The myth of the naughty dog

The internet is full of pictures of ‘naughty dogs.’  I meet many dog owners who have been excluded from ‘puppy classes’ because their dog was ‘naughty.’ Or, the trainer banishes the owner and their recalcitrant pup to the corner of the room because of their ‘disruptive’ behaviour.  A tale frequently told.

Well, here’s the thing. There is no such thing as a ‘naughty dog.’ This is a human ‘construct’ assigning human terms to our dogs. Dogs behave like dogs, not humans. They do not do things because they are naughty or trying to annoy their humans. Most behaviours can be explained if we take the time to understand the reasons behind canine behaviour.

For instance, the dog that is constantly jumping up on people, whether at home of out and about is not being ‘naughty.’ It is simply, looking for attention and a response from the human who is the focus of it’s attention. By, simply, understanding the ‘why’ we can react in the appropriate way to diminish or stop this behaviour.

Another example can be seen in the picture above. These dogs appear to have been very naughty indeed. However, there will be good reason for the behaviour. They may not be getting enough exercise, need more play time or, indeed, may be experiencing separation anxiety. Assigning a human description of their behaviour as them being ‘naughty’ is unhelpful. Humans often then respond in the wrong way by displaying anger, punishing or scolding their dogs.

We need to stop thinking of dog behaviour in terms of the human condition. We can help our dogs learn to live with us if we take the time to learn ‘why’ they do things. With this knowledge we will be able to address many issues that are, actually, examples of fairly normal canine behaviours that are misunderstood by their human companions.