Do You Treat Your Dog Like a Dog Or Human?

We love our dogs. We dote on them. They’re our friends, our companions, and part of our families.

Being so close to these wonderful creatures, it’s hard for us not to see them as little people and treat them as such.

But a dog isn’t human. We can’t forget that although they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, canines are their own species, with unique traits, quirks, wants and needs.

Yet many people treat their pets like children, rather than like dogs.

Why? In some cases, people are trying to meet their own emotional needs. Or they just assume that dogs share the same needs as humans.  Sometimes, it may seem easier to follow the human-to-human pattern of interaction we’ve known all our lives.

Regardless of why, the consequences are clear: treating a dog like a child can lead to future behaviourial problems. This can make an owner’s life more difficult; and for a dog, negatively affect her happiness and sense of security.

Why Dogs Need to Be Dogs

Instinctively, dogs are pack animals. In the pack, everything is based on hierarchy; there are leaders and followers. Leaders provide strength and security to followers.

A dog wants to feel safe and secure, and instinctively feels so when the pack leader provides strong leadership-meaning guidance, direction and control.

Dogs can be leaders or followers. You want your pet to follow your lead, rather than lead you. With the right cues, dogs will assume this role!

Dogs Need Affection, But Not Too Much

As humans, we comfort each other through affection. When a child is scared or upset, her mother holds her close, reassuring and consoling until the emotion passes.

There’s nothing wrong with showing a dog plenty of love. Our furry friends crave affection. With dogs, however, too much affection, or affection at the wrong times, can lead to behavioural problems.

Why? Well, remember that canines have different needs than humans. When scared, upset or uncertain, a pet dog looks for strength from its human leader. Too much affection and not enough strength makes an owner look weak in a dog’s eyes, which ultimately fails to satisfy its deepest, most primal need for security. A dog wants to feel protected, but can’t without strength from its leader.

Are You Treating Your Pet Like a Human or a Dog?

So are you treating your dog like a human or a dog?

Honestly ask yourself these questions.

  • Have you set boundaries for your dog inside your house?
  • Does your dog walk on a flexi-lead and walk you? Or does he determine when and where to stop and sniff and mark?
  • When he uses those sad eyes when you’re eating, do you treat him with some food?
  • Do you let him sit on the couch and pet him for hours while you watch TV?

Answering yes to any of these questions suggests that you may not be providing your dog with the leadership she needs to feel as secure as possible.

How to Treat a Dog Like a Dog

First and foremost, an owner needs to be smart about how and when to show his dog affection. Critically, this affection must be balanced with strong leadership.

Looking for leadership, a dog needs to know what’s expected of them. So rules, boundaries and discipline are critical, all of which help a dog feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Without these limits, a dog can become territorial, anxious, dominant and unpleasant to be around.

In my next email, I’ll go into more detail about how you can be the kind of pack leader your dog needs, the kind that makes her feel happy, safe and secure.

Until then, all the best to you and your pet!