Although we often credit our dogs with capabilities far beyond their actual mental abilities, they do often seem as if they understand and respond to specific things we say. For example, when we spell words the same way we would in front of a small child in order to hide our meanings from them. Eventually a child grows old enough to understand what we are spelling, but a dog learns those words in very specific ways.
Dogs are not actually learning to spell the same way, even if it seems they suddenly understand and react to specific words spelled out in front of them. They make associations, and with constant repetition begin to associate certain words, sounds and letter sounds with any given situation such as a treat or other reward. They are clever animals and are aware of everything going on around them, but they process it differently than we do.
Take my dog Kira, for instance. One of her favorite games was chasing bubbles. If my daughter or I said the word “bubbles” Kira immediately went into an excited frenzy and raced to the door of the pantry where we stored our bottles of bubble liquid and the battery operated bubble blower that blew dozens of bubbles at a time for her to chase all over the yard until she was happily exhausted. Her tail would wag and all 100 pounds of her would bounce up and down impatiently waiting for us to get out the bubbles and go outside to play with her.
People have a variety of reasons why they dress their pet up in clothes. Some put a coat or sweater on their dog in the winter because he gets too cold without one. Others just think their pet looks cute in a costume. Some pets seem to enjoy all the attention they get when wearing clothes; there’s even a National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But from your pet’s point of view, is he really that excited about wearing clothes? There are things to consider when choosing clothing for dogs and cats, and signals your pet sends that will tell you if he’s comfortable or stressed out in his new getup. Dressing your pet in clothes can change his behavior.
I have a windproof/waterproof coat for each of my dogs to wear during heavy, wet snowfalls and when the temperature is below zero. Winter winds can be wicked where I live, and my dogs appreciate their coats. All except Keikei, my Border Collie mix. She is more of a hat and sunglasses kind of gal, and doesn’t like wearing a coat no matter how cold or snowy it is outside. Keikei is a high energy canine and can’t wait to get outside, but with her coat on she has trouble moving around and prefers to act like a statue. Her personality changes, and I know she feels uncomfortable and confined wearing a coat, so I don’t put it on her.
There is a funky little strip of shops near our house. A popular local coffee shop, a Mexican taqueria, and an artisanal bakery are in this strip along with many other laid-back destinations. The area also houses one of the most well-respected boutique pet shops in town, which is the place my friends and I buy our CANIDAE PURE dog food.
I don’t know if it’s because of the pet shop, because of the bistro tables and chairs lining the fronts of the shops, or because of the relaxed nature of the patrons, but I’d guess one out of every three people that hangs out in the area has a dog with them. I always marvel at these dogs; how they’ll sit quietly under a table while their humans sip a coffee or enjoy a taco, how they’ll walk, unbothered, right past other dogs or children or skateboarders or runners.
Frankly, I’m jealous. If you have dogs you can do these types of things with, kudos to you. We don’t, not by any means. We are working on it, though. It all starts with learning how to desensitize your dog and maintain his attention in any situation.
Some dogs are raised in bustling cities and gradually become accustomed to loud sounds, people milling around and general commotion. Their composure develops via a steady, deliberate exposure to the chaos often found on urban streets. We don’t believe our dogs were raised that way. In fact, we have no idea how our dogs were raised since we rescued them when they were well past puppyhood. Once they were safely in our care, we made the mistake of doing all of their training in our house and in our yard; places that were familiar to them and didn’t hold many distractions.
I was watching a program on TV awhile back about birds. At one point I noticed several of my cats sitting in front of the TV watching intently. Other than a rare quick glance at the cats, my dogs didn’t pay any attention to the program we were watching. Cats have a tendency to watch TV more than dogs, because it’s easier for them to view what’s on the screen.
We can thank a handful of inventors for coming up with the idea for television, but the person credited with sending the first successful transmission on September 7, 1927 goes to Philo Farnsworth. He was a 14 year old high school student when he began to dream about the concept of TV while living on a farm that had no electricity. Ironically, after his invention became commonplace, Farnsworth wouldn’t let his children watch TV because he believed the programming was too dumbed down.
Radio waves fly through the air at the speed of light as patterns of unseen electricity and magnetism. When you turn on your television, a series of tiny dots of light called pixels flash on the screen in a specific pattern according to the video signal received. The patterns are seen by our eyes and transmitted to the brain where the tiny dots are organized into an image we recognize. We see movement because the image on the TV screen is refreshed hundreds of times a second, giving the illusion of movement. We don’t notice it because it’s faster than our eyes can see.
When it’s time for a mother dog to wean her puppies, she knows what to do naturally. You can help the process along if you need to though. Generally, a mother dog begins to wean her puppies at about three or four weeks of age. Weaning usually ends at about eight weeks, but it is a gradual process over a period of weeks, not an instant removal of nursing.
During the nursing period, the puppies are beginning to learn proper behavior and socialization skills from their mother and through the interactions with their siblings. They also get nurturing and bonding during the nursing period, so they have a sense of belonging. Because a puppy’s vision is limited in the first couple weeks, they need to stay close to their mother. Nursing is not only food and nutrition; it provides a sense of security for the puppies.
We all have little habits that can be annoying. Those closest to us may or may not point them out, and often we aren’t even aware of things we do that irritate others. Some of our imperfect human habits can even annoy our dogs. Of course, our canine friends overlook most of our little imperfections, although they would appreciate it if we could see things from their point of view.
Don’t tell me what you want – show me
Talking to your dog is important, and it can help make him smarter when you teach him names of family members, other pets, toys, shapes and common objects around the house. The sound of your voice makes him happy, and your tone of voice helps him understand commands, praise and when you’re unhappy with him. However, verbal communication will never replace body language, from a dog’s point of view.
So often, our words don’t match our body language and we end up sending confusing instructions. A good example is asking your dog to stay while leaning towards him with your hand held up like a school crossing guard stopping cars. Your body language is indicating you want your dog to come, not stay. Talk less during training sessions and use your body language to send signals your dog understands much better. You might be surprised to discover how easy it is to communicate with your dog without talking to him.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.