As a dog trainer, I see this all the time, with owners and their dogs and this is why dog trainers end up being called out to help with many behavioural problems. It is normal to love your dog so much that you treat them as a member of the family, as another sibling or child who deserves all the affection you have to give. But could showering your dog with constant love and affection actually be smothering them? Owners forget that dogs are animals and while the dogs themselves become a family member because we love them so much, they’re still animals who can’t say when they’re afraid or angry unless you are good at reading dogs body language. If you’re unsure whether or not your dog is appreciating all of those ways you show them love, check their body language. Body language that indicates that your dog is unhappy include whale eyes where you can see the whites of their eyes, still tense muscles, growling, or snapping, licking their lips, avoidance like turning their head away. If you do not take note of your dog's body language the next step could be a bite.
One of the main problems is when owners get a new puppy, they get so overwhelmed with the cuteness, and training goes straight out the window. This is when it can seriously backfire further on down the line. Owners must try to remember that when they get a puppy or a dog, you must try not to humanise or treat them like babies. So, here are some examples of what some owners do when they bring their new puppy or dog home, giving your puppy or dog to much freedom too soon without any boundaries and training, sleeping on the bed or settee, overindulging, and rewarding them at the wrong times, not crate training their puppy because they think it’s cruel, just letting the puppy have free run of the house without training or boundaries in place, this is a recipe for a disaster for the future wellbeing of your puppy. Lack of training and boundaries is a direct cause of some dogs suffering from behavioural disorders, some dogs end up in rescue centres or euthanised because some owners have failed them at the beginning.
As a dog trainer, I am not saying we can’t have our dogs on our beds or settees, but owners need to build on the foundations training wise and have the boundaries in place, so that our dogs are more mentally balanced, and they will have earned these luxuries in your home. Your dog will be much happier, and so will you because there is nothing better than having a well-trained dog that you can take anywhere.
So, let’s have a look at some examples of what some owners will do with food.
Diet is another way some owners will humanise their dogs, it may seem cute to order your dog human food in a cafeteria or a treat at the coffee shop, but you might be killing your dog with kindness, also letting your dog devour scraps from the dinner table, then complaining they’re always around the table when you're eating your dinner. Human foods add calories preservatives, fat, starch, which can lead to obesity and nutritional problems, milk-based products like puppuccino cups from dog-friendly cafeterias can cause upset stomach upset, diarrhoea, food allergies, and even behavioural problems. Fat from meat can cause pancreatitis, and sugar can lead to dental issues and diabetes. You may think that giving your dog treats all the time for simply looking cute shows that you love them, but it is important to remember that one of the ways we love our dogs is to give them what they need and not what they want.
So, while they may want those dog treats give your dog what they need by stimulating their brain and making them work a little for it, reward-based training, whether through agility, nose work, enrichment puzzles, all builds a fantastic bond with your dog.
It is easy for dog owners to ignore, or even fail to recognise problematic behaviour from their dog because they are looking at the behaviour as if the dog was a person. A common example is allowing your dog to growl when a spouse is trying to get in the bed or trying to sit on the settee next to their partner or someone in the family. Because the dog is viewed as a little fur baby it is normally laughed off as cute or just being protective because they love you so much, rather than regarding the behaviour as a genuine dangerous issue. The dog is giving clear signals that it is uncomfortable. This is common in lap dogs that are treated like fur babies because owners do not understand or respect what their dog is saying in body language.
Some owners have a habit of wanting to take their puppy or dog everywhere or pushing their puppies or dogs beyond their comfort limits for the sake of human social events, completely ignoring how the dog is responding to what’s happening, letting strangers pet your dog when your dog is uncomfortable with this because you don’t want to be rude to someone, this can lead to your dog or puppy being more nervous and not feel safe with you as an owner because you keep letting it happen when your dog is giving you clear signals they are not comfortable. Pushing your puppy or dog to interact with others at the park because you think your dog or puppy should get on with every dog and socialise. Owners don’t realise forcing social situations on a puppy or dog can cause the puppy or dog to become reactive when forced into an uncomfortable situation, your dog may stand up for himself with behaviour that you don’t like.
You may love your dog and want to take them everywhere, dogs are very loyal companions but remember some dogs might not always want to be by your side, some dogs may prefer to have a little alone time in a place to chill, try to remember that on average dogs also sleep 12- 14 hours a day to reset and it is perfectly normal and shouldn’t be disturbed.
As a dog owner of two beautiful Shih tzu’s called Charlie and Chico I understand how their eyes can melt your heart. My two also have luxuries and I love them dearly, but they are trained and have boundaries as it’s on going to keep them balanced and happy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving your dog, but if you think you may be overdoing it. Remember to show your dog the kind of love that increases the bond between you both instead of overwhelming them with constant attention and affection.
JP Holistic Nutrition