If you consider yourself a conscientious pet parent, READ ON! You might be engaging in quite a few behaviors that could be pushing your dog’s buttons.
1. TALK IS CHEAP
In your relationship with your canine companion, communication is key. Your first instincts might include anything from baby-talk to using your pup as a captive audience for the drama of the day, but there is one important thing you’ve got to remember: dogs do not speak human.
Don’t worry; just because they don’t understand your speech doesn’t mean that mutual understanding is a lost cause! Dogs are experts at reading body language. So, next time you’re talking to your dog, try closing your mouth and using those muscles! Your dog will engage with you in a whole new way, and be able to communicate with you as well!
2. BODY LANGUAGE
Because body language is so integral to clear communication with your dog, it is all the more important to get it right! Because humans are a verbal species, accidental mixed signals are easy to send when communicating physically. For example, prolonged eye contact to you might signify a deep connection with your dog, but getting lost in each others’ eyes is not what’s on your pet’s mind at all.
Dogs, though often social and obviously inherently lovable, can misinterpret physical cues like unbroken eye contact, which makes them feel uncomfortable! How would you feel if someone twice your size was towering above you, staring into your soul?
When approaching a dog, avoid direct, domineering body language—even when punishing your pup. It is important to remind them that you come in peace!
3. DON’T PLAY CANINE CUPID!
Most of us can agree: there are few things in this world more dreadful than a bad blind date. Your dog feels the same way! A common misconception pet parents possess is that dogs will automatically love other dogs simply because they’re the same species, or because their dog is known to be kind and civil to other pets.
Think about this for a second: do you like every human you come into contact with on a daily basis? Do you want to spend time with them? Probably not. Do you consider yourself a nice, perhaps sociable person? Hopefully!
Here is where body language comes back into play. If your dog is growling at or not making contact with the other pets at play, it might be time to take them out of the uncomfortable situation.
4. THE “COOL PARENT” ROUTINE
You might consider your dog your baby, your furry child. The way you raise this hairy little baby is vital to its behavioral patterns, so structure is crucial. Like a child, a dog will learn to behave best when rules are regulated and enforced. For example, letting your pup in bed after a bath but not after an outdoor escapade will simply confuse your dog!
Just like you might find solace in your daily and nightly routines, the customs you establish with your dog comfort it. Being lax in your preservation of daily rituals does not let your dog off the hook: it is depriving it of the framework it needs in order to live a calm and happy life!
Dogs, like people, do not like to be teased! Messing with or waving at a dog behind a window, barking/howling at a dog, fake-throwing when playing fetch, pretending to have a treat in your hand in order to capture a dog’s attention, these are all hugely stressful to any dog. Remember: teasing is bullying, for any species!
When something happens to anger you, you may be pushed to the point of raising your voice at the source of the frustration, which could be anything from your car to a customer service hotline. However, when dealing with your dog, keep the volume DOWN. You are your pup’s pack leader, and a good leader should be respected, not feared!
Raising your voice at your dog will scare it. Instead, remain calm, cool, and collected. Your dog will respond much better to positive signals than to being barked at!
7. DOGGIE DRESS-UP
Yes, we know: our dogs look absolutely scrumptious in little princess costumes, and even more irresistibly adorable when they’re decked out in matching shirt-bootie ensembles. All the same, while most clothing for you may be like a second skin, for your dog it’s more like a straight jacket.
Puppy costumes may look absolutely charming, but they can limit your dog’s movement and even impair their vision, if (god forbid) some sort of Cher-esque headpiece is involved. Moral of the story: for the purpose of a holiday card or quick photo, a cute little getup is acceptable, but make sure to minimize the uncomfortable doggie dress up and let your dog run around in the buff!
8. DON’T RUSH PERFECTION!
Potty time for your dog is it’s chance to go outside and explore, to make its mark on the world (or just on the telephone pole on the corner)! When you rush your dog in and out instead of letting them find a potty place with their own exploratory sniffer, it might actually take longer to get their business done. When it comes to your pet’s tinkle time, patience is a virtue.
9. SCARY SUDS
Imagine going through a car wash without the protection of your car. Water spraying in your face and eyes, suds going where no suds should, being deprived of your senses in the name of cleanliness. This sensory experience is somewhere in the ball park of what a bath is like for your dog. The neural overload induced by a bubble bath is nothing near a spa day for your pup, so introduce it slowly to the water and soap. When smoothly introduced to the bath, most dogs can behave during bath time. As long as you are gentle and diligent about monitoring your pet’s stress levels, you’ll have a clean and happy dog! After showering them with water, be sure to shower them in praise and treats as well. They did it!
10. SOUNDING OFF
Humans are loud. We talk loudly, we make loud sounds, we drive loud cars, light loud fireworks on loud holidays, even sneeze and cough loudly. Humans have the ability to understand and identify most of the loud sounds we generate and thus not be terrified whenever someone sneezes or lights a roman candle on the Fourth of July.
Dogs, however, do not have a clue what these deafening sounds are or what their source may be. A loud sneeze, for example, may sound like an aggressive snort from another dog. Fireworks may scare some dogs so badly that they might try to escape.
Regarding loud noises, it is best to keep your dog comforted and protected. On loud holidays, keep your dog indoors with the windows shut. After sneezing, give your dog some reassuring rubs to let them know all is well.
11. HOME ALONE
Much like a young McCauley Culkin, your dog may misbehave when left alone for long periods of time. They may not craft a series of booby traps from household items (or they could, I’m not one to underestimate the know-how of your particular pup), but they might act up out of anxiety or boredom in other ways: peeing where they shouldn’t, eating what they shouldn’t, etc.
Though no dog should be left unattended for too long, some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety-induced misbehavior, like Terriers, Labradors, and Retrievers.
12. GIMME KISSES!
This last one is bound to be a bit of a heart breaker. While pet parents live for puppy kisses, the puppies themselves may not be too keen. (I know, I’m sorry!) We may think that showering our beloved dogs in kisses is an easily and clearly communicated sign of our undying love for our furry friends, but this message may not be so loud and clear.
Between dogs, licking is actually a sign of submission. Constant exchanges of this sign of dominance between pet parents and dogs themselves not only confuse your pup, but also provide an unnecessary and sometimes overwhelming reminder that you’re in charge. Keep petting and rubbing your treasured fur ball to remind it of your love, and not your control.
Follow these basics, and you’ll be well on your way to keeping your dog feeling happy and safe! A lot of these seem like no-brainers, but you would be surprised how many pet parents violate these easy steps. With these tips, your dog will look at you with nothing but love.