands of sits and downs immediately
Exercise your dog with structured walks twice daily.
Control your personal space by requiring your dog to ask permission to come into your personal space
Require your dog to move rather than walk around him. Use a leash if necessary to accomplish this.
Doing these things will allow you to gradually take back your leadership relieving a lot of stress and tension in your dog’s life once more, or for the first time.
Remember, you have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. Your dog only has you and the relationship you create. He deserves equal time.
I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me. Do you deal with this situation in your house? Please comment below
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.