Owners of dogs are commonly bombarded with so-called expert advice, but a brand new book called Decoding your Dog explains the common behaviors of dogs and what they actually mean.
One very common misconception is that a dog’s owner must be the “alpha dog” in the “pack” in order to show their pet who is actually the boss. Veterinary experts and behaviorists, however, say that this idea is not only wrong, but is not based in science and may even be downright dangerous.
To make things right, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists have come up with a new book called Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones.
OK, quite the long title to the book, but it is available on the shelves this week apparently (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, selling at $27).
The book has been edited by two veterinarians, Debra Horwitz and John Ciribassi, who both specialize in the behavior of pets, in collaboration with Steve Dale, a nationally syndicated pet journalist and certified animal behavior consultant.
According to the book, more dogs likely die because of perceived bad behavior than all the cancers or other illnesses combined. It stated that when a dog is not well, the bond between the human and animal is often intensified.
However, when the dog has a serious behavioral problem, i.e. constant barking, chewing on the furniture and rugs, attacking the cat, etc., the bond between the owner and dog might simply fracture. Once this occurs, the dog could likely end up abandoned in a shelter.
Rather than this, if the root of the problem is found by examining the dog’s behavior, especially in young animals, this could most certainly save both the pets’ lives and also the nerves and tempers of the dog’s owner.
The book sets out science-based methods to sort out the various behavioral problems, based on the input of 21 contributing authors.
It covers explanations of all types of behavioral problems, including the dog jumping up to greet arriving guests, or lunging to attack other dogs while out for a walk.
One misconception, mentioned briefly above, is whether dogs are competing for “alpha status” when biting their owners, or other people they know. The book explains that the reason they do this is not related to social hierarchy at all, and is usually for more defensive reasons.
Other people tend to think that when a dog gets on the sofa, it is trying to be dominant. In fact, according to the experts, the dog is getting on the sofa for exactly the same reason we do – to be comfortable.
Other so-called “dominance” issues, like pulling on the lead and jumping on people are also for much simpler reasons. The dog pulls on the lead and rushes ahead for the simple reason that they are dying to explore all the exciting smells and sights of the surrounding world. They jump up on people for the pure pleasure of greeting them face to face.
Another major issue is misbehavior in the home when the dog’s owner is not present. People tend to think that a dog will, for instance, urinate inside the house due to separation anxiety.
According to the book, this has nothing to do with any sort of spiteful behavior. It’s not like, “OK, you’ve left me alone, I simply must misbehave.” It is far more likely to be either a lack of training, or possibly an undiagnosed medical condition. In the case of urination, it could simply be a case of being locked in the house for far too long.
The book covers many more fascinating and everyday situations that occur with dog ownership in matter of fact, simple terms. Reading up on the experts will help with every problem from owning a puppy, right through to the care of elderly dogs.
So if you own a dog and need some help handling your furry companion read up on what the dog experts have to say in the new book about decoding your dog and learn more about what the common behaviors of your pet mean.
By Anne Sewell