Your dog might be one of the family, but humans and canines communicate and experience the world very differently. Here are five ways you could be annoying your dog without knowing it...
See also: 10 signs of cancer in dogs
See also: Should you let a dog lick your face
1. You hug your dog (or let the kids hug the dog)
Unlike humans, canines do not hold each other to show affection. In fact, when a dog puts its paws or body onto another dog, it's usually an attempt to dominate and assert power. Even if your dog seems to tolerate the occasional cuddle from you, a tight grip from a less sensitive child or stranger can prove stressful. According to animal psychologists, dogs don't like being hugged as it invades their personal space and prevents them from being able to run away.
A recent study which looked at 250 photos of dogs as they were being hugged, found that 80% of the animals showed at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety. Signs include folding down of the ears, half-moon eyes (where you can see the white portion of the eyes at the corner or the rim), closing the eyes, turning away the head to avoid eye contact and licking the lips. Yawning or raising one paw is another warning sign. An extremely anxious dog may growl, bare its teeth or bite.
Instead of hugging, stroke your spaniel calmly or give them a tummy rub if they offer their belly.
2. You don't let them sniff and explore on a walk
While you want your dog to walk obediently on a lead, it's important to let them explore. Unlike humans who experience the world visually, dogs interact through smell. If you yank the lead every time your Golden Retriever goes for a sniff, you're going to annoy them.
Vary your routes rather than trudging around the same field or streets (and go somewhere completely new at the weekend if you can) so that there are new smells to explore. If you don't have time to let them stop and sniff every few paces, give them at least a section of the walk where they can sniff at their leisure without you hurrying them along.
Dog owners tend to focus on giving their dog exercise and letting them do their business, but remember that those two brief outings are the highlight of your pet's day.
3. You let other dogs come to visit
Dogs are territorial by nature and letting a new animal enter your home can prove stressful for your pet. Before you let your friend visit with their dog, introduce the animals to each other on a walk.
Hide toys and chews beforehand to minimise scraps, then bring the new dog into your home on a lead and have them both perform sit commands for treats. Calmly interacting with them for a few minutes will help your pet accept them into their space.
4. Let sleeping dogs lie
You don't like being rudely awakened, and neither does your dog. Older animals in particular tend to sleep more deeply, and may not hear you approaching if they're going deaf. A sudden touch is alarming and can increase your pet's blood pressure.
Let your dog wake up naturally, but if you should need to wake them, do so slowly, quietly, and gently. Children should be taught never to disturb a dog while it sleeps.
5. Stick to the routine
Just like children, dogs generally feel more secure with routine. Your pet soon gets to know when it's time for a walk, food and play, and expects them to occur each day without much variation. So although you might come home two hours late on a Friday night drinks, your Jack Russell won't appreciate waiting for their evening walk and dinner.
The same goes for house rules - consistency is key. If you allow your poodle to jump on you, but then yell when they jump up at Auntie Jayne, they will understandably be confused. Likewise, a dog that's allowed on the sofa when you're off sick from work won't understand why he's not allowed the rest of the time. Changing the routine and regulations can potentially lead to behavioural problems. Whatever rules you make, be consistent.