A fAMILY MEMBER WITH 4 PAWS
Dogs! Aren’t they just unique?
We have grown up hearing “Dog is man’s best friend” and “Dogs are very loyal to their humans”. Through our experience we have met many families who welcomed a family member with 4 paws! In some situations it was a “picture perfect” and in some, let’s say, it wasn’t. Having a dog in the family should only bring joy and an additional bond within the family. However, some dogs come with their ‘past’ and are not ready to be the ‘missing link’ to make the family complete.
Love towards animals might not be enough, some dogs might not even like cuddles or even be scared of human touch. They get overwhelmed, nervous and become destructive even though the family has nothing more but abundance of love. Why does this happen? Well, if we take into consideration a dog that has lived in a particular way, a change of environment – even full of love – will not change a dog’s mindset.
Imagine you travel to live in a different country, where you are not familiar with the language, culture and gestures. In the long run, would you prefer to be hugged all the time or guided by people to settle in, learn some words, things about traditions or the culture. Ideally both, but the guidance will make you feel safe and part of the family. Love is important, but you need guidance to change your way of thinking, lifestyle and understand the world around you, not just be loved.To guide a dog into your family, to adjust their mindset takes time, consistency, flexibility and patience, which sometimes can put a strain on the family.
We, humans, are not the only ones with expectations, dogs also have expectations that are based on their life experiences. You might say: “ But I want my dog to understand that I don’t want them to jump on my children”. This is a very reasonable and valid expectation, but when you really observe the segments or the chain reaction involved in this behaviour you will see things differently. Some people use a hand gesture with a treat for the dog to jump, so the next time their child lifts the hand by accident, the dog automatically goes for the jump in order to get a treat, which might not even be there, but according to the dog’s experience there must be a treat there. And in the process they push the child off balance.
Dogs are amazing observers of our body language and emotional state. They are so skilled at it that through your body language they can predict your next step. So a lifting hand can mean play, treats, excitement or anything that the dog experienced, leant in the past. Learning can happen even by accident. You won’t even notice what you teach your dog.
Our emotions are very complex for the dog to comprehend but they try and most of the time the outcome in their behaviour goes a little astray. For example: You had a very stressful day at work and you come home to your “safe cocoon” and you are greeted by being swept off your feet, falling down and your top becomes a tug toy… Your reaction… So what will your dog learn from your reaction?