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Funny but true mistakes we make with our dogs and how to avoid them

Cuddle time is anytime!

I admit I am totally guilty of this. When I jump in bed, I want cuddles from my girls and I want them now!  I just want to love them, is that so wrong? Well apparently, it actually is. Dogs have their own personal space just like us humans.  Since dogs can’t exactly tell us they don’t want to be touched, this can be frustrating for dogs to properly express.

It is true that most dogs love affection and enjoy be cuddled. However,  when they are interested in something else, like playtime, training, snacking or romping around with other dogs, they don’t want to be cuddled. Imagine being really focused on sports, or a project, here comes your significant other who just wants to cuddle you. Its endearing, yes but how does a dog protest this if they cant speak?

So if your dog is concentrating on another thing that is important to him, don’t force him to cuddle. Don’t take it personally, just think of this as a way to strengthen the trust your dog has in you. Respect their space as painful as it might be!

 


Walking head-on towards dogs

A polite dog never approaches a stranger head-on – unless he feels challenged or wants to demonstrate his dominance.

With dogs, the welcome ceremony begins long before they meet. They approach each other in a semicircle, sniffing around (Ehh hmm, back there!)  casually on the floor. They show their body from the side. It’s actually really interesting to witness how dogs interact with a new friend.

If you are approaching a new dog, behave like a polite dog: do not go directly towards him, but stroll in an arc towards him. Turn slightly sideways to signal that you have friendly intentions.  The dog is going to interpret your behavior as friendly and will be interested in meeting you.  Watch out, you may find a nose going to your rear end!

 

Hug me….NOW!

People express their affection with hugs so it’s reasonable to hug your dogs to show your love.

However dogs dislike this physical show of affection. I certainly can’t speak for all dogs, but generally speaking, its a no go move and here’s why.

If a dog puts its paw on the back of a fellow dog, it is a dominant behavior. It means: I am above you in the hierarchy.  This makes sense why a dog could interpret this behavior as negative from you. So dogs may react nervously from a hug from you while other could even feel a sense of challenge of dominance from you.

In addition, dogs feel driven into a corner by a hug. Dogs do not attack in danger, but run away. When you hug a dog, it feels fixed. You prevent an escape. In the worst case scenerio, the dog could become aggressive and may bites. Especially rescue dogs, we never really know all the details to any trauma a rescue dog may endure, and we certainly don’t want our furry family member to feel unsafe or triggered by us.  It just best to skip the traditional hugs and use some belly rubs instead!

 

Introducing new dogs while being on a leash

When two unleashed dogs meet in a meadow, they use gestures and body language to regulate how they stand in relation to each other. Sometimes also with barking or small quarrels. A harmless clarification of the hierarchy, there is not much threat as neither dog can feel cornered. They can establish whos boss in a non threatening way.

If two dogs meet leashed, they cannot regulate the ranking according to dog type. Firstly, the dogs have to approach each other head-on, which I’ve already gone over how that’s not the appropriate way for dogs to assess each other.  Secondly, they have too little space and too little time for the welcome ceremony. They cannot create space to explore each other without possibly feeling threatened. Now, of course some dogs are just fine doing this. Depending on their disposition it can go just fine as you monitor their body language.

So what do you do if a dog comes along when you go for a walk and both dogs are leashed?  The dog now needs the safety of your guidance. Don’t stand still, don’t stand at the edge until the other dog has passed, don’t go across the street, don’t pull the dog back. Give your dog what he needs now: freedom to approach if he so pleases and freedom to pass or stop.  Don’t hesitate, just keep going, confident, cool and determined. Allow him to feel your confidence and  follow your lead. In turn this allows him to decide on this situation and  where it goes. That gives him security.

The more anxious or nervous you behave, the more apprehensive, possibly aggressive your dog will react another dog.

 

Being touched by strangers

I realize this title sounds a bit strange, but you want to be touched by strangers? It really is quite intrusive for some dogs especially if they’re not expecting it or initiating this.

Some dogs may even get scared, especially when you bend over them from above.

Dogs are polite animals. They would never attack a strange fellow dog with touching, as we humans do with them. If you want to make contact with a dog, squat down at a distance of at least four to five feet, get down on his level. Speak to him briefly and signal to him that you are inviting him to come to you. You will wonder how fast the dog comes to you. Stretch out a hand to him and let him sniff it. Sniffing is important and is part of dog behavior. If he reacts positively, you can touch him. If the dog walks at a distance, do not pet him. As cute and cuddly as dogs are, you have to remember that it is their body afterall.  As pet parents we really should make sure that they invite us to pet them, sometimes they really just want to be left alone and that’s okay too.

 

Speaking to a dog in a high pitch voice

Some people talk to dogs in high voices, like with a baby.  My son is one of those people. I always cringe when he raises his voice to the highest octave and talks baby talk to our dog Aspen. She really couldn’t look more annoyed if she tried. I can see immediately how much she just wants to run away from him. Aspen is a super sweet Shih Tzu so she just tolerates it, bless her heart!

Dogs don’t communicate verbally, so many times they do rely on the pitch of your voice.  A higher pitch voice does not signal “master” to the dog. It can actually trigger within them some insecurity as they can be confused on the role they have. Strange right?  Higher pitch tones are also sensitive to their ears. Dogs have absolutely phenomenal hearing. They can hear tones that we humans, cannot.

Another interesting fact is that dogs usually recall tones rather than actual words. Don’t believe me? Here’s something you can try.  If you normally say “treat!” when you have a treat for your dog. Say the word “treat” but use a completely different tone when you say this. You can even be monotone as you say the word. I will bet your dog will not have the same reaction they normally do when you say “TREAT!” as you always have. Try this with maybe your “potty” or “outside” signal.

Dogs also watch your body language, this is actually the primary way they use to decode you!  They orient themselves at your body language and at your gestures. You could honestly completely train a dog with zero audio and other visual cues. They sense things on a deeper level as well. Ever wonder how your dog always knows when your sad and cuddles you? They watch you, they sense you, then know something is off and you didn’t have to say a word to them.  Incredible isn’t it? Dog truly is man’s best friend!


Summary

When dogs are concentrating on something important for them, they don’t want to be petted.

New dogs don’t like it when you approach them head-on, because in the dog world this is understood as aggression.

Even if they accept it, dogs don’t want to be hugged because they feel dominated and fixed by it.

Dogs dislike it when they meet a dog on the leash, because then they can not perform the dog ritual. Be confident and allow him to decide IF he wants to approach.

Dogs do not want to be touched by strangers. First they expect the welcome ritual!

People who talk to dogs in high voices are not taken seriously. This is not good for your role as a dog handler.

Dogs constantly monitor their surroundings with all their senses. If you your talking often, they get into stress, because they cannot fulfill this deeply rooted instinct.


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