Dogs and love is a topic that many think about and read about but don’t really talk about much at all. Dogs and love conjures up questions like, “Does your dog love you?” or “Can you love your dog too much?”
In the old television series “Lassie,” did Lassie save Timmy because Lassie really loved him or was Lassie protecting an ongoing supply of boot-legged tasty morsels from the dinner table night after night? After all, we do know, no matter how we choose to feel about our dogs, that dogs do whatever works for them.
I guess the scientific approach would be to say that dogs don’t feel love like we humans do. Instead they make an investment in the relationship with humans because dogs know that in so doing, it provides them with things they want; food, shelter and in some cases clothing – not that they have a say in what’s put on them – or wearing it at all.
Dogs do stand to gain from “putting on the charm” and it seems that the higher the cute factor, the more we love our dogs. Americans just love their dogs.
But could your neighbor love your dog as much as you love your dog? Animal behaviorists would say that given time at your neighbor’s home, your dog would rise to the same level of loyalty to them as had been established with you. But we don’t want to go there, do we?
We love our dogs. And some folks love their dogs to a fault. So much so that it begins to cause behavior problems. Dog behavior problems don’t happen over night although it seems they do.
Take the case where the Golden retriever who bit his owner when the owner braced himself on his dog’s couch cushion to get up. His comments were, “It was totally unprovoked”. “It came out of nowhere” and “He’s never done that before.”
Unbeknownst to that Golden owner, he had been shaping that learned behavior in his dog’s mind for a long time.
What’s that you say?
The owner had been allowing the dog to take ownership of his end of the couch and one night the dog took exception to his owner encroaching into his space.
Dogs, being carnivores, have developed an instinct to guard things they perceive to have value in any given moment. It this case it was “couch space.” Dogs have also been known to guard owners from other people and family members as well – growling or snapping to keep others away from what the dog sees as “their love and affection.” There’s that word love again.
Dogs are really pretty selfish
Most all dogs are pretty selfish. It probably has a lot to do with self-preservation and survival instincts – once again guarding things of value like food, space, toys and love and affection.
Doting on or spoiling your dog in many cases will, in your dog’s mind, cause you to slip from “pack leader” (if you ever were leader) to “property” (something your dog can learn to guard as his own) and that’s when problems can develop.
What’s the fix?
The fix is, from day one, set your rules and expectations. Set up boundaries on your personal space so that your dog respects your control of your personal space. He’s not allowed – unless invited in or up. And, if you’re like me, I always will invite my dogs in – but they wait until invited.
Additionally, put your dog on an earn-to-learn program. Have them work (do sits/downs) for everything. Do dog obedience training with them every day. Three short sessions (2-3 minutes each) daily of come, sit and down will give them a sense of working for you rather than you always catering to your dog.
Now, with structure in his life, your dog will be much happier knowing what’s expected of him and will once again look to you for everything.
Does my dog love me? You bet he does 😉 Do I love my dog? You bet I do – with rules of course! Had to say that, right?
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“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8500+ 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.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step way to teach your dog how to be a great family member.