A New Book Tells Us Just How Lonely Our Dogs Are

Move over, Doctor Doolittle, and make way for Dr. John Bradshaw — a British scientist and the author of the new book “Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet”.

Bradshaw may have the fancy title of anthrozoologist, but his advice for the pet set is simple: Stop looking at your pooch as a dog in wolf’s clothing, don’t leave him alone in your apartment all day, and try seeing the world through your pup’s eyes — and nose.

Highlights of this canine-brain primer include:

“Most dogs probably have stronger attachments to people than they do to other dogs,” says Bradshaw. “Which is pretty unusual for any species, apart from our own.”

Thus his key finding? “That most dogs do not like being left alone,” says Bradshaw.

In fact, he estimates that of the 70-plus million dogs in the US, it’s likely that well over 10 million may be experiencing separation distress. In many cases, their owners aren’t even aware and think their dogs are fine, simply because they haven’t come home to shredded cushions and a raided pantry.

Since most dogs learn that cues such as their owners picking up their keys mean lonely times to follow, Bradshaw says the trick is “to link such cues to good outcomes — affection and the owner’s return — before they can become associated with the negative outcome of separation.”

Bradshaw also advises dog owners to not “be the pack leader” Dogs (and wolves in the wild, for that matter) don’t seek out an alpha unless they’re forced to. In regular home settings, says Bradshaw, dogs see the group — humans included! — as family.

As for their amazing sense of smell, which is between 10,000 and 100,000 times higher than ours, Bradshaw advises that all dogs be allowed to indulge in their primary sense.

By that, Bradshaw means letting the dog next door sniff your hand, or letting your own mutt wander a little further on his leash so he can pick up the scent of the dog who used the fire hydrant before him. This is how he gathers information, even if we don’t quite know how or why.

So what, you wonder? How does that make your pooch feel? Bradshaw translates the situation into human terms: “Just like how we would get upset if they came in the room and turned off the television.”

Spoken like that, now it all makes sense!

Story by Elaine Furst for Dog Files

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Michael Haslam
12 years ago

Makes sense and I’m glad the outdated Alpha leader theory is being challenged. The study of wild wolves rather than caged wolves is changing the way we perceive our dogs.

12 years ago

Interesting insight, but so do not agree with many of his theories. Does this guy think he is a dog and can speak for them?


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