Improving your Dogmanship

Dog-human relationships have always fascinated me, certainly enough to write a whole PhD thesis about them!

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Dogmanship is a term coined by my PhD supervisor that describes an individual’s ability to interact with dogs.

My postgraduate research examined the concept of dogmanship and what a person with good dogmanship might look like. Obviously it behoves us to aspire to be the best dog people we can be, so we can have the best lives possible with our furry best friends.

I’ll summarise a few key aspects of dogmanship to pique the aspiring dog whisperers among you.

Dogmanship involves influencing your dog’s emotional state- for the better!

When a dog is in a positive emotional state, it is more likely to offer the behaviour you want. A positive emotional state for a dog is when it has positive associations with a certain signal, stimulus or event.

omg-leadE.g. “She is holding the lead, whenever she holds the lead we go outside and have adventures- YAY!”.

Providing things your dog values in response to good behaviour (positive reinforcement) and engaging in mutual play sessions are good ways of putting your dog in a positive emotional state. Conversely, limiting the creation of negative associations (such as physical or verbal punishments) avoids a negative emotional state.

Our dogmanship is optimal when we are reflective practioners

Observing and understanding our dogs’ behaviours and emotions helps us to apply dogmanship effectively. This requires us to adjust our approach and behaviour based on the feedback (emotions) we receive from our dogs. This is what is known as being a reflective practitioner.

To be a reflective practitioner of dogmanship involves:

  1. Observing the behaviour and emotional state of our dogs (this requires objective assessment and should avoid any judgement bias)
  2. Responding to our dog’s behaviour in a consistent manner
  3. Considering our dog’s feedback and adjusting our behaviour accordingly

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This approach encourages clear communication between dog and human and encourages best practice in terms of dogmanship.

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