Did you ever stop to consider that some of your very well-intentioned behavior could be getting under your pup’s fur? Yes, humans do many things that our loyal canine companions tolerate because they are good-natured and they love us.
However, our dogs let us know when they genuinely hate certain things. Most pet parents are used to some protesting when it comes to a trip to the vet’s office. Or perhaps a struggle when your canine companion figures out that it’s time for a regular bath, medication, or nail clipping. Whatever it is, you know your dog and when they are not happy.
Not all dogs hate the same human behavior and no two dogs are alike. However, humans do several things, mainly when showing affection that dogs don’t understand. Some dogs plain find them uncomfortable.
We are all guilty of it. We think that because we associate hugs with affection, our dogs do too. So, when we pass by our adorable, furry, loyal, best friend in the whole world, it is only natural that we wrap our arms around him and squeeze.
However, dogs evolved differently than humans. While humans view this as affectionate, when a dog places a paw on another dog's back, it is an act of dominance.1 While your intentions are only to show love, your furry friend can view you putting your arms around his neck or body as a threat.
The Best Course of Action
The best thing you can do is watch your dog’s body language since dog communication is primarily nonverbal.2
- Does your dog tense up?
- Is his or her posture stiff?
- Does he or she look away?
These actions could indicate that your pup is not comfortable with being hugged. Instead of hugging your pup, consider letting your dog come snuggle with you on his or her own terms.
Here is another gesture humans use to show love and affection. However, people fail to consider how our dogs view this five-fingered appendage reaching toward them from above. Being pat on the head is not popular among dogs, though it’s fair to say they tolerate it for our sake.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language and you may notice some signs that he or she might not love being pat on the head as much as you may believe. If you see your dog ducking away, lowering his or her head, stepping away, putting their ears back, or licking their lips, these are all signals that he or she is feeling stressed out.3
Generally, most dogs prefer to have their ears and the sides of their faces smoothly stroked.4 As always, be aware of a dog’s body language when doing this since not all dogs will react the same way to all actions.
In human communication, we use eye contact to gauge whether people are interested, listening, and focused. However, when a stranger is approaching and making direct eye contact, that can be frightening, creepy, and downright uncomfortable.
In the dog world, direct eye contact is used to establish dominance or intimidation. Although you may make eye contact with a strange dog to warm up to him or her, that may not be how the dog views it. He or she likely sees the eye contact as an act of dominance, aggression, or even a challenge.5
If you make eye contact with your canine companion as a means of showing affection, that is fine. However, it may be best to consider not making direct eye contact while approaching a strange dog that is not familiar with you or your actions.
Dogs detest when we hurry them through their daily walks, yanking at their leashes each time they try to sniff out a new scent. Walking your dog is about more than just exercise, although that is an essential component.6 Walks with your dog should be fun for both of you. Therefore, it's critical to keep in mind that people and dogs explore the world differently.
Most humans primarily explore their surroundings through sight. However, dogs mostly explore their world through their sense of smell. This explains why dogs like to stop and sniff everything along the way.
If your dog sniffs everything on a walk, it can get tedious, particularly when you have a limited amount of time. But, keep in mind, sniffing is among your dog’s favorite things to do. Rushing your dog through a walk without letting him or her sniff and explore the environment is like taking a child into a candy store and running through without allowing time to look around, check out the candy, or purchase anything.
One way to please your dog is to try and make time each day for one "sniff walk." Try taking your dog to a new location or trail and allow some extra time for your dog to explore his or her surroundings. On this walk be sure to take the time to go at a slower pace and let your pup sniff to his or her heart's content.7
Consistent rules, routines, and boundaries can create a feeling of safety for your dog. Setting rules and consistently enforcing them with positive rewards establishes you as the pack leader.
The world is large and overwhelming. A lack of rules, routines, and boundaries can create more stress for your dog and the lack of predictability can also be very confusing. Dogs want and need rules and routines.
Most dogs will thrive in environments that provide consistent boundaries and routines because this creates a sense of order.
Training your dog is part of creating rules and structure. Here are some factors you can consider that may help you provide structure and help you better train your pup:
- Establish a routine around exercise and walk time
- Try to feed your dog at the same time each day
- Establish a routine around playtime
At the end of the day, you know your furry friend best. When spending time with your pup, watch for some of the common signs that may show your dog dislikes an action you are doing. The more time you spend with your pup, the more you will get to know them and can address their likes and dislikes.
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