We all love our dogs, but let’s be honest: Some of the things they do drive us nuts.
But . . . what about the things we do to them?
We call dogs our best friends, but we dress them up, carry them around in bags, hug them super tightly, and scare the bejeezus out of them – all for our amusement. You might be best friends, but are you a great companion? Your dog might beg to differ.
Here are seven common things that drive dogs crazy. See how many you’re guilty of doing!
Irregular Schedules & Routines
Dogs love routines.
In fact, they thrive on routines. If you have a dog that goes from a resting position to absolutely bonkers in 2 seconds as soon as you take out his leash for his evening walk, it might seem like your dog can tell time.
Ok, maybe your dog isn’t that smart, but what dogs do incredibly well is learn by association, the process by which an animal or human connects two stimuli. Like Pavlov’s experiment, your dog can associate your lacing of your shoes with playtime outside, so he might become very excited at the sight of your sneakers.
A consistent schedule and routine is great for dogs, especially those with high levels of anxiety or stress, because they never need to worry about what’s next.
A stressed dog can exhibit undesirable behaviors like chewing, barking, whining, or howling, so the best thing any dog owner can do is to establish a routine and try to stick to it as much as possible. Of course, we know this isn’t always possible. But if you’re gone for more than 8 hours a day, make arrangements to have a dog walker or a nice neighbor stop by to let your dog outside every few hours.
If you need to make changes to your schedule or routines, try to do so as gradually as possible. Your dog will be much happier, well-balanced, and more confident knowing there aren’t any huge changes or upsets in his life.
These are some of the most common rules in dog-owning households in the U.S. Perhaps you use the same rules or have your own set for your dogs, but the fact is that we all have at least one.
- No dogs on the couch.
- No dogs at the table.
- No jumping.
- No dogs in the bed.
As your dog’s leader, you know that enforcing a consistent set of rules and boundaries can do a lot of good for dogs. Just as wolf packs have social structure and rules, your dog expects the same from you.
But what about your friends, family members, or neighbors? Do you parents allow your dog to stay on their couch? Or maybe your friends throw your dog a couple table scraps whenever they visit.
It may seem harmless on the outside, but such inconsistencies can confuse your dog and cause stress. Dogs love knowing what to expect; they can’t tell the difference between your parents’ couch and yours. They also don’t understand exceptions to rules, so if you don’t want his muddy paws on your work clothes, don’t let him jump on you – ever.
So: Set your dog up for success by having everyone who enters the home adhere by the same rules for your dog.
No Smelling on Walks
“A tired dog is a good dog.”
You’ve heard the saying before.
So: You do the responsible thing and take your dog out for at least one walk every day.
But: Maybe you’re also in a hurry. Or perhaps you’re tired after work. You don’t really have the patience or time for Fido to sniff and pee on every mailbox, bush, tree, flower, fire hydrant, fence, and everything in between. The logical thing to do, then, is to speed up your walk by preventing her from smelling things.
After all, a walk is a walk…right? Yes, and no.
Think of going to your favorite store but being unable to look at anything in detail because someone is constantly nagging you or dragging you by the arm. It wouldn’t be a very fun experience!
A walk isn’t just for exercise; it is also for mental stimulation.
And while humans gain most of their understanding of the world through sight, dogs explore their world through their noses. Rushing your dog through her walk and preventing her from stopping to smell things is not only unkind, but it is also likely to result in a bored and/or frustrated dog.
And as repulsive as it may seem to us humans, scent marking, a.k.a. “pee mail,” is a valuable communication tool between dogs. And since dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans can, we can only imagine the kinds of messages dogs are sending one another.
So: Although it’s not necessary to let your dog smell and pee on every vertical surface, try to make every walk a positive experience by giving her plenty of time to explore. After all, a dog that is both physically and mentally stimulated is more likely to be tired after a walk.
Dressing Them Up
“But my bulldog looks so cute in his bumblebee costume!”
We get it. Dogs in costumes are awfully cute.
But your dog probably hates getting dressed up.
That’s not to say your dog doesn’t cooperate. For some extra attention and treats, your dog would put up with pretty much anything, even if it means putting on a hot dog costume.
Unless your dog has short hair or has a medical condition that requires a sweater for warmth, clothing for dogs is not only unnecessary and humiliating, it probably stresses them out.
In 2010, author and canine-cognition professor Alexandra Horowitz wrote in The New Yorker that, “the tightness of costumes around a dog’s midriff and back might be similar to the feeling of having another dog stand over him, a gesture that is believed to be used among wolves and other animals as a mild scolding.”
Horowitz believes that this may be why dogs often “freeze” initially when they are dressed up, then follow with shaking, chewing, pawing, or somehow trying to dislodge the garment.
If you want your dog to be a part of your Halloween celebration, keep in mind your dog’s well-being and comfort. A quick picture in a costume accompanied by extra praise and treats will ensure that Halloween is an enjoyable day for everyone, including your dog.
Pretending to Throw the Ball
Talk about bait and switch.
If dogs could talk, they would probably say this ranks very highly on the list of the most annoying things humans do to their dogs.
Your dog wants to play with you, but she most likely doesn’t share your sense of humor. Constantly faking a throw can get really old, even for your dog. She might lose interest in the game or refuse to share her toys with you.
Think back to your childhood. Did your parents ever trick you into getting in the car by telling you that they were taking you to an amusement park or arcade, only to end up at the doctor’s office? Yup, the disappointment is the same for your dog when you only pretend to throw the ball.
So: Be nice to your dog and throw the ball.
Think of your dog’s leash as a line of communication between you and your dog.
Obviously, your dog cannot speak to you, but she can sense your energy and mood just from your body language and the way you are holding her leash.
A tight leash tells your dog that you’re anxious, nervous, stressed, tense, or frustrated.
This energy can transfer to your dog, which can then trigger a range of behavior problems, such as leash aggression. Dogs on short, tight leashes feel trapped, and thus are more likely to react negatively towards other dogs and/or people because they cannot avoid uncomfortable situations.
If your dog hasn’t been properly trained yet, a tight leash is unlikely to solve your problems. In fact, a tight leash can cause your dog to pull even more. More pulling means more straining, choking, and gagging, which have shown to cause irreversible damage to your dog’s neck and overall health.
The best recommendation is to sign yourself and your dog up for a training class, where an experienced dog trainer should be able to teach you how to walk your dog calmly with a loose leash. A gentle leader or harness might also help.
With lots of treats, patience, and consistency, walking can become an enjoyable time for you and your dog.
Imagine this: Your floors need some cleaning, so you decide to take your vacuum cleaner out of the closet. As soon as you turn the vacuum on, however, your normally chill dog suddenly turns into Cujo, barking, growling, and lunging at the machine while you try your best to clean the floor.
While their reactions might be amusing for us at first, vacuums can be scary for many dogs. They’re loud, they suck everything up, they move erratically, and sometimes they kick up smells, especially if it has been a while since you vacuumed your carpet.
Vacuums are simply monsters on wheels.
If you have a dog that hates Mr. Hoover or Mr. Dyson, the best thing to do is to desensitize her to it. Be aware that this will be a slow process – dogs cannot get over their fears in one training session. Here are a few tips you can try with a clicker:
Place the vacuum turned off on the other side of the room or at a far enough distance so that your dog does not react to its presence. Whenever your dog looks at it, click and give your dog a treat. Your dog will begin to associate looking at the vacuum with good things.Once your dog becomes more comfortable with the vacuum at a distance, get closer to the vacuum until your dog can be next to the vacuum without reacting negatively.
Allow her to sniff the vacuum. Whenever she shows interest in it, click and treat. You can also try putting treats around the vacuum.
For this step, have someone hold your dog’s leash. Starting at a distance with the vacuum turned off, move it slowly towards her as if you were vacuuming. Click and toss her treats whenever you move. Watch for any signs of distress and allow her to leave the room if she gets upset.
When the vacuum stops moving, stop rewarding.If your dog does “attack” the vacuum, don’t stop moving. Have the second handler remove the dog until she relaxes and try again, starting at a further distance if possible.
Have a helper play with your dog in another room with the door closed while you turn the vacuum on for a few seconds. Click and give her treats the entire time. If she doesn’t react to the noise, slowly bring the vacuum closer to her (but don’t move it!) and continue building up the duration.Pro Tip: Continue working with your dog on the movement exercise above while you desensitize her to the sound.
Once your dog becomes comfortable with the sound and movement of the vacuum, turn the vacuum on and move it just a tiny bit. Click and feed your dog treats when she stays calm. Do not reward if the vacuum is off and still. You want to make sure your dog understands that it’s a good thing when the vacuum is on and moving. Slowly decrease the distance while increasing the duration until you can clean your entire house.
Come to think of it, we do a lot of things that probably drive our dogs crazy. If they could talk, we’re sure they would have a lot to say, so we’re just grateful that dogs tolerate so much of our behaviors.
If you’re guilty of any of the 7 things above, try to view things from your dog’s perspective. You may be able to learn more about your dog and how to have a more harmonious relationship with each other.