If you’ve ever stopped to think about it, dogs have us humans right where they want us. We think we’re in charge, but we’re the ones bending over to serve them dinner and pour them fresh water. We’re the ones bending over outside to pick up their poop. We’re the ones rearranging our schedules to take them to their regularly scheduled vet appointments. Heck, they may see their doctor more than we see ours.
As much as we like to think we’re in charge, we humans need to be a bit more humble when it comes to our furry companions. They’re smarter than we give them credit, and they pick up on much more subtlety, too. Dogs can sense emotion just as well (if not better) than humans, and as a result, they learn how to push buttons much like a toddler learns to egg on his parents.
Playing you for the emotional fool you didn’t know you were is just one way our canines get what they want by outsmarting us. You may be getting taken for a ride every day by your dog without even knowing it. We see it everyday at South Bark when dogs come in for doggy daycare, grooming or boarding for the weekend. Allow us to point out their tricks for you…
Whining to Go Outside
For any dog owner lucky enough to live with a fenced in backyard, you know the sound. The subdued, yet insistent whining. The pawing at the patio door. The final full on bark to let you know that you can’t just ignore the dog, she needs to go outside to pee!
Well, what usually happens (at least in the warmer months)? You get up from your comfortable Lay-Z-Boy to let out the pooch only to watch her casually prance around the yard smelling this and that until finally, ten minutes later, she pees and finds her way back to the patio door to be let in. God forbid you’re not standing by the door ready, otherwise the barking will be intense… at a scolding decibel. If this only happened once or twice, no big deal. But this happens all the time, right? Yes, it does. Your dog knows how to push that “let me out or I’ll pee on your carpet” button quite well. Don’t kid yourself.
Pretending to Listen to You
This is a classic all dog owners will relate to. You know the kitchen counter, right? The place where you keep things like a loaf of bread, a butter dish and maybe even a cookie jar. It’s a place with human things, not dog things. The problem is, your dog can smell what’s up there and wants at it no matter what.
So you train her not to jump up on the counter. You train her not to eat people food like bread or butter. You may even scold or punish the bad behavior, or reward the positive behavior of getting down when told to get off the counter. But what happens when you leave the house and grant your dog the run of the place? You come home to a half-eaten loaf of bread, missing butter and a smashed cookie jar.
Your dog just completed faked you out. She had you thinking she knew better. She led you to believe she had learned right from wrong. Instead, what she learned was jumping up then listening when told to jump back down was rewarded. When you weren’t home to tell her to get down and reward her for doing so, she just went ahead and took her own reward. You got dogged!
Faking an Injury to Get Attention
This is a rare case, but it has happened. The story goes a dog injured his right rear leg so badly that it required surgery. After surgery there was a period of healing required where the owners were told to limit activity and essentially wait on the dog as if he were helpless.
A few weeks later at the vet checkup, the owners reported that after they removed the bandage the dog still walked around with his previously injured hind leg raised up as if it were still bothering him. The vet checked it out and found that the bone and muscle both appeared strong. Questioning whether the owners headed his avdice to limit activity during recovery, the vet tried to lay blame on the owners. But they were adamant, saying they followed orders to limit activity and treat the dog with extra care.
Puzzled, the vet decided to do a little experiment. He bandaged up the other hind leg, the one that hadn’t been injured. Just as he suspected, as soon as the dog was without the use of that leg, he miraculously rebounded and started immediately putting weight on the previously injured (now healed) leg.
The lesson here, as with anything when you’re dealing with a dog, is to pay attention to which actions and behaviors you’re reinforcing. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates just how well a dog can pick up on what you approve or disapprove of (and what you reward). The owners had done too good a job taking care of their injured pup that he learned to milk it long after his leg had recovered.
Is your dog milking it to get what he or she wants? Probably. But don’t get too caught up in it. You have a dog because you love his or her companionship. Always let them know how much you love them. Play with them. Talk to them. Exercise with them. Just be cautious when they start to take advantage of the situation and end up forcing you to wait on them hand and paw!
‘Bark Bites’ is brought to you by South Bark Doggy Daycare, Boarding & Grooming