Learn To Understand Your Dog

I like to spend a little time reflecting at the beginning of the year on what I want to achieve and what I have to offer. I found myself thinking about what I offer to people as a Dog Listener… Well most people will come to me looking for Dog Training, because there is some sort of problem which is making life a bit difficult. The problems are highly varied, from aggression to other dogs, aggression to people, resource guarding and the other ‘scary’ dog behaviours, to the annoying behaviours like pulling on the lead, barking at the slightest noise; to behaviours which show a real anxiety – destruction when you are out, whimpering and hiding at noises, toileting when they see strangers… the types of behaviour are so varied and vast, but ultimately what I give everyone is an understanding of their dog. It goes without saying that when they hire me as a dog trainer they are going to see improvements in their dog’s behaviour (provided they continue the training we discuss), but what every single client I’ve visited has ALSO benefited from is having their eyes opened when it comes to what is important to their dog.

This thought made me think a little bit about bringing children up. When a child does something that we don’t want them to, we can teach them ‘no’ and explain to them why not, because that child is also growing up to understand English. Our dogs are never going to understand English, you will never be able to rationalise with them in a human way, so you may as well stop now! If you want to reason with a dog, you need to learn to understand your dog. To understand what your dog’s perspective is, what is important to him/her. Your dog came to you with a ready made set of instincts, no matter how young you take that dog in. Work with the natural canine instincts, and your dog will want to work with you.

Anyone ready to start off the New Year with an understanding of your dog which will improve your relationship with your dog, and any other dog you ever have, forever…?!


8 thoughts on “Learn To Understand Your Dog

  1. Hi Vicky,

    I think I may have a problem with our Border Terrier, today he really scared me when my wife came into the room carrying our granddaughter. On the floor was a dog rope toy and he jumped up as if he was protecting the toy and shocked both wife and granddaughter and I had to lead him out of the room and gate it.

    It appears he has a fixation on toys, I have noticed it on occasion when out throwing a ball for him that he comes back eyes fixed on ball the thrower and stalking me like a sheepdog would. I have also seen this when he has eye contact with a dog he goes training with only then he goes into a stalking pose is very aggressive with it.

    I have now removed the toys and put them away as this maybe a trait that he has over the years his first owner let him get away with, we are his 3rd owner age his age of four.

    We also have the separation anxiety problem and where he doesn’t like any solid barrier between myself and him and he will scratch madly at a door and whine. He may also howl at the drop of a hat when we are all relaxed for no particular reason. We have had instances of soiling in the house but we put this down to him settling in being a re-homed dog, he’s not to bad but will pee if not sent into the garden once every couple of hours or so.

    From what we have learned from his previous owner he has never been socialised with other dogs, on occasion he will tolerate some dogs but not others, for instance he will happily chase a ball with the dog trainers dog in a controlled environment but if on a field and another dog approaches he goes into like a defensive attack, last time it was a Flatcoat retriever bitch that wasn’t taking any nonsense from him and fought back.

    Taking him for a walk is a nightmare, because of him not having being socialised meeting other dogs in the street is a problem, even if the other dog is on the other side of the street he goes into a rage something that the dog trainer and myself are working on at the moment, I do suspect a lot of the aggression comes from fear and his nearvousness as he is quiet jumpy.

    Where I live up in Cheshire it is very pro shooting so there are a lot of gundogs in our village as well as the toy breeds other terriers and Lurcher’s so I really need for him to be a more balanced dog than he is now because today I really was going to give up on him because of today’s incident but that would be unfair as he’s normally very good and affectionate with adults and I’m sure he could be re-adjusted given time.

    In the past I have adopted two ex-working Patterdale Terriers and also had two Patterdales from puppies a bitch and a dog from the same litter, both grew up to be perfect dogs, Elliot the Patterdale dog we lost 18 months ago, he was 15 and the best dog I have ever had so far.

    By the way I am half way through the book you recommended via Facebook by Jan Fennell .


    1. Hi Nev,

      Thanks for your thoughts. It sounds very much to me like your Border Terrier is trying to prove his leadership. He will see the toys as his trophies, so wants to retain them to maintain his leadership, which he sees as being crucially important to the survival of your pack at the moment.

      When it comes to his aggression toward dogs, he is seeing them as a threat to the survival of your pack so he is warning them not to approach, or actively chasing them off. Bless him, he is fearful, but could learn to look to you to see that you are not fearful of the same situation and that he can trust you to make the decisions about what is a danger and what isn’t, and what you need to do about it if it is a danger – i.e. it is up to you to decide if you’re going to attack the dog, not him (obviously you wouldn’t!).

      Again the separation anxiety is because he thinks that it is his job to keep you safe, so when you are on the other side of a door he cannot open, he is not able to look after you (much the same way that you would feel if you were a parent and your child went missing). What Jan Fennell’s book is all about is proving your leadership to him generally, how are you finding the book? Have you implemented any of the suggestions? I could put you in touch with a Dog Listener in Cheshire if you were interested?

      Kind regards,

  2. Hi Vicky,

    Thanks for the recommendation of Jan Fennell’s book. About to buy a copy. Still learning about canine instinct but very in touch with my human instinct to hunt out a bargain and found copies for great prices on eBay.

    Any theories on why my 7 month old staff goes nuts when coming home from a walk. She gets in then runs round me like a lunatic and jumps up for attention. Almost like most dogs do when you say “walkies”. No amount of attention seems to calm her down!

    1. Hi Justin,

      A couple of ideas spring to mind. The walk can be quite stressful for dogs, which is why a lot of dogs are manic at the idea of going out and will pull on the lead. She is perhaps happy that you have returned safely and is checking everyone for injuries and to check the hierarchy of the pack again. Or she might be concerned that you didn’t manage to catch anything on the hunt and might be trying to get you to go back out again and keep going until you are successful! Either way she is behaving this way due to thinking her position in the hierarchy is one of importance. By paying her lots of attention when she is in this frame of mind, you are reiterating that, so totally ignore this behaviour instead. Leave her to get on with it until she has calmed herself right down before you interact with her again.

      Does that makes sense?!

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