23 Mar 5 things you do that your dog actually hates
Dogs are darn loyal, but sometimes we humans make being our best friend a little difficult. Since they can’t speak, it’s often hard to know when you’re getting under their fur.
We’ve made a list of 5 things you do that your dog actually hates, to help you avoid pushing your best mate away by accident.
1. Using words more than body language
Dogs can’t understand human language, so if you’re going to chit-chat, your body language matters.
We’re a vocal species. We love to chatter away, even at our pets, who can’t understand the vast majority of what we’re saying. Dogs might be able to deduce what a few key words mean — walk, treat, toy, off — and maybe even learn hundreds of words as some border collies have done. But they can’t understand human language.
A great experiment (and something that will probably have your dog sighing with relief) is to try to spend a whole day not saying a word to your dog, but communicating only with your body. You’ll realize just how much you “talk” with your body without realizing it, how to use your movements and body position to get the response you need from your dog during training, and how involved a conversation can be without emitting a single sound.
2. Hugging your dog
While you might love wrapping your arms around a furry canine friend, most dogs hate hugs. We as primates think hugs are awesome and express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It’s totally normal to us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Rather than camaraderie, if a dog places a foreleg or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. No matter your intentions with hugging, a dog is hardwired to view the act of hugging as you exerting your dominance. Many dogs will tolerate it with grace — the smiling face of the family golden retriever with a child’s arms wrapped around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just flat out loathe the feeling — and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is why many dog bites occur. Also, the same dog that enjoys one person’s hug might react entirely differently with another family member who tries the same thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually enjoys or seeks out hugs.
If you’re wondering if your dog hates your hugs, just pay attention to her body language when you go in for a cuddle. Does she tense up? Lean her head away from you? Avoid even a hint of eye contact? Lick her lips? Keep her mouth closed? Pull her ears back against her head? All of these are signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Yes, even the dog licking her lips while someone snuggles her is not showing that she is overcome with love, it is showing submissive, even nervous behaviour. So next time you want to go in for a hug, pay very close attention to whether or not the dog is okay with it. After all, you’re putting your face right next to a set of sharp teeth.
3. Petting a dog’s face or patting her head
Do you like to be patted on the head? Our guess is no. Having someone reach out and tap us on the head, no matter how lovingly, is not something most of us enjoy. If someone were to reach their hand toward your face, I’m guessing your reaction would be to pull your head back and lean away and get a little tense about the invasion of personal space. Yet most humans think that dogs like being patted on the head.
The reality is that while many dogs will put up with this if it’s someone they know and trust, most dogs don’t enjoy it. You may notice that even the loving family dog might lean away slightly when you reach for her face to pet her. She’ll let you because you’re the boss, but she doesn’t like it. It’s a personal space issue for dogs just as much as it is for us. This is why responsible parents teach their children to gently pet a dog’s back or rear, but don’t pat, and definitely don’t go for the dog’s face. If you really want to reward your dog for being awesome, don’t bang on their head, but give them a rub on their rear end right by the tail. They’ll thank you for it.
4. Walking up to a strange dog while looking her in the eye
Dogs find eye contact with strangers as unnerving as we do. If you want to say hello to a new dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you, approach with your body angled slightly (not with your shoulders squared toward the dog), your eyes slightly averted, and speak quietly with a gentle voice. All these body language cues of friendship will help a dog understand you mean no harm. The dog might still want nothing to do with you, but at least you didn’t approach in a scary way that could cause a defensive or aggressive reaction.
5. Not providing structure and rules
Dogs want, need and love rules. You might think having strict rules makes life boring or unhappy for your dog. But dogs really want to know what’s what according to their leader. Rules make life a lot more predictable, a lot less confusing and a lot less stressful.
And speaking of confusing, dogs don’t understand exceptions to rules. They don’t understand that they’re allowed to jump on you when you have leisure clothes on but not when you have work clothes on. They don’t understand that they’re allowed on the couch after a bath but not after coming in from a romp in the mud. Additionally, saying “No” for breaking a rule but not actually doing something to help the dog stop the behaviour and learn the rule doesn’t count as enforcement. Dogs thrive when they know where the boundaries are, and when you spend time enforcing consistent boundaries with positive rewards, you also are building up their trust in you as a leader. You’re setting up conditions for a very happy dog!
Keen to learn more about how to be the best dog parent? Explore our other articles about the elusive doggo world.
Looking to adopt a dog? Chat to the RSPCA.