October 3, 2022

The world as if from Orwell – this is the world in which our dogs live. II)

In the first part of the article „The world as if from Orwell” with a little imagination we could get into how dogs perceive our world. Fortunately, not every dog’s life looks like this, but my goal was to emphasize that by taking a dog under our roof we should make every effort to understand him. I often ask the question during classes „Who for you is your dog?” Well, for most of us a dog is a friend, a pet, a family member or a foster child. These are good answers because they make it clear that the dog is not a thing. Please remember that firstly a dog is an animal, secondly it is a predator and thirdly it is our pet. What it means to us? A dog enters our life with a whole spectrum of behaviours that for him are necessary for survival or important for well-being. Dog’s mind is not a blank page, it already contains several chapters on useful behaviors.These are genetically recorded ways to respond to external stimuli, from guarding dogs we expect – guarding, from mating – tracking, from fetchers – fetching. Already in a puppy you can recognize certain predispositions to expected behavior in adulthood.

When we take a closer look at these innate behaviors, we can mention for example: biting objects, barking, rough play, chasing and grabbing fleeing objects, howling when alone, eating anything that can be eaten, jumping up or marking territory. At the same time, almost all these behaviors are a problem for humans. We greet our little puppy with a list of things we want to teach him, not realizing that we want to teach him his genetically programmed and necessary for life behaviors. Before we make demands on a puppy, we must remember that these behaviors are innate, so you can not get rid of them completely. But you can redirect them or reduce their intensity. So, instead of teaching a dog to bite everything that falls into its teeth, we should teach it to distinguish what it is allowed to bite and what it is not.

All our requirements and expected dog behaviors such as: sitting, lying down, walking by the leg are for the dog, from an evolutionary point of view pointless and superfluous. In order to make the wolf strong and the sheep whole, us happy and our dog happy, we have to learn how to motivate our dog and show him that doing such meaningless activities as walking by the leg can be beneficial. Two golden rules to follow when working with your dog will help:

1. we have to show the dog that we like the behaviour it offers or that we are teaching it (the clicker is perfect for this), that is, we mark with a click when the dog lies down on its bed during our meal
2. we name and teach the dog to repeat this action, we introduce the command „to myself” and we repeat it every time we eat dinner
The order of actions, in this case, is very important. First we teach behaviour then we name it and this is the essence of training.

In order to prevent our dogs from feeling among us like in Orwell’s world we have to remember that we cannot expect our dog to obey us as a token of gratitude. A dog does not analyze his life in such a way: if I get a bowl from you, he takes me for a walk, plays with a toy, I will be polite and obedient. The most important rule which will help our dog to understand our expectations is:

“Nothing in a dog’s life should be free”

We must teach the dog that pleasures must be earned. It is up to us to decide when good things begin in our dog’s life: dinner is served, the frisbee comes to life and flies through the air, you can play with other dogs or track scents. Dogs don’t know right from wrong, only what is safe or not for them. A dog’s behavior is not preceded by a long thought process: Maybe I’ll make the face of the cat from Shrek and the human will give me a sandwich. A dog simply tries different behaviors and remembers those that brought him benefits:
Scratching the cupboard door where the treats are hidden doesn’t work, but scratching the exit door works, we go for a walk.
Staring at the fridge doesn’t work because it doesn’t open, staring at the man works because he shares his meal.

A very important aspect of living together is that all household members use the same training methods with their dog. You can successfully use grandma’s methods with your dog. Surely each of us remembers the sentence „if you don’t eat your dinner you don’t get your dessert” or „if you don’t do your homework you won’t be able to go and play with your friends”. We apply the same to our dogs: „before I let you off the leash, you must obey the command “stay””, „before we go for a walk, do the sit command for 1 minute”.

Dogs will not feel lost in our world if we try a little to understand them. Often, instead of learning the dog’s language and habits, we expect them to understand us perfectly and know our requirements. I once met a person who during a trip abroad, not knowing the language of the natives, slowly and loudly repeated a question in his native language expecting to be understood. We make the same mistake with dogs: we repeat the command louder and louder, getting more and more irritated and we don’t accept that our dog may not understand what we require from him. Maybe we have not practiced in given circumstances or distractions. Our ignorance doesn’t allow us to admit that somewhere during the training we made a mistake, we blame the dog by calling him „stupid” or claiming “He knows all this but he is just trying to spite me or he is stubborn”.

In conclusion, imagine your first day at work as a secretary in a large company. The receptionist shows the way to the second floor of an office building. There are several people busy at work in the office and they do not even raise their heads from above the computer when you enter. You look around nervously hoping someone will look and help. Finally, someone raises their head (boss, co-worker?) and points to the desk with a hand movement. It’s empty. You sit down with him and wonder what to do next.

This scenario could also look like the following: a receptionist points the way to the second floor of an office building. There are several people busy at work in the office and they don’t even lift their heads from the computer when you walk in. Suddenly, a young woman rises from behind her desk, introduces herself and leads the way to the workplace and introduces her co-workers. Then he explains the company rules and your new responsibilities.

In which situation would you like to find yourself? Unfortunately, our dogs often encounter the first scenario. They join a family, don’t know the language and have no idea what to expect. Dogs are not born knowing how to live in the human world. They must be taught this in a way that they can understand. Only in this way can we guarantee ourselves and our four-legged friends a long and understanding life.

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