Affection is an important part of the human dog bond and when thoughtfully utilized, can be beneficial for both dog and owner. However badly timed affection can worsen problems, build over stimulation, reward inappropriate behavior, and create instability in some dogs. Want to learn a few simple tips to help ensure you are giving your dog the affection they need? Read on…
Lets start with discussing when affection/attention should be given. If most or even some of the time that you are giving your dog affection is when they are in an excited state of mind (think you just got home from work or always in the middle of high energy play time) you are actually conditioning your dog to stay in that excited state. It would be like giving them a treat every time they started to get excited. For a medium or high energy dog, this can create issues ranging from hyperactivity to jumping on guests, separation anxiety and even an inability to control their own impulses.
In addition, if you have a dog who is pushy or demanding for affection/attention and you pet them when they show those behaviors, you are not only rewarding them for acting pushy, you are creating a dynamic where you give into them regularly (and then we have to ask, who is training who??). You might not even notice how demanding your dog is being for your attention but if you really step back and watch their behavior you might be surprised. If your dog constantly brings you toys expecting you to play whenever they feel like it, or if they bark at you, invade your space regularly, nudge you repeatedly and have mastered the begging look, chances are you have been rewarding these pushy behaviors. And even though they can be quite cute, your dog’s pushiness can send them the wrong message about who is in charge which can spiral into other problems.
So how do you solve these issues? It’s pretty simple! For over excited dogs, get in the habit of ignoring them when they are too excited (for each dog this can be a little different but typical signs of over excitement are fast movements, tail wagging uncontrollably, barking/whining, jumping up, zoomies, and inability to hold still). So yes when you first get home and your dog is SO excited to see you, it’s best to simply ignore them until they have a chance to calm down, as difficult as that may be. The more you do it, the more it will become second nature to you and your dog.
Also remember to not give in to pushy behavior! If you dog demands something from you, ignore them or tell them no and stand your ground. Then when they give up, you can call them over and give them what they wanted because now it’s on your terms not theirs!
The important point to realize is that, once you get started, you actually can give your dog the same amount of affection and attention so long as you do it when they are in a calmer state of mind and are not being pushy about it! Doing so ensures you have the same close relationship while also assisting your dog to be well mannered and stable.