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When Humans Shape Canine Behaviour: Exploring the Dynamics of Dog Behaviour and Human Influence

23/08/2023 - Puppy & Dog Training Advice

As a training school founded by a qualified and experienced canine behaviourist, we have helped many dogs and owners address behavioural issues. Behavioural issues can have a huge impact on our dogs’ welfare, both our dogs’ and our own quality of life and can cause immense stress to humans and dogs alike. While some behavioural issues can be caused by things outside of our control, such as genetic factors and traumatic events, many behavioural problems could be prevented before they even begin with a deeper understanding of our dog’s needs. We often view behavioural problems as an issue on the dog’s part, but it’s a valuable exercise for us to stop and think about how different situations are perceived by our dogs. The below is written from a dog’s perspective, outlining the behavioural problems their human is having!
I am an adolescent, 7-month-old pup and I need help! After five months together, I think my human needs a behaviourist – they were very sweet when I first adopted them, but things now seem to have gone awry! I’ll do my best to summarise the problem behaviours I’ve observed so far…
Handling Issues
Sometimes my human seems very comfortable and confident with handling! We cuddle on the sofa, play fight and have big hugs when they walk in the door. Then, out of the blue, they seem to have a major issue with any kind of contact – I jump up to say hello, and they growl, bark and avoid me! This is very confusing to me as, for the first several months we lived together, these things were no problem at all. I climbed up on the furniture for a cuddle and they were always pleased, we played boisterously and I ALWAYS jumped up for cuddles and attention and was met with nothing but a happy and loving human. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to interact with them now – I was careful to learn all about what they did and didn’t like during those first few months and just when I thought I had it all figured out, they seem to have totally changed the rules.
Poor Social Skills
I’ve always tried to communicate clearly with my human – if I don’t want to play or be handled, I make it as obvious as possible by moving away and asking nicely, turning away and ignoring them. However, they often ignore this and continue to invade my space regardless! I’ve obviously gone wrong somewhere in the socialisation process for them to be so blind to social cues. When it’s something I REALLY don’t want them to do, I’m always very fair and use verbal communication first, such as growling. They seem to have no frustration tolerance and don’t take well to a firm “no thank you” AT ALL, often barking, growling and carrying on regardless! I really don’t want to have to resort to physical corrections but I’m getting to the end of my tether with them now – if they won’t listen to me, what else am I meant to do?
Attachment Issues
This is the one that makes me feel the worst for my poor human – as social creatures, I thought all dogs and humans wanted to spend time together. In fact, I’m sure most dogs adopt humans primarily for companionship! However, my human leaves the house for LONG stretches of time several days of the week. This is so disappointing to me, as I am left bored and alone all day and am missing out on valuable bonding time with my person. If they’re going to continue wandering off and abandoning me like this, I think rehoming might be best for everyone as I didn’t get a human just be sat by myself all day – humans are supposed to be great companions who enrich our lives!
Unpredictable Aggression
I mentioned this a little when I was explaining my human’s terrible social skills, but it goes further than that. They will suddenly bark, growl and behave in an intimidating way for seemingly no reason. Sometimes it happens when I try to initiate play, it can even happen sometimes when I’m minding my own business having a good chew on something! It’s really unclear to me what’s triggering these random outbursts – they seem to want me to stop whatever I’m doing, but I’m not sure what’s so bad about natural canine behaviours like playing, chewing, digging etc.? Not to mention, I love doing these things and if I can’t find an outlet for these behaviours that my human will tolerate then I’m not sure how we will ever live together harmoniously!
Resource Guarding
This might be the most baffling one of all – my human seems to be OBSESSED with food and VERY possessive over it! They often hover over my dinner while I’m trying to eat, which as you can imagine is more than a little stressful! On top of this, they will insist on trying to take my favourite snacks away from me when I’m right in the middle of enjoying them?! It’s one of the most intolerable behavioural issues I’m dealing with and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do – as mentioned above, they are easily triggered by being told “no” and are terrible at reading social cues so it doesn’t seem to matter whether I run off to the other end of the house or even growl, they just insist on stealing food from me. Again, physical corrections are something I am trying desperately to avoid but I’m at a total loss – I just want to be able to eat in peace and relax!
Overly Dog- and People-Oriented (won’t listen to me at all around them!)
Despite their lack of social skills, my human is incredibly excited by strange dogs and humans and wants to meet them ALL. This is quite stressful because it’s so exhausting having to greet everyone I meet whenever we go for a walk. I’d honestly much rather just pass on by and enjoy our time together. It seems strange to me that my human wants to meet total strangers, too? As far as I know, humans are social in a similar way to us dogs and they thrive on building solid friendships – who wants to play with every rando they see in the street?! I’ve tried very hard to express how I feel about this to my human, but again they seem to completely misinterpret every single thing I do and continue to put me in unpredictable, overwhelming social situations with total strangers. I’m having to resort to literally yelling at the other people and dogs to let them know I DON’T want to say hello and to please GO AWAY because it’s obvious my human won’t listen to me!
So, we can see that when we put ourselves in our dogs’ shoes it is rarely as simple as we think. Many behavioural issues begin and develop due to a lack of appropriate outlets for natural behaviours, inconsistency, a lack of communication, a lack of training or mismanagement on our part. Not every aspect of dog ownership is fun or convenient, but we owe it to our dogs – who we chose to bring into our homes – to do what we can to understand what they’re trying to tell us and what their needs are. Accommodating some of their needs may feel like an adjustment at first, but in the long run it will lead to an easier, more harmonious life and a happy companion for years to come, leaving us space to enjoy each other’s company and make memories together. 
If your dog is not behaving, take a moment to ask yourself – are they causing the problem, or is it something we’re doing or not doing that is creating this situation? If you’re not sure what to do, you’re not alone – we’re here to help. Book a 121 today to talk to a qualified professional who can help you understand your dog and offer you practical, realistic advice on what to do. 

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