I see that a dog is easy to please if you give it what it needs. The main thing they want from you is confirmation for their existence, which you can give to them simply by recognizing they are alive, with some kinds words and a pet on the head. If they get this little dose of love each day, and are seen and appreciated simply for what they are ‘a dog’, then the dog is normally well balanced. I think they would still be happy even with not enough food to eat, what is most important is that they receive this love. I don’t see that’s it possible for a dog to go into personality games to try to get this friendly acknowledgement of its existence. Yes, the dog needs to be able to feel good via small rewards of recognition from his owner that he has been doing a good dog job. He even wants to know that you still love him even when he is a ‘bad dog’.
What I have noticed is that the best way to nurture a dog and to help it be happy and loving is to give positive reinforcement for what it does right, versus looking to see what it does wrong. I noticed this in another person who came here with his dog, that when the dog chased our chickens I was yelling no and chasing the dog, yet the owner said: “Come here Teddy”, in such a friendly way that the dog’s attention to attack the chickens dropped and he immediately came running to the owner to get his pet. I realized I had been doing this also with the dog here and many months ago, changed my technique. What I saw is that it works! Boris is so much interested in receiving my attention that he will drop his instinctual behavior if I call him and he will come running to me. This is so nice because I don’t have to yell at him at all, which causes no damage to our relationship.
I suspect that people who are really terrible dog owners are actively using techniques that in various ways are withholding love, and the result is that the dog ends up being like the owner. I think there is a wise saying somewhere, that if you want to see how a man truly is, look at how he treats his dog. I think the worst thing that you can do to an animal is to totally ignore them, acting like they don’t exist, by withholding all attention and time from the dog, by not looking it in the eyes, by not greeting it, by not talking to it, etc. If this non-attention is then combined with only aggressive acts with interactions with the dog, such as hitting it, being angry with it, yelling at it, or criticizing it all the time only seeing what it does wrong, etc., then the dog will probably end up being quite mean and nasty.
As I see it, all beings need some validation for their existence and a dog is pretty much dependent upon it’s owner, so doesn’t realize it has options to escape the abuse. Probably the dog would like to leave feeling like it is in a hostile world of continuous attacks, but it has no idea of where to go. The reality of being in a hostile environment where they don’t receive love and are attacked, has the effect that the system of the dog is in a constant state of tension and can never relax, because it continuously feels threatened with the need to defend itself from the next attack. Then the result is that the dog starts snapping back at the owner, and the owner starts to feel like he needs to find another home for the dog.
So the same can be said about people and what they need. I feel it’s important that we look closer at how we are treating other people. Do we give others the minimum friendly confirmation that they need, or instead are we treating them like ‘unwanted dogs’ whom we no longer feel have anything left of value to give to us?