I should call these the Steve Chronicles because my new non-puppy puppy has given me a ton of fodder to write about. I’ve done so much research on dogs since I’ve gotten Steve that I swear I’m the new Cesar Millan. Please allow me to share some of the things that I am learning:
- When Steve has left us a smelly brown treat on the floor, we yell at him and send him to the corner. He hangs his head in shame because after all, pooping on the living room floor? Really Steve? Picking up dog poop—is that how you think I want to spend my next five minutes? But dogs apparently do not feel shame. Dogs do not feel guilt. According to Stanley Coren, a behaviorist from the University of British Columbia, “The dog has learned that when you appear and his droppings are visible on the floor, bad things happen to him.” Steve hangs his head in fear of the retribution that will happen, not because he has done something wrong. This might also explain why he passes gas and doesn’t seem the least bit as embarrassed as us who have to smell it.
- Spanking may work with unruly kids, but it doesn’t necessarily work with dogs. Most of the literature out there says hitting is something you should never do to your dog to get it to obey you. They may be terrible at understanding English, but dogs are excellent at reading body language. In fact, half the reason Steve knows I’m mad at his pooping on the living room floor is because I tense up and squeeze my fists, and practically drop a load myself I’m so angry. Getting the dog to obey me is almost as simple as letting him know with my body language and my demeanor that I’m in control. Cindy Moore from K9Web says, “Never mistake being alpha with punishment. An alpha leader is fair. An alpha leader deserves its position. An alpha leader does not use fear, punishment or brute force to achieve and maintain its position. An alpha leader, instead, makes it crystal clear what behaviors it approves of and which it does not. An alpha leader expects its subordinates to follow its lead, it does not force them to.”
- I can’t expect Steve to act with the self restraint of an adult. I can’t expect him to be the best of his class. In his book Dog Sense John Bradshaw very wisely remarks: “The collie who herds sheep is the shepherd’s best friend; the pet collie who tries to herd children and chases bicycles is an owner’s nightmare. The new, unrealistic standards to which many humans hold their dogs have arisen from one of several fundamental misconceptions about what dogs are and what they have been designed to do. We must come to better understand their needs and their nature if their niche in human society is not to diminish”
- Steve was a rescue (he doesn’t mind my sharing that with you) and he has spent a very traumatic time in the stressful environment of a rescue shelter. So when I was advised to get a crate for Steve to help his anxiety, I thought: A crate? You mean a cage? Well I’d never! Turns out, dogs are den animals. Most dogs love their crate. Steve has no problem whatsoever going into his crate when we tell him to.
- Dogs have the mentality and emotions of a two year old human child. Chew on that for a while…