This might be far too simple on first glance. I am sure you are all thinking things like ‘my lap’; ‘walks’; ‘my slippers’! Are dogs the simple creatures we make them out to be? A cosy place to sleep and nice food, and they are happy?
If it were that simple, family dog trainers would not exist!
When we are trying to make sure our dogs are calm and settled, and have what they need for a good life, we might need to think a bit more deeply.
I work with lots of dogs and owners. They need help for all sorts of reasons, from the dog running away to the dog biting. If making them happy were so simple, the dogs would not do any of this. Families I work with often provide their dogs with all the things they need to have a cosy life! Most of the time, the dogs are perfectly happy, but it might be one or two situations where the owners have an issue.
I was at an appointment where a dog barked a great deal. He was a really noisy fellow. Mainly, he barked when he was on walks from sheer excitement and joy. The neighbours started to complain, put notes through the door, and used to slow down their car and shout at the owner as the poor owner attempted to stop their dog’s excessive noise.
The owner was of course very unhappy, but their dog was utterly joyful (and liked letting everyone know about it). What would have made the dog happy is to carry on as he was. Instead what we needed to do was try and keep the dog happy, just remove the barking noise, which would make the rest of the neighbours (and the owner happy) instead. It was hard work but making it fun was part of the job description, and we got there in the end.
My point is that a dog that looks like it has a behaviour problem might be perfectly happy doing whatever it is that is causing the owner, or other people or dogs, to feel distress.
Another example is a dog that digs up the garden. The dog is really enjoying what he is built to do! Pulling out huge plants from the borders, face first and nose down in a rapidly deepening hole in the middle of the lawn – dog paradise.
As the owner sees it, far from it! A dog, capering about covered in mud and twigs, then racing into the house ready for dinner and a snooze. A dog, surprised at the cross reaction of his normally quite amenable owner.
So, what does your dog like? Often, it is the very things you might like to stop them doing, and usually they are the very things that make them – yes! – just a dog.
Of course, I am not saying we should just let them do as they please. Dogs are chosen by us as companions, and we need to teach them what that means, even if it occasionally needs them to curb their canine impulses.
Nevertheless, we can work on being more understanding, so we can let (happier) sleeping dogs lie.
Karen Wild, CCAB
Why not check out my easy training guides?