There Are No Bad Dogs Part 7: The Foundations of a Healthy Relationship

A dog sitting for her pet sitter and waiting to go on a dog walk with her toy

The foundation of a healthy human to human relationship is not much different than the foundation of a human to dog relationship. Why is punishment and yelling at a dog for their natural behaviors seen as such a negative? The answer is that it reinforces the wrong behavior. Look at resource guarding. If the dog views the human as a threat to their resources and then the human takes those resources away as a punishment the dog is proven right. Or with separation anxiety. The dog misses their person and tries to escape the home to be with them. In the process they destroy the blinds. If their human's first reaction when they get home is to punish the dog now not only is your leaving a negative experience then so is your return. This is not the foundation for a healthy relationship.

If you think about it in the terms of household obligations and perhaps the dishwasher needs to be emptied and you believe it is your significant other's turn to empty it. If you want to have a healthy relationship you wouldn't come in the door screaming at them to unload the dishwasher. That is going to accomplish little or nothing in the terms of them being happy to see you the next time you come home. We all get in bad moods and are subject to unhealthy or unproductive behavior but when an issue such as this arises in our human to human relationships we are able to discuss it and come to some sort of resolution. Our communication with our dog friends is mostly non-verbal but they understand anger and aggression.

Treating a pet dog in an angry or aggressive manner will result in them becoming angry or aggressive. Think about the now debunked dominance theory that was touted by a certain famous TV huckster. If this theory were applied to our human to human relationships we would call them abusive. Instead we strive to have relationships built on love, trust, and understanding. Why would we view our human to dog relationships any different than we would our human to human ones?

As my wonderful wife Lara always says the pet world follows the horse world and dominance theory likely has it's roots in how we treated beasts of burden. I'm certain you've heard of breaking a horse. Breaking is far different than training as illustrated by the linked article. Training our dogs is the foundation of our relationship with them. Unless we're Petruchio living in 1590 we aren't going to view breaking as the foundation of a strong human to human relationship. Our pet dogs might have their origins as working or war breeds but that time is long passed and even for the dogs that still function in those roles the age of serfs and servants has long passed at the human level. The key to healthy relationships is building relationships on a foundation of love, trust, and understanding.

It is this last one that gets lost in translation between humans and their pets as there are no easy ways for us to communicate with our pets. They can't tell us what is bothering them or what they'd like you to change in their environment to make them more comfortable. That doesn't mean that they won't tell us. We just have to take the time and put in the work to understand the ways in which dogs communicate because they will communicate with us we just have to be willing to learn the signs.

#OperantConditioning #HumanBehavior #DogBehavior #Relationships

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