More than a few times this week, I heard people yelling at their dogs. One dog was a neighbor’s Beagle who never gets a walk, just a quick potty break out in the yard, then back in the house. Through some kind of miracle, someone took him for a walk and he was so excited to finally be able to express his “Beagleness” and explore his world.  He barked and barked with delight! This is what Beagles do. The guy walking him forcefully choked down on the leash and barked back in the dog’s face with a loud, “No, no, stop it!” The poor little Beagle was frightened for a minute but then went right back to his merry barking as if to say, “Wow, did you smell that? And how about smelling this?!”

Yet another yeller was a dog walker who did much the same; she yanked on the leash while she yelled at the cute little white yappy dog. This dog didn’t stop barking either. And yet someone else kept screaming, “Leave it!!” when his dog was excitedly barking at another dog. Yep, this dog barked even more as the yelling continued.

All of these people are not alone. It seems to be our human nature to want to yell or scold. We do it to kids; we do it to each other. Most people think that if they get loud, people, kids and pets will listen to them.  While this may be true for people and kids, dogs simply don’t communicate the same as humans, so their reactions will be different. Some dogs may react in fear and will not want to be around a loud person. Other dogs may just believe that the yeller is barking with the pack, and the dog will be encouraged to bark more. And others may perceive the yelling as a challenge and may react with aggression.

Dogs can’t talk. So they learn to read us by watching our body language and listening to our tone of voice. Let’s pretend that you encounter a friend while out somewhere. Instead of saying hello and talking to you, that person grabs your arm and yells gibberish to you. Strange, huh? You might react with anger or you may run away from this loony-tune. Well, that’s what our dogs might be thinking of us. We appear out-of-control and dogs do not listen to people who are irrational.

A dog who is already excited will tend to become more agitated when screamed at, like adding fuel to a fire. Dogs in animal shelters are excellent examples. They may be very afraid and bark to release the nervous energy. When shelter workers yell at the dogs, they are not helping the dogs. They’re adding more agitation. A fearful dog will learn to be scared when yelled at and a more confident dog may challenge the yeller. Either way, it’s not a good situation.

In our human relationships, anger and yelling can have a negative effect and hurt the relationship. Let’s not do that to our dogs too. Calm and rational is always best – in our relationships with dogs and with people. In this season of peace instead of yelling, can we opt for loving, respectful behavior?

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