6 Myths about a Dog's Behaviour Demystified

6 Myths about a Dog's Behaviour Demystified

Pet Psychology

Dogs are great companions, always full of life, ready to play and there's nothing they like more than knowing when you are pleased with them. However, dogs develop behavioural issues for various reasons which can take time and a lot of patience to put right. With this said, the most important thing is to understand why a dog is naughty and why they misbehave before you can do anything about it. Below are a few behaviours that some dogs can develop that many owners misinterpret in various ways.

1. My dog does not listen to me because they are telling me they are the “alpha dog”!

This is a misconception that's easy to understand especially when owners think their canine companions express their emotions in the same way people do. However, dogs are a lot simpler than humans and don't have all those complex emotions that need to be sorted out. Their thinking process is a lot simpler when it comes to why they want to do something or refuse point blank to listen to their owners. The most common reason for a dog not doing what they are told is simply because they don't understand what's being asked of them.

Our canine friends don't want to “get even” or do something “out of spite” because they don't reason this way. However, they do respond to the right sort of motivation when they know what’s being asked of them. They respond well when they know they’ll be well rewarded for having listened and obeyed their owner. A good example of this is when a dog ignores the recall command which is probably because the reward of coming back when they are called doesn’t end in a tasty or nice reward. As a result, they prefer to run around enjoying themselves chasing down a new scent.

2. When my dog messes in the house, they know they've been bad because they look so guilty!

Dogs may have a “guilty” expression on their faces when they have done something wrong, but this is because they are responding to their owner’s reaction which is often by expressing an angry attitude towards them. It could be a raised voice or a change of attitude rather than the fact they have done their “business” in the house. Even if you are not particularly annoyed and you don't tell them off, the chances are you are pretty fed up at the fact you are going to have to clean things up and your body language might well say it all even if you don't actually say anything.

Dogs respond to being told off not because they have actually been naughty. A study carried out in the States a few years ago established that dogs when they stole a “treat” did not demonstrate a “guilty face” if they were not told off, whereas dogs that did not actually steal anything and were wrongly told off showed a much guiltier expression. As such, researchers came to the conclusion that dogs respond to being told off and not because they know they have been naughty!

3. When a dog misbehaves, it's usually down to their owners!

Most people are responsible and well-meaning dog owners, but all too often they get it wrong simply because they've been misinformed or have not done the necessary research on how to train their dogs properly. It's very easy to blame a person when a dog misbehaves, but in reality there could be many reasons why they do which often includes the fact a dog was not well socialised when they were young. The result is they often don’t know how to behave around people or other dogs and animals.

Genetics can also play a crucial part in how a dog behaves with specific traits being so strong, they can be hard for owners to control. This is particularly true of dogs that boast high prey drives. Dog owners should concentrate on correcting their pet's “weaknesses” rather than make a big deal out of the fact they exist and the best way to do this is to get professional help from a dog trainer if necessary.

4. Dogs are only really happy when they are running around free off their leads!

A lead should never be thought of as a “tool” that keeps a dog under control and which prevents them from running out into a busy road or to stop them from getting too close to people and other dogs. A lead is an extension of your arm and you should never have to hold onto it too tightly, but rather in a relaxed way. Your dog will be very happy to walk alongside you, stopping every now and again to have a good sniff around and to do their business because dogs love being with their owners whenever they can.

Dogs love being let off their leads which is something you can do when you are in a safe environment and it helps them let off steam and investigate all those new scents they come across. However, they also love to walk alongside you because if there's one thing our canine friends adore, it's the one-on-one attention they get from you!

5. When dogs don't like someone it means there is something wrong with that person because our canine friends are great judges of character!

Dogs don't react aggressively to people because they instinctively know the person is “bad”, but more out of their instinct for self-preservation. However, dogs can pick up on things that are often put down to their “sixth sense” and which often saves their owner's lives. With this said, dogs typically react negatively to a person because they might move too quickly, be wearing a hat or it could even be something else that stresses a dog out about the person and not because they have judged the person to be bad!

6. Dogs chew things up and destroy the furniture to punish their owners!

Dogs do not do things or behave badly as a way to punish their owners because they don't “do” things out of spite. They chew on things out of boredom and because the act of “chewing” actually feels good to them. It also helps them release energy although in some cases this type of behaviour could be put down to separation anxiety which would need to be sorted out and if necessary by asking for professional help from a qualified dog trainer.

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