To cuddle or not to cuddle that is the question…..
Let us start with the obvious question, is fear and nervousness hereditary or learnt behaviour? Are pups born nervous, is it in the genes or do they learn from their mothers? Well the answers to those questions will depend on which “expert” you believe!! My personal opinion is that it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day the you are still faced with the same set of problems and one of those problems is how not to make matters worse.
Without a doubt a nervous mum can transfer her fear to her pups; this is learnt behaviour, also known as peer imprinting, but in majority of instances this fear disappears as the dog grows up and is exposed to life in general. In the case of hereditary fear the dog may always appear timid but can still lead a full and happy life. Nervous dogs can also greatly benefit from being in the company of an older, confident, calm dog thus drawing on the older dogs demeaner.
Now, let’s get on with the cuddle issue.
It all seems so simple, distressed dog, give it a cuddle and in the majority of instances that is correct. For example, in the instance of finding cold, wet, miserable puppies, prematurely separated from mum they obviously need lots of cuddles. Fear of humans can be overcome with a soft voice and cuddles as long as things are taken slowly.
There are, however, times when cuddles are totally inappropriate, this particularly applies to dealing with fear of noise such as thunder or traffic and the point of this article
If the dog shows distress at a noise we tend to do as we would with a chi!d, we cuddle and reassure but unfortunately to a dog this sounds like praise because we will use exactly the same words and voice tones as we would if we were pleased with the dogs behaviour. So the dog thinks, I hear noise, I then shiver and my nice human is pleased and what’s more I get a cuddle and if I am really lucky I might get a titbit!! So the bad behaviour continues and as time goes by the problem become chronic, the dog becomes more distressed and all the time it’s because we are getting it wrong.
Remember the golden rule, if the dogs behaviour is what we want it to do for the rest of its life then praise, reward and cuddles are correct but if the behaviour is not what we want, ignore and show no reaction.