Your dog doesn't hate you and you are good enough!
The most common theme around dogs is feelings of isolation, hopelessness and sadness within a human and dog relationship and this isn't talked about enough, not at all.
Over the years I have worked with many people who have cried and felt that their dog hates them or does things to them to spite them.
As professionals we know this isn't true, but what is true is the human emotion, we cannot tell someone how to feel, what we can do and what we should do is support them, recognise and validate their emotion just as we do with dogs and support them whilst gently educating them.
I personally have more respect for any dog guardian who feels that they aren't good enough. I'm one of them and I have always been very transparent about this.
I very nearly didn't get Diesel as I felt that as someone with mental health challenges I wasn't good enough to have a dog and that I would negatively impact him. I genuinely didn't feel good enough to have a dog of my own and if I hadn't been supported to have looked for him I might never have had all of these wonderful dogs to share my life with.
Researchers were so fascinated by this a fMRI machine was used to look at the dogs brain whilst their owners spoke to them normally and whilst they verbally praised them and found a lot of positive activity within the caudate nucleus upon hearing their owners voices.
Our dogs brains also light up when seeing or hearing their owners voice and perform playful behaviours and experience arousal when in the presence of their owner. Gábor, et al, 2019.
It's also been scientifically proven that many species differentiate important individuals, based upon their voice. Decasper and Fifer, 1980.
It's also been found that dogs develop a strong social interspecific relationship with their owners just like an infant - mother relationship. J. Topál, M. Gácsi, 2012. So pesky millennials may well view dogs as their children and dogs view us as a parental connection.
The attachment figure (owner) is used as a secure base, during exploration in a novel situation and as a safe haven in case of danger! Palmer and Custance, 2008. M. Gácsi,2013. Based upon using Bowlby's attachment theory. Bowlbys, 1958/ 1988.
In previous blogs we have discussed the dogs brain and how the dogs brain works and touched upon scent and the olfactory system and there's so many more blogs to come and so much more to explore.
But for now briefly, humans are very guilty of comparing themselves to social standards and education from the TV and this isn't anyone's fault, we are simply a product of our society and we also seek information and can land on some horrific misinforming websites on the Internet which we have already discussed.
But what about everything else, many guardians have felt and shared with me that they have felt overwhelming guilt, they haven't felt good enough, they feel embarrassed, there is something wrong with themselves or their dog or that their dog doesn't love them. They also set standards compared to others and a flicker of a relationship they see and then dramatise in their mind about how wonderful the relationship is between another dog and human.
The puppy blues is very real and it's all of the above emotions that I have just mentioned and can last for a few months to the duration of puppyhood and adolescence. H. Haragutchi, 2021. You can look up this reference below and see that her article has also been peer reviewed by a Doctor and that Hart is a licensed therapist. The puppy blues is not yet recognised as a formal mental health condition but it is recognised by mental health professionals and GP's.
There is absolutely no reason that you cannot experience further depression and anxiety related symptoms throughout the ageing of your dog and its not only absolutely OK its normal!
Especially when you set yourself to high standards and don't understand or examine the why of the behaviour!
It's so important to remember that you are working with and living with a completely different species and sometimes it can feel like you're living with a different species just sharing your home with another human.
Dogs do tend to gravitate to one human more than another for different needs, whether you're the primary caregiver or the fun one. Dogs have been found to follow the human gaze and tiny inflections of human body language as well as detecting emotions. Primary caregivers tend to be the primary caregiver for the entire home which means that they tend to be busy, whereas when the fun one comes in and the fun one plays with them, encourages jumping up, gives undivided attention and treats this all corresponds to the dog in a positive way and with the repetition of these behaviours will keep gravitating to the individual who gives them all the fun things. Kiss. O, 2020.
So if you find your dog seems to gravitate to another family or household member it's not because they don't love you, it's simply that this person is the fun one to goof around with.
Genetics plays a huge role in your dogs behaviour as well as yourself, in a huge study of 46,000 guardians and 4,000 dogs they found many traits related to genetic code markers of the same breeds. Starling. M, 2022.
As well as considering genetics and the traits of genetic codes we have to consider drives that come with genetic codes, for example over the last 10,000 years humans have bred dogs with specific roles in mind and even though humans would not have had the information we do today they did know that they wanted to breed desirable traits from the parents that they mated to create puppies through artificial selection to serve them, so even though we may have pet dogs or working line dogs within our homes we still have to accept and acknowledge that there are hereditary traits linked back to thousands upon thousands of years of specific breeding. For example it has been found that dogs have been used for protection purposes since 700 BC but we also know the German Shepherd wasn't bred until the early 1900s. Chapman, SG. 1990. E. Bray, et al, 2021.
Biological feedback is the feedback from the dogs biology and from previous blogs we have discussed how the impact of the environment, relationships and physical health can affect the dog which is all a part of biological feedback and when the dog endures stress this can upset the biological feedback loop.
We may have certain behaviours and goals in mind for our dogs and how we want them to integrate into our home or how we want a training session to go, but our dogs also have their own agendas which brings us back to their biological needs, seeking and connection seeking systems, they want a relationship with us, they want to do species based behaviours such as chewing, digging, running, playing and they may not always understand or process the feedback of training and want to fulfil their own needs.
Functional reinforcers, what does the dog see as a functional reinforcer? A functional reinforcer comes back to our history forms, when looking at the function of the behaviour for example mouthing and the function of the behaviour for the dog for example alleviating teething pain and the reinforcer from the guardian as well as anything in the environment that could be contributing to the mouthing. Horwitz. D. F, 2018.
We also look at functional reinforcers as the feedback from the dog, how the reinforcer functions for the dog and this can be applied to treats or toys you may use to reward your dog and how your dog rates the treats and rewards. For example one individual dog maybe more likely to repeat a desired behaviour for hotdogs whereas another dog maybe more likely to repeat a desired behaviour for carrots.
Arousal, there are lots of stages of arousal but they all come back to a seeking system for the dog whether this be arousal through excitement, foraging, prey drive or fear or aggression and it all comes down to the emotional state of the dog's brain at the time of seeking. Starling, et al, 2013.
So arousal whether they are excited or stressed can be a good or a bad thing and guardians are always encouraged to lower arousal as much as possible, for force free and holistic trainees and behaviourists this isn't because of trainability but for the dog's welfare and biological state.
Dogs are not simple, they are as complex as humans to understand and we have to understand that there is so much to each individual dog and no two dogs are ever the same. There are lots of biological, environmental and psychological elements to what can and does affect a dog's behaviour.
But you are good enough, your dog does love you and they don't hate you. I have tried to keep this short but there is no short answer and this is brief and not as detailed as it could be, but we don't have the time for a thesis.
A. Gábor, N. Kaszás, Á. Miklósi, T. Faragó, A. Andics
Interspecific voice discrimination in dogs
Biol. Futur., 70 (2019), pp. 121-127, 10.1556/019.70.2019.15
A.J. Decasper, W.P. Fifer
Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voices
Science, 208 (4448) (1980), pp. 1174-1176, 10.1126/science.7375928
J. Topál, M. Gácsi
Lessons we should learn from our relationship with dogs: an ethological approach
Crossing Boundaries, Investigating Human-Animal Relationships (2012), pp. 161-186, 10.1163/9789004233041_010
R. Palmer, D. Custance
A counterbalanced version of Ainsworth's strange situation procedure reveals secure-base effects in dog-human relationships
Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 109 (2-4) (2008), pp. 306-319, 10.1016/j.applanim.2007.04.002
M. Gácsi, K. Maros, S. Sernkvist, T. Faragó, Á. Miklósi
Human analogue safe haven effect of the owner: behavioural and heart rate response to stressful social stimuli in dogs
PLoS One, 8 (3) (2013), p. e58475, 10.1371/journal.pone.0058475
The nature of the childs ties to his mother
Int. J. Psychoanal. (1958)
A Secure Base: Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory
Taylor & Francis, London Routledge (1988), 10.1161/01.CIR.53.4.701
H. Haragutchi: Puppy Blues: Coping With Post-Puppy Depression 2021
O. Kiss, A. Kis, K. Scheiling and J. Topál
Behavioural and Neurophysiological Correlates of Dogs’ Individual Sensitivities to Being Observed by Their Owners While Performing a Repetitive Fetching Task 2020
Starling. M, 2022. Genetic research confirms your dog’s breed influences its personality — but so do you.
Chapman SG. Police Dogs in North America. Charles C Thomas Publisher (Springfield, IL) (1990).
Bray Emily E., Otto Cynthia M., Udell Monique A. R., Hall Nathaniel J., Johnston Angie M., MacLean Evan L. Our Canine Connection: The History, Benefits and Future of Human-Dog Interactions. 2021
Horwitz, D. F. (2018). Blackwell’s five-minute veterinary consult clinical companion: Canine and feline behavior (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
Melissa J. Starling,1,* Nicholas Branson,2 Denis Cody,3 and Paul D. McGreevy1
Animals (Basel). 2013 Jun; 3(2): 300–317.
Published online 2013 Apr 11. doi: 10.3390/ani3020300
Image description: an iceberg made of different tone blue triangles and a blue and light blue background for the top half of the sky and the bottom half of the ocean with the lower of the iceberg.
Title reads: Your dog does love you - if you ever feel your dog doesn't love you remember this... They are a different species.
The left hand side has bullet points titled how you feel with the words - embarrassment, frustration, guilt, made a mistake, not good enough, doesn't love you, judgement from others and poor dog guardian.
The bottom left hand side reads - what you aren't told - puppy blues are real, you're enough, you're not alone, you're journey is unique, social media is a snapshot, the media tells lies, TV isn't real its entertainment, dogs always gravitate to different people for different needs.
The right hand side reads what you see - listening to others, not listening to you, no recall, reactivity, unwanted behaviours, self employment, failing, prefers others.
What you don't see - species focused behaviours, biological needs, the needs of the nose, arousal, connection seeking, drive, brain response system, biological feedback, genetics, functional reinforcers and agenda.
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