How Dog Owners Unknowingly Stress Out Their Pets

January 16, 2014

By Linda Cole

Dogs are as imperfect as we are, and there will be times when your pet engages in behavior you don’t like. Our canine friends do their best to understand what we want, but sometimes they fall short of our expectations. However, it’s not your dog’s fault if he doesn’t understand what you want and appears confused by your reaction to his behavior. Because we are dealing with a non-human species, it’s easy to make mistakes which can stress out our dogs.

Forgetting that your dog is a dog

It’s not uncommon for a possum, raccoon or cat to get inside my dog pen, especially at night. My dogs scour the perimeter of the pen searching for the critter that left the scent trail. Every now and then the trespassing critter is still in the pen. I usually check it before I let the dogs out, but recently a possum slipped in unnoticed. Thankfully it played dead, confusing the dogs, and I was able to get them back inside. After the possum left, it took forever for the dogs to settle down and do their business. The only thing they wanted to do was search for that critter. That was normal behavior as far as they were concerned.

Dogs chase things, dig, bark, mark and chew. One common way that humans stress out a dog is to punish him for following a natural instinct. Instead, make sure he has proper chew toys; designate a spot in your yard where he can dig; help your dog learn to control excessive barking by teaching him to be quiet on command. Keep your pet on leash to control his prey drive, and if he picks up an interesting scent, be patient while he investigates.

Unfair punishment

The concept of right versus wrong isn’t shared by our pets. Your dog didn’t chew up the couch because he was left home alone. He chewed it out of boredom. The tell-tale wet spot on the carpet wasn’t done on purpose, and the trash scattered on the kitchen floor wasn’t done out of spite. Dogs are intelligent creatures, but they don’t understand consequences or equate our anger with an action they did. If your dog is hiding in a corner with a guilty look after you’ve seen how he entertained himself while you were gone, it’s not because he knows he did something wrong. His guilty look and submissive behavior is confusion about why you’re angry, and his way of trying to help you calm down.

Inconsistent training

All dogs, regardless of breed, are capable of learning basic commands and more. The reason why your dog isn’t learning a command might be due to inconsistent training. Rote learning is a technique many people use to memorize something. It’s remembering by repetition. Training your dog is a great way to build a bond and earn his respect and trust. Practice (repetition) reinforces what he’s learned, and tasty CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats is how he learns to associate a command with an action he performs. But if you aren’t consistent with training, it will make it harder and take longer for your dog to learn what you expect, and can cause him to become stressed out and confused when he doesn’t understand what you want.

Not being the leader

In the dog world, someone has to be the leader, otherwise there’s confusion about who’s in charge. Sometimes dogs need discipline and consistent direction to keep them from developing bad behavior. There are no reasons to justify using harsh training methods, hitting or kicking a dog, and yelling will only add fuel to an already excited dog. When you don’t establish rules and boundaries for your dog to follow, and when you punish unacceptable behavior part of the time and let it go the other times, your dog will be confused and stressed out. Canines don’t want to be the top dog. They would rather their owner had the responsibility of leading so they can follow and be just a dog having fun.

Remember to give your dog credit for trying his best to do what you ask and expect. Just as we like to receive praise when we do a good job, your dog wants sincere praise after he’s done what you asked. When he employs self control by sitting and waiting, not jumping up on guests, or resisting his impulse to bark, recognize his good behavior with praise and a special treat like a game of tug of war or fetch, or his favorite CANIDAE treat.

Our dogs are valued members of the family, always by our side with no agenda. But even though there may be times when we unknowingly stress them out, dogs are quick to forgive the ones they love and trust.

Top photo by Simon James
Middle photo by prinsipe boobooy
Bottom photo by gaelx

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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