Having a dog is very rewarding, but there’s a lot to learn to become the best companion for them, too. Even experienced owners may be unaware that something they’re doing is confusing their dog. Keep reading to see why playing tug-of-war, wagging your finger, and other common behaviors can be confusing to your dog.
Petting Your Stressed Out Dog
When our pets show signs of stress, we may want to comfort them like we would a human. However, veterinarian Heather Venkat explained to Insider, “You’re actually encouraging fearful behavior through sweet talk and petting.”
Instead, try doing some commands for treats. The routine of “sit,” “down,” “stand,” etc., can be distracting and comforting to dogs. It’s also a good idea to take them away from the stressor by going into a different room or for a walk.
Letting Puppies Knaw On Your Hand
Young dogs love to bite everything in sight. Though they may not bite very hard yet, the owner should not condone the behavior. If a puppy gets used to knawing on its owner’s hand, it won’t realize that biting is a no-no.
This can turn into a major issue when the dog gets older and stronger. Puppies grow extremely fast, so just a couple of months of nibbly playtime can turn into painful bites very quickly.
Picking Up Dogs From Behind
You know how surprising it can be when someone unexpectedly gives you a big hug from behind. That’s what it’s like for dogs when they’re picked up from behind, only it’s even more intense because they’re being lifted off the ground.
Be sure that your dog sees you and has time to process what you’re doing before picking them up. Small dogs can be especially rattled since they tend to be picked up more often.
Giving A Treat At The Wrong Time
Treats are commonly used in dog training since they create a reward system that helps teach them the rules. For this system to be effective, though, it’s important to time the treats just right.
Canine expert Emma Bowdrey told Insider, “If you give a treat too soon, they’ll simply learn to hover. If you wait too long, the dog will attempt some other behavior to see if that gets them the treat.” Have the treat ready and be sure the dog completes the task before giving one.
Tug-of-war can be troublesome for a few reasons. For one, canines that are naturally more aggressive may get too into the game and become overstimulated. Additionally, the game can send confusing messages about pulling on things.
A dog may think it’s okay to tug on your socks, for instance. How you play is also important. Pulling the rope up and down can be bad for the dog’s back, so be sure to just go side to side.
Giving Your Dog A Confusing Name
It can be fun to get creative with a dog name, but be mindful of ones that can easily be confusing to your furry friend. Those that rhyme with commands can become disorienting down the line.
For instance, the name Jay rhymes with “stay,” and can easily be misinterpreted, especially when called from a distance. It’s also a good idea to pick a name that has a distinct sound and starts with a hard consonant, such as “D,” “T,” or “K.”
Using Different Words For The Same Command
Dogs may be able to learn words, but they don’t have quite a complex enough vocabulary to grasp synonyms. In other words, telling your dog to “heel” one day and “come closer” the next can be very confusing.
They may not realize that both phrases are meant to accomplish the same thing. Plus, lack of consistency can end up making both commands less effective. Stick to specific, short words that your dog can easily recognize again and again.
Punishing A Mistake That Was Made Earlier In The Day
Coming home to see that your dog made a mess can be very frustrating, but punishing them may not do much to fix the problem. Canines aren’t advanced enough to connect your present anger with a past action they made.
That means if they ripped the trash apart at 2 p.m. and you’re yelling about it at 6 p.m., they’ll have no idea what you’re upset over. Take preventative measures like guard rails and discipline them when you catch them in the act.
Staring At A Stranger Dog
Though looking into a dog’s eyes can be sweet when it’s one you know, it’s not the best idea when it comes to stranger dogs. Canines can use eye staring as a way to assert their dominance.
If a dog you don’t know is staring you down and you match their gaze for too long, they may see it as a challenge. By not making eye contact, you avoid the challenge entirely which can help the dog feel less threatened.
Surrounding A Shy Dog With Other Canines
In many cases, socialization is an imperative part of puppy training so that the dog becomes comfortable in various situations. However, some dogs are more shy than others and can feel overwhelmed around other canines.
In this case, it’s important to desensitize them gradually. Surrounding a shy dog with other dogs can increase their fear and make them confused. Instead, expose them to another dog at a safe distance. Slowly increase the proximity and the number of canines over time.
Not Going For Enough Walks
Walks aren’t just about giving your dog time to use the bathroom. Even they have backyard access, many canines still need a healthy dose of walks. These long strolls give dogs an opportunity to bask in new smells.
It also gives them some much-needed exercise so they aren’t overly stimulated in the house. Without enough walks, canines may exhibit restless behavior that could result in rules being broken. When the owner gets upset, the canine then becomes even more distressed.
Wagging A Finger Outside Of Discipline
According to Healthy Pets, dogs universally associate a wagging finger with stress. When a dog has done something wrong, wagging a finger at them is sure to communicate that you aren’t happy.
At the same time, a wagging finger may be confusing if you are training the dog and they are doing a good job. Be sure that you aren’t mindlessly wagging a finger in times of play, as well. Instead, use an open hand to direct them.
Expecting The Dog To Know What Not To Eat
Since dogs lack reasoning skills, they aren’t innately savvy on which food items they are and aren’t allowed to eat. While it may seem absurd to dig leftovers out of the garbage, this is perfectly normal in your dog’s mind.
Canines have strong hunting instincts that tell them to devour anything that smells delicious. That’s why it’s important to do leashed training runs with your dog to teach them not to jump on the counter and devour a freshly-baked dessert.
Giving Uneven Attention To Pets
Canines are big attention hogs, especially when it comes to one another. Like siblings, they want to feel just as appreciated as the others in the household. That’s why it’s important to give even focus to all of your dogs.
If you give extra affection, treats, and quality time to one dog and not the other, they will notice. The pet receiving less attention may become depressed, so be sure to divide your focus evenly.
Allowing Visitors Into The House
Dog’s aren’t used to sharing their territory with others outside of the pack. That’s why it can be very disorienting to them when someone they don’t know comes into the house.
This can be true when it comes to human or canine visitors. To a dog, the visitor is an intruder and could be a risk to the safety of the home. Early training and socialization should help dogs respond appropriately to being around others.
Forgetting To Reward Good Behavior
Dogs are creatures of habit, so they’ll come to expect a reward if they do something right. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering how subservient they are and how little say they really have.
Canines who don’t get rewarded for good behavior may decide to revolt against their owner and forgo listening altogether. This can be frustrating to the owner, leading to a downward spiral in the relationship. Clearly acknowledging a dog’s good deed lets them know it’s worth the effort.
Altering Our Scent
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so they aren’t just smelling their owner’s unique scent when they sniff them. After an outing, you may notice that your dog is especially interested in burrowing its nose into you.
That’s because they’re picking up all sorts of smells from the outside world. The same is true when you bring a new scent into the house. An unfamiliar perfume, soap, or laundry detergent can catch a dog off guard when they first smell it on you.
Not Sticking To The Rules
Once an owner creates a rule, it’s imperative that they stick to it consistently. Dogs are very habitual creatures so ignoring a rule even just once can throw them off.
Canines are also very sensitive, so ignoring something they do one day and getting upset at that same thing another day can be especially jarring to them. If the rules are consistent then the dog knows what to expect and will obey rather than panic.
Leaving The House
Dogs love company, especially breeds that are known to be sociable. Even canines that are wary of strangers thrive when they’re around their owner. That’s why these furry friends can become confused when you leave.
Ideally, owners should gradually leave their dog alone for longer and longer periods so they can adjust. Offer them a treat, give them some toys, and put on white noise for comfort. Just avoid running back to them if they whine or bark as that can reinforce the behavior.
Hugging Your Dog
Hugging is a foreign concept to dogs because they don’t have arms to practice it themselves. As a result, the act can throw your furry friend for a loop. They may feel overly confined and therefore uncomfortable with hugs.
Canines like or dislike hugs to varying degrees depending on their personality. The key is to read the dog’s body language. If they respond happily, then hugs are good! If they don’t, then stick to petting.