Teddy Bears are often given to children in times of need, could the same practice work with your dog?
Does your dog bark at you, pull at your clothes or attempt to squeeze his way out the door in a frantic attempt to either stop you from leaving, or to go with you?
I have read advice from trainers saying the reason dogs do this is because they want to dominate you, stop you from leaving the house and thereby control your life.
Hmmm, not so sure about that…
What is your dog expressing with his behaviour?
Let’s put ourselves in our dog’s paws for a moment as we contemplate this:
Each day you are forced to stay at home, locked inside, and away from the people you know and love. Perhaps you have a couple of toys to play with, but nobody to play with. You sleep on and off throughout the day, but mostly you are bored. You hear noises outside, perhaps other dogs barking, people laughing, kids playing. You imagine all the things that might be happening out there, but there is no way you can be part of it all. Your attempts to call your people (aka barking, howling, whining) or even to escape your confinement, (scratching at the door, digging, chewing) are all in vain.
How is my dog feeling?
At the beginning you might be bored and lonely. But, as the hours, days, weeks and months pass, with the same routine of being left alone, you start to become disillusioned, frustrated and even angry at not having your needs met, or being able to change your circumstances.
As stress levels rise, the brain changes gear into the sympathetic nervous system and brings on a natural flight-fight response. As there is no way to flee or escape, fighting / anger and aggression becomes the only option to express your emotions.
Dogs thrive on social contact.
Just like us, dogs are social animals, and have a compelling need for social contact and interaction for most of their waking hours.
They are not hardwired or equipped with the ability to spend long periods alone or confined.
It can be damaging to their physical, mental and social well being.
Dogs need to learn to stay alone.
For most of us who share our lives with dogs however, it is necessary that our dogs learn to cope and become resilient about being separated from their family group and left alone for some time.
They can learn this, but to get the best results, we need to start teaching them from young puppies that they can still feel safe and comforted when spending time alone.
Even adult dogs can learn coping strategies, but it requires time, patience and making sure that we are providing a well-balanced lifestyle by meeting all their physical, mental and emotional needs.
So, the answer is the opening question is a clear, “No.”
Your dog is not trying to dominate you or control you with his behaviour. He is simply having to ‘shout a little louder’ to express his feelings, given his circumstances.
If you would like to find out how you can help your dog to feel more comfortable about staying home alone and meeting his social, physical and emotional needs, then please sign up for our newsletter or get in touch with me.