Dog behaviour advice is unregulated, so are dog trainers and those that have chosen to interpret between dogs and their people. The problem with this, is the myths.
Some people that have appointed themselves advisors are making things more complicated. They misrepresent dogs and misinterpret what the dog is thinking, doing and communicating. The fact is, with lack of effort and determined education few can glean much from the dog at all. Yet, sadly what some don’t know they make up. Then we get the fairytales.
The Point Scoring Dog
“keep an eye out if your dog stops half way across the room or at the park and gets you to walk the rest of the way to him. Also keep an eye out for when you’re clipping the leash on and he even tricks you into taking just one step closer to him. That is not a mistake! It’s the dog testing your leadership skills”
The above quote was found online just this morning. Guess what. It’s a fairytale! Now, here’s the science.
There are a number of reasons that dogs don’t come all the way to you when called and none of them are based on a paranoid, imagined points board.
A dog may not come all the way back because he’s never learned to. Dogs, just like people, repeat things due to motivation and previous result. If your dog stops before he gets to you, you simply might not be interesting enough, or you might not have showed him what you want in a way that he understands. Change your voice, get on your haunches and give him some motivation to come all the way. He will soon get the idea and be running to you with glee.
A more sinister reason for not returning all the way is anxiety or even fear. Some dogs learn fear way before they get in our lives. Others, particularly the most sensitive can learn it from being misunderstood by the people that should be trying the hardest to communicate properly, us.
If a worried dog gives pause, he might be anxious and if we in turn believe he is point scoring, our attitude towards him changes too.
Here’s some more science.
Dogs read the emotional response on our face, often before we feel it. This is called Left Gaze Bias. So, if your dog stops halfway across the room and you have been taught to think he is point scoring, you will show a brief flit of annoyance. The dog sees that and decides you’re not safe. Is he less likely to return to you or will he run to you with glee? What do you think?
Dogs don’t score points, they don’t have an imaginary scorecard in their heads.
If you are a welcoming, attractive and motivational prospect by showing your dog that coming back is the best option at the time, he will come back. It’s simple behavioural science based on brain chemistry and decades of research.
Dogs are our friends, they deserve to feel safe, we bought them into our lives and should learn their language. Please don’t let any self-appointed, expert misrepresent your dog by believing their fairytale based dog behaviour advice. Use common sense, learn some canine communication signals from the scientists and become your dog’s go-to hero instead.