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Top 10 Stress Inducing Behaviors in Dogs

Updated on August 18, 2014

I suppose he is not causing stress right here . . .

Not exactly "my breed" but he is actually our best watch dog. I wouldn't ever judge a book by its cover.
Not exactly "my breed" but he is actually our best watch dog. I wouldn't ever judge a book by its cover. | Source

For Information on Stress-Inducing Felines:

Just so you don't think that I am rabidly anti-dog, I wrote a corresponding article on unappreciated feline behaviors.

10 behaviors, as a matter of fact . . .

My own rude awakening

My mother was allergic to dogs so I never had a dog growing up. Then I went to college, then graduate school, then traveled and took on temporary jobs ... never in one place long enough to have a dog. Then I got married and did more traveling and hopping from one apartment to another.

Finally we had a house with a yard and a landlady who allows us to have dogs.

Score!

My husband and I had always talked about getting a dog. He had wonderful memories of having a border-collie as a child, and a lab mix as a teen. The dogs were a source of comfort and solace to him, but being a dependent, he was not the one feeding, watering, training and cleaning up after his companion.

I had heard these wonderful examples of how dogs are "man's best friend." Heroic stories of German Shepherds with war medals, mutts pulling toddlers out of burning buildings, terriers waiting faithfully next to their master's bodies or gravestones, etc. My view of dogs was colored by images of golden retrievers with their fur glistening in the sun, playing fetch with teen-aged boys. Potent dobermans fearlessly guarding their rich owner's estate ... sheepdogs keeping sheep safe and loyally attending the shepherd. etc. etc.

My understanding of small dogs amounted to chihuahuas in purses or in large packs in yards, schnauzers and westies who just stepped out of the groomers. Miniature poodles strutting proudly next to little old ladies ...

Then reality hit.

I found this little dog ... he is a gray shaggy cairn terrier x shih tzu. He was abandoned in the parking lot at the local supermarket. I took him home because I took pity on him. He was trembling in terror and too afraid to eat. He sat on the floor and stared out into space and I was like "um ... is this dog dying?" He had a bad leg ... he yelped when you picked him up. He was covered in fleas and stank like some sort of yeasty old shoe, shamelessly and persistently.

Over the next couple of days, the "behaviors" kicked in. I began to notice wet spots under the legs of furniture and a distinct smell of urine. It started subtly and then went into full swing. He insisted on being not only on the couch, and not next to me, but literally on top of me. And when I sat down, there he would be, on top of me. His face was filthy, yet he insisted on rubbing into the pillows, blankets and cushions, in order to clean it. And finally, to add insult to injury, when we went to bed, he decided to sit right outside our bedroom door and whine and bark all night.

Oh man ...

I asked my husband if there was something wrong with this dog.

He said, "you've never had a dog before, have you?"

That didn't really answer my question.

But I think he was trying to tell me that no ... chances are there is nothing "wrong" with this dog, if you are a dog yourself.

Where was my schnauzer with a perfectly manicured coat?

Where was my poodle who would prance proudly next to me in a public park?

Actually ... he was looking right at me.

The dog was simply not trained and he was poorly taken care of, and literally kicked out of his former owner's vehicle. Dogs don't get a sprained leg muscle from an easterly wind, you know.

And although I would never, ever, ever and I mean ever abandon a dog in such a cruel and heartless way, I must say that after spending 72 hours with Bland (we named him Bland) I understood exactly why he was dumped.

He was dumped because his behavior was disagreeable to his former owners and they couldn't train him, or couldn't be bothered.

Being that puppies of his breed are generally irresistible, and that his behavior was so poorly guided (by human standards) I concluded that his former owners wanted either a stuffed toy for their kids to play with, or a furry human.

Instead . . . they got a dog.

Puppy Training!

Bland did a good job teaching Dusty bite inhibition. He did a far better job than I could have.
Bland did a good job teaching Dusty bite inhibition. He did a far better job than I could have.

Introduce "Dusty Rotterman"

I'll make it brief:

We found Bland in February. We started to 'work on' the marking issue, and set limits with where he was allowed to sit. Obviously I gave him a bath and flea treatment and a decent food.

He was still clingy and bored and he did something bad which was piss on the couch and then the cat "overmarked" it ... I was not happy. It took me hours and hours and many bottles of Nature's Miracle to get the smell out of the futon mattress. The aggravation and the money spent on this event led to the dog being chucked outside.

I committed to getting him fixed and training him but no, my house was not going to be a doggie-urinal.

This was February. In May we found what looked like an 8 week old rottweiler x doberman in the middle of one of LA's most dangerous and unpatrolled neighborhoods. We couldn't resist. When you pet her soft puppy coat, clouds of dust came off of it. She became "Dusty Rotterman" because of the state in which we found her.

It was adorable: Bland had a job. It was dog training.

Barbara Boxer

Editorial Note: WRONG BOXER.
Editorial Note: WRONG BOXER. | Source

Barbara Boxer HATES Pollution!

Introduce Squeaky Bichon and Barbara Boxer

Come July (July 3rd actually) there was this ratty looking dog wandering around outside packing up with a neighborhood dog that I recognized. I was going to take him to the shelter. Cleaned him up. He looked like a bichon frise puppy but na ... he turned out to be a poodle. But anyway after he was bathed and trimmed he turned out to be a cute dog and I was like "well, here is some more company for Dusty and Bland."

Easy does it ...

Anyway, over the holidays somebody put an emaciated boxer in our yard. When I went to go put the dogs away I saw her, and I thought "man I think I am a bit stressed out." I have never hallucinated out of stress but there is always a first time. I asked my husband if he saw what I saw and he said "yes, there is indeed a dog in our yard."

Very well ...

Poor starving dog got an all-you-can-eat dog chow buffet.

Her name is "Barbara Boxer." We honestly couldn't think of a more suitable name.

We are at our max for dogs.

Legal max for our area, maximum of what a couple of rookies living on one income, can tolerate.

I suggest letting your dogs act like dogs.

Give your dogs a time and place in which they can act like dogs. Hearing "no" all the time and/or being crated all day, or having a regimented schedule might work for us, but dogs should be given a time and place to be themselves.
Give your dogs a time and place in which they can act like dogs. Hearing "no" all the time and/or being crated all day, or having a regimented schedule might work for us, but dogs should be given a time and place to be themselves. | Source

There are solutions to aggravating dog behavior!

Almost every single one of the behaviors mentioned here have a solution, if you are willing to work at it! Catch is, some of it takes some personal sacrifice but in the end it can pay off, as a well-trained canine is truly worth his or her weight in gold.

Also, some solutions might seem disagreeable or more heavy-handed than you might feel comfortable with, and if this is the case, try a "lighter" touch and if that doesn't work, decide if you want to live with the behavior, or take a harder approach toward its resolution.

Manage multiple dogs? Expect stress-inducing canine behavior.

I'll confess something ... setting aside the differences in morphology and specialty tasks of the different breeds ... both of our large dogs has the potential to be that heroic police dog or seeing eye dog or hunting dog, etc. Both of our small dogs have the potential to be ratters, show-pieces for older-couples, therapy dogs, terriers who don't leave the master's graveside etc.

ALL that good stuff.

But dogs are not born like that. And you also don't get a product like that unless you are willing to work your hind-end off with your dog, every day. You also have to be willing to fork over the green stuff when in need. Green stuff ... meaning MONEY and not something weird that your dog picked up off the pavement.

CAVEAT: Although I am going to discuss dog behaviors that aggravate, annoy, frustrate and induce stress in people, I do want to establish a few disclaimers . . .

  1. Although this debate seems to rage on and on, from what I can gather dogs were bred out of various subspecies of wolves over the course of several thousand years. How many thousand years? Why? People debate these theories endlessly (and quite emotionally) but the point is, not one human has been able to breed dog behaviors out of dogs. Dogs act like dogs for a reason: they are dogs and not people, chickens or horses and the traits that have carried on are what works for the perpetuation of their species. These traits might be irritating for some people but that does not make them inherently "good" or "bad."

  2. Dogs are the ones who do more of the adapting. When was the last time that a schnauzer yelled "NO!" to his owner, at the dog park?

  3. My intention for listing these stress-inducing behaviors is not to rant, but rather to admit that they do indeed stress me and other people out. I have a firm belief that people would breed less dogs if there were less demand for dogs, many of whom end up in shelters. And if people knew about what dogs were really like, and were allowed to discuss it as such without somebody getting all offended about it, they would make more informed choices about whether to bring a dog into their house.

When we don't face the reality about our canine pals, the dogs are ultimately the ones who suffer.

Below are listed ten dog behaviors that can stress people out.

Your Dream Dog

If you could eliminate one challenging canine behavior, which would you choose?

See results

1. Dog teeth and jaws: too much of a good thing

From a human standpoint, dog teeth are more of a nuisance than an asset. Leaving aside ... of course, their biological function which is to begin the process of digesting food. Anything extra is generally a problem unless you are into Schutzhund stuff. And by "into" I mean ... engaged with this discipline properly, with a temperamentally stable dog.

This is what dogs can do with their teeth and powerful jaw muscles, that from a human standpoint are undesirable:

  1. Bite people, dogs and other animals. They can use their teeth to maim and kill. Even the sweetest dog in the world is still anatomically equipped to maim and kill with his teeth and that is why there are laws restricting dog's unrestrained access to anything outside of his home and yard.
  2. Property damage. And yes ... I am talking about everything from chewing ratty old gym shoes, to $10.00 collar from Petco, to a $10,000 repair on the side of a house, to 20 grand worth of professional landscaping. They can take out a $5,000.00 heirloom oriental carpet, dozens of rare books, and the wall dividing the bathroom and the living room, all in the course of an afternoon if you accidentally leave the kennel door open. A young dog can chew anything and everything, with little or no sense of its value to the owner. Sorry folks, it is true and even if it is "your fault" for leaving the door open accidentally, or he is "a dog" that does not make the behavior any easier to deal with.

Large dogs can do more property damage than small dogs, and some breeds are more destructive than others. And please don't be foolish and think that exercising your dog before you go to work, and then leaving him or her with a rawhide will protect your home furnishings or "redirect" or "distract" your dog. When I read articles like that I have my doubts that even the writer believes this. They just publish what they want to be true.

I have come home from three hour hikes, up the side of a mountain with the dogs, to find all kinds of stuff chewed up when the wake up from their short nap. So ... please ... I know that we don't want some of these realities to be true, but they are.

Puppies chew everything including your arms and legs and frankly it sucks to be chewed on. I know that you have to train them not to chew but in the process, you get chewed. The fact that you have to train a behavior out of them suggests that this behavior does not enhance the quality of your life.

By the way, yesterday we took the big dogs out for a walk and Barbara Boxer wanted to say hi to some dogs behind a fence. She put her face in the fence (my husband tried to restrain her but the event happened before he could react) ... but she put her face in the fence and one of the dogs bit her muzzle. Not nipped ... bit. Clamped down. Barbara had blood coming off her muzzle, etc.

So canine teeth and jaws also cause dogs to suffer. It isn't just me.

2. Dogs can smell bad

Yes, they can.

If you keep a stinky dog (even an eversoslightly smelly one) in your house, and he has unrestricted access to everything, your house will smell like a dog.

There are quite a few exceptions to this generalization. But even the "exceptions" still act like dogs, a species notorious for immersing noses and coats, paws and tails, in stinky stuff.

The other possibility is bathing your dog very frequently. People who are constantly bathing their dogs don't have "l'essence du chien" on their home furnishings.

Constantly bathing your dog is time-consuming, expensive and not so good for their skin.

Anyway ... dogs can smell bad. Their bouquet includes:

  • musty gym socks (generally not localized)
  • moist Doritos (paws)
  • rancid, fish'n poop, metallic sauce (anal glands)
  • fetid somethingorother (breath)
  • yeasty panties (ears)
  • sour-dough (eye secretions)
  • poop (fecal matter stuck to anal area)
  • indescribably horrid flatulence

Yes ... I am aware that some of these smells are symptomatic of yeasts or even medical conditions that need treatment. But if a dog smelling bad is something pathological, then the vast majority of our dogs must be slowly dying, or are walking petri dishes.

If you are a dog, these are not necessarily undesirable smells. Dogs are not burdened with the same prejudices that we are, about "good" smells vs. "bad" smells.

I don't know what they think of Glade air freshener, Chanel no something perfume, or Tide laundry detergent.

But I do know that they are far more interested in smells that people generally find offensive. They also don't seem to have any aversion whatsoever to them.

And yes, if you are trying to keep your house looking and smelling like a structure suitable for human habitation, keeping a dog's hygiene at a reasonable standard can be a tiring and time-consuming endeavor.

I have friends and family with large-breed indoor dogs, and some of these folks even pay to have the house professionally cleaned. They have very nice dogs, but their homes have a distinct "l'essence du chien" to them. It is that sharp and slightly sweet smell, and I think that it comes from the dog's saliva and dander. If you are accustomed to that smell, you might not detect it.

But not all dogs stink. I think that some breed stink worse than others, and some of the stink might be due to a less than optimal diet, for the individual dog's biochemical makeup.

Criminals also hate noisy dogs

... however I do not recommend lowering your "guard" thinking that your dog will protect you.

My experience with relying on dogs for security has lead me to the conclusion that a reliable and properly armed security system is more effective then an untrained dog. However any dog can be something of a deterrent. If a burglar were to choose between two houses, with all other considerations being equal, he will probably break into the one without a dog. Why would he risk some mutt yapping off if he doesn't have to?

I wrote an article on this "A Note on Depending on Dogs for Security" because I am concerned that people might mislead themselves into thinking that their dogs won't ever sleep through a crime taken place, or bark their heads off at everything BUT the local rapist.

3. The noise

I can't think of anybody who actually enjoys the sound of a dog barking his head off or whining because he is impatient, or doing that whine-bark that is about as irritating as nails on a chalkboard.

Many of us enjoy a WOOF!

Especially when it is a happy WOOF!

There is nothing like a dog who is excited that you are home. It is really cute ... they make this WOOF! sound to get other dogs attention, or to get yours.

But pretty much every other sound dogs make can actually get you a ticket with animal control, and in extreme cases, a nuisance barker's doggie-days are numbered.

I am talking about the psycho neighbors with the pit-bull or lab or dachshund or unidentifiable large-breed mutt who never, ever, and I mean ever ... stops barking ...

I am talking about the single guy who moved in the condo upstairs, who kennels up his German Shepherd all day when he goes to work. Then the guy downstairs who works from home, hears "ruff ... ruff ... ruff ... ruff .... ruff ... ruff ..." for the next 10 hours.

Any questions about how irritating dog barking is for people? Do a simple search.

And we all know that dogs will be dogs, right?

The most irritating aspect of it all, is that many people who have noisy dogs, simply don't give a damn and let them carry on and on.

Not everybody ... by a long shot.

But that is more like "public noise" ... then there is whining.

Some people find whining more irritating than others do.

I personally can't stand it. It is annoying. On top of that, it is behavior that is retrogressive and retarded. Puppies whine at their mothers. Dogs don't whine at other dogs. They save that nonsense for us. They use it to nag you (hurry up with the leashes, I want to walk NOW! ... hurry up with the kibble, chump! ... I want to go inside and I will hold you and the neighbors hostage to my milk-curdling bark-whine until you relent! ... etc.)

Yeah they don't whine at each other, I know this because we have two large dog-houses outside and four dogs and I have yet to hear Bland whine at Barbara or Dusty to be let into a dog house. Squeaky doesn't whine at Dusty to just get a taste of her rawhide, etc.

Nonsense.

I don't accept it.

I understand that dogs need to express themselves. But it is the sheer volume and intensity of it that becomes a nuisance and has the potential to seriously diminish the quality of life of the people who live around them.

And lest you think that they are unaware of how irritating their vocalizations can be to people ... when you don't give them what they want when they nag you for it, they lay the intensity on thicker.

If you want to train your dog not to bark for attention, food, walks, privileges, etc. you will have to ignore his barking for a while so that he learns that that "button" doesn't work anymore. But in the meantime, it will increase in intensity. This phenomenon has a funny name called "extinction burst" ... basically if doing something got you the result you wanted for a long time, and suddenly it fails, you will try harder. Like if the batteries on the remote are dead, or if the remote failed, you are likely to press the off button harder and faster before you finally give up.

Not all dog barking is "naggatory" in nature. Some of it is due to loneliness, boredom and separation anxiety. A kenneled dog, barking for his owner day in and day out, for hours on end, has probably figured out that the owner doesn't respond to his barking. Chances are, he is doing it to release frustration.

Nevertheless, regardless of the reason, I do feel for the guy down below.

4. Outdoor bladder and bowel habits

Well ... at least they are going outside the house, right?

I installed the lawn myself. I water it every day.

We live in Los Angeles, and my husband pays the water bill.

We pay a gardener to mow.

How many hours of labor do we put into a patch of green?

Countless. At the cost of other activities, treats, responsibilities, etc.

As lawn installers and maintainers, we are less than thrilled when somebody's dog comes along, pops a squat and burns a large gold medal into our front lawn.

When ours tinkle on the lawn, we run the sprinklers after them. But I can't keep up with other people's dogs.

Not saying that this is a major source of stress in my life, but when you are the guy who makes sacrifices to have a nice lawn that doesn't blight the neighborhood, it is indeed annoying.

Moving on to bowels: some owners don't pick up after their dogs. That means that either the homeowner has to, if the dog went on somebody's lawn ... or somebody is going to step in it if it is on the pavement.

And if you are some young people out on a date or with their friends and you step in dog doo, that can be awkward and embarrassing, which triggers a negative stress reaction.

Another thing that is irritating: dogs pick the damndest places to drop trowel. Like some will do that "pooping while taking a walk" thing ... they don't actually stop and squat. They casually just unload while you are crossing the street. You don't notice until you end up tugging him because he has to pause a bit to get that last bit of stool out.

But then you have to stop, put down all of your bags, and try to locate all the pieces of stool scattered over 5 feet of pavement in order to clean it up!

If he does this while crossing the street you can be S.O.L. because well ... figure it out.

OMG, the stress!!! I can't take it.

But seriously ... the worst for me is picking up soft-serve from a neighbor's lawn, who is staring at you from his or her porch. I am talking about some old lady with an evil glare, who watched your dog do his business on her lawn.

She doesn't think that you will EVER pick up and is already angry about you. Suddenly YOU are symbolic of how horrible dogs and dog owners are, and NOTHING you can do is going to change this.

Well you did, in fact, have a bag in your hand the entire time, and you were planning on picking up 3 or 4 respectable sized logs, tie it up and move on.

But as she glares at you, you look down and see a pile of soft-serve that is slightly melted.

That is practically impossible to pick up. What you need is like a gallon of water to dilute it.

So what do you do?

You have a choice:

  • Smile, wave, make a big show of picking up, and walk off, and hope that the skid marks dry and flake off ...
  • ? um ...

If we didn't have indoor plumbing and running water, dog feces would be the least of our worries. Try living around a settlement of people who have no toilets. Seriously. We can vilify neighborhood dogs and cats for soiling up our environment but the problem is NOT that they have to relieve themselves, but rather that they don't have toilets to use like we do.

Dogs aren't trying to antagonize us with this stuff. It is what it is.

See how much stress peeing on rugs causes?

5. Indoor bladder and bowel habits

I can't believe I wrote that. That is a phrase that should never have crossed my cerebral cortex.

But yes, if your dog has "indoor bladder and bowel habits" I seriously sympathize.

But in some dogs, "indoor bladder and bowel habits" are very hard to break.

And please don't feel guilty if you are fed up with it. You are not a monster if you can't take piddle on the sofa legs, skid marks on the carpet and a fresh and steaming pile on the oriental rug.

We are humans and we are the ones who pay the bills and maintain the house and anybody who uses our rugs as toilets stresses us out.

Anybody seen the movie the "Big Lebowski?" Look at what that incident caused ...

That carpet indeed tied the room together well.

6. Scat

Well ... let's just put it this way ... if a human being were to be into this kind of thing, it would amount to "scat."

But dogs are dogs. Fecal matter and urine form a large part of how they socialize and read their surroundings.

So far not one human individual has managed to breed a dog who does not instinctively sniff a piece of poo or the base of a lamp-post for the leavings of other animals.

Personally I find the poo thing to be annoying and repulsive. I wouldn't socialize with a human individual who felt the need to sniff poo and graze his tongue over sticky, greasy and fetid urine stains on the base of fences and fire hydrants, etc. I know they are dogs but the effect on my human mind is similar because it is so unhygienic.

I also would prefer that they don't lick me, and especially stay away from my face, considering where their noses and tongues have recently been. And yes, repeatedly telling a dog to knock it off is not something that enhances the quality of my life.

Dogs also eat stool and I am sorry but people are generally hard-wired to not do that. I can't think of any human society that considers such a practice normal, therefore it suggests that such an aversion is innate.

So yes, the communicating through fecal matter and urine, and its occasional ingestion, is not a canine behavior that is generally well-received.

7. Dogs don't "get" concepts like "tomorrow" "later" "fair" "share" "take turns"

They just don't.

If they could speak a human language, their entire grammar and vocabulary would be in the present tense.

Our dogs LOVE being in the house and view it as being the ultimate privilege. We use a crate though. They don't have unrestrained access to the house because it gets to their heads and their behavior becomes too hard to manage.

Sorry ASPCA and HSUS and 50 gazillion rescue organizations ... it is what it is. For some reason our dogs misread our motivations for giving them what they perceive as "the good stuff."

But anyway ... I thought .. "why don't we give each dog a turn to spend every fourth day in the house by my side for training purposes?"

I immediately snuffed that idea out.

That might work for 4 school-aged siblings ... everybody gets a Saturday of the month exclusively with Mom . . . in fact that would work quite well, and it is all very fair.

But dogs ... forget about it. If I take Bland on day 1, he will expect it on day 2 when I take Squeaky. So rather than reminiscing about the good day we spent together, he would be at the side door, yapping his lungs out, bothering everybody around us. And then instead of being "good" to keep him in my good graces, Squeaky would be obnoxious because he is singled out as awesome, and privileged without earning it. So what on earth would motivate him to sit, heal, wait, etc.? He already got his reward. Now ... for more. Cough it up, chump. Now day 3 would come around and I take Barbara. Rinse and repeat. Barbara goes back outside with the pack that evening, and begins to push the other dogs around, thinking that she is hotter than a steaming pile of 'doo. Then she gets upset when Dusty comes in.

The end result would be 4 pushy dogs trying to bust in the door every time we go out to the garage, vying for their in-house privileges over the other dogs.

Toxic!

So no ... I dropped that idea like a hot potato.

So what is stress-inducing in all of this?

Well, it goes against how people operate unless they are dealing with very small children, and from what I can gather, most people don't seem to be very accommodating to them, either.

A toddler doesn't understand concepts like "later" or "tomorrow." If Mommy says "no" to ice-cream, telling him "you will get some later, after dinner" is like speaking to him in some obscure dialect of Cantonese. Dogs don't do this though: with a tot, you will likely trigger a tantrum, the child lashing out in frustration. If "Mommy" is a good parent, she ignores it and moves on.

It is stress-inducing that we can't deal with dogs in ways that come naturally to us. A dog's mind is like a series of buttons and if they see that a button gets them what they want they continue to press that button. My dogs misinterpret our kindness and it is like if I give them my finger they would eat my hand. Give them my hand and off goes my forearm!

What they don't "get" is that a particular button gets a particular reaction every fourth day. Actually this will leave the dog wondering exactly what "button" got them what they wanted, so they will try out a bunch of behaviors, most of them undesirable, to get the same result as yesterday. All they get out of the idea of "fairness" is that whatever they did yesterday ... bouncing, whining, barking, running around in circles, etc. should work to day to get the same rewards.

I've tried doing kind stuff like leaving rawhides as conciliatory gestures *(like a consolation prize) or giving something interesting to taste to brighten up their lives. Their either gulp it down and stare at me "now what?" or they don't get the connection that the rawhide is instead of going to the park with the other dogs.

Forget about it. What he really wants is to take the rawhide into the car with him, sit on the most comfortable seat, and work on it leisurely while the other dogs sit there staring at him, fully restrained.

Touche.

So I used to wonder why people are so "cruel" to dogs and give them so little. Well after dealing with dogs, I am beginning to get the concept of "Nothing in life is free" ... cruel as it seems, actually you are speaking "dog" when you apply its general principles. Maybe older dogs are different, but if you give most dogs something gratuitously, they get kind of freaky. They go through a repertoire of pushy behaviors to get more of that good stuff, most of which heightens our stress levels.

I try to be fair because I am a human and morally culpable. It might be how I am socialized, it might be innate. Unless you are some kind of psychopath, you probably use your conscience to govern your choices in how you manage living creatures. The process of learning how dogs operate generally puts a lot of bumps in the road, especially if you are a thinking person and are driven by doing the "right" thing. We have to adapt our behavior management strategies to a different species. Finding the ingredients for the "right" thing can be a process of trial and error, with "trials" that I mull over to make sure that they are humane, and "errors" that can stress me out when they manifest in our dog's behavior.

But no ... dogs don't understand concepts like reciprocity, retribution, justice, equality, investment ... By contrast, school-aged children might not have the vocabulary but they practice the concepts with their peer group and when there is a breech of ethics, you often hear "it is not fair!" and the adult says "well you can have it for the rest of the day if you are good, and he gets it tomorrow if he shares it willingly" ...

At the end of the day, they are dogs.


8. "Dominance"

I don't want to get into dog's motivations for:

  • being pushy and almost knocking people over as they bolt into and out of doors.
  • jumping up, even if it means giving an 89 year old man with a cane "kisses," after eating a pile of poo.
  • not sitting when asked to, or for pulling so hard on the leash that it knocks your back out of alignment.
  • sitting on the couch or the front seat of the car and not getting up, even if you were to set off dynamite.
  • nudging you and pestering you to be pet or played with when you are attending another dog, or engaged in non-dog-centered activities, like picking up leaves.
  • bolting into the car when outbound, and having to be pushed into the car homebound.
  • humping other dogs.
  • acting all freaky on walks, barking fanatically at other dogs.

Whatever their motivations for acting like this ...

I say potato you say potahto.

I actually DON'T CARE if they are trying to dominate me, or compete with each other for dominance or getting "the good stuff" ... I seriously could give a damn because the effect is the same.

These behaviors are so obnoxious and very hard to permanently extinguish when you have multiple dogs. They seem to keep surfacing sporadically and it is tiring. The decision has been made: we are only taking two dogs at a time on excursions because their behavior is so bad and then they get stressed out when we try to train them.

When they are with their pack they get conflicted signals. And I am giving them one signal, and the other dogs, another and their drives/instincts/urges/desires are another. So they get confused and stressed out way above their threshold and just don't do it ANYMORE.

Two dogs at a time.

I don't care if you want to call it dominance or submission or strawberry shortcake. Anybody who argues against the idea that dogs have an innate urge to control situations to their benefit needs to get their heads examined.

9. Canine body language

Hear me out ...

A dog's body language is extremely subtle for the uninitiated, a bit subtle for the casual dog owner, and deceptively subtle for the skilled trainer.

Some people get stressed out at dog body language that mimics human body language and they often grossly misinterpret it. They either think that your dog is being aggressive when he is not, or they think he is being sweet, when he is nervous or actually aggressive. Examples include:

  • a large dog lunging on the leash toward a small dog
  • a dog barking at the fence
  • a dog wagging its tail
  • a dog licking his lips
  • a dog humping another dog

In all seriousness ... what do these signals mean?

Well, they mean a variety of things, and people should not do something stupid like pet a dog who seems "friendly" just because his tail is moving, or give an unfamiliar dog a bear hug, or get mad at the fact that somebody's dog is humping theirs due to "aggression" or "dominance."

My point is that canine body language is very sophisticated and dogs seem to get it. But people are generally clueless when they read the more subtle dog behaviors. This is a bit unfair, considering just how astute dogs are about human body language.

And the fact that dog body language can be read by people wrong, it can cause tension between different dog owners over perceived aggression between their dogs.

I sometimes feel like this with our dear dogs

10. They depend on us for guidance ... on their terms

OK this is an example.

We have a backyard that is split. On the side of the house is a concrete patio, where the dogs hang out unsupervised. It has been dog-proofed and secured. We call that "Rotterstan" ... kind of like "Pakistan" or "Afghanistan" but since Dusty Rotterman seems to be the alpha, she has her own small country and it is Rotterstan.

An iron door and narrow passageway divides a rather large grassy area and Rotterstan. The grassy area is at the back of the house and has a brick patio too, where we have furniture where we like to sit.

Dogs can run around and chase each other in the grassy area.

Well in order to prevent them from running us over for the sake of being "top dog" getting to the grassy area first, we make the dogs sit before we open the gate for them.

They generally don't want to "sit."

They want to waddle around in circles, casually lean against the wall (that is not sitting), roll over or try to bolt into the gate.

So every day, it is like rinse and repeat. Truth be told it has gotten better. We feed them on the Rotterstan side, and then as a motivation for getting their food consumed quickly, first dog finished is the first dog in.

But then when they are in the grassy area, I often get this look ... "ok so what are you going to do for us now?"

I tell them "no I am not gonna think for you. You dogs need to figure out how to entertain yourselves."

Then I sit down and they come up to me nudging me for attention. I say "no" to attention on demand. Sorry kids. If we start doing that, I will be a walking pile of dogs. If you see a pile of dogs rolling down the street one day, you will know it is me.

I then go over to the grassy area and interact with them a bit but no ... I am not going to tell them how to have fun.

They do know how to fetch, but they generally aren't into it. I am not sure what sort of minor miracle they expect from me.

Eventually they come up with a cool game of chase which is fun to watch.

They really get into it and seeing just how agile our little poodle and the boxer are, is to behold.

Is there a number 11?

Oh probably ... we could make it 20 if we searched hard enough.

I have found that although some people find many of the behaviors in the canine repertoire to be obnoxious, when they hit "stress-inducing, or "nuisance" levels, it is more a reflection of human error, than something being "wrong" with the dog.

Aggravating behavior can come about when the dogs have conflicting drives (they know that they need to perform a task but something better or more natural to them is distracting them).

It can be a reaction to situations that are unnatural and prison-like to them (like being walled-up behind a fence while people and animals, with their interesting smells and activities, walk by ... or being left alone in a locked condo all day. Even less 'natural' is confinement in a kennel. Sorry but the "den" analogy is not based on fact. Wolves do not sleep in dens unless they are whelping or nursing. And they are free to leave. I am not against kennels, they are a lifeline for your dog. My dogs don't seem to hate spending some time in their crate. But just admit that we are placing a canine whose instinct drives him to walk trails all day, in a locked cage, and please let's just call it like it is!

You want to turn an impressionable puppy into a pushy, whiny, demanding, bossy, ear-splitting, nerve-grating nuisance? Here's how: When dogs are given more privilege than they can handle it becomes a habit the next time and then they push for more. They are dogs and they do what works for them. If yelping at the top of their lungs gets them the "good stuff" then they will do it. If staring at you "here we are entertain us" style is the magic button, you bet they will push it.

If you take brilliant suggestions, such as stuffing a Kong with premium Grade A food that many honest hard-working parents can't even afford to put on the dinner table, do you seriously think that you will get the dog to eat his stale dog chow every evening? Why would they eat the kibble that is boring, but formulated for dogs, when they can hold off on eating and get your attention and concern, and probably the "better stuff" if they hold out longer?

Another thing: as tempting as it is to do what Mr. Arf wants, just for 5 minutes of peace and quiet, if you give in to your dog's demands, you are making a habit (especially fast if it favors him). You are giving him a positive reward (coming back into the house, attention, a treat) for producing an obnoxious and demanding whine or nerve-grating bark. If you "ride out" the stress-inducing behaviors when they first surface (and continue to, for a long time) then they won't reach nerve-wracking levels because the dog knows that they won't give him the treat, attention, whatever his pleasure of the moment is.

With the notable exception of urine and feces being their way of communicating with other animals, most of the other behaviors are a natural way of expressing themselves and when escalated to nuisance levels, reflect the state of the dog's owner more than the dog himself. That is because unless you have dingos or pariah dogs in your region, dogs live their entire lives under human management, and adapt, actually ... quite well to us, when given the training and half a chance.

I am sure you have seen the absolute and unconditional admiration a dog has in his eyes, as his owner throws a ball for him to fetch. Bounding he comes back to him ... staring him in the eye, mouth agape, ready to fetch that ball again!

Truth be told I find it flattering that dogs think that everything people do is really cool and that our own mundane routines produce what must seem like the canine equivalent of miracles and magic to them.

I have seen a bumper sticker that says something to the effect of:

"Dear God, please let me be the person who my dog thinks I am."

Can ah get uh witness?

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