The Insecure Anxious Dog That Was Mothered Too Much
A Facebook post from 2018 that I wrote about dogs that are overly dependent and obsessed with their owner came up on my news feed. I decided to re-post it here with some additional information.
I find one of the biggest issues I come across here in Vietnam (but not only Vietnam), is dog owners mothering their dogs way too much, instilling overly obsessive and dependent behaviour. This is not healthy for any type of relationship, even between humans.
My 2018 Facebook post (edited)
Social animals in the wild will in most cases display aggression if another animal is becoming to attached or overly dependent on it. For example, watch a mother with her pups, when its time for them to start being more self-reliant, the mother has no issue displaying aggressive behaviour towards the pup to break that dependency on her. Watch any birds that have a young one following them around pestering and screeching for food. The mother will usually attack it to break that dependency on her.
Watch any well balanced dog when an insecure dog keeps pestering them with obsessive overly dependent behaviour. In most cases it will use aggression to make the dog back away. Its not natural for any animal to remain overly dependent (or obsessed) on another animal once it is old enough to be self-reliant, and yet so many dog owners tend to encourage this overly dependent and obsessive attachment their dog has for them, by mothering their dog way too much. This type of relationship is not healthy for the dog, nor indeed the relationship itself.
Certainly, we should build a strong bond with our dog, but never should we be rewarding or reinforcing overly obsessive and overly dependent behaviour on us. There needs to be balance; a healthy relationship has boundaries enforced, and not mothering a dog because it makes us feel good emotionally, or because we feel sorry for it.
Can't deal with the real world
Mothering a dog does not allow a dog to develop self-confidence, in actual fact it encourages and strengthens insecurity in a dog. A dog that is insecure is more prone to develop unnatural or irrational fears and anxiety, which then can lead to aggression issues. A dog that is insecure due to its owner mothering their dog way too much will have issues dealing with the real world in a confident manner.
I see this mothering behaviour a lot by dog owners that adopt a dog from a rescue. They are informed by the rescue what a terrible and traumatic life the dog had in the past. "Your dog needs lots of affection and love now that it has found a loving home." Some rescues will even advise and recommend that the new owner should mother their dog due to its "apparent" traumatic past! This in many cases is why so many adopted dogs from rescues develop so many behavioural issues, such as being overly insecure, and developing an unnatural dependency on their owner, which in many cases can eventually lead to aggressive behaviours. I have lost count how many homes I have attended for aggressive behaviour, where the dogs owner has told me, when they adopted their dog she was so loving to us. However, she was fearful of other people that came to the home, or was scared when taken out for walks. We gave her lots of love, and when she was scared, we tried to comfort her to let her know everything was ok. Then suddenly she started becoming aggressive towards visitors, or she will not allow other people or dogs to approach me, and I don't understand why.
I have lost count how many homes have I been too, where the dogs owner purchased their 8 week old puppy from a breeder, and by 12 months was so overly dependent on its owner, that it could not bare to be away from its owner. Or had developed aggressive behaviour towards visitors that came to the home. Or would not allow other people to approach its owner. And all because the owner mothered their puppy way too much.
Resource guarding their owner
When an owner mothers a puppy (or an adopted insecure dog) too much, and the pup becomes overly dependent and overly obsessed with their owner, the owner becomes such high value to it, that it may even start resource guarding its owner to maintain possession and control of its owner. The owner believing that their dog is being protective of them because their dog "loves them", that is until I inform them that their dog is not protecting them from danger, they are no more than a high value juicy bone to their dog. "Your dog has claimed you as theirs, and will fight to maintain possession of you. You mothered your dog too much."
Aggressive towards the owners
So many of the dogs in these overly emotional mothering type relationships end up controlling and dictating to their owners. They (the dog) start setting the rules and boundaries. Remember, for any social animal living within a social group, there needs to be some form of consistent leadership. When that leadership is not available, then that void will be filled, in most cases. I so often come across dogs that will become aggressive when their owner tries to make their dog do something it doesn't want to do. It will dictate rules, such as claiming objects, places such as its bed or furniture, even people. Making the owners and other people respect their (the dogs) personal and social space, with absolutely no respect for the owners or other peoples. And in most cases, the dog gets the blame for this "unwanted" behaviour. This blaming the dog then leads to even deeper issues within the relationship.
Straight to the point!
Mothering a dog, as stated above, does not allow a dog to develop self-confidence. Every social animal on the planet understands this instinctively. Yet so many dog owners allow their emotions to override what is best for their puppy or adopted dog. Most responsible parents would never consider mothering their child for the rest of its life. They understand that eventually they need to break that dependency on them, just as a mother canine (or any social animal) will do with her pups. Yet bring a puppy or new adopted dog home, and all that logic goes out the window, and emotion takes control. This is one of the reasons I dislike terms such as furbaby or furmother so much, it tells me that in most cases the dogs owner has decided their puppy or dog is, and always will be, their little baby that needs to be mothered.
Emotional fulfilment has become the overriding factor in so many owner and dog relationships, and is therefore not really about what is best for the dog or relationship, no matter how much many try to convince themselves it is. Its more about fulfilling their own emotional needs, and sadly, in many cases, to the detriment of their dogs overall psychological health and well-being, as in a lot of cases, discipline, in the form of rules and boundaries, is thrown out the window, because "I don't want to hurt my dogs feelings". But in all honesty, this is rarely about the dogs feelings, its more to do with the overly emotional attachment the owner has with their dog. Sure, this in many cases, is not understood by a lot of dog owners, due in-part to TV shows and movies like from Disney, portraying overly emotional relationships with animals. However, people need to be educated, for the sake of our dogs overall well-being and psychological health. Setting rules and boundaries to a dog is not and indication you don't love them, its quite the opposite, it shows you understand what's best for them to live a psychologically healthy life, and therefore a healthy relationship with each other. It shows that our own emotional needs and fulfilment are not more important than our dogs instinctive needs.
It is so important to develop a healthy relationship with your dog
We need to be honest with ourselves, are we being the best guardian we can be for our dog? Are we setting the right rules and boundaries, or are we ignoring them to satisfy our own emotional needs?
Then when we get it wrong.. how many then blame the dog?
My aim is to educate those that don't have a full understanding about how their dog views the world around them, and how much a dog is influenced by their owners own behaviour. When I see a dog that is overly dependent on their owner, I see an owner that was overly dependent on and overly obsessive with their dog.
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