Dogs Should Be Dogs
A lot of times as dog walkers we are called in to work with dogs that are new to their home and we find people with a lot of differing ideas on how a dog should behave. One time we were told that the dog needed to be broken of the habit of sniffing on the walk. At this point we have two options. The first option is to be responsible business owners and dog walkers and explain that when you hire us you get our philosophies and beliefs about dog behavior and that we believe that since dogs experience the world through their sense of smell that one of the most unkind things you can do to a dog is not to let him sniff when out for a walk. The second option is to ignore the comment and do what we're going to do anyway.
Obviously the first option is much better and it lets us find out if we are a good match for the client at the meet and greet. We understand that we aren't the best dog walkers for everyone. Our dog walks focus on enrichment and entertainment for the dog and we want our mid-day dog walks to be like checking Facebook or reading the newspaper for the dog. Sniffing is how dogs learn what has been happening in their neighborhood and not letting them sniff when out for a mid-day adventure is like taking a kid to the zoo and punishing him for looking at the animals.
Sniffing and smelling on dog walks are just one way in which dogs should be dogs. One of the worst mistakes a person can make with a dog is to teach them not to growl. Growling can be intimidating, as it's meant to be, to people and other dogs, but that is its purpose. Growling and baring teeth is a dog's polite way of saying, "Back off buddy. I'm not comfortable with you just yet." If a person or another dog can't respect a dog's personal space then bad things will happen after a growl but that first warning is very important and dogs that have been taught not to growl aren't more polite. They are, in fact, more likely to be the dogs that bite without warning because they were taught the warning was a bad behavior.
If we think about the games we play with dogs and the typical behavior of dog ancestors we start to understand dogs a lot better. Dogs chew to keep their teeth sharp, the rip cushions and plush toys apart because they want to get to the insides, they chase things, and when they catch them they play keep away or tug. These are all common behaviors of a hunting species. Think about a pack of dogs in the wild and imagine their days. Those days would include a lot of chewing, chasing, dissecting, and playing keep away or tug with their kill. Since these are all common dog behaviors we don't want to extinguish them from our dogs lives. We instead want to redirect them so that the dog is chewing on chew toys, dissecting kongs or puzzle boxes, chasing tennis balls, and playing tug with rope toys. These are all great fun dog behaviors and will keep keep your pet dog a dog while managing their behavior and having them fit in our way of life.