7 Things People Do That Dogs Hate
We love our dogs and consider them family. But that doesn’t mean they appreciate everything humans enjoy. As responsible pet parents, it’s important for us to learn their 4-legged language and communicate in ways they understand and can easily follow. Pay careful attention to your pet’s reactions to the following human behaviors:
1. Hugs From Strangers
Imagine a total stranger coming up to you and giving you a full body hug. It would probably make you feel threatened, uncomfortable and put you on alert. Dogs don’t express affection in the same way as people. Some dogs tolerate being hugged, but many don’t enjoy it, and it’s certainly not their way of expressing affection. Many feel threatened and fearful, even when hugged by people they know well and love. In the photo above, the little girl is all smiles, but the dog is clearly tense and pulling his head away from her. My senior Lab, Sanchez, accepts hugs, but only if they are short. He shows many signs of discomfort, including backing up and disengaging from the person hugging him.
2. Petting a Dog’s Head
Just as you wouldn’t enjoy it if a total stranger came up and reached their hand over your face and touched the top of your head, dogs don’t like it either. Again, it can easily put them in a position of feeling threatened. After asking to pet a dog you don’t know, it’s always best to let them greet you first. Once they do, most much prefer a chest rub (reaching under them) to a head pat (reaching over them).
3. Staring Into Their Eyes
Staring into a dog’s eyes, particularly one you don’t know, doesn’t build connection. Instead, it makes them feel threatened. They may see it as a sign of dominance and avert your stare. This tells you to stop staring, as they are uncomfortable. Alternatively, you’ll build their trust by looking to the side and observing how they respond. It will tell you everything you need to know about their comfort level.
4. Not Providing Structure or Routine
Dogs thrive from consistent behavior. Setting and following rules is not being mean to your dog, it’s being helpful and loving. Dogs get very confused and frustrated when a rule is applied in one situation but not another. They don’t understand when they are rewarded for jumping on you after you come home from a trip, but they are scolded for the same behavior when you are leaving for work. When confused, many dogs don’t know what to do and just shut down. Sadly, shutting down is often seen as “good behavior.” But, I would much prefer that my dogs understand the rules and are guided into making good choices.
5. Putting Your Face Right in Their Face
This is another way that humans express affection, but dogs don’t. The woman pictured is delightfully happy and appears to love this dog. But the dog’s body is tense and uncomfortable. Remember that small dogs aren’t babies. Love them, but remember that they are dogs, not children.
6. Not Giving Them Time to Smell The Roses
Dogs gather information with their noses. When dogs stop to smell the bushes in a new environment, it’s equivalent to checking their messages to find out who was there before them. While you may want to designate part of your walk time for exercise and moving along, you also want to allow time for them to sniff. My dog Sanchez has always been a big sniffer. But, after he was attacked a few years back, he’s needed even more time at the beginning of a walk to check the surroundings. His nose tells him whether it’s safe and I allow him time to do this.
7. Bringing Dogs Into Loud Environments
We bring dogs into our human world and we say “adjust.” Some do, many donít. When dogs canít orient the source of a sound to determine whether it is safe, they can easily go into sensory overload and develop anxiety behaviors along with health problems. Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While I think itís great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter,† doesnít benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please be careful of your dogís sound environment and observe their body language when they are exposed to loud sounds.
If you have any to add to my list, thanks for posting them in a comment below.