When I say dog psychology, I don’t mean solving all of your dog’s psychological issues; just like people, they can have a lot. However, if you want to train your dog and expect him to obey you there is some dog psychology involved. The way you talk to your dog, interact with him, and play with him will affect his responses as you teach him all the fine skills you want him to know. Correcting his bad behavior patterns, teaching him amazing tricks, and instructing him to obey life-saving commands all require great understanding and communication skills.
Dogs are Anthropomorphic
What? That’s a huge word. Anthropomorphism is when non-human creatures display human characteristics. This describes dogs perfectly. My dogs act like children in every sense of the word. I can communicate verbally with them, reason with them, and interact with them and they understand when they are being good or bad, they understand punishments and learn from them, and can tell me very well what they want and what they don’t want.
This is where I sometimes disagree with a lot of dog “experts.” Many will say that dogs don’t experience emotions that people do, but I have witnessed it first-hand. Yes, many emotions can be explained away by “pack behavior” but it doesn’t have to be black and white. If I am angry with my dog or if I am leaving, he is clearly sad. If I give my other dogs treats and leave one out, he is clearly anxious and if I give one dog attention and not the other, he is clearly jealous. Dogs display these emotions in lots of ways and as far as I am concerned, the sooner we stop treating them like objects and start treating them like living beings with emotions, the better.
Back to pack behavior. This is where their primitive side kicks in and will give you lots of grief if you don’t nip it in the bud. Beginning the first day you bring your dog home, you need to lay down ground rules for him. Dogs need a crate to serve as their “den” and special place for them to rest. They need to be potty trained immediately, and they need to be obedient. These three things need to happen in order to have a healthy relationship with your dog. Don’t ever feel bad about crating your dog at night or when you are away. Although you feel bad about it, dogs grow to love their crates and see them as special and safe havens. Once you train him, you will be able to leave the door open and see him willingly and happily go inside to rest. It could be a tough sell but trust me, there is no better thing than a crate-trained dog.
Dogs are pack animals and will instinctively look to you as the leader of the pack. If you give them too much freedom (sleeping in the bed, eating whatever they want to, not walking nicely on a leash and pulling you around, barking, nipping, etc.) they will take advantage quickly and think they are above you. Once this happens it’s difficult to reverse. Do yourself and him a favor and train him firmly and quickly.