How Much Affection?

It is common and normal for we humans to lavish affection on our pets.

Dogs are pack animals and it is commonly accepted they are descendants of the wolf and other wild canines.  We often underestimate or misunderstand how primal our dogs are and how we interact with them from a verbal, non verbal and affection perspective.

Each pack has one leader, there are no decisions by committee in the wild. The leader makes the decisions on behalf of all pack members. There is no negotiation, no debate.  From time to time there are challenges for leadership, but that’s a discussion for another time. The Pack leader gets up in the morning and decides what direction his, or her, pack is migrating to hunt for food and water within their respective territory.

In the wild, a pack member, or submissive, could go to the pack leader, or Alpha, and the and lick the Alpha’s chin, lips, nose, teeth and muzzle. The Alpha will usually gaze ahead and raise his or her muzzle while accepting this display of respect and/or affection.

This exchange happens in many homes between humans and dogs. When you are at home and for whatever reason, you go to your dog while they are relaxing or sleeping and say things like: “such a good dog” “pretty pup”  “you are so smart” etc and start to scratch or pet them, you are taking the role of the submissive. That is how your dog interprets your act of kindness and affection.

This human behaviour is confusing to your dog. How can the dog’s human owner be both leader and follower? It is not possible and therefore could very well lead to adverse changes in the relationship between dog and human.

To avoid this do not go to your dog for lavish affection upon them. Let them come to you. Position yourself as the leader and stay in that role at all times.

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