Reframing Our Dog’s Behaviour

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This article is written by Rebecca Hanlon from Speak Dog

Can the words, phrases and comments we make about our dogs prevent us from really understanding the whys?

These are things I have said about my dogs on numerous occasions but the more I have learnt about their emotions and the reason dogs behave in certain ways, the more my meaning behind the words has changed. I haven’t done this consciously. It now just doesn’t feel right to describe them in this way.

When I do utter these words, it now comes from a different place, I don’t actually mean them, they are said with love and understanding and usually with a chuckle.

Bad dog, nasty dog, aggressive dog. These phrases often suggest to me:

A dog that has been put in a situation they can’t cope with.

A dog that is frustrated, scared, nervous, anxious, unable to cope with their current emotions.

A dog suffering from a mental health issue.

A dog in pain or discomfort.

A dog that has suffered trauma.

A naughty dog often suggests:

A dog acting like a dog, that upsets the sensibilities of humans.

A dog that has not been taught how to behave in certain contexts.

A dog that is acting totally appropriately for their age.

A dog whose environment hasn’t been set up properly. Has been set up to fail.

A dog that is not getting enough of what they need. Sleep, food, feelings of safety, being able to act out normal doggy things.

A stubborn dog:

A dog seeking out things that bring them joy.

A dog that has not been taught in an environment that is conducive to learning.

A spoilt dog: This is often used for a dog that is allowed on the bed, furniture. That has a guardian that puts their dog’s needs before their own comfort, a dog that is fed more than just biscuits, a dog that is comforted when they are fearful.

To me: A dog being treated in a way that they deserve.

Dogs do not go around thinking of ways to spite us. We have bred them to bark, hunt, herd, chase. They are sentient beings who have needs, passions, desires. Do you listen to everything people say to you? Do you always do as your told? Have you managed to go through your life without ever having an argument or fight? Do you always behave appropriately?

When I found Harry like this, I laughed then gave him a hug. It’s hunting season and fiesta time. Loud noises stress him out. He wasn’t being a dickhead, he wasn’t doing this to spite me, he did this because it made him feel calmer. Because he needed something to direct his anxiety on. I will be more vigilant next time and provide more appropriate things to help him cope with how he is feeling.

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Ruth Martin

I have been volunteering at APROP since April 2018. You will normally find me there on Tuesday mornings, helping to care for, clean and feed the dogs. In 2019 I adopted Barney, a Podenco from APROP. In fact I have taken a distinct liking to the Podencos and some call me the Pod-Mother! I am also part of the adoptions team the fundraising team and I help by fostering dogs too. Helping animals brings me much joy and happiness into my life.