Sometimes it seems that our dogs can read our mind. And while there's some truth to that, there are still plenty of things that we, as dog owners, do that really confuse man's best friend.
1. We leave. Dogs are social creatures and love living in packs, close in social as well as physical contact with each other. And while leaving your dog alone, is sometimes necessary (when you go to work, when you go to bed at night, or even just to the other room at home to grab a snack when the TV commercial comes on during your evening in) it's a hard concept for your dog to grasp. This could be why your dog gets upset at the thought of being home alone, may love to sit next to you on the sofa when you really wish they'd stay off the furniture, or follow you around the house for no particular reason whatsoever.
The Solution: offer your dog plenty of chances to socialize with you, with other people, and with other dogs. Doggy dates and doggy daycare are great ways to do this, especially if it's a regular occurrence so your dog can build their own trusted “pack.”
2. We love beautiful sights. Humans rely heavily on their sense of sight to orient themselves in the world, while dogs rely more on their sense of smell. That's why they often appear restless, or seem to always roam aimlessly. It's also why a trip to the beach, to the park, or a walk through town is such a loved activity: just think of all the new smells they can experience on a daily basis by getting out and about!
The Solution: Daily walks are a must, but also try to vary where you go so that your dog has plenty of opportunity to experience new, stimulating smells. In Estepona, there are a number of beaches, dog-friendly restaurants, and paseo walks that your dogs will love. Walks in the campo, especially off-lead ones, are also a fantastic way to make sure your dog gets the physical as well as mental health benefits they need to be happy and healthy.
3. We constantly smell different. Humans bathe significantly more than dogs do, we change into clean clothes on a daily basis, and we use products like shampoo, deodorant, and perfume to intentionally change the way we smell, which to a smell-focused doggy mind can become really confusing and has the potential to cause dogs - even ones that know us well, to become overly nervous or anxious, especially if caught unawares.
The Solution: Although we can't change our homes or ourselves too much to accommodate our dog's need for consistent smells that make them feel more secure, dog experts recommend leaving an item of clothing that smells of you when leaving your dog at home as this will comfort them and reduce anxiety.
4. We hug. Although wrapping your arms around your dog's neck is a sign of affection for us, it can resemble how another dog would attempt to pin it down during mating or fighting. Confusing to any poor dog, to say the least.
The Solution: Go ahead and offer hugs, but don't move suddenly or squeeze too hard, especially with dogs that are particularly anxious or unused to a lot of physical contact. Consider instead a scratch behind the ears, a pet, or even an occasional treat, which are more in-tune to their natural inclinations when it comes to offering affection.
5. We Don't Bite. Contrastingly to our use of hugs, dogs can often show their affection to other dogs and build a bond with them through playful wrestling matches, including using their teeth to nip at each other. Not usually condoned with their human companion counterparts, which can lead to some confusion when it comes to acceptable behaviour.
The Solution: Play with your dog but keep a close eye on behaviour that you deem acceptable or unacceptable and regulate it from a young age so that your dog can learn how to appropriately live in your pack. For older or more hesitant learners, formal dog training might be a good consideration, too.
6. We don't eat rubbish. Although we view it as rubbish, dogs see food in a bin or that has dropped to the floor as nothing more than food. They are naturally opportunistic eaters and will take anything they can find, no matter where it comes from, so try not to get angry the next time you find your bin has been rummaged through or that chicken you left on the table to cool is long gone.
The Solution: Dogs typically eat only when hungry, so keeping your dog full is often the best way to prevent them from eating food you don't directly offer them. If you find that opportunistic eating happens a lot while you're away during the day, you may need to consider a pet sitter or doggy daycare your dog can attend so they can help regulate or maintain regular feeding times according to your dog's particular needs.
7. We are not territorial. You are an accepted member of your dog's pack, but guests to your home or other personal space (even your “bubble” outdoors on a walk), including ones you welcome with open arms, may not be seen in the same light by your canine friend. Barking at strangers, passing cars, other dogs, etc are all ways your dog is trying to keep his territory and its possessions (including you!) safe from harm.
The Solution: Plenty of socialization with other people and animals is your best bet for helping your dog ease territorial anxiety. Lots of stimulation, energetic activities, and affection will all help your dog feel calm and confident at home with you as well as in new environments and situations.
8. We use our hands for everything. Rewards like belly rubs, scratches behind the ears, and pets as well as “punishments” like delivery of medications, clipping of nails, or unwanted grooming are all delivered with human hands, which can make some dogs confused as well as nervous when they see them, even lashing out aggressively in severe cases.
The Solution: An anxious dog needs extra attention to build up their mental health and make them more calm in triggering situations. If your dog is hand-shy, make sure they are surrounded by people that love and understand dogs and will treat your dog like their own, offering slow and gentle movements while with them and plenty of support and care until your dog comes to realize that hands are not something to be feared.
Overall, dogs are great at adapting to a human world, but by understanding how our “normal” behaviour can confuse dogs, we can help make the dogs in our life, our best friends, happier and healthier.
If you are in search of dog boarding services, doggy daycare, dog training, or dog grooming in Estepona consider Paws. We love and understand dogs and will take the time to get to know yours individually so that you can be confident that your dog is always in the best of hands and having a great time being in a dedicated environment that puts their needs first.