Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Things every Dog Owner Should Know - Part 1

Lowcountry Dog Magazine

Bea, Zander and Neha

At Planet Bark, we feel that education is important and each month we pick topics that we find relevant to our clients and offer them opportunities to ask questions and receive information. We do this in several ways; we have a bulletin board that we post informative information on in our resorts, we provide handouts and written materials for our clients to take with them, and we offer free quarterly seminars to our clients and the community on an array of topics related to their dog and dog behaviors.

Since there is a plethora of things that every dog owner should know, we tried to narrow it down to ten. A lofty goal, but we tried none the less! If you have a questions, please feel free to comment on this post and we will get back to you shortly with our response.

1. A dog is a dog.

Some people assume their dogs communicate the same way that humans do and, therefore, they try to communicate with dogs the way they would with another person. This is the greatest misconception of many dog owners. Although domesticated for thousands of years, dogs in the wild have always lived in packs. Today, dogs live by the same rules and exhibit many of the same behavioral patterns as their wild ancestors. Therefore, as dog owners, you need to realize dogs have different needs; to effectively train your dog, you must first understand its instinctual pack behavior.

2. All dogs think in terms of the pack

In the wild, dogs have always lived in packs. They instinctively know that living with others, under the leadership of a dominant member of the pack, enhances their chances for survival. Therefore, pack animals not only want to live with others, but they also are content having leaders who are strong, consistent and fair. As a dog owner, one of your responsibilities is to learn and model these characteristics so that you will be accepted as the pack leader. Thus, your dog will learn to respect and obey you.

3. Dogs don't understand English.

To believe your dog fully understands human-based communications is as unreasonable as thinking you know everything your dog is trying to say when it barks. A dog’s communication is limited primarily to barking, growling and other guttural sounds, and they also rely heavily on body language. By understanding how dogs communicate, you will avoid the mistake of telling your dog one thing while your body language and voice sound tells it something completely different.

4. Dogs are not spiteful.

Dog owners often say, “My dog chewed the furniture because I left him home alone.” There are a number of reasons why dogs misbehave, but spite is not one of them. Although many people want to believe that dogs think like humans, dogs do not. They have only two sections to their brain and, therefore, have limited ability to reason. Thus, they cannot disobey out of spite. Knowing the real reasons why dogs misbehave requires understanding how they think and learn. Dogs react in a way that makes sense in their environment. When a dog disobeys, it is usually for one of three reasons: 1) it does not understand what you want, 2) it does not consider you its leader, or 3) it is suffering from some kind of stress or fear. By understanding the true nature of dogs, you will be better prepared to diagnose problems or behaviors of your dog.

5. What makes some dogs aggressive?

One of our favorite sayings is, “You can take the dog out of the wild, but you cannot take the wild out of the dog.” This means simply that the dog’s natural instincts are never far below the surface. Sometimes this behavior manifests itself as aggression because a dog will do only what its natural instincts tell it to do unless trained otherwise. The most common cause of aggression is fear of the unknown, that is, whatever the dog cannot understand or does not recognize as normal. A dog’s response to fear is instinctual. When a dog becomes frightened, it will do one of two things: fight or take flight. One breed of dog is not necessarily more aggressive than any other. The diminutive Chihuahua can be just as aggressive as the larger German shepherd. The only real difference is the amount of fear we perceive based on a dog’s size and its ability to cause harm. As dog owners, one of our responsibilities is to condition our dog daily to reinforce dominance (leadership) over the dog. Leadership increases our ability to control and teach our dogs what is and is not acceptable.

Part 2 tomorrow!

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