We love our dogs. They’re just like our children, and we want them to be healthy and happy.
But I often find it tricky to gauge just what my dogs are thinking or feeling, and I just have this sneaking suspicion that I’m annoying my faithful companions with some of my habits.
If you catch yourself habitually doing some of the things listed below, you — like me — might just be annoying your dog.
1. Leaving Him Outside
Dogs love their people and want to be with us as much as possible. While it’s important for dogs to have their outdoor time for bathroom breaks and play, they don’t love being left outdoors alone for long periods of time.
Regarding chaining or tethering dogs outside, the Humane Society of the United States says, “Dogs are naturally social beings who need interaction with humans and/or other animals. Intensive confinement or long-term restraint can severely damage their physical and psychological well-being. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained or intensively confined in any way, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.”
Of course, none of us want our dogs to become these things. So, if you work long hours or need to be away for interminable stretches of time, consider hiring a pet sitter to stop by the homestead once or twice daily. That way your dog can get the bathroom breaks he needs and the human interaction he craves.
2. Being Inconsistent
Dogs want to please us, but it’s hard to do when we’re always sending mixed messages. That’s why, throughout his lifespan, your dog will appreciate you being consistent with your rules and commands.
In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Positive Dog Training, 3rd Edition, Pamela Dennison says, “[Your dog] doesn’t speak English. Really. You only think he does. So if today ‘come on’ means come, and tomorrow ‘let’s go’ means come, and the next day ‘come’ means loose-leash walking, and the day after that ‘come here’ means come…well, you can see how frustrating that can be to your dog and why your dog ignores you a lot of the time.”
If you want your dog to really listen to you, stick with the same command for any particular action you want him to take. Make a chart for yourself, if you have to, of which words correlate to which actions, and things can only get easier from there.
3. Grabbing His Face
Many dogs dislike being patted on their head and face, particularly by strangers. They tolerate this because they know they’re not allowed to lash out.
I had this happen just recently: I was walking 2 elderly shih-tzus, and a neighbor ran up, grabbed their faces and cooed. Both dogs were uncomfortable; they were drawing back, trying to lower and move their heads away from the neighbor’s hands and not wagging their tails. I told her politely to please stop. She was offended, but what can you do?
My charges and their feelings come first. It’s up to us to speak for them, unless we want them to speak the only way they know how — with their teeth. So learn your dog’s body language and what makes him annoyed or uncomfortable so you can avoid these situations.
Nothing more annoying than a human who won’t play ball with you, right?
4. Keeping Him From Those Fascinating Smells
Dogs explore the world through their incredible sense of smell, and during a walk they’ll want to stop and sniff as much as they can. When pressed for time, we may fall into the habit of disallowing “sniff stops” in our rush to get on with our day.
You can certainly keep things moving along, but it’s important to allow your dog to stop and sniff around when it’s safe to do so. “You’ll have to find a happy balance when it comes to allowing dogs to sniff on walks,” says the American Kennel Club in Citizen Canine. “If you provide training and allow sniffing ‘on cue,’ you’ll be able to let the dog sniff sometimes and at other times say ‘Let’s walk!’”
If you find yourself continually pressed for time, again, hire a dog walker to come by and bring your dog out.
Do you find yourself guilty of some of these habits? If so, consider making some changes that will not only make your dog happier but also strengthen your bond with him.