Hello paw friends! I have a key message to share in this article. It's something very important and something my mum and I feel very passionate about and we want to raise awareness of. Unfortunately though, it's a debate where those on either side can get very territorial about. But at Canine Behaviour Guernsey we don’t get territorial, we look at the facts and treat every dog as an individual.
As I write this, I'm feeling rather poorly. I've had an upset tummy recently and now an ear infection and, to be honest, I'm quite fed up. My mum knows when I'm ill because I get quite grumpy - understandably of course - and my guarding tendencies tend to get stronger. I'm not sure why, but, when I feel unwell I feel like I need to cling onto things to protect them. Maybe it's because I don't know what's going on and why I'm hurting so I get anxious and that's how it all comes out. Anyway, everyone knows I'm a resource guarder, I've been rehabilitated but I still sometimes feel like I need to do it - mostly when I'm ill. I know now that there is nothing to be ashamed of though- it is a relatively common instinctual tendency and reinforced very quickly. Think of it please as an anxiety – I am nothing like a demanding child, who knows right from wrong but is trying to get my own way.
There are many complex behavioural issues that my dog peers can suffer from. Guarding is just one of them. My pawrents know how to manage and control my incidences of guarding and they have counter-conditioned my responses so now, if I have something that will harm me or I will break, they will ask me to swap it for a tasty piece of sausage. I love sausage and now will give up anything for it!
The problem is when people incorrectly apply an out-dated theory to these types of behaviours - the dominance theory. Now I could write for days on why very little weight, if any, should be put onto such a theory. It's something that so many people quote and for those people, it's considered to be gospel. However, it's a theory based on an old study of wolves in captivity and there are many new studies that give us a much better understanding as to why we act the way we do.
You see, the dominance theory simply doesn't fit many dogs. Mum prefers to use the word confidence as people use the word 'dominant' in the wrong way and also as an excuse to bully their dogs. Yes, there may be certain confidence related behaviours displayed between dogs themselves but there is certainly nothing to suggest that us dogs are trying to dominate our owners. Those who believe in dominance even think we manipulate our owners! But let me tell you this - a dog sees the world way more black and white than a human sees it. We live for the moment, for our next meal, for our next treat and for our next self-rewarding behaviour - not to manipulate or dominate our owners in an attempt to seek some perverse type of 'success'. Not us folks, I care way more about my sausage!
So next time you hear someone refer to the theory, think of me as I lay here at the end of my mum's bed, in pain and completely miserable. Am I being dominant while guarding my mum's pyjama top?! Nope, I just want to cling on to the comforting scent of my mum while not knowing why I feel this way. How would it feel if someone snatched this top away from me or even smacked me because they 'are the boss'? My fear that this would be taken away from me would be realised and I would learn that next time, I should guard that little bit harder. I once heard someone say that a dog should know its place in the home. So I ask, what place is that? Remember, it's our home too and you brought us here.
Till next time,