10 Things Humans Do That Dogs Struggle to Understand
Do you ever wonder…
- Why your dog stares at you blankly while you play games on your phone?
- Why your pup feels the need to bark and growl at the vacuum cleaner?
- Why your pooch chooses to hang out in the other room while you’re watching a sporting event?
Everyday rituals like playing on our smartphones, swiffering the floor, or watching your rambunctious kids run and scream through the house might seem normal to you.
However, in a dog’s world, some of these things are just downright confusing.
The worst part…your dog’s confusion can lead him to feeling nervous or irritated.
The simple truth is that there are many human activities that just don’t make sense in a dog’s world.
Curious if anything you’re doing might be upsetting your furry companion? I’ve come up with a list of items you can look over—with the help of my amazing Dog Trainer Academy students—that might be helpful to you.
Check it out now!
#1 – Playing Video Games
Video games are addicting—and for good reason. They are tons of fun!
However, when you spend hours upon hours playing games instead of walking your dog or playing tug, your pup may begin to wonder where your loyalty lies.
On top of not spending time with your dog, video games can be loud and scary. Shooting noises, background music, and other sound effects may make your dog uncomfortable or even frightened.
This is especially true if you suddenly start screaming and shouting at the screen because some zombie is chasing you down the street!
My Advice: There’s nothing wrong with loving video games. However, if you play for hours on end, I recommend that you set timers throughout the day to put down the controller and spend time with your pup.
On top of spending time with your dog, make sure your video game volume is under control. Set your TV volume to a normal level, or better yet, invest in headphones so your dog doesn’t get upset by loud noises.
The flip side of all of this is that many dogs will actually relax when you are playing because it’s the one time YOU actually relax!
#2 – Constant Use of Tablets/Smartphones
Tablets and smartphones fall under the same category as video games.
Here are a few reasons it’s important to be mindful of your cell phone usage…
First of all, if you spend all your time on your phone, your pup may begin to wonder why your rectangular-shaped electronic dog gets more love and affection.
That’s no good!
Second, if you’re using your phone while out walking your dog, it can put you both in danger. Heaven forbid, you’re not paying attention, and you and your pup gets hit by a car or walk yourself right into a dangerous scenario.
Third, talking on the phone can be confusing to your dog.
I bet you that if you pay attention, you’ll notice that your dog is fascinated about why you chatter away with nobody around–especially if you start getting animated, upset, or begin to shout!
Your dog will be looking at you thinking…What are you doing?!
And finally, your dog knows that when you’re talking on the phone, your mind is not focused on him or the walk but is elsewhere! So, be careful. You need to pay attention…(You can’t fool a dog!)
My Advice: Once again I recommend that you limit your time with your electronics if your dog is not getting enough attention and use your hands to play fetch or massage your dog instead.
And, of course, if you’re doing any type of activity like hanging out at the dog park or walking your dog, put your phone away and pay attention. An accident can happen in an instant. As a dog parent, it’s your responsibility to be engaged and aware.
#3 – Fireworks and Party Crackers
As humans, we understand that fireworks and party crackers are fun and festive and that they won’t hurt us.
However, dogs aren’t capable of understanding what fireworks are and why we set them off.
I mean, imagine trying to explain why we set them off to a dog!
Here’s why this is a problem…
Dogs have a deeply rooted instinct to run away from and escape anything that feels threatening to them. Loud booms and bangs certainly fall into that category.
For this reason, the crack of a firework can easily set your dog into panic mode, causing him to want to run and hide.
As I said, there’s no way to rationally explain to your dog that he is safe and ok, regardless of the scary noises. And, because dogs are often fearful of this type of fanfare, many dogs end up suffering from panic attacks or run away from their homes due to the startling noises.
My Advice: In some areas, the use of fireworks or party crackers is unavoidable. For this reason, I recommend setting up a safe space for your dog inside your home–preferably in an interior room–where he can hide and feel safe until the festivities are over.
I also recommend NOT bringing party poppers into your home or setting off fireworks near your house. It’s not worth the stress and anxiety you may cause your pup.
For a more in-depth read on how to handle fireworks, check out this post.
#4 – Screaming Children
If you have kids, you know firsthand that they can be crazy and loud.
As a father myself, I understand that you can’t forbid your kids to have fun while running around, playing games, and simply being kids.
That being said, loud screaming can be upsetting to dogs, and some people!
First of all, the loud noise is likely irritating to your dog’s sensitive ears.
Second, screaming and running may cause your dog to worry about whether your kids are ok. For instance, if you have a dog with protective instincts, a fun game of tag may make your dog believe that your child who is being chased is in danger.
This may promote anxious or aggressive behavior from your dog.
My Advice: Your dog may not be able to differentiate play from a real emergency. For this reason, I recommend that you talk with your kids about proper etiquette around dogs. If they want to run and scream, have your kids take their play outside. If they want to be inside with your pup, make sure your kids know to use quiet, indoor voices.
If that’s not possible and it’s a birthday party for example (we had 23 young kids in the house the other day at my daughter’s 7th birthday!), then put the dog somewhere safe like another room or a neighbor’s house.
#5 – Vacuum Cleaners/Roombas/Lawn Mowers
I can’t say for certain, but I imagine house cleaning and yard maintenance tools like vacuums, lawn mowers, and Roombas look like loud, scary, alien robots to our canine companions.
Could you imagine if you walked into your home to see an unidentified life-form taking out your trash? (Ok, maybe you’d be thrilled! But, that’s beside the point.)
Machinery can be very scary to dogs. That’s why it’s no surprise as that your dog may bark and growl when these types of devices are on and running.
My Advice: Dogs don’t understand the concept of cleaning. So, they will never understand why we use things like vacuums and lawnmowers.
My best advice is to keep your dog away from these types of devices if they make your dog nervous or anxious. If you’re vacuuming your living room, put your dog upstairs in your bedroom. If you’re mowing your lawn, keep your dog indoors. Easy as that!
If you are looking for training tips, then check this out.
#6 – Seeing Other Dogs on TV
One minute your dog is lying on the floor in his territory enjoying a nice nap. The next second, there’s a dog on TV barking, and suddenly, your dog may think his home is being invaded.
The reality is that dogs don’t always realize what’s real and what’s fake. If your dog sees a dog on TV, he may actually believe that the dog is real, standing right in front of your TV.
My Advice: In my honest opinion, I can be quite fun to let your dog watch other dogs on TV and see what his reaction is. Usually it’s silly and harmless–and if your dog is very social, he might even enjoy it!
If your dog gets nervous or angry by other dogs on TV, my only suggestion is to try the calm freeze technique combined with the 7-step formula while you are watching the TV channels like Animal Planet that regularly feature shows on dogs, as well as other
#7 – Remote-Control Cars/Drones
Most dogs have a natural instinct to chase things. After all, stalking and chasing are a big part of how dogs in the wild catch their food!
For this reason, things like remote-control cars and drones can be very confusing.
On one hand, your dog may get wound up with the urge to catch the remote-control toys you are playing with. On the other hand, fast moving objects that make loud noises might scare your pup.
My Advice: I always believe in the rule that safety comes first. If your dog enjoys chasing and you are ok with him getting some exercise while running after a remote-control car, go for it. But, make sure it doesn’t become obsessive. This means you should always be able to call him back to you instantly.
If your dog gets weirded out by remote-control toys/drones or his obsession with chasing a toy becomes dangerous, I would keep your pup away or keep him on a leash.
# 8 – Where Food Comes From
In the wild, dogs know that they have to track, hunt, and kill their food.
They understand that what they eat comes from the animals they track down. It’s actually quite remarkable that wild dogs have the ability to find the foods they like and turn them into dinner.
However, our domesticated pups have it a bit different. Their general understanding is that food comes from the pantry, a hall closet, or a refrigerator–where you keep their kibble or fresh foods.
Because we feed our dogs and don’t make them hunt for their own food, we become the provider. Your dog will always look to you when he’s wanting his next meal.
Domesticated dogs certainly don’t understand that you go to the grocery store or pet store and buy their food. But knowing that their meals will be provided by you is a very important thing.
As the food provider, your dog will understand that you are the caretaker and the one in control. Once this role is established, your dog will be more willing to listen and take command from you.
My Advice: It’s important that your dog understands that you are the food provider. In order to make this clear, I always tell people to eat their food before they feed their dog. This helps establish a hierarchy in your home.
For some ideas on how to treat your dog to a delicious dinner, check out my post on 7 foods that canines crave!
# 9 – Why You Let Strange People Come to Your Door
Between visiting friends and family, neighbors who need a favor, your Amazon Prime deliveries, and solicitors, there’s a lot of opportunity for people to visit your home and ring your doorbell.
As humans, we understand that we live in a community where people are going to come knocking at our door to share a visit with us, try to sell us something, etc.
But, our dogs don’t know this. In fact, some dogs probably think a home break-in is about to occur every time someone steps on your front doorstep.
Dogs can be very territorial by nature, so it’s no surprise that your pup might bark, jump, or growl when someone comes over. In some ways it’s instinctual–especially if your dog thinks HE’S the one in charge.
My Advice: You can train your dog to be calm and relaxed when visitors come to your door. I recommend repeatedly exercising a situation where someone knocks on your door until your dog gets bored and relaxes. Eventually, he will learn that it’s no big deal when someone comes over for a visit.
The most important thing is to make sure your dog knows you are the one in charge and that you’ll decide who is allowed in and who is not.
To find out more about this, check out this link to the Dog Calming Code here.
#10 – Large Crowds/House Parties
As humans, we understand when we intentionally put ourselves into chaotic situations–such as having a house party or deciding to take a stroll downtown.
But, dogs don’t typically have a say in the situation.
They go from peacefully napping on the couch to being submersed among strangers and loud noises.
Sadly, this can cause a pup to become anxious, nervous, and scared. Worst of all, these feelings can trigger your dog to lash out, bark, or even bite.
My Advice: As a dog owner, you should know your dog well enough to understand if he will be comfortable in chaotic situations–such as having a house party. Even if he is relaxed, I’d recommend creating a safe space for him to rest and relax if the noise and people get too overwhelming.
The same rule goes for taking your dog out in public. If you know large crowds won’t bother him, go for it. If you know your dog gets anxious or nervous, leave him at home.