8 Things You Really Need to Stop Doing to Your Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain DogChances are that if you are reading my blog, you are a dog lover.

Even dog lovers take things a little too far sometimes, though.

I know what you’re thinking – “Who? Me?”

Yes, you.

While we may be dog lovers, we are also humans and as humans, we communicate very differently than our canine counterparts. (You may want to reflect on some of this in my series of posts on canine body language.) This means that sometimes we do things that may seem perfectly normal to us, but to our dogs, they are about as tolerable as nails on a chalkboard.

Today I want to briefly touch on some of these things.

8 Things You Need to Stop Doing to Your Dog

Stop Hugging Your Dog

  1. Hugging
    Hugging is a behavior that does not translate well across species. For humans, hugging means closeness, warmth, and love. For dogs, hugging means an inability to escape. When locked in a hug, your dog is unable to utilize his or her first natural defensive instinct – running away. Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable if you knew there was no escape from a situation? Instead of hugging, offer a game of fetch, sit beside your pup, or rub their belly!


  2. Using Them As a Pillow
    Humans have an awful tendency to try and use their dogs as pillows. I can only equate this with a sign of comfort and emotional connection, but where humans will tolerate and even enjoy other humans using them as a pillow, dogs don’t feel the same way. Lying on your dog is physically uncomfortable for them and often signals to them a need to protect their inner organs from the weight of your head/body. Additionally, when your dog is resting it can be startling to be awoken to anything, let alone a human trying to use you as a piece of furniture.
    Respect. Your. Dogs. Space!
    Instead of using your dog as a pillow, use a pillow!

    Head Petting

  3. Facial or Head Petting
    No one likes to have their face petted, it’s the ultimate invasion of personal space and your dog is no exception to the rule. Sure, they’ll tolerate you stroking their face or patting the top of their head, but if you watch, you’ll almost always notice signs of discomfort like squinting or leaning away.
    Instead of invading such a personal space, try rubbing your dog’s ears, neck, back or, if they offer it to you, their belly.


  4. Having No Structure or Schedule
    Dogs. Thrive. On. Structure.
    As two different species, there are MANY differences between humans and dogs and one of the ways that dogs understand and know what to expect from the complex human world around them is through structure. When you break that structure it creates the unexpected which can be very anxiety inducing for your dog.
    Instead of going structure-free, maintain a schedule for important events in your dog’s day like eating, walking, and bathroom breaks.

    Canine Interaction

  5. Pushing Your Dog to Interact
    For one reason or another, some individuals are less “palatable” than others when it comes to spending time together and your dog has people like that in their life too. Whether it’s a dog that plays too forcefully or a dog that is too submissive; if your dog shows a reluctance to interact with another dog (or person for that matter), give them the courtesy of letting them walk away.
    Instead of pushing your dog to play with a dog they show disinterest in, allow them an “out” and respect their choice to walk away.

    Let Your Dog Explore

  6. Taking Them For 2-Minute Walks
    Dogs explore their surroundings with their nose and when you take your dog out for a 2-minute walk, you deprive them of the chance to explore. Yes, there will be times when it’s just a potty break, but incorporating a longer walk into your dog’s schedule is important for their happiness. Imagine if you wanted to take a stroll to enjoy the sunset, but your significant other continually tugged you in the direction of home…
    Instead of dragging your pup around when going on walks, let them stop and smell the roses!


  7. Teasing Them
    This really shouldn’t need to be mentioned, but I’ve seen all too many “funny videos” that involve teasing dogs. Just like us, our dogs don’t like to be teased. While it may seem funny to fake throw the tennis ball or tease your dog with a French fry, it’s actually quite distressing for your dog. Why? Because you are creating confusion through a lack of structure, which brings me to my next point.
    Instead of teasing your dog, treat them kindly instead!


  8. Being Inconsistent
    As I mentioned previously, dogs thrive on structure and schedule. Consistency is one of the ways that your dog learns “the rules” IE: what you expect of them. If you lack consistency, your dog becomes confused as to what is expected of them. This can lead to disappointment for both of you. Be consistent in what you teach and act out around your dog to make communication clearer and create a stronger and happier relationship between the two of you.
    Instead of being inconsistent with your commands and actions, know what you want from your dog and enforce those expectations with positive reinforcement.
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