We do seem to try to make our dogs into little people, don’t we? So, many times I hear (out of my mouth, if not someone else’s) “You know you’re not supposed to do that!” But why should the dog automatically know? Dogs have different values than we do! They have different ways of interacting, and doggie etiquette is sometimes very far apart from human manners.
One of the widest gulfs comes in the matter of “counter surfing” — or “coffee/kitchen/dining-room table” surfing. It’s the same thing to a dog. In the human mind, we “know” that the food on those areas belongs to us and expect the dog to know it, too — and respect that. But a dog’s DNA is programmed differntly; food is food and belongs to whoever is THERE.
In dog society, the “big dog” (i.e. leader) gets first dibs on all the good stuff, especially food. When the big dog is finished, s/he walks away. That means the food is up for grabs, and everyone else can squabble over it. Can you see how our dogs misunderstand our body language? We get up and leave a plate of yummy stuff on the coffee table while we go back into the kitchen to get a drink, and are surpised when WHAM, it’s gone by the time we get back! To a dog, the human was finished and signaled that the food was available to anybody who wanted it by going away!
We say, “Oh, she knew she shouldn’t do that — she was eating as fast as she could, and look how guilty she looks!” Okay, she was probably eating fast because it’s good stuff that she doesn’t get very often. That guilty look is probably the result of the dog thinking something like, “my crazy human has yelled at me in the past for doing this, even though she’s saying it’s OK, so I’m cringing a bit in anticipation of some loud noise coming!”
Well, this entry has gone in a different direction than I originally planned when I posted that picture. What I was planning to say was more on the order of — why do we want to teach our dogs to be human with all our hang-ups and neuroses? Wouldn’t it be better for them and US, if we could borrow some of a dog’s live-for-today and enjoy-what-comes-to-the-fullest philosophy? I’m going to try!