Why do our dogs do what they do?
If, like me, you often find yourself sitting and watching your furry family member go about their daily routine, you will have seen them at some point do things that often amaze or surprise you.
I often find myself watching Secret either standing or sitting in one place just sniffing the air, her nose skyward bound and her nostrils working overtime. Just what can you smell?
The truth is that the dog’s nose is so much more sensitive than ours, and they can often smell things in the air that we cannot detect, like the neighbour’s cat which may have been in the garden. The cat does not need to have left a present, but the simple fact that the cat has walked through the area means our furry ones can detect it. They are sniffing to check out the path the cat may have taken and if there is any chance the offender is still in the area.
I have had dogs in the past that would take a nice, clean, juicy bone down the garden to find a safe place to bury it. Many weeks would go, the area re-planted, but the dog could still find the bone at his first dig. This used to drive my mum crazy as her beautiful flower beds would soon be dug up, flowers included.
There are many things that our furry ones do that can drive us crazy and we, as humans, do sometimes struggle to find an explanation to their behaviour. But the majority of things they do can be traced back to their puppyhood, when a puppy can do no wrong. We are all guilty of encouraging behaviour that as the puppy grows can turn out to be a problem.
One such problem that many of us have issue with is the one of jumping up. Now, when they are puppies, we all tend to do the same thing: we get down to their level, like sitting on the floor, to initiate play. We encourage the puppy to interact with us and when it climbs up onto our lap, we go all gooey. We will even sit on the floor while the puppy falls asleep.
When the puppy starts to grow, we have already taught it to demand attention by our actions. When we have visitors, the first thing most do is bend down and pat the puppy, often throw a toy and generally interact at its level. And I have seen many people encouraging the puppy to jump up to save having to bend down. Now, this is fine when the puppy is small, but once they get bigger we tend not to go out of our way to interact as much.
We have already taught it that sitting on us and jumping up to be greeted are the correct things to do, but if you have a large breed dog then the jumping up issue can be both difficult and, with elderly people, dangerous.
It is very difficult to train this behaviour out once it has developed, but for safety and a calm environment we do need to discourage this habit. One way to train this habit out is to replace the jumping up with a different command, one that is easy to teach and also easy for everyone to use.
There is no point in telling the dog off, as we have been guilty of teaching the behaviour we now do not want them to display. The best thing to do is to replace the jumping up action with a simple sit command. If you can get your dog to sit initially for a reward, then the jumping issue will eventually cease.
All you need to do is give the sit command before they would normally jump up. So, in other words, if you know the dog will jump up first thing in the morning for its attention, the first thing you need to do is give the sit command as you enter the room. Once he has sat, give a reward and let the dog out to go to the loo.
This has distracted him enough to go about his duties and not think about jumping up. If you have visitors and know he will normally jump up to greet them, try to get your visitors to give the sit command just before they come inside, and remember to get them to give a small reward as he sits.
If, like me, you have a dog that jumps up to see what delights may be within reach on the worktops in the kitchen, then giving the ‘sit and stay’ command will change their thought about what is on the worktop.
Eventually, the sit command will be second nature and they will be waiting for the treat. This is much safer especially if, like me, you have a strong powerful dog that could quite easily knock elderly visitors off their feet.
We, as humans, have to be held responsible for our actions and by encouraging bad behaviour we are not doing our furry ones any favours.
You will have been out and seen owners with dogs that cannot be controlled. It can be both distressing and uncomfortable to anyone in the area. It is so much nicer if our furry ones are well behaved, as “well-behaved” does more for the reputation of dog owners. And, as dog owners, we feel very proud when someone comments on how well behaved our furry one is.
It makes for a much more dog-friendly society…
By Sue Ogden
Sue Ogden is a professional dog groomer living in the Algarve. In her regular column, she provides readers with information on how best to care for their pets. Trained in the UK, she studied nursing, breeding, grooming, nutrition and kennel management. 910 851 140