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5 Advanced Dog Behaviour Concepts


1 - Appeasement

Appeasement is a set of possible actions a dog will make if they feel threatened in a situation and want to pacify the threat or gather information from a social partner, appeasement may manifest as:
  • Adopting a small posture
  • Cautious tail wagging
  • Ears back
  • Sulky or suspicious eye movement
  • Self-cleaning, lip licking, chewing, ‘smiling’ or scratching
The dogs often adopt non-threatening behaviour and body language as a means to diffuse conflict and check-in with their social peer - “I mean you no harm, please leave me alone” or “Hey are we cool? I’m a bit worried!”.

What scenarios would a dog exhibit appeasement behaviour?

Appeasement can occur at any time that a dog is uncomfortable in a situation. That could be when you're at home, on a walk or when meeting new people/dogs.

Greyhounds can show appeasement, but their signs are often more subtle. We often see Labradors and Border collies licking themselves and rolling around on their bellies, where Greyhounds are more prone to freezing (sometimes called inhibition) and subtle signs of appeasement.

What should I do if I notice my dog showing signs of appeasement?

Try and take a look at your behaviour in the situation and take steps to reduce stress.

This might be lowering your voice, giving the dog space, adopting a non-threatening posture or providing a treat/toy.

2 - Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is when humans apply human characteristics to their dog.

Most commonly, this is humans attributing human emotion and expressions to our dogs. Anthropomorphism is hand in hand with appeasement, such as:
  • Rex has curled his lip and is smiling at us, he wants a hug
  • My dog is my baby, I can’t leave them alone
  • Billy loves it when I grab his paws we dance together
  • My dog is looking guilty, I’ll comfort them with a belly rub
Now, there’s nothing wrong with forming a bond and loving communication between you and your dog. There are fine lines between this and anthropomorphisation. The point is that we need to be mindful of incorrect interpretations of what the dog is trying to communicate.

Put aside your human disposition, observe your dog and act in their best interest.

3 - Flooding

Flooding is a negative, yet widely used dog training technique.

Flooding is the idea of exposing a dog to a certain thing (i.e. water, other dogs) over enough time, that it will end up accepting the situation and ‘get over it’.

You might have seen the following flooding examples:
  • Just drag him in the water, he’ll learn to love it
  • I know he’s uncomfortable walking past that house, just keep doing it
  • We should go to a busy dog park, he’ll learn that we’re all friends
The risk of flooding your dog is that the negative emotion surrounding the experience becomes temporarily suppressed and compounds to an even worse problem. You may find a dog may panic or show aggression in an effort to protect itself.

Flooding often occurs when the dog trainer is impatient or is unaware of how to appropriately train their dog. After adoption, you can contact GAP NSW’s behaviour consultants for advice on how to deal with certain scenarios without flooding your dog.

4 - Jealousy

The term jealousy in dogs could be better described as resource guarding in dogs.

Jealousy is more of a human emotion, and another example of anthropomorphism. As a provider of health and wellbeing to our dogs, we are seen as a resource to be sought after and protected. Resource guarding can be seen when:

  • Dogs growl when other humans hug their owner
  • Dogs obsess when food is being delivered
  • One dog is receiving all of the pats, access to the sofa and so on
Overcoming resource guarding involves being a reflective practitioner of dogmanship, strategies include:
  • Feeding each dog in a separate room so that they cannot access each other’s bowls
  • Distributing resources as evenly as possible, including your love and affection
  • Being mindful of each dog’s behaviour

If you decide to adopt two dogs or an additional dog from GAP NSW, we’ll talk at length about matching the dogs and setting them up for success.

5 - Social Hierarchy

There are a lot of misconceptions around social hierarchy in dogs.

The most prevalent is the thought of “this dog was the alpha of the pack, but as a human, I am the new leader”.

This is a false way to build a relationship with a dog. Obedience by the threat of fear of punishment is not in your dog’s best interest. There are better ways to earn respect.

While social hierarchy does exist in animals, it’s important to understand that this is a dynamic concept for dogs, and they’ll behave differently in different activities or with other dogs.

Ready to Adopt a New Best Mate from GAP NSW?

At GAP NSW, we invest heavily in science-based research to support dog behaviour, so that we can maximise animal welfare and our adoptions alike.
  • We offer a 6-week trial
  • We offer fun foster programs
  • You can ask our staff behaviour questions, before or after adopting
  • You will be supported by our organisation
Please view our wonderful greyhounds for adoption, and use our contact page for any questions.