Building better relationships…


Maintaining peace and harmony at home is paramount but there can be relationship problems between a family member and the equally important tail wagger. Here’s how to sort them out.

Dogs are said to be man’s best friends…and they are. But what happens when our pooch is not able to get along with one of our human family members? It’s a disaster!

It is really difficult when people or their dogs have relationship problems. Living together can be very stressful. We all want to live in harmony with one another, be it a human friend or a canine friend.
Often when we bring home a dog (especially an older dog), we just expect the dog will fit in with our lifestyle, our family and other pets and all will love one another, respect one another and live in harmony. Not always the case.
When we choose to live with a person, we have usually already established a relationship with that person or know them quite well. Even then, the relationship does not always work. It is the same with our dogs. Sometimes the relationship with us or another family member or pet just does not work.
However, this does not necessarily need to be a problem. It is your dog’s right to make choices, to choose whether or not he prefers one family member to another. You can still live in harmony if there is mutual respect for one another, tolerating each other’s differences, not threatening one another and giving each other the space needed. If you can live this way with your dog, then you have already made a start to building or mending your relationship.
There are other reasons a dog may have relationship problems with a member of his family, such as stress – for whatever reason, the relationship may be placing too much stress on the dog. This could be that the person sometimes shouts at the dog, the person may be too noisy, too active around the dog, he may associate the person with a human-to-human relationship problem, the dog may have had some other bad experiences with this person and now associates this person with something bad happening.
Although dogs have the same feelings as humans and can sometimes feel jealousy, we sometimes interpret dog’s feelings in a human way and often misunderstand – as with jealousy.
When two people get too close often, our dog will run between them. Naturally we interpret this in a human way and think our dog is jealous, but this behaviour is called ‘splitting up’. Dogs feel threatened when people or other dogs get too close and will go between to split up and avoid what the dog instinctively feels could be a potential conflict.
This is good dog behaviour; after all, they are peacemakers. Dogs like to keep peace. This is why your dog may go between you if you hug someone or if you stroke another pet. He is trying to keep peace and make sure it will not turn into a conflict. They don’t understand our human behaviour – why we hug and kiss and get close to one another. It is up to us to understand their behaviour and body language and help them out when we can.
These are just a few reasons why a dog may find it difficult to live with a member of his family, however, learning and understanding canine body language and calming signals is paramount to building a good, trusting relationship with your dog.
(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems.)