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Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior: Nothing is Their Fault!

A woman who could use help understanding dog behavior looks on in disbelief as her adorable puppy brings mud into the house
Feeling frustrated with chewed slippers and accidents? Before blaming your pup, consider their perspective! This post explores dog psychology and why "nothing is the dog's fault." Learn how to build a positive relationship and understand your furry friend's needs!

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Remember that enthusiastic (and maybe slightly sleep-deprived) new puppy owner you were in Part 1? Well, by now, you’ve likely experienced the full spectrum of emotions that come with welcoming a furry friend into your life – joy, frustration, maybe even the occasional tear over a chewed couch or a dirty rug (don’t worry, we’ve all been there!). But before you start blaming your pup for “being bad”  let’s take a step back and try understanding your dog’s behavior.  When you do that you will realize one thing: nothing is truly the dog’s fault.

Here’s why:

Dog Psychology: Wired for Survival and Pack Life

a pack of wolves running in the snow. if we can understand the pack mentality we are closer to understanding dog behavior

Dogs descend from wolves, and their instinctive needs and behaviors are deeply rooted in those origins. They are social creatures driven by survival instincts, pack hierarchy, and communication through scent, body language, and vocalizations.

Although dogs have been domesticated for more than 30,000 years, they still have instinctual drive.  We demand a lot from what are essentially wild animals.  We expect them to adapt to living in a human world and are sometimes hard on them when they don’t.  I am sure watching your dog use the bathroom in the middle of the park for all to see will make you quickly realize how different we are from our furry friends.

Understanding these core principles is essential for building a harmonious relationship with your dog. Remember, they haven’t magically learned the nuances of human expectations and etiquette. It’s our responsibility to bridge the gap by creating clear communication and addressing their needs from their perspective.

Common Misinterpretations and Solutions

  • Chewing: This isn’t your dog “being bad” – it’s a natural puppy behavior for exploring, teething, and relieving boredom. Provide safe and stimulating chew toys like a bestie ball, and manage their environment to prevent access to unwanted items.
  • Barking: Barking is a form of communication for dogs, expressing excitement, anxiety, or territoriality. Identify the trigger and address the underlying issue, whether it’s separation anxiety, lack of socialization, or excitement during playtime.  
  • Accidents: Potty training takes time and patience. Accidents don’t mean your dog is “disobedient.”  If there is an accident, clean it up and move on.  The dog can’t open the door to go out on it’s own, so realize the responsibility you bear in each of these instances. Ensure your pup has consistent access to appropriate elimination spots, maintain a regular schedule, and use positive reinforcement for success (more on this in Part 1: Three things to remember when bringing your new puppy home).

Remember: Punishment rarely addresses the root cause of behavior. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement, reward desired behaviors, and address any underlying needs like exercise, mental stimulation, or socialization.

Building a Happy Relationship

By understanding your dog’s natural inclinations, fostering clear communication, and setting and enforcing boundaries, you can build a strong, trusting bond with your bestie. Invest in positive reinforcement training, prioritize socialization experiences, and be patient. Remember, your puppy is learning too!

a proud dog owner with an award winning border collie. some of the rewards from understanding dog behavior

Additional Reading:

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we’ll delve into the final key point to remember: A dog is just that, a dog! We’ll discuss setting realistic expectations and embracing the unique joy of bringing a canine companion into your life.

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