Humans have a pretty simple built-in system for letting others know we don’t appreciate their behavior: we can tell them. Whether or not we choose to do so is up to us, and while dogs technically can do the same thing, they don’t have the advantage of using words most humans can easily understand, like saying the universal phrase “stop it!”
There are ways dogs let us know we’re stressing them out, though, and that they’d prefer we stop doing whatever it is that we’re doing. If you’re not attuned to the signals your pet is giving you that you’re causing stress, you should at the very least equip yourself with knowing the handful of things humans do that commonly cause dogs to feel stressed, irritated, or generally unhappy. Odds are you had no idea your dog doesn’t love it when you:
Use Inconsistent Verbal Cues
“Stop!” “No!” and “Don’t Do That!” all mean the same thing to a person, but that’s not entirely true as far as your dog understands. Say, for example, he is jumping on every new guest that comes into the house. If you’re verbalizing that you want them to stop in multiple ways, it’s going to be tough for your pet to understand that “No” and “Stop That” are earning them the same scolding. This is confusing for your dog because, as you know, he doesn’t speak English. You’ve given him different commands that mean the same thing, yet he can probably grasp on some level that he’s being scolded. The major confusion here comes from not fully understanding why he's earned the scolding when you use different verbal commands.
For this reason, do your best to minimize the commands you use based on specific behaviors you either want to reinforce or stop.
Tell An Anxious Or Upset Dog “It’s Ok”
Think of your natural reaction to a whimpering dog that is clearly in pain. You’re probably going to use your most soothing voice possible and want to reassure them that everything’s ok. You’ll probably even say the word’s “It’s Ok.” The catch here is that as far as your dog is concerned, everything isn’t ok. According to Dr. Karen Becker, we actually train our dogs to understand or believe that things aren’t ok when we then follow up by doing something that’s associated with a problem, like take them to the vet.
Wag Your Finger At Them
Wagging the finger is a universal sign of disapproval. Again, we are imposing human communication on dogs here. Dogs do know that the gesture is a sign of disapproval and since it’s usually associated with a dominant, imposing, and even angry stance, your pup intuitively knows they’re in trouble when this happens.
Stare At a Dog You Don’t Know
When a dog is familiar with their family and loved ones of their family, this typically isn’t a problem. But when you come across a dog you’ve never met before or are still somewhat unfamiliar with it can be taken as a sign of aggression to hold extended eye contact. This will induce stress for some dogs.
Force Affection On Them
Dogs hate unwanted affection just as much as we hated it from strange relatives as a kid. To a human, the hug is a universal sign of affection. But to some dogs, this is an act of restraint and being trapped. Every dog has a different threshold for comfort and affection, but just remember that not every dog will interpret wrapping your arms around them as just that. They may love leaning up against you, being pet, and being cuddled, but always be aware of how forceful you’re being with your affection.