So What’s the Fuss?   Leave a comment

Why does it matter if dogs aren’t really wolves in doggie clothing?

There was a subtle shift in my mind set when I began to take this on board a couple of years ago. What we think tends to inform our actions. So if I think my dog is really wolf, and wolves have such a bad rep, then I need to be on top of keeping my ‘wolf’ in check. So even though I love my dogs, I have to be a disciplinarian and strong authority figure. I cannot let my guard slip (especially with large German Shepherds who are way too smart!) and need to sit on any ‘signs’ of rebellion.

But once I understood that the information is flawed (see previous blog “Wolf?”), I did quite a bit of thinking over time about how that would change my relationship with my own dogs and how I would advise owners of the cute little pups who come to Rose’s Puppy School. It was important that my thinking led to responsible advice handed out to trusting humans. The wrong advice could lead to injury and heartbreak further down the line.

So yes, dogs need guidance and leadership from their humans, but they don’t need punishment. Behaviours we find unacceptable can be interrupted and made unsuccessful consistently for a puppy so that that behaviour falls off the possible options the dogs has to pick from in a given situation. Instead we can substitute behaviours that are more acceptable that we reinforce over and over until that option is the dog’s first choice.

I love hearing from owners about how the puppy is learning not to jump because they have made jumping boring by ignoring the bouncing baby and teaching them to sit and greet a hand instead.

A problem owners often come up against is when their otherwise loving pet decides that couches are made for him, and growls because they try and turf him off. He’s not actually telling them that he’s the boss and a higher ranking animal. He’s just saying he likes that spot and isn’t willing to share or move. You’ll need to entice him off the couch and onto his own bed (lots of yummy treats or a delicious stuffed hoof will make that change a much better option) – do NOT punish him for being on the couch or growling – that could rouse his resource guarding instinct and lead to an argument you may not win. For a while restrict access to the couch when you are not there to remind him he has his own bed. Keep reinforcing the correct sleeping spot and cue ‘on your bed’, ‘go settle’.

Jumping and sleeping quarters are just 2 of many areas of possible confusion when bringing up this different species. The more you read and listen and work with your dog, the more you’ll understand and learn about how to adapt her canine instincts to your human expectations.

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Posted 20/10/2012 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour, Rose's Reflections

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