1. Expecting our dog to speak English. (They don't!)
Humans are an incredibly verbal species. Dogs, on the other hand, do not use a language of words to communicate. Instead of this, our dogs are incredibly adept at sending and receiving complex messages through body language. Some dogs can learn a huge variety of words, when they have been taught them, but our dogs do not understand sentences like, "Don't jump on me!" or "Get off the couch!". Rather than telling your dog off in a language they don't understand, take the time to teach them, using their favourite foods, toys and praise, that the best way to greet you is with four paws on the floor, and that when they are in the living room they should rest on their own comfy bed.
2. Not listening to our dog when they try to tell us something!
As well as teaching your dog a few words of English, like "sit", and "come", you should learn a few of their body signals so that you can understand when they are telling you something! If they are meeting other dogs or being patted by someone new, look for signs like turning their head away, lowering their gaze, licking their mouth when there's no food around, or stiffening their body. These are all signs that your dog is not enjoying this experience. Remember, just like some people love heading out to the Valley and going to nightclubs until 3am, some dogs love going to the dog park to mingle with other dogs. Not all humans love nightclubs, and not all dogs love the dog park. If your dog shows signs of discomfort, don't just tell them to "go make new friends", instead give them other opportunities for social interaction that they like better, such as an on-lead walk with a doggy friend they know already.
3. Showing our dog 'love' like the monkeys that we are.
Even though humans love to cuddle - like many primate species do - canines don't give or receive affection in the same way. A big bear hug, while seeming lovely, can feel like a trap for your dog! Rather than squeezing or embracing your dog, let them come to you for affection. If they choose to sit in your lap that's fantastic, but if they would rather accept a scratch on the rump or under the chin instead, don't force them into a hug.
4. Enforcing rules you have not taught your dog first.
Your dog can't tell the difference between your gardening clothes and your best cocktail outfit. If you encourage your dog to greet you by jumping up while you're in casualwear, you can guarantee that your dog will also greet you in this manner when you are wearing your best clothes too! It isn't fair to get angry at them in this case -- instead, take the time to teach your dog that no matter the situation, the polite way to greet is with their paws on the floor. Rather than confusing them with mixed signals, make it clear and reward them with your attention when they keep their feet on the ground to greet you.
5. Walking on a tight leash
If your dog pulls on the leash, a walk can make your arm and shoulder very sore. As well as this, dragging you down the road (even if your dog seems to be enjoying it) is a very high stress activity for them, and can lead to injuries such as a collapsed trachea (windpipe). Imagine walking through the shops with someone squeezing you tightly around the throat! We want our dogs to relax, smell the roses (literally!) and pay calm attention to you while out in public, rather than losing all focus the moment you step onto the street. In the long run, this will also mean that they enjoy their walks much more.
For help reading your dog's body language, teaching them simple cues, preventing jumping behaviours or making your walks more pleasant, why not check out our Foundation Program today?
We are giving away up to 5 Foundation Courses/ Classes worth $220. You and your dog will enjoy 6 weeks of our one hour sessions!