Dog Psychology

By Theresa Sjoquist

All dogs are descended from the wolf, including domestic dogs, dingoes, African Wild Dogs and the native North American wild Carolina Dog.  The Dingo’s progenitor was the Asiatic Wolf, which was domesticated by Asians before becoming feral; wild again.

Anthropologists believe that wolves followed humans in order to scavenge but because they also warned of predators, they began to be encouraged, domesticated, and for the most part, enjoyed.

“All dogs share the same basic behaviour patterns, are social animals, and can be trained,” says Lianne Sander, Canine Behaviour Specialist.  “Any dog will change its behaviour if it is in its best interests to do so.  The key is to make it in the dog’s best interests.  For instance, dogs which bark either want attention, or are bored and trying to contact other dogs.  Every living creature displays behaviour and when a dog is always tied up it will bark at birds or bugs just to know it’s alive.  It’s something to do.”

“Plenty of exercise will help, along with supplying things to do, such as a rope and ball hanging from the fence.  Perhaps provide another animal as a companion.  If the barking is excessive, after you’ve tried providing a stimulating environment and it becomes a choice of losing the dog, then the use of a good quality electronic bark collar may be helpful.

“The most common problems I deal with are general misbehaviour such as jumping up, destructiveness, not obeying owners’ commands, and on-lead aggression.”

One of the main reasons for a dog’s behavioural problems,”says Lianne, “is poor leadership. Dogs need strong, calm leadership.  Someone who shouts and does not use clear commands is not seen as a good leader and the dog will attempt to usurp the position.  Humans are the only species which will follow an unstable leader; no other species does.”

“Pulling on the leash is a prime example of poor leadership.  Often the dog will be good at home but pulls as soon as it gets out the door.  Effectively, the dog has taken charge.  Once you have leashed the dog, you go out the door first.  On the street, if the dog pulls, turn around and walk the other way.  Do not allow the dog to move unless it is beside you.  If the dog pulls again, immediately turn and go the other way and keep doing this.  You may not get very far walking that day, but you will show your dog who is boss. All dogs should obey the basic commands; down, sit, stay, come.

“Owners who are calm and knowledgeable have calm dogs with low to medium arousal levels,” says Lianne. Owners who are aggressive tend to have high arousal dogs, always alert, always looking to defend themselves.  Unfortunately, a dog’s mode of defence… is attack.

If you find yourself menaced by a dog, stand still with your arms close to your body and turn your face away.  Turning your face away is a calming signal.  So…teach your children.  Stand still with your arms close to your body and turn your face away.

If the dog is biting, lie down in the foetal position with your elbows over your face and your hands protecting your head and keep still.  Movement can be seen by the dog as a threat or challenge.  Never turn and run because it is natural instinct for a dog to chase.  Never talk to a menacing dog because the dog sees this as dominating and it can provoke attack.  Always turn away because someone who is turned away is not threatening so it calms the dog.

Never break up a dog fight unless you are prepared to be injured.  If you see a dog attacking, and you have solid shoes, kick it as hard as you can directly in the anus.  You could also grab it by the hips and swing it but beware, the dog may re-direct its attack to you.

Never approach a dog in a car or on its own property.  These are the two situations in which you could expect a dog to attack and it will be seen as provoked and the dog blameless.

Dogs need more than food, water and accommodation.  They are social animals like us, and suffer like we do if deprived of company.  The more intelligent the breed, the greater the suffering, and the more likely to develop problems..