It is difficult to refer to what dogs, as a collective, like and dislike and how they behave. Just as humans do, dogs all have their own personalities and learned preferences and so can differ dramatically in how they approach life and what they take from it.
In our book, Making Dogs Happy, we use scientific research, illustrative photos and practical tips to help dog owners to appreciate what their dogs may be feeling from moment to moment, and have strategies ready to respond in ways that support their dogs.
Making Dogs Happy is focused on the pragmatic application of current theory to improve your relationship with your dogs and, of course, in the process make them happy.
There are many ways in which we can misjudge dogs by assuming that they are little furry humans. Here are ten common misconceptions that stem from assigning human values and needs to dogs.
1. Dogs have a human appreciation of sharing
Humans can rationalise and appreciate the benefits of sharing. In contrast, among dogs, possession is ten-tenths of the law. So we should not take toys, bones and chews away from dogs unless we have trained them to accept this form of intervention.
2. Dogs always enjoy common human physical displays of affection
Humans often show their affection for others by hugging and cuddling them. Dogs simply do not have the limbs and joints to achieve this and so have not evolved to give each other a loving squeeze. When embraced by humans, many can find this uncomfortable or threatening. The same goes for patting dogs on the head.
3. Barking and growling dogs are always threatening or dangerous
These are distance-increasing behaviours. The dogs using these signals are chiefly trying to buy space so they can feel safer. All dogs, regardless of their temperament or training, can at times want more space. They usually try more subtle signalling first, but many dogs learn that subtle signals don’t work and go straight for shouting.
4. Dogs will welcome unfamiliar dogs to their home
Dogs evolved from wolves and are therefore primed to defend what is theirs. They have an attachment to their home territory and the resources within it. Dogs have no way of knowing that the dogs and human we invite around to our home, for example for a play-date, are ever going to leave. They can be forgiven for thinking that this is the way it is going to be from hereon. So it is to be expected that they will often try to lay out the local ground-rules and put the new arrivals in their place.