Dogs play many roles in a household: resident pet, yes, but also friend, family, cuddle buddy, sympathetic listener and, apparently, frequent bedmate. The recent Purina Dog Chow Family Poll found that 93 percent of Canadians say their dog makes their family complete. The poll also revealed some other fun facts about how Canadians see and treat their four-legged family members. We spoke with Jill Priest, a dog behaviourist and trainer in Toronto, to delve a little deeper into what the poll revealed about dogs and dog owners across Canada.
[caption id="attachment_15592" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Puppies learn their names quickly: "Its the tone [you use], what follows the name and how consistently you use it," says Priest.[/caption]
Dog owners in Quebec are most likely to look to their dogs for comfort and reassurance. “If we’re crying, they come up and try to comfort us,” says Priest. Dogs observe us as much as we observe them; they naturally become attuned to what’s going on in their home so they know when something isn’t right and will match their energy level to their owners’. This instinct extends to other dogs, as well. “ If a dog is ill or injured, they’ll be respectful of their space, but check in, almost to say, do you need anything?” says Priest. In her classes, Priest has seen more well-socialized dogs lend a helping paw to pups that look nervous. Calming signals, such as licking their lips or yawning, help puppies feel a little less fearful of their unfamiliar surroundings. Dog owners in Alberta are most likely to let their dogs sleep in their bed. A dog knows when he's getting special permission to do something he probably shouldn’t be doing. “It can give him a bit of a sense of entitlement,” says Priest. “'I get to sleep where you sleep, so therefore we’re on the same level.’” Your dog sleeping on your bed is not a problem, says Priest, as long as he gets off when you tell him to get off. Dogs in the Prairies are most likely to be named by the kids in the family. While Mom and Dad entrust this parental responsibility to their kids, the dog is very much aware of the difference in authority between parents and child. Dogs tend to view children as littermates, says Priest. That’s why the youngest child is often the subject of the most nipping; young children tend to move quickly and shriek – just like puppies. “I always encourage families to come to dog training together so everyone's on the same page,” says Priest. “ We get the children to feed the puppies because that elevates their importance in the dog's eyes."
[caption id="attachment_15598" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A slightly different take on letting sleeping does lie: if you let him, he'll gladly make your bed his.[/caption] Dog owners in Atlantic Canada are most likely to see their dogs as a great companion and man's best friend. Dogs, in turn, can find us confusing. Many of the behaviours that are natural for humans are the exact opposite of how dogs perceive the world. Take what happens when a dog doesn't wait for an invitation to jump on you. “Most people bend down and touch the dog and say good dog,” says Priest. “From the dog’s perspective, you’ve just looked at me, touched me, talked to me and praised me. Tell me again why I’m not going to jump on top of you.” As confusing as they find their owners, dogs adore them and are happy when they’re consistent – because that's when they start to make a little more sense. Dog owners in Ontario are most likely to celebrate their dogs' birthday. Your dog probably has no idea that it’s his birthday, but he is very much aware when something is about him – and he’s quite happy about it. On the other hand, he’s equally aware when he’s not the centre of attention. “That’s why when you have company over, he may steal a pair of underwear and play keep-away,” says Priest. Dogs in British Columbia are most likely to be included in family photos. They are quite the perceptive puppies – they're aware when everyone but them gets to do something. “Dogs very much feel a sense of inclusion,” says Priest. “They like to be with family, but don’t necessary want to be hugged all the time.” Dogs may not understand the concept of having a photo taken, but they are aware of how everyone is looking in one direction. Of course, if your little guy just won't cooperate, a little bribe in the form of his favourite treat may steer his gaze in the right direction. Do you celebrate your dog's birthday? Do you let your puppies sleep on the bed? How does your dog show empathy for his loved ones? Don’t miss out on any of our posts – sign up for our newsletters and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.