April 3, 2014

Are Dogs Human?

Posted in: Dog

human4^ Toby is interested in human things

human^ Toby showers like a human

human3^ Toby sleeps like a human

human2^ Toby relaxes like a human


Before Toby came home, we made a list for what kind of dog we wanted Toby to be. We wanted him to be a dog that was awesome who knew he wasn’t allowed on the couch, wasn’t allowed in the bedroom, definitely wasn’t allowed to sleep in our bed, wasn’t allowed food off the table, had to learn to wait outside cafes while we sat inside, and so on. We kept those rules in place until Toby was about 9 months old. That’s when Andrew and I would start having conversations that went like this, “It’s the weekend so maybe from now on, on the weekends, Toby can sleep in bed with us?” “Let’s make a rule that when we watch movies, Toby can snuggle on the couch with us.” “Let’s eat outside when we go to cafes so we can eat as a family.” After a few months it become clear to us that Toby was more than our dog and we didn’t want to treat him like a dog in the traditional sense. He was now part of the family and we wanted him to live as part of our family. That meant, sleeping in bed with us each night, snuggling on the couch with us, eating outside at cafes so we could all be together. Now, the only thing we don’t allow Toby to do is eat off the table.

The reason why it was OK for us to become more relaxed with some of our rules on our list was because Toby had learnt, within those 9 months, the big important rules we expected him to follow, which allowed him to understand his boundaries, eliminating any bad behaviours. The big important rules are, where to go to use the toilet, how to walk on the lead, how to behave with other dogs, commands to perform to keep him safe (wait, stop, sit, stay) and how to act around other people. In those 9 months, Toby learnt rules quickly because we were strong, firm pack leaders.

Before Toby came along, I read a lot of books on how to raise the perfect dog and every piece of literature I read said the same thing, There are no bad dogs, there are only bad leaders. The leaders all the books refereed to was you, me, us. Usually what we tend to do when we own a dog that is constantly misbeahving is blame the dog but really we are to blame because we make the mistake of not setting rules and boundaries in place for your pooch. In most cases these mistakes are made unconsciously, but this is not an excuse.

So, according to research and my Dog Guru, Ceaser Milan (who helped us turn Toby into the awesome soul he is) dogs are not humans. Well, obviously. But they say dogs shouldn’t even be treated as humans if you want to raise the perfect dog. The reason you shouldn’t treat them as humans is, their thought process is different to ours and they have an instinct to constantly test whether they are the leader of the pack or whether you are. Dogs are pack animals, they live in packs and learn how to behave in packs. When your pooch comes home, automatically, you become their pack and they look at you to set them up with strong rules to follow that will keep them safe. Instinct tells them that if there is not a strong human in charge, their life is at risk. For this reason, it is important that you set rules for your pooch to follow from the very first day, as they intrinsically crave rules to follow.

The mistake people make within their pack, is giving their dog too much love and overlook the other needs of the dog. To your pooch, constant love and affection without rules or limits goes against their instinct. While dogs do enjoy affection, ranging from hugs, pats, kisses and just saying, ‘Good boy!’ it does not satisfy them. They need rules and limits, they need to know boundaries in order to feel they are part of an orderly pack with rules to follow.

To a human putting rules onto a dog may seem harsh but a dog doesn’t see it that way. If you show no leadership and no rules your dog will intrinsically feel that they will have to take over the role of leader and do whatever they want, because there must be a strong leader in the dog’s pack. If you can’t do it, your pooch will. However, some pooches don’t feel up for the challenge or don’t feel strong enough to handle the role of leader and it can become very stressful for them.

Unfortunately, humans can often give dogs mixed leadership signals. For example, sometimes it’s OK for your pooch to eat from the table and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes they are allowed to sleep in bed with you and sometimes they aren’t. This confuses them and when this is consistently happening, bad behavior starts to boil to the surface. When this happens, you will likely see your pooch doing things such as chewing items or themselves, eliminating in the house, obsessive and neurotic behaviours, barking excessively, whining, not following your commands, not coming when called, running off, destroying things in the house, and the list goes on. Whatever the problem is, it is more likely than not, traceable back to the way you treat your dog. Your dog needs rules and boundaries so it can understand how it needs to behave, this is so important.

Important things you need to do as a pack leader:

Train, train, train your dog

This is the hard part of having a puppy but do this right and you will reap the rewards for the rest of your dog’s life. The key to training is having patience! Never lose your temper with your puppy when training them to walk on a lead, go to the toilet in the right place, not destroy your things, commands and so on. If you lose your temper you will only confuse your dog and you will lose your dog’s trust, making it incredibly hard to train them. Another important key when training your puppy is giving them rewards that are a combination of praise and treats. Never, ever forget to reward your dog when they have done something correctly. Without rewards, you won’t get very far.

Never, ever acknowledge or respond to bad behaviour

Try to never respond to any unwanted behaviour from your dog when it seeks attention, otherwise your dog will learn a quick way to manipulate you. This is so important, your pooch needs to know what behaviour is not appropriate in your household from the very beginning. When we first taught Toby to stay outside until we decided it was OK for him to come back in, we put him out and closed the glass sliding door. He could see us and he wanted to come in. This is no joke, he was on the balcony crying, screaming, scratching the glass for 2.5 hours straight. It was so painful to watch, his whole face was wet from the tears and I kept telling Andrew that what we were doing was cruel, this needs to stop! What would the neighbours think? Andrew persisted and kept saying, ‘If we give in now, he will always learn to cry and scratch if he wants to come in.’ After 2.5 hours he suddenly stopped and just sat there. As soon as he was quiet we waited a few minutes and then let him in. We praised him and gave him lots of treats. The next day we did it again but he only cried for about 5 minutes and stopped. As soon as he stopped we praised and rewarded. We kept doing this until Toby didn’t make a sound when he was locked outside. Today, wherever we go, if he is locked outside he sits there and quietly and patiently waits for us to let him in.

Socialise your dog

We started socialising Toby as soon as he had all his injections and it was safe for him to go outside. Proper socialisation is so important in helping your pooch became a well behaved and friendly part of the family. We took Toby to puppy school, not for the information but for the socialisation. We took him to dog parks every day and he became familiar and learnt how to socialise with all sorts of breeds in an acceptable manner. It is in the park that Toby also learnt to ignore skateboard riders, get out of the way when bikes are riding along the footpath and how to stop and wait for me before we approach the main road when exiting the park.

Teach your dog to behave with visitors

When visitors pop by train your dog not to jump on them and to sit before you let the visitor stroke them. This will teach your pooch how to behave with all people within your community.

Never feed your dog table scraps

The more you do this, the more you teach the dog begging is allowed and rewarded. Command your dog to sit or lay when your family is eating. When you give your dog its meal, ask it to sit first. It reinforces your leading position and saves you from troubles with putting the bowls on the floor.

Provide your dog with physical and mental stimulation 

Dogs have energy to burn off and they need to burn this off every day. If they are not provided with proper physical and mental work, they can become unruly. Simple feeding and keeping your dog in the backyard or inside is not enough. Physical and mental stimulation and quality time spending is so necessary. Every morning, Toby and I go for an hour walk, after work we cuddle for 15 minutes before we go to the dog park and he plays with the other pooches. When we get home, he has his dinner, I do my thing and before bed we will play together to get Toby mentally stimulated. I do this by playing tug of war, dangling his toy in front of him and he has to grab it, to bouncing the tennis ball down the hall.

Never, ever hit your dog

When training your dog to become an awesome family member, it can be hard, tiring, frustrating and all those other negative adjectives. This may anger you, but never ever show violence towards your pooch. Violence can hardly be called an effective way of training. It may break your dog’s spirit, not to mention it’s simply wrong and inhumane.Violence creates more violence, so if you do not want violent streaks in your dog, do not use violence.