Communication Breakdowns in Dog/Human Partnerships


22 Oct

We have probably all been in friendships and relationships when all of a sudden you realise you are not talking and or listening to the other person anymore, this initially can be irritating but we let  it go for a while, then we may get annoyed with the other person and the it may cause rows, if it then continues the relationship my start to break down and could even be the end of the relationship.

Well this can also happen between us and our dogs and does probably more than we realise as life is so busy these days.

The difference is though we speak the same language as our human friends and partners and also are programmed to read their non-verbal communication (body language & facial movements). So we can sometimes realise this lack of communication and rectify it before it becomes a serious issue and will talk it through and modify each of our behaviours (if we want to rescue the relationship) before it becomes terminal.

But with dogs it is harder to realise at first and sometimes the dogs behaviour/attitude may change before you realise. 

The reasons for the dog thinking that you are not "talking" to them anymore or you not "listening" to them may be:

  • You have a busy life.
  • Your family circumstances have changed.
  • You assume that your dog is happy as they are pleased to see you and want to be with you so forget to check.
  • You have got into a repetitive routine with your dog such as the same walks at the same time of day same food and feeding routine.
  • There are so many other non-physical relationships we are now encouraged to have such as social media, gaming, internet shopping and these are now able to come everywhere with us an interrupt our everyday relationships. 

These don't just affect our canine relationships and communication they are also a big contributor to the lack of communication in all of our human relationships and I am as guilty as anyone else at times. Also some of the issues can't be changed as "life happens". but if it is not acknowledged and acted up on when possible it can become a very serious issue in your relationships.

We all know how humans communicate their dis-satisfaction with this situation they get, upset, withdrawn, moody, argumentative, demanding, and in certain cases aggressive.

With dogs most if not all of these emotions and behaviours also happen but as they do not "speak" our language and they are not human these communications can be difficult to read so you need to "listen" in a different way signs that you dog is unhappy with your relationship include: 

  • More frequent checking in with you such as looking up when on walks or coming into the room you busy in.
  • More frequent dropping toys at your feet or other items.
  • Stealing and possibly damaging your personal items.
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation.
  • Random barking, whining, nudging and other physical attention seeking behaviours.
  • Signs of what you may think of a "disobedience" or "stubbornness", but is isn't as a dogs brain does not work this way.
  • Signs of being quieter than usual or more withdrawn.
  • Going off their food.
  • Nipping, biting and other so called anti social behaviours.

These are a few of the things that you may notice and can be signs of a breakdown in communication but some of the above can also be signs of other things including illness, pain or other physical issues. 

It is therefore very important to have your dog checked by a vet if these behaviours are sudden or out of character.

Once medical or physical issues have been discounted and the above are still happening they could be symptoms of a break down of communication and relationship.

I know we didn't mean this to happen and  we would hate to think we were responsible for these feelings and behaviours. Therefore we need to think back to why we got a dog or why we forged the human relationship in the first place. 

These reasons can include:

  • Companionship.
  • Going out having fun.
  • Exploring new things.
  • Security.
  • Wanting a soul mate.
  • and many other reasons

All of these probably still apply but life has got in the way as it does for me and many other people.

So what can we do before the relationship with your dog irreconcilably breaks down? 

Most of the things will not take much time out of your day or cause you anything other than the joy of rebuilding the fun and enjoyment you once had. 

These can include:

  • Remembering and trying to find the time you spared and contact you had when your dog was a puppy or you re-homed them. 
  • When you are going out with your dog leave you "Smart" Phone in your pocket unless you are taking a fun picture of your dog or it is a genuine emergency. Your dog is a "Smart" dog.
  • Watch your dog on walks or when they search you out at home and when they look at you talk to them or have a cuddle or stroke.
  • Take your dog to new places or to do a new activity instead of their normal walk.
  • If they drop toys at your feet, steal your things or use attention seeking behaviours, take a moment to think why? Have you been too engrossed with work, your phone/pc, or other family life, if the answer is yes take 5 minutes to have a play, a cuddle or even a chat with your dog.
  • Even if they haven't come to you take a 5 minute break once in a while go and find your dog and give them some unconditional attention.

If your dog has started inappropriate behaviour such as urination/defecation indoors or nipping or biting you or your family. You will require the assistance of a professional dog behaviour consultant or behaviourist.

Unfortunately if in your current circumstances you are unable find the time to restart the communication process or you feel that the relationship way has been spoiled it may be the time to seek advice on re-homing. 

Life is just sometimes just too hard  for many reason so when the time is right you may wish to welcome a new dog into your life. This will be a hard and upsetting decision but it may be the right thing for all concerned.

I hope this helps you become a family unit or a partnership again.

If you would like to share or comment below I would appreciate it.

Many thanks,

Gill Gallagher IMDT APDT 01433

Allsorts Dog Training

07595 217299

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