Understanding Dog Behavior can make all the difference!

Dog behavior and how to understand it has always been a challenge. Even though we are dealing with a different species and one that we can’t communicate with in human terms; through the many different scientific researches throughout the years, we now have a basic understanding of how dogs work.

dogs painting

Our first contact with dog behavior descriptions and concepts has been around since the late 1800s when the first attempt to describe the different breeds and their temperaments was made by J.H.Walsh in 1874. Unfortunately, since they were all written by the same man, and because at that time there wasn’t a lot of research done, nor materials about dogs available; almost all breed temperament and behavior descriptions (even today) look very similar to one another.

Due to the amount of material and to make it more organized and easier to review I have created a few different pages describing the influence of genes, environment, and dog training on a dog’s behavior patterns.

These different pages cover the following:

Genetically inherited behaviors (pack behaviors, breed behaviors, etc.)

There has been many controversies over how much of a dog’s behavior is actually inherited, and does it have any similarities to those of wolves, wild dogs, etc. To find out how the genetic inherited behaviors shape your dog’s behavior and what kind of genetic behaviors are carried by certain breeds please Click here.

The environmental impact on a dog’s behavior

dog on the balcony

Every creature on this planet has been shaped by the environment in which they live. For example, if you have a litter of puppies and you let them grow up in the same environment without any human interference, they will grow up behaving rather similar to each other. On the other hand, if you foster these puppies in different homes with different dog owners you will have a variety of dog behaviors, from a playful or hyperactive dog to an anxious or fearful dog. To find out how to deal with the environment and how your environment is affecting your dog’s behavior please click Here.

Classically conditioned (trained) dog behaviors

Although many people think that dog training is limited to obedience, protection, sports, etc. The truth is that we are training our dogs on a daily basis by encouraging or discouraging behaviors (some of which may not suite us as dog owners later down the road).

dog on bed

For example, jumping on visitors; I personally can name only a handful of dog owners who addressed this issue from the very beginning not allowing this habit to become a dog behavior pattern in the first place. Far too many people don’t address the behavior when it starts and later get overwhelmed by it, when their dog is full grown.

There are so many different things that we train our dogs on daily basis without even knowing it. You can find out more about how to deal with this and how to help yourself and your dog shape more appropriate behaviors here.

How different we are from each other

First of all dogs are completely different from us, and although that is obvious, due to a lack of knowledge we tend to deal with them in a way that they don’t understand, in our own human way. Their brain, eyes, nose, sense of touch are all different from humans.

For example:

The part of a human brain that relates to our sense of smell is only a few grams in weight, but in a dog’s brain the part that is their center of smell occupies one seventh of their total brain volume.

We can hear up to 20,000 acoustic vibrations; dogs can hear (depending on the breed and individual dog) anywhere from 40,000-100,000 acoustic vibrations (average 40,000-65,000).

dog's eye

This is one of the reasons why your dog acts up when you start up some machines or devices. These machines may produce ear piercing noises that are beyond our own capabilities of hearing, but that are affecting our dog’s behavior. We see the world around us in totally different ways as well. Our eyes and our dog’s eyes are not the same:

  • Humans can see colors, we are capable of spatial vision and we are capable of judging the distances between us and objects, we can see and recognize an immobile object, however we have limitations recognizing moving objects at a greater distance.
  • Dogs don’t see colors the way we see them, immobile objects either in close proximity or in the distance are unrecognizable to them (they see them only as forms and shadows), on the other hand, moving objects, either close by or at a greater distance, they can see with great accuracy and they are able to recognize their owners, for example, at a greater distance than humans can just based on their individual, characteristic movements.

And if we were to compare emotions, for example:

  • Humans have about a few thousand “recognized” and named emotions that come from a few different emotional groups that we use in our daily life.
  • Dogs have a few basic emotions, mostly related to the basic actions that help them survive in nature. Many of them are products of fear or are driven by their instincts like prey drive; as well there are some of the positive emotions that they share among their pack members and litter-mates or in certain rituals that help them to reconnect and survive as a pack.

Now you are probably asking yourself why this is important. To understand dogs and dog behavior patterns, you have to have an understanding of the fact that you are dealing with different species and that dogs don’t see nor understand the world around the way we do.

They don’t have emotional capabilities like many dog owners often address as “vengeful”, etc. For example, when a dog does something that looks like revenge to his handler, or when we expect our dog to follow an easy logical sequence of training for a certain action. Dogs are simply not capable of doing those things, if we understand this basic difference; we have a chance to approach our dog differently which will save us time and patience.

dog in crate

To emphasize the importance of understanding dog behavior, I will mention that as per researchers, the number one reason that dogs end up in dog shelters is because of dog behavior problems. In the year 2000, there were studies done on this, and the results show that over 40% of dogs ended up in dog shelters and dog rescues due to behavior problems, today this number is even bigger and some researchers say that this trend will continue.

You have to understand dog behavior in order to avoid dog behavior problems; you have to understand how the environment is affecting your dog’s behavior in everyday life and how to deal with it. We all drive cars and most of us don’t have a clue what to do when our car breaks down nor what happened to cause it. Most of us don’t know anything about the engine or how to maintain it properly, or to distinguish those weird sounds that notify us that something is wrong; therefore we helplessly wait until that weird sound becomes an engine failure.

Dog behavior is a similar thing. It is who the dog actually is and not knowing how to read it will lead to dog behavior problems, which in many cases, are only spotted and addressed when they become unmanageable.

paw print

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