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Can I hug my dog and still be the master?

Posted on 2016-12-08 16:44:00

Dogs have been our loyal companions for thousands of years. In today’s society, they are an important part of our families. But they are still animals and for this reason, it is hard for us to communicate with them. 

Most people have the tendency of attributing human characteristics and/or feelings to dogs, which leads to misunderstanding between dogs and humans. Given our close proximity with this animal species it is important to learn their language—because they cannot learn ours! Understanding our dogs allows us to train them and live happier lives. 

Dog’s natural instincts

Creating a hierarchy in the family is one of the most important aspects of housetraining. We should start by understanding dog's natural instincts and use that knowledge to train them. Healthy relationships with dogs require an understanding of the dog's need for leadership, and the need to shape our own behavior to earn the dog's respect and establish ourselves as the masters without the use of force.

The alpha dog

In the wild, dogs live in groups, called packs. In a pack, one dog is the leader or the alpha dog. The pack leader eats first, mates first and basically, runs the show. All the other dogs in the pack have a unique place in the hierarchy. Dogs further down the hierarchy ladder may occasionally challenge more dominant dogs but will be quickly put back in their place, reinforcing the hierarchy.

Being the master

We all love to cuddle our pets and it is completely OK to do so. But we need to learn when it is appropriate to cuddle our dogs. Ideally, a simple obedience command such as “sit” should be given before we cuddle, pet, feed, or play with our dog. This will teach them that they need to earn those rewards.

Any attention given to your dog, including cuddling, should be given when the human decides attention is to be given. This means that you should not pet him when he nudges or paws you. This would be letting the dog decide and reinforcing, in his mind, that he is higher on the scale than the human.

About the author:

Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.