"Best tips on dog psychology
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"Best tips on dog psychology

Dogs
Pet Psychology

Loving and caring for your dog goes a long way. But it’s not all about feeding, grooming, exercise and love, you need to know some basics on how their brains work and the best way to handle your furry friend. Some dogs have more complex minds and characters than others, so start working with them and understanding them at a very early age.

You are the ‘boss’

Dogs are naturally pack animals, and from the pack, will rise the alpha male or female. From an early age, you must establish the hierarchy of ‘your pack’ ie. you are the boss and will set all rules, boundaries and do’s and donts’ of your family (the pack). It is not all about words, as dogs do have a different method of communication, even if they seem to understand and obey what your commands are.

Training in a class is all well and good, but it is not your dogs’ natural environment. Your home is where he or she will be from the onset, not the village hall or fields where classes may be held. Your dog needs to learn respect for you as the pack chief and protector in their familiar home. Good communication with your dog is essential, so that they know who is the leader and who is the follower.

What scientific research shows

Scientists have used equipment such as MRI scans to monitor a dogs’ brain. Whilst this may seem to be a step to far, they have managed to estimate through various breeds that a dog has a mental ability equal to that of a 2 – 3 year old child, with the latter being that of a very intelligent dog (ie. akin to a border collie).

Further research indicates that dogs can understand words by reacting to the sound of human voices, rather than the actual word. Emotions also play a big part in how your dog reacts – if you show pleasure, they will, and likewise any pain or sorrow. They also react to familiarity, in that the sight of a human or dog that they recognise, will evoke pleasure, and unfamiliar sights will cause the opposite reaction. There are exceptions in all cases.

It is important to remember that your dogs’ behaviour is a reflection of your own. Incorrect training or mixed emotions and actions can cause negative reactions. So before you hot foot it back to the breeder full of complaints about your ‘bad’ dog, take a look at yourself and how you have communicated with him or her. Inflicting pain or suffering by hitting or smacking your dog, will be of no avail. Would you do it to your 2 – 3 year old child? Your pet will not learn by this, and neither would your child. They may slip up by chewing your shoes when a puppy or destroying the side of your sofa, but correctly handled, they will probably never do it again – but show them you are the boss from the moment you take them home from their mothers.

Actions to let your dog know that you are the leader

You must not allow your pet to rule your life. Start early, and you will reap the benefits of a harmonious relationship that both you and your dog enjoy. He or she will take great pleasure from this, as well as you. They will have more desire to please and be thanked for it…because you are the leader.

An early start to your relationship can be so easy if you follow some basic rules, from the moment your dog enters your home. Leadership as opposed to being a follower include the following:

  • Never let your dog enter the house before you – it is your house and he or she must respect it. Equally so, when going up or down stairs, they should follow, not take the lead or pass you mid flight. Obviously, this could be dangerous and result in an accident.
  • If you answer the door to strangers, they must allow you to before they greet them, and certainly no jumping up. When saying ‘hello’, all four paws should remain firmly on the ground.
  • If the visitor is familiar to your dog, try to avoid them jumping up, but this will be somewhat controlled by your friend/visitor. Try to dissuade them from overall fussing until they are seated.
  • Your dog should only go to a visitor if invited, nor should they demand attention and invade your or your visitors space.
  • If you move, your dog should let you and not stand, sit or lie in your way
  • If you are a ‘softie’ and allow your dogs on the beds or sofas, they must be invited on, not purely allowed to do so without your command.
  • Peaceful sleep – no barking to get you up and certainly no pressure to you around feeding time.
  • Don’t allow them to be aggressive if you take a toy away, or move their feed bowl. This could be potentially a risk and allow him or her to think it is correct behaviour.
  • A very obvious one – never let your dog walk in front of you when out and about. Always behind or at heel until you release them from their lead.

It is important not to think that you are restricting a dogs’ natural instincts – you are most certainly not. You must establish that you are in control and not them and almost certainly they will be happier for it. A happy dog obeys your commands and will always wait for your instructions.

Understanding your dog is vital, how are they supposed to know how to behave if you don’t tell them? If you have time, it is so worthwhile to understand other aspects of your dogs’ mind, such as tail wagging, ‘smiling’ etc. Take the time to read up on your breed, it is fascinating and a perfect tool to help you and your dog.

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