Fulfilling Your Dog’s Needs, Part 2: Social Needs

What happens to a dog when its social needs are ignored by its owner?


It is very unfortunate that many dog owners feel that their pets don’t have any other needs, apart from shelter and food. If you are serious about training your dog and keeping your pet happy for years to come, you have to be receptive and responsive to its essential needs.


A dog’s needs can be broken down to three main categories: physical needs, mental needs and social needs.


People are usually surprised when they hear “social needs” on the list of vital requirements for a healthy dog. It seems that a large percentage of dog owners find the idea of socializing with their dogs absurd because dogs can’t express themselves like humans do.


Dogs can’t talk but they express themselves continuously through body language.


Dogs can understand your vocal language and nonverbal/body language. People on the other hand tend to miss important signals coming from their own dogs.


If dogs can be receptive of your tone of voice and your physical expressions, it’s only fair that we try to be more receptive of what they are trying to tell us through their actions and nonverbal expressions.
Today’s blog post will center on the idea of being responsive to a dog’s social needs so your dog can be truly happy to belong in a “human pack.”


How would you know if a dog’s social needs aren’t being met?


Lack of social interaction with its human pack and especially the pack leader (that’s you) can cause a dog to misbehave. Dog trainers call this problem “acting out” and in most cases, the undesirable behaviors will disappear on their own once the dog owner starts socializing with his pet properly again.


When a dog begins acting out because it feels isolated or unloved, it may resort to undesirable behavior to get your attention. A dog may consciously do things that it knows you won’t like just so you would focus on it for a short while.


When a person is sad or angry, he uses words to tell others how he feels. We do this to resolve our issues and move forward. Dogs do not have the luxury of the spoken word so all they can do is express their sadness and frustrations through their actions.


What internal factors trigger a dog’s behaviors?


The behavior patterns of any animal are determined by its mental and emotional state.


Obviously, a dog that is unhappy and is craving socialization will have a very negative mindset. A negative mindset can easily translate to destructive behaviors such as chewing on shoes, soiling the couch, etc.


Instead of reprimanding your dog or punishing it by sending it outside, look upon the behavior analytically and with kindness. Maybe your dog is just trying to get you to play with it? If so, then you owe your dog a few short sessions of play time so it won’t feel so lonely anymore.


How should a trainer express his affection and love for his dog?


Many dog owners make the mistake of showing affection only when a dog is successful with training or if the dog is presently doing something that the owner feels is a great accomplishment or improvement.


It is perfectly normal for a dog owner to feel proud and happy when training is going well. However, if you only show your affection during the rare times that your dog is doing extremely well, then where does that leave your dog when it’s not performing so well?


A good trainer must know how to show affection to his pet at all times, not just during training time. Unconditional affection and a genuine respect for your dog must be given every single day. When I say “unconditional,” I don’t mean that you should give your dog tasty treats even if it’s doing something naughty or undesirable.


Giving your dog unconditional affection means you’re always patient and you never punish your dog by reprimanding it or taking away its favorite things. An apt trainer is focused on refining the reward system he has in place to enhance the positive behaviors he has already taught or is still teaching.


Rewards work much more efficiently than any kind of punishment.


Why? Because dogs, like humans, are more likely to repeat a behavior pattern when it brings some form of benefit or reward. Inversely, a dog will avoid certain situations where it was reprimanded or punished. If you reprimand a dog frequently while teaching it new skills, your dog may associate your training sessions with punishment and soon enough, your dog will begin disliking your training sessions.

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