Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How We See Our Dogs

"Don't make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans, or they'll treat you like dogs.."-- Martha Scott

One thing we must remember being dog owners. They are not humans.

Some people spoil their dogs in many ways. What is spoiling for some is normal treatment for others. For example, some people believe that allowing a dog to sleep on your bed or sitting at the dinner table is spoiling them, while others believe it is normal or even good for their dogs.

None of these thing are necessarily good for your dogs. In fact this type of treatment can be detrimental as you run the risk of humanizing your dog.

Humanization is in the hands of the owner. Meaning, it is usually the need or the owner, not the dog, that decides what privileges the dog will and will not have.

Dogs may desire to be on the bed, or sit at the dinner table, but they do not need to do so to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Humanization ususally occurs innocently. When your dog firsts sleeps on the bed with you or begs an the dinner table it may look quite cute, especially if your dog is still a puppy.

As your relationship with your dog developes the owners expectations and the dog's perception usually begining to change. Many times the owner begins to feel an emotional need to have the dog on the bed or at the table. This is Especially seen in owners who do not have children or spouse.

Dogs have a very high sense of perception. I truly believe they are able to sense emotions in their owners beyond the capacity of most humans. It is the perception of the dog that then indicates that the dog is being called upon to fulfill an emotional need of the owner. Dogs have a desire to please thier owner, will attempt to fulfill thes emotional need in human terms, yet they can not, they are dogs. Instead the dog will associate the physical placement of himself (being higher thean the ground) on the bed or chair with pleasing his owner.

Significance of this perception.

In a dogs world, a dog that is physically higher then another dog indicates they are dominant over the other dog. This is why dogs who act in a dominant manner stands tall and erect. Even small dogs will stand tall and erect over a much larger dog. They are attempting to create the percepetion of being higher. This is why a game called "King of the Hill" is popular among dogs and wolves who have access to a mound of earth. The state of being physically higher is, in the dog world, a state of being dominant.
Strengthening the problem is that not only is the dog physically higher, but is also in close emotional contact with the owner when the dog is on the bed or in a chair. Bonding emotionally at this time may compound the effects and lead to a dog begins to preceive himself above "Dog Status"in the pack hierarchy and on equal ground with his owner.
This does not mean you can not consider your dog your friend. This does not mean you can not have a close and emotional bond with our dog. It means you need to develope a proper relationship with your dog, for your dog's psychologial well being and for the safety of others ( an improper relationship usually result in dogs that display aggressiveness towards others or ever their owners.)
Depending on the dog's WILL TO POWER (WTP) and WILL TO SERVE (WTS), the dog may react differently to the affects of humanization. A dog with a high WTP and a low WTS will most likely not only display dominance to others, but to the owner as well. Dominance is usually displayed with agressive behavior, and although they are appropriate in the wild, they are very inappropriate in a human household. Does your dog growl when you try to move him? You are seeing humanization in action.
If the dog has a low WTP and a high WTS, the dog may or may not display dominance to the owner, but will most likely display dominance to others when in the owners presence. The dog may also begin displaying symptoms of anxiety. A dog with a low WTP would not choose to be a leader in the wild, however under the circumstances where there is no strong leader figure, even a normally non-dominant dog will attempt to fill the roll of being leader. This can create a lot of stress and anxiety in a dog not up for the task. In either situtation, the owner must recognize the humanization that has occured and resolve to become a leader to the dog, not a social equal.
Putting the hierarchy back in its proper place
You need to stop praticing the behaviors and actions that allowed the humanization to occur. That means, your dog is no longer allowed on the bed, or at the dinner table or whatever is relevant to your situation.
You need to establish a means of communication with your dog other then emotional attachment. The best way to accomplish this is through basic obedience. Do not scoff at or skip this essential step. Even if your dog is obedience trained, even if it has obedience titles, go back to the basic obedience command in your dogs daily activities.
  1. Three long down stays per day
  2. Sit before being petted
  3. Wait before going through a doorway
  4. Stay before being feed

This will enable your dog to associate you as his leader, not an equal or subordinate.

If your dog has not had obedience training, then enroll him in a class as soon a possible. Use positive reinforcement techniques and praise, not force or physical punishment.

Over the time, your dog may earn the right to get on your bed again, however it is not essential. I do not believe that your dog should ever be allowed to sit on a chair at the dinner table as I do not believe there is any other way for your dog to perceive the situation other that he is on equal status with humans, especially when food is involved.

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