It’s really easy to make assumptions when it comes to dogs. These are usually pretty innocent and undamaging, but sometimes it’s worth looking at the assumptions we make and trying to stop the assumptions. Assumptions can be damaging in relationships, if I assume a certain level of knowledge of a client and they have no idea what I’m on about then I’m being an ineffective trainer and potentially making my client feel ashamed that they have no idea what I’m on about. How often do you assume someone you see regularly knows or should know something and have a misunderstanding as a result of those assumptions? I’m constantly assuming that those around me have some idea about things that they really have no clue about, and I create conflict as a result of those assumptions on occasion. Crucially, we’re all aware of how assumptions can cause damage within one species so it’s easy to imagine how much more damaging assumptions between species can be.
An obvious assumption that is damaging is that all dogs are friendly, either to people or to other dogs. If you assume dogs are friendly and want your contact or the contact of your dog, then you are putting yourself or your dog at risk. An easy way around this assumption is to ask the owner if you and/or your dog may interact with their dog and then to ask the other dog themselves. If a dog wants to interact with you it will come over and say hi, no need to hold out your hand or walk your dog immediately over to them. Simples! This also applies to your own dog and always assuming that they want a cuddle or interaction with you. We as individuals don’t always want fuss and someone attached to us. We’re able to communicate this but often dogs are forced into interactions without any thought about whether they’d like to take part in the interaction or not. An easy way to get around this is to implement consent into your interactions with your dog. For example, petting for three seconds and then taking your hands off your dog and seeing if they want more by seeing if they move towards you and repeating.
Another really dangerous assumption that we can make about dogs is that the standards of their training work will be the same as the last session we had on that exercise. This can immediately set your dog up to fail. Sometimes it will work out in your favour but is that a risk worth taking? It’s not difficult to go back 3 steps in your training programme to build your dog back up and push forward. This is particularly important if your dog struggles with confidence or frustration in order to get their confidence up on the right track straight out of the gates. What other assumptions do you make with your dog that you think should change? Let us know in the comments!