Tips for keeping your pooch happy & stress-free
By Leslie Phelan
Dogs can’t tell us what they’re thinking when we annoy them, but if they could, these are the eight things humans do that probably drive them straight-up bananas:
Talking too much
Most clever mutts can learn a few words and commands, but it’s important to remember that they don’t understand human language – it’s your body language they’re trying to decipher. Be aware of the times when you could be sending out mixed signals – are you telling your dog to ‘sit’ while leaning towards them, holding a treat? To a dog, your body is giving an invitation for them to step forward and take said treat; sitting is the last thing on their mind. As an experiment in communication, try using fewer words while you focus on gesturing with movement and body position.
Not being a leader
Just like kids, dogs thrive in homes where the parents are consistent in their rule-making and boundary-maintaining. There is less stress, strain, and miscommunication when predictable rules and confident, positive reinforcements are in place.
Walking & not allowing them to check things out
Leash obedience is important when you don’t have time to sashay through the park slowly and at a leisurely pace, but when it’s all walk and no time to stop and smell the roses, a dog can feel very deprived. Dogs sense the world through their noses, and it’s good to remember this fact when we’re rushing them home and making their walks only about potty time.
Keeping them on too tight a leash
When you pull them in too close so that they have no freedom of movement, you convey a vibe of tension and nerves, and any dog would find it hard to relax while being tethered to you. If you hold their leash loosely, you’re conveying a calm vibe which encourages them to chill out, too. Train them to walk on a slack leash – it’ll always let them know that everything is under control when they’re out with you, and they’ll be less likely to pull you all over the place in fits of doggy anxiety.
Letting them get bored
Does your dog destroy your shoes and furniture even though they have plenty of chew toys? Could be that they are just bored – and perhaps that you’re being a little boring. Of course, wearing them out with walks and fetch can be good for the expression of their pent up energy, but it’s important to stimulate their minds too – try teaching them a new trick! They’ll welcome the brain exercise and all the face-to-face engagement they’ll get with you, leaving both of you feeling more connected and satisfied in your relationship.
Sometimes it might seem funny to bark back at a barking dog, but in reality, the dog finds it antagonizing and it makes them way more likely to bite you. Talking or motioning to a clearly aggravated barking dog through doors or windows is considered equally as obnoxious as pulling their tail. Just don’t do it, for the good of everyone involved.
Patting their head & playing with their faces
Do you like being patted on the head or touched on the face? For most of us, the answer is no and the same is true for many canines . . . we don’t like hands near our eyes and when someone brings their palm down on the top of our heads, it hurts a little! Notice how dogs squint or close their eyes when hands start flying at their heads – they are bracing themselves for an unpleasant feeling, even if they are doing their best to tolerate it.
We like to wrap our arms around the things we love, but sometimes the things we love don’t like how a hug feels. In the canine kingdom, putting your paws on the back of another is an act of dominance, not an expression of adoration. Dogs don’t have arms and can’t hug back so to them, it is all just an unpleasant arm-binding experience. Some dogs will take a hug gracefully, while others might hate hugs enough to bite their way out of one. Bear that in mind the next time you unleash your affection upon a dog whose hug-o-meter reading you’re unsure of.