Could You Be Confusing Your Dog?

Cindy SmithDog Health, Senior Dogs


Our world and a dog’s world are very different, yet we want them to integrate into ours. Can you imagine how confusing it must be for them?

Think about a new puppy. At around 12 weeks, we take them away from their parents, brothers and sisters and the only security they have known. We take them to a new home, with a new bed and new toys. We start talking English to them, although they have communicated via voice tones and body gestures up to this point.

It’s as if they have landed on an alien planet. No wonder they are scared!

The same holds true for rescue or adopted dogs. Chances are they were used to another environment, and we are asking them to get used to a new one. Maybe they are a senior dog that has lived in another home for eight years. Although they are delighted to be adopted, imagine how foreign it is to them. That is why it’s important not to get impatient with them during the adjustment period.

Try to see life from their standpoint.

Here are some other ways we confuse our dogs. Some are funny, but many are eye-opening from a dog’s perspective.

We spend time by ourselves
Most dogs are social creatures. Generally, they love being with other dogs or more importantly, you. Therefore, when you leave them alone, whether at home or with a pet sitter, they can’t imagine why you are doing that. Will you come back? How long will you be gone? Why would anyone want the boredom of being home alone? If you sleep alone, why would you want to do that?

Why are there dog doors to keep them out … don’t we want to be with them 24/7? Why do we tell them to “get out of the kitchen” or “off the furniture?” When we go for a car ride, why are they not always included?

The feelings of abandonment and isolation are what causes separation anxiety in dogs. It takes a little time for them to get over their fears that you will be back, but alone time is still a strange concept to them.

We navigate by sight but they navigate by smell
In people, our dominant sense is vision. That means that as a person, we rely more on sight than any other senses, and a larger portion of our brain is set aside to process visual information. For dogs, however, the dominant sense is smell, followed by their sense of hearing, with vision ranking third in importance. A dog has 300 million olfactory senses in their nose while a human has only 6 million. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.

So when we go to a dog park, why isn’t our nose to the ground with a feast of smells? Why would we ever sit on a park bench?

We change our appearances all the time
Every once in awhile you may put a new bandana on your dog. Other than that and shedding his coat a couple of times/year, his looks don’t change. The other day I had a hat on and my dog actually barked at me… he didn’t recognize me. That’s because we change our clothes, earrings, shoes, coats and hats almost every day. We even change our soaps, deodorants and perfumes. Have you ever come home from a home that had another dog and your dog instantly smells it on you?

Considering that dogs are so smell driven, it’s no wonder that our constantly evolving scents baffle them.

We like to hug
Humans hug. Many dogs don’t like to be hugged or cuddled because it immobilizes them and they see the gesture as a sign of aggression.  According to a study published in Psychology Today, this could lead to stress and anxiety and even being bitten.

We share our food
Dogs are scavengers and foragers at heart and will eat food wherever and whenever it presents the opportunity … on a picnic bench, the floor, and even in garbage cans. They don’t like to share, yet we pass our food around the table. Have you ever seen a dog share a treat? No! They eat and drink in dog bowls, so why don’t we? I’m sure they also wonder why they can’t eat everything we do.

We are not territorial
Does your dog bark at visitors, the UPS man, and the postman? That is because the house and the yard is his territory. It is confusing to them why we allow visitors, strangers and even other dogs into our home. That should be our personal space and no one else’s.

We don’t play fight
You find this more in puppies, but dogs love to play bite, nip and chew. However, when their razor-sharp teeth try and mouth humans, we don’t appreciate this interaction. Dogs interact with other dogs by using their mouths, often communicating “more”, “please don’t” or “back off.” They don’t understand why we take offense to being play bitten.

Although we love our dogs, it’s easy to see how we humans can be very complex. Thank goodness most dogs are flexible and can adapt to our quirky ways!