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2750 N. Stiles Road, Ludington, MI

Can We Treat Our Dogs Like Humans?

There is a saying “Treat your dog like a human and he will treat you like a dog.” Read below to understand why this statement is very accurate.

One of the biggest mistakes we sometimes see owners make is treating their dogs like humans. While we as humans love to think of our dogs as our babies they are canines and have a very different thought process. This is what differentiates us from other species in pack societies; there must be a specific order, from the leader on down to the last follower. Everyone has a place. The leaders are the strength of the pack, while the followers need the leader to guide them. Dogs have an instinct to constantly test the dog above them and an instinct to know they will always be tested by the dog below them. Instinct tells them that if there is not a strong dog in charge, their life and the lives of the rest of their pack are at stake. This primal instinct keeps the pack secure and happy.

Dogs instinctually crave rules to follow, and limits as to what they are allowed to do. When dogs live with humans, the humans become the dog’s pack. For the relationship to be successful, humans must become the dog’s pack leader. A big mistake is made when the humans in the pack only give the dog love, and overlook the other needs of the dog. To a dog, constant affection without rules and limits goes against every grain in its instinct. While dogs enjoy being given affection, it does not satisfy the animal and it is not what makes them well balanced, stable minded, secure and happy. Dogs love affection, however that alone does not make a dog happy, satisfying its instincts do. You need to provide proper emotional stability in order to achieve this, and showing you have an orderly pack with rules to follow is what the dog needs. Giving your dog affection is important for the human, and enjoyed by the dog, but must be done at the correct times.

Dogs do have emotions, but their emotions are different than those of humans. A dog is an animal and does not possess the same reasoning skills as a human. They are simple creatures with instincts, and their emotions lack complex thought processes. They feel joy when they know you are pleased, they feel sad when someone dies. However, they do not premeditate or plan ahead, and do not dwell in the past or future. They live for whatever is happening at the moment.

Comforting and showing affection with a dog that is in any other state of mind but calm (for example, aggressive, obsessive, shy, skittish, fear or hyperactivity, etc.) is comforting to the human, but intensifies the dog’s current state of mind. You are telling the dog it is OK to feel that way. While a human feels they are comforting the dog, the dog sees it as a weakness, as you are not providing strong energy from which the dog can feed. If your dog has a traumatic experience and you show it affection during that time by trying to comfort it, rather than letting it work through the situation in its own mind and being a strong leader the dog can feed from, you leave it stuck in that state of mind. Later when your dog faces this traumatic situation again, and you again comfort the dog, this intensifies the situation even more. You are creating the problem. Dogs do not see comfort and affection in the same way we humans see it. Dogs are always looking for a strong stable dog/human to feed from.

On the other hand, when a dog is constantly leaning on you, putting his paw on you, using his nose to make you pet him, and/or always feeling the need to be touching you in some way, this is not your dog loving you, it is your dog displaying dominant behaviors. In the dog world, space is respect. A dog that is constantly nudging you and leaning on you is not only disrespecting you, it is being the alpha dog. This is why we tell all clients in our Basic Obedience Class that while dogs love to be in our space they do not want us in their space!

If you show any weakness to your dog, the dog instinctually takes over the role of leader, whether he wants to or not, because there must be a strong leader and an order in a dog’s pack. If the dog does not feel he is strong enough to handle the role of leader it becomes very stressful, and even terrifying, for the dog to have such a heavy weight on its shoulders, as it tries to look after all of the humans around it. Humans often give the dog mixed leadership signals, which throw the dog off balance, confusing them, and causing many of the psychological/behavioral problems we see in dogs today.

Many common canine misbehaviors that we get calls about often are peeing/pooping in the house, chewing and destroying things in the house, being overly excited, barking excessively, whining, not following their owner’s commands, not coming when called, running off, getting into the trash, obsessively digging, chewing the furniture, tail-chasing, scratching, aggression towards other dogs, biting, growling, and becoming just plain old uncontrollable (just to name a few). Whatever the problem is, it is more likely traceable to the way you treat your dog.

We have successfully domesticated the dog, but we will never be able to de-animalize a dog and remove their natural instincts. We cannot change a dog into having human characteristics, as this is how behavior problems arise. While we think we are treating a dog in such a way that will make them happy, we are in fact doing just the opposite. By not satisfying a dog’s natural instincts we create confused and unhappy dogs. To happily coexist with man’s best friend, we need to understand our canines and satisfy THEM, rather than only satisfying ourselves.

Dogs do not live in the past or the future, as we do. They live for the moment. Because a dog lives in the present, it is much easier to rehabilitate a dog than a human. If you begin treating your dog in a very self-assured manner, giving love to it at the right times, and correcting it at the right moments, you can change your dog into a happy and mentally stable dog. The more stable your dog is, the more calm and submissive he will become and the more you can give it affectionate love. It’s a “win-win” situation.

If you need help with training your dog give us a call at 231-845-0550. We have trained well over 1,000 dogs and are happy to discuss the best training option for you and your dog. We also are more than happy to board your dog when you are out of town. When only the best will do! 🐾😍🐕


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