Know: perceive, be aware of, comprehend, understand, grasp, appreciate, recognize
“He only likes canned food for breakfast.”
”She doesn’t get along with small dogs.”
“He loves going for car rides.”
Knowing your dog doesn’t mean knowing only his likes and dislikes. It’s much deeper than that, but is understood by few dog owners. Knowing your dog means understanding who he is, what he does, and why he does the things he does. What makes him tick?
Who is he?
What is your dog’s temperament? His general attitude toward people and other dogs. Is he calm, playful, easy-going, confident, shy, submissive, dominant, independent? Also, what is he like physically? How strong is he? How hard does he like to play? How fast can he move? Is he sensitive anywhere on his body?
What’s he doing?
What is your dog telling you? Dogs are always communicating their feelings and intentions. They communicate in three ways: body language, energy and actions. First, you need to be able to read your dog’s body language in order to predict his behavior. (Body language is the communication of the parts of the body interpreted as a whole.) Learning to recognize and interpret a dog’s body language is pretty straightforward. Each individual body part signals something specific—ears, eyes, mouth, tail, muzzle, head and overall body stance—but putting together all of those elements is what gives you the complete picture. For example, a dog’s ears pinned back can mean aggression, fear or contentment, but knowing which of those is being communicated depends upon what the other parts of the body are doing at that same instant. Second, what energy is he giving off? Calmness, excitement, fear, aggression? You not only need to know how to read your own dog’s energy but also that of other dogs and of yourself. This is often the toughest part for most people since we’re just not as in-tune with energy as dogs are. Third, how does your dog then act after he’s shown us his body language and demonstrated his energy? Does he jump up on people? Does he grab food from the kitchen countertop? Does he guard resources such as food, toys or people? Does he lunge at other dogs? And does he do these things only some of the time?
Why does he behave that way?
Whether it’s good behavior (greeting a new dog or person calmly and quietly) or bad behavior (lunging at another dog or jumping up on people), you need to understand why he acts that way. Because when you understand why, you’ll know what you need to work on. For example, if your dog takes food from the kitchen counter, it (generally) means that he doesn’t respect you. So you’d need to work on gaining your dog’s respect. If your dog nips at people who approach him, it means he doesn’t trust the people (again, generally). In that case, you’d need to teach your dog to learn to trust.
Gaining a complete understanding of your dog is something that you can accomplish. It allows you to see how to best provide for him and how you can achieve the ultimate, natural Leader-Follower relationship that we all want.
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