Dogs are amazing!
- They seemingly give us unconditional love.
- They have great empathy and know when and how to give us emotional support.
- They are always ready for adventure and fun.
- They don’t nag and they accept us for who we are.
- They act as if it is Christmas morning every time we come home from work.
We interpret our dog’s behavior through our very human lens. It is therefore not too surprising that we would want to humanize our dogs and make them into one of us.
However, dogs are not humans and treating them like a human can sometimes bring disastrous results. Similarly, humans are not dogs. When we try to bite a dog with our fingers, it does not work out very well either.
“Men and dogs are not alike, although some men try to make them so. White men.” Oogruk had laughed. “Because they try to make people out of dogs and in this way they make the dogs dumb. But to say that a dog is not smart because it is not as smart as a man is to say that snow is not smart. Dogs are not men. And as dogs, if they are allowed to be dogs, they are often smarter than men.”
Treating a Dog Like a Human
- We dress our dogs up to look like humans.
- We feed our dogs human food.
- We project human motives and human emotions onto our dogs.
There is nothing wrong with dressing our dog up, as long as we are careful not to cause him any physical harm, and as long as he is tolerant of wearing human type clothes.
There is nothing wrong with feeding our dog some human food as long as we make sure that what we feed him is balanced, not too rich for a dog’s digestive system, and does not contain any ingredients that may be poisonous to dogs.
My dogs love boiled chicken, turkey, and sardines. However, some common people food including chocolates, onions, coffee, grapes, spices, and macadamia nuts, are not appropriate for dogs and can cause them great harm.
We run into the most problems when we project human motives and emotions onto our dogs. Dogs just do not think like us. If they did, they wouldn’t be the amazing companions that we love so dearly.
Max pooped all over my carpet because he wanted to pay me back for leaving him alone all day.
Susie growled at me today when I tried to pet her during meal-time. She must not love me anymore. What an ungrateful bitch.
Dogs do not take revenge on us for leaving them alone. Max likely pooped because he was unused to being alone and became overly stressed. This is also known as separation anxiety.
Dogs growl as a form of communication. They are telling us that they feel uncomfortable or threatened by our proximity. Dogs may growl when people approach their food, toys, or other resources because they have learned through constant repetition that people usually take their stuff away. This is also known as food aggression or resource guarding.
By assigning human motives and emotions to our dog, we miss the true source of his misbehavior; and miss our chance to properly help and retrain him to live well with us.
Bad dog behavior has nothing to do with revenge, ungratefulness, or lack of love.
The main reasons for bad dog behavior include –
- Improper training or no training.
Dogs do not come with a human-rulebook. They do not know which behaviors are viewed by us to be good, and which are viewed to be bad. It is up to us, to properly teach them our rules.
When a dog is locked up all day with nothing to do, he will become frustrated. He may bark at shadows, charge the fence, chew up our house, or escape.
- Fear or stress.
Dogs may become fearful or anxious of objects, dogs, people, or situations that they perceive to be threatening. Because they are dogs and not humans, what they perceive as threatening may seem silly or surprising to us. However, if we want to rehabilitate a fearful dog, what matters is his perception and not ours.
- Physical pain or ailment.
When a dog is in pain or otherwise feeling unwell, he may feel more vulnerable. As a result, he may strike out in situations where he is normally tolerant or calm.
Dogs Are Not Human But …
It is true that dogs are not human. However, this does not mean that we should treat them poorly, neglect them, ignore their needs, or cause them pain and stress.
- Dogs need medical care. It is true that in the wild, animals have little or no access to medical care. However, it is also true that animals who receive medical care, have a longer life span than their wild brothers. It is a good idea to take our dog in for regular vet examinations, teeth cleaning, as well as vaccination shots. This ensures that he will not only have a longer life, but also a better quality of life.
- Dogs need exercise, and the freedom to explore, dig and play. Our dogs may not think or act like us, but they have needs and goals, just as we do. When a dog’s needs are neglected or left unfulfilled, he may try to meet some of them on his own. This is when he starts jumping over fences, digging up our prize roses, and tearing apart our designer shoes.
- Dogs need routine, consistency, and training. Routine and consistency are important because they help a dog understand what he can expect from us, and what we expect from him in return. This reduces uncertainty and stress, as well as helps our dog build confidence. We also need to teach a dog our human rules, so that he can be safe, living in our very people oriented environment.
- Dogs feel pain and stress. Dogs may not be human, but just like us, they feel pain and stress. When we apply shock corrections, collar corrections, finger jabs, and muzzle slaps, our dog will feel pain. When we alpha roll a dog and loom over him threateningly, he will get stressed and fearful. These techniques are not magical – they work precisely because they apply pain. They can work on people as well, depending on our definition of ‘work’.
Dogs are not human.
All this means is that we should not project human emotions or motives onto their misbehaviors. Rather, we should try to understand them based on their needs, and not ours.
Differences are good, differences are healthy, and differences make us stronger. We should not try to make our dogs be like us, nor should we try to make ourselves be like our dogs. Instead, we get the best results when we take the time and effort to understand our dogs, as they have taken the time and effort to understand us.
Dogs do not react better to pain and aggression, just because they are dogs and not men. In fact, this study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that pain and dominance based rehabilitation methods frequently encourage aggression in dogs.
Dogs are not humans, but neither are we dogs. We may try to bite our dogs with fingers, alpha roll them, and physically dominate them. However, this will not convince anyone, least of all our dogs, that we are of the canine persuasion. Unlike us, dogs know what they are, and that we are different.
What these techniques do is apply pain and stress to a dog, which in turn causes an aversive response. This may discourage our dog from repeating a behavior, because he wants to avoid further pain and stress. In this way, dominance based techniques may ‘work’, for some values of work. However, pain and stress also lead to a lower quality of life and a bond that is based on fear.
We earn a dog’s respect and become a true pack leader by protecting our pack; not by inflicting pain on our pack members.
I treat my dog like a human but not in a creepy way. I won’t dress him up or give him dog desserts or whatever, I just don’t want to train him or make him sit on the floor. I do buy him toys and take him for walks and such, but I don’t want him to obey me or sit and roll over when I tell him too. I want to take naps with him and sit with him on the couch like I would with a human being.
Hi Sabrina. I don’t think the article is suggesting not to teach your dog tricks or for him not to obey you. Teaching you dog to sit is very good for both human and dog. It’s a precursor to many other essential commands like stay/wait and come. There will be times your dog wants to do something dangerous and being able to command him not makes life much better for you and your dog.
Your dog is an animal, but a domesticated animal, bred to obey humans and live in a human society. He absolutely needs you to be the boss and take charge so that you can guide him through that world.
Hey ShibaShake, I was wondering about some tips for training a new Shiba puppy. I hope to get one soon but since they’re such a different breed I’ve been reading up on new training methods. In some of your articles you mention the best way to keep a shiba form doing something is to not give it attention when they do something wrong. Well, what do I do to stop them from doing something like digging in the trash or when they are starting to tear up cushions? Wouldn’t picking them up and putting them in a pen/moving them away from the bad thing they are doing be giving them attention for the bad thing they are doing? And then since shiba’s are smart they may remember that I didn’t exactly like it when they dug through the trash, and may pick it up as a habit for attention. But I also can’t exactly just let them dig through the trash and ignore it, so how do I stop them when they are doing something bad without letting them know they will be getting attention from it or I don’t like what they did? The Shiba’s behave differently from other dogs in so many ways but I’ve just fallen in love with the breed and really want to prepare to get one.
That is a great question.
When my dog gets into trash, he is usually not trying to get my attention. Instead, the trash itself is the reward. Trash smells good to him, and there are many ‘new things’ in there that he can eat or play with. These are things that he will never get otherwise. The same is true for when a dog jumps on counters or tables – he gets rewarded with whatever is on the counter or the table.
Since the reward is the trash or table-stuff, ignoring my dog in this case, will not have an effect.
To stop the behavior, I want to make sure that my dog *never* gets rewarded for the behavior. Therefore, either I have to be there to supervise and stop him *before* he gets anything, or I have to make sure that there is nothing for him to get.
With trash, we have it in a closed space or container that our dogs cannot get to. Otherwise, I am there to supervise and make sure nobody goes trash diving. If my dog does it, I no-mark then body block him away from the area. Then, I get him to do something else. If he keeps going back, then he has to leave the room. In this way, my dog learns that –
Trash diving = get nothing and lose access to certain rooms,
No trash diving = get more freedom and get to be with his people.
The thing with dog behavior and dog training is that it is very context dependent, and the details of each situation are important, as well as the temperament of the dog. The general principles of how dogs learn are the same, but I need to change my motivators depending on the situation and depending on my dog.
Send us some picture links of your puppy when you get him. 😀
Thanks for the advice shiba, I’ll definitely use it when I do get a puppy. Right now I’m still deciding and working things out but the shiba’s are such adorable, smart, and amazing dogs so I’m pretty sure my mind is set.
This article has some good input from other Shiba owners. 😀
Why are Shiba Inus one of the most difficult breeds to train.
Hi, Ive had a Shiba Inu for about 6 years and i also have a terrier who ive had for 11. The two dogs get along great 98% of the time and truly are brother and sister. But ever since about three years after we got the shiba she has been attacking my other dog. The attacks are some times about once a month or she will go 4 months without attacking. Its obvious that she is the dominate one of the pack and it seems that she attacks when she is jealous of the other dog or thinks he is getting more attention. For example most of the attacks happen when someone in our family arrives at the house and is coming through the door, if she thinks that the other dog is getting to that person first then she will attack (the other dog tries to defend himself but is old and really cant very well). We have to physically pull her off the other dog which results in us getting bit. I know this problem should have been corrected years ago but our family never knew how. Last night was the worst fight yet, it resulted in the terriers ear being bit pretty badly. He doesnt seem to be bothered so much with it now and they are getting along normally but my parents said if it happens again we have to get rid of the shiba. Im attached to her and i will do ANYTHING to prevent this from happening again. Please respond im desperate, i dont want my other dog to get hurt anymore but i cant give up my shiba.
Three things that helped with my Shiba Inu-
1. Get help from a *good* professional trainer.
Based on what you describe, the best thing to do would be to get help from a professional trainer.
2. Learn all that I can about dog training and dog behavior.
I read a lot of articles, books, and studies on dog training and dog behavior. However, there is a lot of misinformation out there, therefore, I rely most on –
a) Scientific studies.
b) Articles from the top veterinarian schools (those which also have a strong behavioral branch) – e.g. University of Pennsylvania and UC Davis. For example, here is an article on dominance and aggression from UC Davis.
c) Well established dog advocate organizations (e.g. RSPCA, ASPCA).
3. The key with dog fights is *prevention*.
Prevention is very important because we *do not* want our dog to practice aggressive behaviors, and have it become a habit. With my dogs, I prevent fights *before* they occur through supervision and proper management.
I set up a fixed routine and teach them clear interaction rules. I separate my dogs if necessary, use muzzles if necessary, and make sure to set them up for success. For example, if I know that they are most likely to start a fight when guests come, then I make sure to keep them separated and properly secured *before* opening the door. In general, I identify things that trigger the behavior, properly manage them when such triggers occur, and also work on safely desensitizing them to those triggers. This is also something that a professional trainer can help with.
Agree! But how can we clearly show our ‘pack’ we are protecting them? Is providing food, shelter, and affection adequate to demonstrate we are their protectors?
My two females have had a few bloody fights over dominance issues. Do we have to establish an order for which dog gets fed first, which dog goes through the door first, etc.?
I love this quote from Dogsong by Gary Paulsen:
“‘Men and dogs are not alike, although some men try to make them so. White men.’ Oogruk had laughed. ‘Because they try to make people out of dogs and in this way they make the dogs dumb. But to say that a dog is not smart because it is not as smart as a man is to say that snow is not smart. Dogs are not men. And as dogs, if they are allowed to be dogs, they are often smarter than men.'”
That is a great quote! I will have to include it in the article.
Very good article. Great points made in it. Maybe people treat their dog too humanly and diaster does happen.
Great articles – love the pics. Good luck with the new ones!
@lundmusik – Hahaha yeah I like the darker mask as well. Sibes are awesome dogs.
@quicksand – QS! Always good to see you. Thanks for all the wooves. Thousands of meows back to you and only the good kind. 😉
MaxInu and SuzieInu, two new dogs? That means two new bosses, right? Good luck and thousands of wooves and good wishes!
I love your huskie pictures,, especially the young one that looks like he/she still has eyeliner on (our female had that until she got to a certain age)