I DON’T UNDERSTAND…..dog behaviour

Monthly Behaviour Tip


Dog behaviour whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ largely comes down to the way in which the dog has been communicated with. Correct communication is the best tool to strengthen your relationship with your dog. As humans we often over complicate communication with our dog by chatting away to them like they are a fellow human, expecting our dog to understand. We need to remember that we have a complex verbal language. By recognising this, you can choose to communicate with your dog in a more effective way and in turn be rewarded for your efforts with a well behaved dog.

Often when your dog does not do as he/she is asked, you think he/she is choosing not to comply or ignoring you. It is simply that your dog does not fully understand the language that you are choosing to communicate with. Your dog’s ‘bad’ behaviour is usually the result of stress or frustration from his/her inability to understand and communicate with you.

When your dog responds to a word or sound you have made i.e. “sit” with the action that you were expecting i.e. bottom is positioned on the ground, your dog has merely made the association between that word and performing that action through previous repetition. However, to make your communication clearer to your dog and help him/her to understand better, use the same body language or hand signal each time you ask that behaviour. 

You can use this ‘learning by association’ technique to teach your dog what you would like him/her to do when you speak certain words or when certain events occur. I.e. “Sit at the door when a visitor arrives” (rather than jump on the visitor). Ask your dog regularly to sit at the door (without a visitor present) reward him/her when he/she does so. When a visitor actually arrives, despite the excitement of the rousing event, your dog will be more likely to respond to your “sit” request, due to your repetitive practise. Unfortunately, in the same way your dog’s “bad” behaviour gets reinforced. If you or the visitor excites your dog when visitors arrive your dog will learn and continue to act with excited behaviour – jumping, vocalising, pacing etc. This behaviour often heightens as the event reoccurs.

So next time you go to communicate with your dog, think about how you are going to communicate with him/her for the best chance of getting the response you have requested.



Veterinary Nurse Kirstie Hancock is qualified in animal behaviour with her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services through the Delta Society. She has lots of great tips and ideas when it comes to misbehaving pets. Keep an eye out for her monthly tips on our Facebook page. Also check out her own business Facebook page – Positive Paws.