|Dogs are not people. It may seem like a simple statement, and evident fact, but so many people make the grave error of expecting their dog to act and think like a person. They attribute human traits and emotions to their pets and thereby damage their relationship, sending inconsistent signals and stressing their dog. To understand your dog, and to for your dog obedience training sessions to be effective, you must understand dog psychology. It is important to remember that the dog is simply an animal. Yes, even your little pet, laying on the sofa having his tummy tickled! He’s an animal too, and he must be treated as one to give him a healthy, satisfying life. Small dogs are especially prone to being treated as children and this can lead to a variety of problems, not to mention confusion and misery for your dog. So, as an example, let’s look at love between ourselves and our dogs. Most of us love our dogs and can feel that love when we see them or think of them. Does the dog feel the same way? We have to assume that he doesn’t. He loves us, but his experience of love is a different thing. He relies on us for his health and survival. He looks to us (if we are successful in training) as a leader of his pack and he trusts us in our decisions. He is happy to be in your company because he is naturally a pack animal – his attachment to you is almost certainly very deep. But he doesn’t have the psychology of a human being when it comes to love. He doesn’t have the same concept of ethics and morality and he certainly doesn’t know anything other than his animal instincts are telling him. If a friend of yours comes to your home and your dog takes a dislike, he’s not going to “be nice” to the friend because he loves you! Conversely, he doesn’t misbehave or sulk to get attention or to get revenge for something you did. These are human emotions and motives that we attribute to our dogs almost continually.We should also look at the concept of praise and correction in training. On the whole, I advocate rewarding good behaviour and ignoring or preventing misbehaviour. I do not in general believe in punishing a dog for bad behaviour, but sometimes a sudden shout can be a good reminder to a dog that is doing something he knows he shouldn’t. It is important to remember that you can only praise or give correction to your dog WHILE he is exhibiting the behaviour in question. He is not a person and will not know nor remember what he was doing five minutes ago. This is a major difference between people and dogs and if remembered, will make training a much easier task.
So the key to this is “think like a dog”. Imagine you are an animal, a part of a pack, just like him. Don’t ever think of him as a human, still less a child or a baby, whatever his size and however cute he may be. You have to make this concept a cornerstone of your relationship with your dog and he will certainly benefit from it. He is a dog, an animal, and only by truly understanding this will you be able to satisfy his needs and form a meaningful, fulfilling relationship for both of you.