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From the Desk of Duffy: Pet Peeves: 3 Things That Annoy Your Dog

From the Desk of Duffy
Pet Peeves
3 Things That Annoy Your Dog

Dogs can't talk, and we can't claim to really know what they're thinking, but we can make some pretty good guesses. If we could take a survey, here's what they might tell us:
1. I'm Not a Monkey!
Dogs are canids; humans are primates. The behavioral differences aren't always as obvious as the physical ones. They are genetically programmed for social behaviors that differ significantly from ours. We approach head-on, make direct eye contact, and reach out to shake hands and hug. Dogs generally approach from the side, avoid direct eye contact, and if one dog puts a paw "around" another it's often an aggressive move, unless done in play.
Yet we insist on imposing primate greetings on dogs. Not just on our dogs, who might tolerate rude behavior from their own humans, but even on strange dogs. I hug and kiss our dogs--especially Dubhy, the Scotty, who is most tolerant of my monkey-ness. I can't help it--he's so huggable! I'm much more careful to use appropriate greetings with dogs I don't know, however!
With strange dogs, you're best off avoiding direct eye contact, offering a hand slowly, palm up, and reaching under the chin to scratch rather than over the head to pat. Kneel to greet rather than bending from the waist, and don't hug!
With your own dogs, either avoid primate behavior, or teach them to enjoy hugs and kisses by associating them with really good stuff--like treats, ear scratches, toys, and play. If your dog barely suffers your head-pats, you could actually be punishing him by patting him on the head! Watch the next time you reach to pat his head or give him a hug. If he moves away, flattens his ears, ducks his head or otherwise looks less than joyful, it's time to rethink your primate behaviors.
2. I'm a Social Mammal, Not a Solitary Reptile!
Dogs and humans share a genetic need for regular social interaction. Keeping a dog on a chain 24 hours a day falls woefully short of meeting his needs for mental and physical stimulation. Even without chains, many otherwise responsible dog guardians fall short of meetings their dogs' needs. If your dog is crated at night and lies on his dog bed all day waiting for you to come home from work, you'd best set aside some quality morning and evening time for Rover.
A walk-on-leash is an exercise hors d'oeurve for dogs. Barring physical infirmity, every dog deserves a good aerobic workout at least every other day. Not only will he be healthier, but it will help with behavior problems as well. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
Don't forget mental exercise. When's the last time you and Rover learned something new together? Maybe it's time the two of you signed up for another training class Other brainteasers? Find a good book on teaching tricks, and start having more fun with your dog.
Next time your dog brings you his leash or a toy, and says he wants to go for a walk, don't dismiss him in annoyance and promise him a walk on the weekend. Life is short--play now!
3. But You Let Me Do it Yesterday...
Dogs don't understand "just this once." They do best with structure and consistency. If you let Rover up on the sofa today, don't be surprised if he makes himself at home tomorrow. The best-behaved dogs are those who live in structured, consistent environments--where they can learn what works, and what doesn't.
Set clear house rules and make sure the whole family follows them. Some of your family "Dog Rules" decisions might include:
* Is Rover allowed on the furniture?
* Where will Rover sleep?
* When and where is he fed? By whom?
* Where is his bathroom spot? Who is his bathroom monitor?
* Who will train him? How do we make sure everyone is using the same training methods and cues?
* What games are okay to play? What are the "rules" of the games?
Post your list of rules on the refrigerator so everyone can remember to be consistent.
Every time you're with your dog, you are training him. Notes which behaviors he does that you like, and figure out how to consistently reinforce those. Note those you don't like, and devise a plan to manage the behaviors so he can't get rewarded for them. You don't have to correct inappropriate behaviors if he doesn't have a chance to do them in the first place! The more consistent you are with your reinforcements and management, the easier life is for you both.
Be open to whatever gifts your dog has to share with you, and let them guide you to activities you find mutually rewarding. Appreciate and love the dog you have, not the one you wish you had. If you avoid your dog's pet peeves, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that he does fewer things to annoy you as well. Wouldn't that be nice!

Pet Peeves is a guest editorial column by Pat Miller, the owner of Dubhy ("From the Desk of Duffy"). The Humane Society of Washington County exists to improve the quality of life for abused, neglected, and unwanted animals. 13011 Maugansville Road, Hagerstown, MD. 301-733-2060.

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