If you really want to understand dog psychology then you need to appreciate that your loving pet dog – yes, even your cute little Shih Tzu – is actually a wolf in dog’s clothing.
You see, for all our efforts at domesticating dogs, and all the changes we’ve made to their physical appearance, they’re still very much part of the natural, animal world.
And this means that they’re still governed by the same basic instincts that drive wolves in the wild.
Once you understand and accept this, and adjust the way you interact with your dog, then you’ll begin to develop a better understanding of dog psychology. And this will help you when it comes to training your dog.
To help you along the way here are some dog psychology notes to aid you in understanding your dog.
Dog psychology – understand the world as your dog sees it
What a dog needs
A dog’s thinking is based on drives and instincts. Basically, their needs are food, shelter, and the protection of the pack. Above all, they need a strong pack leader who they trust and are willing to follow.
Now, basically, you have two choices – you can provide your dog with the leadership he craves, or you can fail to do so. Provide leadership and your dog will obey your every command, don’t provide leadership and you’re almost guaranteed to have dog obedience problems.
How dogs communicate
A key concept in understanding dog psychology and dog behavior is to remember that dogs don’t understand words. This confuses many people because their dogs appear to understand every word they say. But what they are actually seeing is simple word-association.
Dogs are incapable of understanding words. What they mainly understand is body language, and tone of voice.
If you don’t believe me then try this experiment: take a non-threatening word – “banana” for example. Now shout it at your dog in an aggressive manner, and watch his reaction. Now do the opposite, use a threatening word, but deliver it in an affectionate tone.
Do you see what I mean? It’s your tone and body language that hold meaning for your dog.
Routines and the importance of consistency
Action and reaction play an important role in dog psychology. Dogs value certainty, and quickly become tuned into routines.
For example, your dog will quickly learn that you return home at a certain time and will look forward to your arrival. If you don’t arrive as expected your dog will soon become anxious.
This is because your dog forms expectations based on past actions, and becomes anxious if those expectations are not met.
How to be the alpha dog
In a wolf pack, the Alpha controls all of the actions of the pack, including when they eat, when they move and who receives attention.
These are the same things you control in your dog’s life. By regulating when he receives food, walks, and attention you provide certainty, and reduce frustration and anxiety.
You can learn more about being the alpha dog here: How to be pack leader
When to give affection
Now leadership is one thing, but what about showing affection to your dog? Good question. A strong pack leader knows when and how to reward a pack member with affection, and that is as a reward for good behavior.
Given any other way, it marks you out as weak. And dogs are great at exploiting weakness.
Dog psychology is complex, and like humans all dogs are different, but hopefully these pointers will give you an insight into how your dog thinks.