Think Like a Dog
My friends and family say I am part dog. I take that as a compliment, most days I would rather be like a dog than like some people. Dogs are simple. They are forgiving and they love unconditionally. The things I learn from dogs and other animals make me a better and more patient human! I lovingly wear a pendant that says “All Dog”. I guess working with dogs for so many years and problem solving to help their owners with behavior problems has made me think more like a dog.
Now, please understand, I am not complaining! Thinking like a dog makes me a better dog trainer and it helps me to appreciate life from their point of view. I think everyone should take a few steps into their dog’s mind and realize what it is like to be a dog.
The first thing to do when you and your dog are not seeing eye to eye, is to try and understand life from his perspective! Not only will this help you to be more considerate of him and his feelings it will also help you to problems solve effectively and efficiently to come up with a plan that can work for you both.
I hate digging holes! It doesn’t matter if it’s a small hole or a large hole, digging is hard work; it makes me sore, tired and overheated! So why does your dog like digging?
Dogs can’t read books or comprehend a good T.V. show, but digging for a dog is just plain FUN!
Your dog’s nose is 1,000 times more powerful than yours, and let’s face it dogs love disgusting stuff, the stinky- “er” the better! I can only imagine that each new level of dirt smells exciting and like something else. There are animals that borrow through the ground, insects, and even treasures like buried food and old bones. I bet the scents of dogs from the past are all throughout the ground, layers of dirt and yard!
Digging for your dog is probably like watching CSI or reading a good psychological thriller is for us, it’s just super stimulating!
Not only are the scents mingling in the dirt fun to sniff, but watching the dirt fly through the air and land in abstract places can also be “super fun”! One of my best friends has a German Shepherd who absolutely loves to dig, and then she chases the flying dirt.
Bored dogs dig! Exercise or lessening their time spent outside can help.
Chasing flying dirt and water from the sprinkler can entertain a bored dog; it can also help fulfill some of those herding dog instincts that encourage that chasing behavior and keeping items, flock or people together.
Some dogs are bred to dig up rodents and their instincts could be too much for them to totally deny their instincts!
Digging instincts may need to be addressed by building a sand box and letting your dog dig in a specific area!
Sometimes, by default, I think we humans encourage the bad behaviors we are trying to avoid in our dogs. What happens when your dog potties on the floor in front of you? Do you scream, rant and rave at him? Some people kick, yell at or even hit their dogs; and let us not forget the old adage of rubbing the dog’s nose in the spot! What do you think your dog learns from this type of “teaching”?
He learns that you NEVER want to see him go to the bathroom in front of you, so when you take him outside he doesn’t want to relieve himself in front of you. He waits with a full bladder until you bring him back in and he can run and hide in another room to relieve himself. He is terrified to potty in front of you.
He undoubtedly does not associate where he is at “indoors” with the behavior, how can we expect an animal to realize among all things that it is his “surroundings” and his behavior combined are the reason for your rage. He undoubtedly thinks you are “bi-polar” (if he could understand and relate to that) and is scared when you blow up at him in a frenzy.
Don’t yell! You may startle your dog if you see him going potty in the house, simply to stop the flow of urine and then get him outside. Praise your dog for going potty outside!! NEVER EVER hit, spank, kick or rub your dog’s nose in his mistake!
The other reason is simple if you think about it from your dog’s standpoint. Going outside is SO MUCH FUN! There are things to do outside, like sniff, dig, bark, play, chase leaves and just enjoy the weather. Your dog or puppy goes outside and it is like “fun land” for him. But, we humans expect them to get down to the business of using the potty and then coming right back inside; we are not known for our patience! Or, we put them outside by themselves and expect them to go to the potty without watching and instead they chase butterflies, dig up the rose bush, bark at the neighbor dog and otherwise find things to do to entertain themselves.
THEN, we let them back inside and that is when they remember they have to go potty! He then sneaks off to a secluded room (so you can’t see him and yell..which he doesn’t understand) and he relieves himself.
Go outside with him to make sure he is getting down to business outside! Allow him time to play outside as well as go potty!
Simple convenience also plays a role when you are beginning potty training, or even later in life. If it is 10 below zero, torrential raining, or there is snow up to your puppy or dog’s chest it may not be conducive to good potty training! One of my dogs HATES the heat, so I have to watch her and make sure she goes potty when she goes outside when it is hot! In her mind, she would just rather squat on the floor in the cool than go out into the baking sun…we call her a vampire because she is so dramatic about the heat and the sun! I know that about her, so it’s my job to make sure she is successful about getting outside every few hours and before the hottest part of the day!
I don’t think I would want to drop “trou” and pee in 10 below zero or when the rain is driving down! Make sure you do your best to help your dog be successful with his potty training endeavors by making a path, holding an umbrella or going out when it is warmer or cooler for your dog!
How many of you can admit to yourselves that you encourage barking sometimes, because you want your dog to protect your home, but you hate it other times? Sometimes you reward the behavior and other times you lose your cool when your dog starts barking?
Unless you put the behaviors of barking and quiet on command it is difficult for your dog to be rewarded sometimes and yelled at other times for the same behavior! Talk about confusing, your dog never knows when you want him to bark and when you don’t!
Do you yell at your dog when he barks? I can only guess that when your dog is barking and you are yelling…he thinks YOU ARE BARKING TOO! Imagine your dog sees the mail man and begins barking to scare him away…you start yelling at him because you are on the phone but from his perspective maybe he thinks you are mad at the mail man too!
Treating barking by barking back at your dog is never going to work! It actually perpetuates the behavior. Dogs often mirror our behavior and our moods, stay calm, quiet and collected and teach your dog the same!
Teach your dog to bark and to be quiet on command! Teach your dog that he and YOU are in control of his mouth!
These are only a few of the most common problems people encounter with their dogs. Seeing situations from your dog’s point of view helps you to correct the flaws in your side of the behavior problem or at least helps you to understand your dog from a different perspective.
Although we don’t have to agree with the behaviors and their problems understanding them may help us to be more patient and more sympathetic or empathetic when training and working with our dogs!
The very first thing I do when I recognize a behavior problem with my dog is to try and put myself in his paws and understand it from his perspective. This empathy and consideration helps me tackle the behaviors from a different point of view and, I believe, helps me to be a better dog trainer and definitely a better dog mom!
Understanding, and empathy leads to kindness and kindness leads to a better overall relationship. So my advice…learn to think like a dog and see life from their sweet and simple perspective, I know it has made me a better trainer and a better person! I think I can learn more from them than they could ever learn from me!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.