Dog Psychology - Part 1
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Our pets are like our family members. We do everything to keep them happy and healthy. We cook them fresh food, buy them their favourite toys, take them out for regular walks and do a lot of other things to keep them fit and healthy. Pet owners have been doing this since centuries.
a. Does that make us an informed and caring dog parents?
b. Is our dog really happy?
c. If not, what should we do to make things right?
This chapter will help you understand your dog better by understanding it's psychology.
We have developed an interesting and easy to remember framework to learn the concepts around dog psychology.
Each dog is an animal first then a dog then a breed and at last an individual. The dominance of this hierarchy is seen in dog psychology and behaviour. They inherit their needs in the same order.
1. Animal traits - level I of dog psychology
A dog is an animal first. Majority of its behaviour and psychology comes from this class. Major dog psychology principles of this section are:
A. Life for dogs (as an animal first) is about survival - PRINCIPLE # 1
In the wild, each day is about survival as there is just one rule of the jungle, 'survival of the fittest'. Now to do so, each dog has to find food, protect self, its territory (as it is the source of shelter, security and food), and pass on its genes. This is something which dog inherits from their wild ancestors, wolves.
But the world has changed for modern dogs. Since domestication, they do not have to worry about food. Their territory is their home where they are generally well protected.
We give them easy calories but limited workout. They do not have to walk miles to look for food or to guard their territory. They have been deprived of their jobs (source of around 90% of their calories burn). This results into accumulation of energy which, if not released, through daily exercises and walks leads to lot of behaviour issues in dogs.
B. Dogs live in the present - PRINCIPLE # 2
Dogs live in the present. They do not think about the past or worry about the future. This is something which is common with all the animals. For them, it is all about survival where each day is a fight. To survive, they have three priorities - (i) food, (ii) protect their territory, and (iii) pass on their genes. In order to work for their priorities and survive, they need to be at their 100% all the time.
Their actions and thought are all about 'now'. Whatever they can sense in their environment at the moment forms their truth.
You must have seen programs on wild animals on National Geographic, Animal Planet or Discovery Channel. What do animals do in the wild? When they are hungry, they will hunt and eat. Then they will not think of food until they feel hungry again. Same is with our domesticated dogs. They still are animals. They think of the moment only.
Problem arises when we start humanising our dogs. We apply our motivations and psychology on them. 'Oh! poor thing. She is angry because we left her alone yesterday for 3 hours'.
Remember, dogs do not think that way. They are rooted in the moment and are only concerned of what is happening now.
C. For dogs, state of mind is everything - PRINCIPLE # 3
Since we now know that dogs live in the present. They thoroughly analyse the present situation to prepare themselves accordingly.
Dogs carefully scan each person approaching them and using their innate instinct, they read our mind and body in order to comprehend our intentions and emotions. They sense of energy and reciprocate accordingly.
Cesar Millan, a world renowned dog behaviourist of USA, calls this 'energy' and advises everyone to exhibit calm and assertive energy while interacting with dogs.
Dogs continuously analyse the people around them, their expressions, body language, scent and other cues they get from humans. In time, dogs learn all this and with cognitive intelligence, they prepares a database of cause and effect for all these energy levels.
Dogs are like intelligent mirrors who reciprocate with the same energy. Observe your dog reacts when different people approach him/her. People who approach with high energy, sounds and excitement are generally greeted with similar energy and excitement. On the other hand, if somebody is calm and does not entertain your dog, is received with same calm and composed energy.
They are geniuses in reciprocating the energy!
Go to next Part (Part II) .