Dogs: how to be their friends - Technique For Living

Dogs: how to be their friends

We don't speak the same language!

Dogs speak dog. Humans can speak both. Most of us have no idea we talk human to dogs and they have no way to translate it. Even worse, human makes them behave badly because it tells them to in dog. Dog's don't have any other language no matter what you project onto them. Dogs aren't children. If your dog or someone else's dog constantly misbehaves it's to do with the owner and not the dog

Dogs are everywhere. Even if you don't like them it's worth taking the time to understand them so you don't act in fear around them. You might also become a better leader.

Leaders are calm in a storm

How often when we see a dog do we greet it of make a fuss of it and let it jump up at us? When we do this we unwittingly give all our power away and pronounce them leader. This in turn stresses them out because they are overwhelmed with the responsibility. They continue with this behaviour for as long as they are rewarded for it. 

Why do dogs do this? In the wild anything can happen at any time. Dogs need a way to establish who is in charge very quickly. It is a simple case of lead or follow. You can see this whenever a group of dogs or wolves meetup. The dogs that are out of control are in a panic and jump up at each other, bite nip and bark at each other to gain control. What does the leader dog do? He does very little, almost nothing. He simply approaches and stays very calm, relatively silent. The other dogs are testing him. They are crying out to be lead believe it or not and just by the simple action of being there he or she is displaying the strongest part of leading the pack, weathering their emotional storms.

Don't shake hands when they're acting up

So what does this mean for us humans? When you meet a dog resist the urge to give it your immediate attention before you have greeted any other humans and only when it is calm do you greet it. This usually means waiting at least 5 minutes for the dog to calm down. If the dog doesn't calm down DO NOT GREET THE DOG.  Yes there is a parallel here with the alexander technique that will really test you. It will feel better to react to the dog, but don't do it, don't react. You'll be doing both of you a big service. Looking at a dog is a form of communication to them. If you look at the dog when they are doing their routine they will take it as a sign you are being lead by them. Their routine or habits can include all sorts of nervous aggression. Barking, jumping up and getting in your face to name but a few. Don't react to it.

Fake dog psychology

Owner leaves the home. Dog "pines" for them and barks at anything that moves in their living space. Don't make the common mistake seeing this as separation anxiety and it can't live without you. The dog is going out of it's mind trying to protect its babies (you) because it still thinks it's the leader. This can even take the form or damaging furniture. Again this is not the case, it's us misreading the language of the dog.

For a dog to display this behaviour it would have to think of itself as the leader. It needs to learn that's not his role. You need to teach this to the dog that it doesn't need to be in charge. Putting the dog in a small space is a good temporary fix, but it still needs to know it's not leading. Don't let the dog out of the doors before you. Also when you arrive back in the same room as the dog don't make eye contact or react to it or it will think it's leading again. This will allow your dog to calm down a great deal.

Bully or encourage?

Dogs learn by positive reinforcement, but too often this is not used and a dominant submissive relationship takes place. For instance how dogs are trained to heal there are methods where when the dog doesn’t follow along you are meant to turn around and walk in the opposite direction dragging the dog as punishment for its disobedience. However, all this teaches the dog is when it goes out in front is to keep pulling against you! It thinks you are in need of it’s help going forwards or need leading! If the dog is young enough it needs to be picked up and taken back to the start when it pulls on the lead so it has a clear indication of the behaviour that you don't want. Otherwise you're just playing tug of war with the dog.

Intimidation teaches bad lessons

Dogs are also highly receptive to emotions and literally take us at what we present them. A big problem that some dogs have is they eat their own waste. How does this happen? When a dog for whatever reason, sometimes illness, perhaps out of desperation has done a poo in the place where it is not supposed to the owner can do things like hold the dogs face near the poo and tell it things like "bad dog" or "no" and be very angry about this to drive the point home. The dog does not hear the message the way the human intends. 

Dog only thinks its owner has lost control and has now placed it in charge. The owner is presenting the problem of a poo and is effectively telling the dog to deal with it as quickly and aggressively as possible so very sadly dogs deal with this by eating the poo and then wagging their tail because they think that they have helped the owner solve a problem. It’s even sadder that they will continue to do this in other situations.

Open the door and step outside

When you open a door to let the dog out you want to step outside first and check the coast is clear. You are telling the dog that the space is secure. The dog sees the outside world as an unsafe place that the leader has to make secure. If the owners don’t do this then the dog will run outside and bark it’s head off to make it safe (in his opinion). When you go out first and just spend a bit of time there, then call or let the dog out it will only bark if it thinks you haven’t made sure. Test how much time your dog needs to feel reassured. Don’t let the dog out before you go out.

My dog's too big and strong.

No it's not. You need to treat it differently. These videos show Jan Fennell working with some very strong breeds like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Irish Wolfhound and the Mastiff. It's also worth noting that there is a very big difference between hitting the dog and using your arm to stop the dog from getting in your face. If you hit your dog then you will train it to see hands as weapons being used against them. When this is done enough times then the dog won't trust someone to stroke them even if they have no such intentions and will probably bite. 

If you haven't guessed it by now all of this information has come from Jan Fennell. It transformed my relationships with dogs and I hope it does the same for you. Dogs are everywhere and even if you don't like them it's worth taking the time to understand them so you don't act in fear around them. It also will help you to be a better leader. What you are seeing here really is the tip of the iceberg, but you can practice it. It would help to have a read of Jan's book "The Dog Listener" (I am not an affiliate) to get a much deeper perspective or go on a training day if you can. 

About the Author Edward Fisher

Hi, I'm Edward Fisher and I believe that everyone can have a life free from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and many other musculoskeletal pain related conditions. I recovered from slipped discs and sciatica. I spent 10 months being unable to walk. After 3 months of Alexander Technique I was walking again. Now I show others how to do the same thing for themselves.

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