Did you ever stop to wonder what your dog could possibly be thinking? You aren’t alone. Our little family members can’t tell us their thoughts, hopes, and dreams, so we’re left to try to read it through expressions and body language.
But there are some things we have learned about dogs over the years and that knowledge can come in handy when it’s time to train your companion. Here are a few insights into the mind of your favorite dog.
Yes, your dog is part of your family. But despite domestication, dogs are still pack animals. To them, your family is their pack and, as with a pack of dogs, there has to be one leader. The role of leader must be earned, it can NEVER be forced upon your dog. The leader is consistent, calm, confident and benevolent to its underlings and must earn their respect and trust.
From the time you bring your new friend home, you can do leadership exercises that your dog will instinctively understand which will help you develop the right relationship with your dog. Once this relationship is the established, you will have a stronger bond with him and he will want to please you. Training will become much easier. From the relationship, come the results!
One of these leadership exercises is that the leader always goes first. Your dog instinctively knows this. Their Mom went first and they followed. She was responsible for making all the decisions, ie where they were going and what they were doing. For all canines, there are just two travel positions. You are either in front or you are behind. Canines don’t walk side by side like humans. They travel one in front of the other with the leader always going first. A good example of this is the above photo of wolves in Yellowstone National Park traveling as a pack.
Barking is a natural behavior that dogs do. They bark for many different reasons but sometimes barking can be disruptive. We all know that. But understanding why your dog barks can help you to modify the behavior as needed. A dog’s bark is also linked to that pack mentality. Your dog is conditioned to protect the pack by alerting you of dangers, such as the postal truck at your mailbox or a salesperson at the front door. It’s important to praise your dog for doing his job, but when a visitor arrives at your door, tell your dog “thank you, it’s ok”. Position yourself with your dog behind you to make it clear that you, the pack leader, will approve or disapprove of this particular guest. You are in charge and you will go first to determine what is safe and what is not. This will take tremendous pressure off your dog and he will become more relaxed because he knows you’ve got it!
Imagine being a dog. Anything can happen in a given day, and your owners will likely have no way to clearly communicate it with you. That’s why dogs tend to thrive on structure. Although it may not always be possible, try to keep your dog on the same routine each day, including mealtimes and bedtimes. If your pet knows you’ll arrive home at three o’clock to let him out, for instance, he’ll likely start to calm down over the weeks and months as the house empties out every morning.
Want more? I regularly sit down with experts on a variety of issues to help you better understand your dog. This understanding can help you form a stronger bond with your family pet. Check out and subscribe to my podcast to get insights into issues like separation anxiety, safety, training, and much more.