How does your dog ask you a question?
By Bill Gibson (Connor’s Legacy) http://www.connorslegacy.co.uk/
In many cases we can misunderstand our dogs and I have highlighted in the past, the importance of trying to understand the dogs visual language. But how does your dog ask you a question?
The simple answer is: They show you the question!
If your dog comes up to you and nudges your arm or hand, most would consider this to mean your dog wants a stroke, but in most cases it would be the dog asking you ‘do you want to stroke?
Have you ever seen a dog stroke another dog?
If you are watching the TV and you notice your dog looking at you, this is a question. ‘Would you like me to do something’? I would recommend asking your dog to do something like lay or simply ask them to stay.
Many behavioural concerns in dogs are caused by a misunderstanding where an instruction wasn't offered at the correct time. Our means of trying to calm a situation (usually stroking) has confirmed the wrong behaviour to the dog.
When you first brought your dog home you may remember your dog watching you all the time, this is when they will be asking lots of questions and many of us will simply stroke the cute new addition to the family. The first week is usually the calm week and then it slowly escalates into various behavioural concerns from them on, all because of the stroke.
Instruction, Instruction, Instructions is the key to help you to have a happy and well balanced dog. The more you ask your dog to do around the home, the happier your dog becomes and this helps to stop your dog from asking questions, where they can be offered the wrong answer. I would recommend teaching your dog tricks or jobs around the home. This then becomes their job, instead of protecting you, which is stressful for them, the home and everyone in there. You are still able to have a pet that sounds like a guard dog if you train your dog through play. Many within the security industry are now doing the same thing because the dogs are less stressed and more willing to please, although, please be sure not to build the excitement levels too much as this will also cause stress.
If you have behavioural concerns with your dog please try to offer your dog more instructions around the home, but never attempt to make your dog do anything. Simply ask your dog by giving the instruction with a hand signal and continue to ask in this way, until your dog has offered the correct behaviour for that instruction. So ‘sit’ should mean sit and should not mean ‘ok a lay down is good enough!’ Otherwise you will confuse your dog and so the misunderstandings begin.
As you first start helping your dog to understand what will be expected of them within the home please remember that dogs will always want to please you, so please DO NOT tell them off. If your dog is not doing what you have asked them, they are not trying to be stubborn! They simply misunderstand. And if you believe your dog should know something that you are offering them but they are not doing it or maybe they are doing something else, these are all a question they are asking you. The best way to answer the question is to go back a stage and train that again or break the task down into more manageable pieces. If they have been able to teach rescue dogs in New Zealand to drive specially adapted cars around a track, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chrzpnL1OEM) then teaching your dog within the home should be a piece of cake. But if you feel you need help please enquire about local training classes or look on YouTube for ideas and help.
As your dog first starts to bark at the door or in the garden, you will notice that they will look at you for a split second and then continue. I would suggest that this is the question ‘am I doing the correct thing’? And your answer should be ‘no please go and lay down’, but you only have that split second to offer the instruction. So please be ready for it by pointing to their bed with a disapproving look on your face. It is important that your dog does not bark at the door or garden unless you have trained this, through play and instruction, otherwise the bark would usually be caused by a responsibility the dog has taken on, to protect and that responsibility causes fear. Fear is the only real reason a dog will bite, although this is usually to protect itself, any other time would be trained behaviour.
It is also very important that you are not vocal when your dog is barking because your dog will simply believe you are barking too. This could cause them to believe that you are also fearful which would build their responsibility. I would recommend trying to remember the phrase Distract & Direct!
Distractive sounds can be clicking your fingers twice, or clap your hands twice, even banging twice on a piece of furniture if you have to and immediately offer your dog Direction, instructions to lay down on their bed. This will always help to calm them, but please remember to offer the ‘stay’, otherwise you will leave them room to ask a question ‘do I move now’?
If you are having behavioural concerns with your dog please consult a reputable behaviourist for help.
Hope this helps.