Why is there often conflict, confusion, or frustration in the dog-human relationship?
Whether it’s training, husbandry, enrichment activities or just going for a walk, we are often entirely focused on the human perspective, we generally go about these tasks with our entire focus on what we want. We want to keep walking so we pull the dog away from interesting scents; we purchased an expensive enrichment toy and are disappointed if the dog doesn’t engage; we want the dog to sit and if they don’t, we often use coercion to gain compliance.
Forcing human perspectives onto dogs is somewhat unfair and counterproductive. A dog cannot understand why we wouldn’t want to stop and sniff. They cannot hope to understand that we think it looks good when they obey our commands or requests. Dogs don’t have our well-developed sense of foresight. We might know that we are going to a new dog training class and we know what our objective is when we begin training a new behaviour, but how does the dog see things? Are they confused and unsure? are they excited to see other dogs? frustrated they can’t play with them? fearful due to suddenly being surrounded by dogs? distracted by the overwhelming environmental stimuli? or stressed by us seeking compliance of illogical (to them) behaviours in a hostile environment?
If we are to have a mutually beneficial relationship with animals then we need to consider their perspective of the world. Forcing our own perspective onto dogs is surely denying them their true nature in an attempt to remove the dogness from dogs. The most beneficial thing you can do for your dog is to consider how they might see the world from their canine perspective.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read