The field of Canine Psychology is often confused with Dog Training and although there are blurred lines between the two fields there are also key differences.
Canine psychology focuses on ‘why’ dogs behave the way they do and by discovering these issues it enables owners to understand and connect with their dogs in a more instinctual and fulfilling way.
Dog Training relies on methods to correct unwanted behaviors by conditioning the dog to obey commands. However Dog training alone cannot correct problems such as intense fear/anxiety or aggression in dogs mainly because it is almost impossible to train a dog when it is in an unbalanced state. Therefore by focusing and working on the brain of the dog to achieve a calm and balanced state before attempting a training schedule both the owner and the dog benefit.
Dogs do not react to life in an intellectual/emotional way as humans do, they do not lie in bed at night reliving the past or dreaming about the future. They do not scheme or premeditate, they live for the moment. People tend to believe that their dogs are capable of understanding human complexities and this is where the problems start. They expect their dog to know the difference between his chew toy and the Persian rug or that he needs to stay quiet when left alone at home but a dog cannot know these things unless he is taught in a way that he can understand them.
This is where canine psychology is most effective because the focus is on the owner as well as the dog. Helping the owner to think more like a dog promotes a different understanding of their dog’s bad behavior and how they react to it so balance can be achieved for both. For example: An owner comes home to find that their dog has destroyed the couch, destruction of another’s property in human terms is thought of as a personal act so the owner imagines that the dog has done this in retaliation for being left alone so feels angry and is then likely to punish the dog. In fact the dog has done this because it was left alone in an anxious, high energy state, a dog without enough exercise or trust and respect for the owner and the space they live in is an anxious and frustrated dog that will exhibit these types of behavior regularly. Ensuring the dog is exercised well and left in a calm balanced state addresses the source of the behavior and corrects it without punishment.
A dog needs to learn to adapt to live in our world which to them is filled with strange and incomprehensible rituals so recognizing and interpreting a dogs behavior for what it actually is rather than what we imagine it to be and changing our own behavior accordingly is the key to achieving balance and harmony between canine and humans. Dogs are here to teach us many things like how to recapture our instinctual senses, how to be patient and also to bring love, happiness, adventure and fun to our lives!