Category Archives: dog behavior

Do Dogs Like Being Petted by Strangers?

petting tony fischerBy Linda Cole

Touch is an important aspect in our relationship with dogs. My dog, Keikei, enjoys a good massage and one of her sweet spots is at the base of her tail. Most dogs enjoy having this area petted, but what relaxes her completely is when I lay my hand on one of her ears and slowly and gently move my hand down her ear and along the side of her face. This is not something she allows anyone else to do. We can usually get away with touching areas on our own dogs that someone unfamiliar to the dog couldn’t.

The bond we share with our dogs is an emotional tie. It’s an investment of trust earned through positive interactions, understanding and commitment. It’s not an accident when your dog puts his paw on your leg, jumps up to greet you, or wants to cuddle next to you. Touch is an important part of the bond. My dog likes to back up to my legs, especially when I’m sitting outside with him. He faces away from me and slowly backs up until he’s touching me, then he sits down and leans on my legs. It’s his way of saying he feels safe and comfortable with me. Like us, dogs are social creatures and enjoy a gentle touch from the person they share a bond with.

A team of German researchers wanted to understand the emotional response dogs have when petted by an unfamiliar person. They enlisted the help of 28 dogs and strapped a heart monitor on each one to record their heart rate. The average age of the dogs was about five years. They were a mixture of different breeds, all were privately owned pets, and some had gone through obedience training while others had not. Each dog was tested individually in an office-like setting. The dog was in the room with his owner and an unfamiliar person. While the stranger interacted with the dog and touched him in nine different ways, his owner paid no attention to what was going on.

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Urban Dog Etiquette: Living with Dogs in a Metropolitan Area

urban rodriguezBy Langley Cornwell

My cousin and her family live in New York City with a completely spoiled Lab; they are crazy about their dog and treat her like a third child. The dog gets the best of everything including her own bedroom, visits to the doggie spa and premium quality CANIDAE Grain Free PURE dog food. Having always lived in a more suburban area, I couldn’t imagine how they properly managed life with a large dog in the heart of the Big Apple. However, if you’ve ever spent time in congested urban areas, you know that tight living space does not lessen the desire for canine companionship. So my cousin, and many others, meets the challenges of living with dogs in highly populated areas with grace and smarts. Here are some basic etiquette rules they follow.

Reinforce Basic Commands

At a minimum, city dogs must follow a number of basic commands promptly and precisely in order to get around safely. Of special importance are the come, sit/stay, heel and leave it commands. In a bustling city, there are many distractions that can be hazardous to your dog’s safety if she’s not responsive to commands. Waiting for the stoplight to change is much easier and safer when your pooch is calmly in a sit/stay by your side.

Pets may get nervous when confronted with rambunctious children, loud noises, blaring car horns, etc. The heel and leave it commands are especially helpful in preventing your pet from chasing bicycles, in-line skaters or skateboarders. At any time, you may be thrust into situations that demand swift and thorough control of your dog to prevent problems. A firm grasp of basic commands is necessary for city-dwelling dogs.
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How to Stop Dogs from Licking Their Wounds

dog wound Ewen RobertsBy Langley Cornwell

Some people believe an old wives tale that it’s okay for a dog to lick his wound because his saliva has antibacterial abilities. Because of this, they let their pet tend to their own cut or puncture and then wonder why the wound is getting worse instead of better. It is true that a canine’s saliva has trace amounts of antibacterial properties, but not enough to heal a wound. In fact, incessant licking will impede the natural healing process and even further damage a pet’s wound.

The reason a dog licks his wound in the first place is because it temporarily blocks the pain receptors. It’s like when you bonk your head and then rub it. At first the rubbing makes the localized pain—where you hit your head—feel better. That’s what licking does.

The act of licking wounds traces back to domesticated dog’s ancestors. Wild and feral dogs licked their wounds to clean out any debris. Additionally, as mentioned, dog saliva does have a slight antibacterial benefit. But wild dogs were so busy avoiding predators and feeding the pack that they weren’t able to lick their wound endlessly. Domesticated dogs, on the other hand, have plenty of time on their hands (paws?). If left to their own devices, they could spend all day licking and fussing over a wound. Thus starts a cycle; licking makes the wound worse so the dog licks more, which makes the wound worse, which prompts more licking. You get the point.

Because of this unhelpful and perhaps harmful cycle, it’s important to block your dog’s access to his wound. Here are a few suggestions.
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Why are Some Dogs Afraid of Thunder and Lightning?

thunderstorm edd princeBy Linda Cole

When I was a kid, we had a Manchester Terrier who would race to the front door and bark during severe thunderstorms. She’d bark and race over to us and then back to the door as if she thought someone was knocking. Distant thunder didn’t bother her, but loud and close thunder did. Our two other dogs would sleep right through a thunderstorm. Why does thunder and lightning scare some dogs and not others?

Lightning is formed when ice and water particles inside a cloud are compressed by warm air currents. Friction from the quickly moving currents causes electrical charges to form within the cloud. Negative charges build up at the bottom of the cloud and positive ones go to the top. When there’s a large buildup of negative charge, a feeler is sent towards the ground where it meets up with a positive streamer reaching up from the ground and causes a lightning strike. The negative charge descends rapidly, heating the air surrounding it to around 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit and creating a shock wave – thunder.

A low pressure is when the atmospheric (barometric) pressure is lower than the surrounding area. Lows produce snow, rain, wind, humidity, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. A change in barometric pressure can bother some dogs more than others, especially arthritic pets that can experience more pain and stiffness in their joints during storms. Lightning is a natural source of nitrogen oxides, and dogs that are sensitive to storms may be able to smell these odors from the atmosphere as well as the ozone.

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How Dogs Express Their Feelings and Needs

dogs express meredithBy Laurie Darroch

Although dogs do not speak the way humans do, they have no problem expressing their feelings and needs in other ways. Their emotions are simpler than those of their human companions. Understanding them is a matter of paying attention, training and getting to know your dog in order to comprehend what they are trying to tell us with any particular action or behavior.

Much of a dog’s behavior is based on instinct and not necessarily feeling in the way we think of it as humans. Ask anyone who loves a dog though, and they can tell you instances of their dog exhibiting what seems like almost human behavior and definite emotion, but it is different than ours. Dogs are very good communicators when we take the time to understand what they are saying to us in their own way.

Body Language

Body language is a more subtle way of communicating, but everything from the position of your dog’s ears, what they are doing with their tail, their body stance, or their eyes can relay feeling and need depending on what they are doing.

A frightened dog or one who has done something they know is wrong may tuck their tail between their legs in submission. An angry dog might put his ears back and exhibit an in-your-face offensive stance. A relaxed, happy, secure or submissive dog may roll on his back exposing his belly to you. A hungry dog might pace back and forth, or anxiously stand or sit near their bowl. Eye contact or lack of it can be a challenge or sign of submission or respect. A dog’s body language communicates a great deal of what they are feeling.
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Body Language and Behavior Signs That Show Fear in Dogs

fear WonderBy Laurie Darroch

Since dogs cannot communicate the way humans do, they let us know how they are feeling through body language and their own style of vocalizations. If you learn the cues your dog gives, behavior during situations they see as fearful or threatening may be more easily understood and dealt with.

Barking or Whimpering

Excessive barking or constant whimpering is one way a dog shows fear. What may be misconstrued as the dog misbehaving may merely be an expression of fear at the appearance of a stranger, being in new surroundings, experiencing pain or an injury, or the presence of something new and unknown in their territory. If you help your dog understand that whatever is upsetting them is something you can assist them with, your dog will calm down. Barking and whimpering are not just signs of a dog being territorial, angry or even excited and happy. They may be feeling fearful, and looking to you for reassurance and a solution.

Running Around or Pacing

If you have ever felt anxious about something in your own life, and pacing or walking around seemed to help release some of the tension caused by that fear, that is how a dog feels too. Dogs worry in their own way when they are scared or unsure of a situation. When your dog won’t sit still or paces nervously, pay attention. They may be telling you they are frightened about something. Working together, you can help your four legged companion through the situation.

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