Well, of course we know that dogs can’t talk, at least not in any human language that we would recognize. They bark, whine, whimper and cry and we do our best to understand what they are trying to convey but often, it’s simply guesswork. Having had a dog for 10 years now, I consider myself to be completely fluent in dogspeak and so agreed to interview my own dog as well as those in my neighbourhood as they were after me for years to give them an outlet to voice their grievances as well as their wishes and let us humans know what they really need from us. Here is what they told me.
They really don’t like to be left alone all the time. While they understand you have to work and can be busy, they get bored easily and may be overcome with urges to taste a few cushions and shoes. They’d really like a dog sitter on your busy days and need plenty of love and play time from you when you get home.
They’re not always happy when their tails are wagging and sometimes it can mean they’re scared, insecure or even angry. Take the time to learn the differences between tail wags.
If they have an accident in the house and look guilty to you, they really aren’t feeling guilt. They don’t have the breadth of emotions that you do and they don’t understand if you are trying to make them feel guilty. Don’t use that loud voice that upsets them and train them using a softer tone.
They respond to rewards not punishments. Give them treats for doing something good and they’ll keep doing it but yelling and pointing when they do something bad will simply perpetuate the bad habit you are trying to correct.
They want to be taken to the vet every year for a checkup as they can’t tell you when they aren’t feeling well. They also need their vaccines updated on a regular basis.
They don’t like to be rushed when you take them out to do their business — even if you’re tired, cold or hot. They have a process and need to find that perfect spot with the right mix of smells to mark their territory. Tugging on their leash is not appreciated. However, if they are about to wolf down an unknown morsel or step into something dangerous, a little tug may be necessary. They need you to protect them.
They think fences and barriers are a great idea. Being domesticated, they don’t always have an innate desire to “roam free” and fenced in yards will keep them safe and out of trouble in case wandering looks good.
Being creatures of habit, if you notice them acting differently, chances are they may not be feeling well. Please consider taking them to the vet.
If they’re yawning, it may not simply be because they’re tired. Dogs also yawn when they’re scared, agitated or overwhelmed so pay attention to the environment they’re in and remove them from the situation if they’re not coping well.
They really hate pills so please hide them in yummy treats. Meat, peanut butter or Pill Pockets are delicious and it’s important for their health that they take their meds.
They love to eat but can easily become overweight if you feed them overly large portions or too many treats. Obesity can lead to all kinds of health issues, as is the case with humans as well. Table scraps are not advised either.
During the summertime, the pavement and sidewalks can get really hot and while you can wear shoes and dress lightly, they cannot. Similarly, in winter, ice and snow can freeze doggy paws. Please be mindful of where your dog is walking and limit exposure to severe elements.
They realize that flea, tick and worm medicines are expensive, but appreciate you dosing them regularly to keep them safe from potentially fatal problems.
They apologize for never really having pleasant smelling breath but if it becomes seriously malodorous, it could be a sign of rotten teeth, dental disease or other health problems. Time for a vet exam.
They love and need healthy food so opt for that more expensive kibble that has real food instead of fillers. Would you eat “corn by-product meal”?
They really don’t like being boarded in a kennel as unfamiliar surroundings and other dogs they may not get along with can be frightening. A dog sitter in their own home is really ideal if you can manage it.
So there you have it. I want to thank all the neighbourhood dogs who made this lighthearted article possible. A big bark out to Maggie, Nellie, Nero, Teddy, Molly, Biff, Abby, Arthur, Max and of course, my Donny.
Judie Amyot is a volunteer with Animatch, a non-profit dog adoption service. For more information, visit www.animatch.ca