A dogs `natural `kit-of-tools` for communication – scent, sight, sound, their own state of being, the position of their body (or parts thereof), touch and voice is comprehensive. When a human does not know how to beneficially and consciously use these tools to communicate and relies on voice only the result on any dog, more so on a very sensitive dog, can be traumatic.
As humans we habitually approach/react too often from a raw state of emotion – this is an approach that can instantaneously overwhelm the more acute senses of a dog. I firmly believe that gaining an awareness of how you as an individual have habitulized this normal ‘modern-day human’ approach is key to having a better relationship with your dog.
Dogs require coaching as do their human guardians to support and enable the best in each other and their relationship. Dogs require that their humans be sensitive and aware Pack Leaders – not dominators. There is a profound difference between dominating your dog and providing it instead with the right type of Leadership to suit the dog as an individual & a breed.
The human’s approach, investment of time and energy into the dog-canine relationship can have an enormous impact on the dog’s psychological, adaptive, etc. development. Breed matters to some degree, but I believe the over ridding factor is not breed it is the individual dog’s access to the right learning environment. Hey, much like it is for people too!
The expectation of many people is that their dog will inherently respect them. It is an erroneous expectation and assumption, based on a cultural belief rather than on psychology and the reality of the situation. It is also the first place where the human-dog relationship can really get off-track. When the expectation is not fulfilled, the human can become upset, frustrated at best. The negative impact on the psychological health of the dog can be profound.
First, you must understand a little of the psychology of humans & the psychology of dogs. To better understand, examine how you, as an individual accord respect to others. There are various levels of respect.
Respect – Level 1: Common respect is really a type of courteously that we give to people when we first encounter/meet them. If you have no prior knowledge of the person and the person is non-threatening you are probably going to be pleasant to them. But would you trust them with your health and well being? Likelynot. You would sit back, observe them and try to ‘pick-up’ some knowledge of their approach to situations, based on a rating system of criteria that you set. As an example you would want to know if the person is rationale and logical, capable and able to make good decisions. Are they kind and caring? Do they have your best interests in mind or only theirs? Are the decisions and actions that they take, considered and considerate or reactive and based solely on excess emotion?
Respect – Level 2: If the person has met your criteria then you will accord them the second level of respect. This type of respect moves beyond the realm of common courtesy into a fundamental belief that this person is worthy of your trust – that they can be expected to make decisions that will enable your health and well being. This person can be trusted to lead you in the right direction – this person is a Leader. This level of respect must be earned. It cannot be accorded by one person to another by means of force – the result would be fear and/or servitude, not respect.
Now examine how a dog accords respect; basically the same way a human would – as described above.
To obtain a Level 2 respect rating from your dog, you need to show that you are a firm, but fair LEADER who can and will make the right decisions at the right time in the right way. To do this, you need to be able to ‘read’ your dog. You need to be able to understand what your dog requires. You need to be aware of what you are really communicating to your dog and how you are communicating. Your dog needs to know that you can lead and direct it in a calm and confident manner in all facets of its life. When you have shown your dog that you can do this – you have earned their full respect.
Here are some examples to help you better understand how this works…
Your dog may always greet you calmly, but when it meets another person it may behave very differently. If a new person greats your dog in an overly excited manner, your dog may choose to greet this person in an excited manor – the new person has engendered this response. If another new person is nervous, your dog may shy away from this person, or may even bar his teeth at this person, give a low growl etc. The person who is nervous is insecure…this creates a situation were your dog has to consider if this person is unpredictable or trustworthy. Your dog shows great instinct as this person may make illogical decisions based on their own nervous, insecure state.
On the other hand, if a new person is calm, confident and kind your dog will sense this, it will observe the person, and depending on the strength of the persons confidence may almost instantaneously accord them a higher respect level.
I see this all the time in my client’s dogs. The dog may treat them very differently than it treats me. When I wake into a client’s home I start to earn their dog’s respect right away. The dog may have a long record of barking, running around and jumping on visitors…but when I walk in and provide instruction to the dog right away (without using my voice) the dog responds by calming down. The dog’s first instruction comes from my state of being – I am calm, confident and I own the personal space directly around me with my confidence – body and mind. This is the dog’s first instruction. I may provide a small gesture with my hand – second part of the communication. The dog’s people usually cannot even see what I have done, yet they are shocked that their dog has suddenly sat down quietly or comes to greet me silently just using their nose to sniff my legs. This is an example of how I can earn respect in the space of seconds.
Having then met me, the dog may run through a doorway or down the stairs in front of its ‘master’, it may pull its master on a walk, but it will not do any of these things to me. It will wait for me to go through the door, or down the stairs. It will walk beside or behind me, without any instruction from me other than my own presence of mind (calm, confident). Why because I earned the dogs respect. How, by instructing it, when I first walked through that door in a way it was able to understand – something its own people had never been able to do.
Dogs will respect those people who have earned their respect. Other people will receive various levels of respect or not from your dog according to how the people behave (emotional & physical state)…that is basically how it works!