Humanising Dogs: Is it me or is it getting out of hand?
If you truly love your dog, please try your hardest not to humanise it.
Have you noticed that there is a trend towards treating animals like baby humans? You can’t scroll through Facebook nowadays without seeing a hedgehog eating ice cream in a pink tutu, or a Pug in a pram wearing a poncho. What’s going on? We are over humanising our pets, blurring the boundaries and making life confusing for them and difficult for us.
The truth is we all love our dogs, they are a major part of the family, but many of us make the mistake of treating them as human equals or excuse their behaviour by humanising it.
As with young children, dogs are so much happier, and consequently much better behaved, if they have clear parameters. Knowing what to expect and what is expected of them will make them feel more secure and content.
Friend and supporter of Ruff and Tumble, Alison Hornsby, an ex-Supervisor and Staff Trainer for Guide Dogs and a Staff Trainer/Supervisor for Canine Partners, with 35 years of breeding beautiful Bekkis Border Collies, has shared a few helpful tips.
When we take on the ownership of a dog, it is vital for your dogs’ welfare that we humans understand the needs of our dogs. In other words, avoid thinking human, think dog!
How does your dog perceive your behaviour, handling skills, and the way you interact with it? Is there too much or a lack of direction and - yes, we all do it - are you being inconsistent?
Some dogs survive come what may, but many dogs are either promoted into becoming unruly monsters whilst others become the world’s biggest worriers. Our dogs are a true reflection of our attitude and approach to them. Decide as a family what your dogs house rules are going to be and stick to them. It helps if you all sing from the same hymn sheet. The decisions are easy - its either allowed or not allowed. There should be no grey areas!
1. Actions and human behaviours to avoid:
Avoid making a huge fuss when leaving your dog at home or immediately on your return – an anxious dog will think there is something to worry about and gradually become more agitated about being left. Anxiety is often displayed by excessive panting, chewing and or crazy destructive behaviour when you are out and shadowing you on your return.
Avoid greeting your dog before the humans in the household when arriving home, or when visiting dog households, even though you may want to!
Avoid allowing toddlers to climb all over your dog. Even the kindest, calmest and child friendly of dogs can react if suddenly woken by a toddler falling on them or grabbing at them. Dogs are not cuddly toys! Like us they need space and some peace and quiet. Provide your dog with a child free sanctuary.
Definitely avoid feeding your dog on unsuitable human food. e.g Sweet biscuits/ excessively fatty foods. As nice as they are, some human foods are just as bad for your dog as they are for us! Question yourself “Is this good for my dog”? Hear yourself “one won’t hurt”! This healthier dog friendly attitude should help to avoid hefty vet bills for bad teeth and digestive problems. All helping to keep your dog well and happy now and in later life.
2. Things you should commit to:
Exercising your dog: The perfect scenario would be two interesting walks a day, where your dog can run, sniff and enjoy new surroundings and experiences. Dogs on lead walking exercise need the stimulation of a different route. Even going round the block the opposite way is stimulating and therefore more tiring.
Dog time: Try and have regular daily interaction with your dog, especially if you have a puppy. Grooming, handling/touching/ stroking, teaching a new trick, playing hide and seek for 5 mins. There are loads of fun games to teach available on the internet. Sit, down and come are the three most important responses. Two or three 10-minute training sessions will help to make your dog mentally tired and more inclined to rest!
Reward appropriately: verbal praise, food, touch or eye contact. Smile if you are pleased!
Reward your dog’s good behaviour and it will be repeated.
Ignore undesirable behaviour and it will diminish over time.
There is no such thing as a quick fix. Get help if you need more detailed guidelines.
Remember, repetition and perseverance are the key to learning. Coupled with a well-timed reward your efforts will shine through.
You are allowed to say” No” to your dog, at a level relevant to the crime and most essentially to suit the dog’s sensitivity and only if they are caught in the act. A “red card” later in the day is only going to create fear and a lack of trust.
Remember to play wind down games as well as stimulating ones.
3. Spread the word, the unspoken rule when out walking your dog!
If a dog is on a lead it’s either because that dog can’t cope, is not dog friendly or the owner can’t cope! Please recognise this signal and Keep your dog away. Calling to that person, ‘My dog is fine’! is not helpful and could be dangerous for you and your dog.
Dogs expect and need us to look after them and it’s our responsibility as owners to see life from their perspective. Instead of treating dogs like little humans, we can display our love and respect for them by remembering that they are dogs. Dogs have needs too and they are different to ours, nevertheless they are still an important, loved member of the family. Enjoy.