We as the human species unfairly place human emotions on dogs. Â Have you ever heard someone say or perhaps youâ€™ve caught yourself saying, â€œMy dog knows he did wrongâ€, or how about this, â€œMy dog knows heâ€™s guiltyâ€, or better yet â€œMy dog did that just to spite me because heâ€™s mad at me.â€Â Iâ€™m here to tell you, dogs donâ€™t think like that.Â What weâ€™re doing is placing human emotions on our dogs to explain their behavior.
Dogs respond in the moment to their physical surroundings, available resources, and social pressures.Â They donâ€™t sit there and think, â€œyou know, I didnâ€™t like it when Dad/Mom yelled at me earlier today so Iâ€™m going to rip out their cable line attached to the house and Iâ€™m going to do it when they least expect it.Â Iâ€™ll show them!â€Â Dogs just donâ€™t think like that.Â Although we all have very smart dogs, they donâ€™t sit there and think out plans of revenge.
Whatâ€™s really happening is dogs are opportunists looking for opportunities to take, possess, and/or guard resources.Â In the above example with the cable wire, itâ€™s much simpler behavior thatâ€™s being expressed than an outrageous act of revenge.Â The dog has too much unsupervised time outside with fun toys available for him to amuse himself with.Â Trust me, I know this personally.Â I looked out the window one day to find my young German Shepherd ripping out my professional grade landscape edging. Iâ€™m here to tell ya,Â my dog Zena lived a pampered dogâ€™s life with plenty of food, exercise, and massages. There wasnâ€™t anything that she could possibly be upset about with me.Â In fact, she adored me so much I sometimes question if she knew she was a dog.Â But letâ€™s stick to one topic for discussion here.
In a dogâ€™s mind, Zena found the largest tug toy there was, 20 feet of edging material.Â And, better yet this toy was hidden treasure since it was partly buried in the ground.Â What an adventure it mustâ€™ve been for her.
It reminded me of the time when my brother and I were young kids digging a hole to visit China.Â Jimmy, as I called him back then, was looking down into our huge hole when I raised the shovel to take out another load of dirt.Â We were positive China would soon appear.Â Unfortunately, the shovel connected with the bridge of my brotherâ€™s nose.Â To this day, he still reminds me of having scarred him since boyhood.Â I just wish he would understand that at age 5, I didnâ€™t know one should first go to Engineering school prior to constructing a tunnel. Â Iâ€™m happy to report though, while he may not have forgotten that tragic expedition experience, he has since forgiven me.Â Thank you Jim.
But letâ€™s go back to Zena.Â She was expressing the zest for life and adventure as my brother and I had in our earlier days.Â She was having the time of her life and I couldnâ€™t help but marvel at her commitment to remove that toy from the ground.Â She was tugging with all her might on one end of the edging material having successfully exposed 15 feet of it.Â With another tug or two, she certainly would remove the remaining 5 feet still buried in the ground.Â If I hadnâ€™t spent so much time and sweat installing that â€œtug toyâ€, I think I would have found myself cheering her on.Â But instead, it really wasnâ€™t that funny when I thought about the work it would take to replace what she had removed.
Okay so what did I do? Well I certainly didnâ€™t replace that edging where she could perform another search and destroy mission time and time again.Â My mistake was failing to anticipate her commitment and resolve to amuse herself in my absence.Â And, while the edging material was there prior to her coming into my life, I couldnâ€™t expect her to make this extirpation.Â That would be placing a human emotion on her.Â Instead, I used the edging material in another part of my landscape that isnâ€™t accessible to her and I purchased a large jolly ball (a tough but still flexible rubber ball).Â She loved to pounce on that ball, carry it around and throw it just so she could Â chase it again.Â And, that one ball which seemed expensive at the time (approximately $24.00) was a drop in the bucket.Â It certainly saved me much more money, sweat and tears from having other landscape objects destroyed.
Zena was being a dog operating in the moment, which is one of the reasons I loved her so much.Â In a world that we find ourselves pondering the motive behind another personâ€™s behavior towards us; itâ€™s reassuring to know my dog was perfect at being a dog.Â Instead of blaming her for finding a truly wonderful tug toy, I found her a new appropriate toy to occupy her time and energy.
So the next time you find yourself considering your dogâ€™s unacceptable behavior as being a well planned out and executed act of revenge consider the following question. When my dog is being â€œgoodâ€, did he/she sit there and think â€œyou know its my ownerâ€™s birthday tomorrow, so I am going to be extra nice because I love them so and this is what they would want me to do?â€ Â Iâ€™m sorry to inform you they donâ€™t have this forethought either. Instead, they are fun loving opportunists thinking and acting in the moment.
It’s true that dogs have and express emotions such as happiness, being sad, etc. but I hope this helps to reformat the way we unfairly place human emotions such as guilt and revenge on our dogs. Â We should instead recognize and honor their true dog behavior.