A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

23 Things You Do That Your Dog Actually Hates

How would you feel if someone gave you unwanted hugs and commanded you to "make friends" with everyone you meet?

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talking to dog
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Talking to them in “their language”

A little woofing between friends is fun but constantly barking at your dog when they bark, especially if you are getting louder and louder, can be terrifying to your pup, says April Olshavsky, an AKC accredited Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and certified trainer. “Dogs don’t understand ‘talking,'” she says. “Just because you’re increasing the volume of your sound, does not mean the dog understands the words. And yelling at them to quiet them doesn’t work; in fact, your dog may even get louder thinking you are trying to play a barking game.” Instead, find out what your dog is really trying to say with all that barking, along with the other noises they make.

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sharing toy with dog

Sharing toys and snacks with them

Humans are taught at an early age to share their things but while that’s good manners for toddlers, for dogs it’s the opposite, Olshavsky says. “Dogs really like to have things that belong to just them,” she explains. So you might think it’s cute to “share” your childhood stuffed animal or “borrow” your dog’s favorite chew toy—and they might let you do it because you’re the boss—but it makes them feel very upset, she says. Do you know these 30 fun facts about dogs?

3 / 23
Dog's birthday
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Throwing them a surprise birthday party

It’s Dog 101: Dogs love their routine and they really do not like schedule changes, particularly surprise ones, Askeland says. Even something you think is fun, like a birthday party, can feel very stressful to your dog, she says. “The best gift you can give them is to keep their schedule consistent: Waking up at the same time to take them out, feeding them at the same time with the same diet, and keeping their exercise routine consistent,” she explains. All that said, a puppy in a party hat is one of the cutest things ever, like these hilarious animal photos you have to see.

4 / 23
Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy with overturned houseplant at home
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Making your dog apologize for destroying your plants

“Many people assume a dog knows he was ‘bad’ when he’s done something wrong because he will look ‘ashamed’ or ‘guilty’ but the truth is the dog is just reacting to your body language and tone,” Askeland says. Your dog isn’t “sorry” that he knocked over your plants, he’s scared and upset because he can see you are angry—dogs really aren’t capable of feeling those higher-level emotions that their owners often like to ascribe to them. Instead of making your dog apologize, work more on training the behaviors you want to see, she says.

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a dog's tail viewed from above in a green meadow

Assuming a wagging tail means a happy dog

Dogs use their tails to express all kinds of states, not just to show they are happy, yet many people interpret any wagging tail as a sign that the dog likes what they’re doing—one of the most common myths about dogs, Askleand says. “Typically, a slow, stiff, side to side wag with the tail straight up is a sign of an alert dog, not an excited one while a tucked and wagging tail is a sign of nervousness and submission,” she says. “Happy dogs will have their tail at a neutral level and will wag it quickly and loosely. The best tail is the helicopter tail, which is just like it sounds. This means they are very happy.”

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Planting a giant smooch on their snoot

Kissing is a sign of affection for humans and chances are your pooch loves any attention but the problems start when you grab their face to plant a smooch on their nose or forehead. “Even the most playful dog will often lean away from a person coming toward their face,” Olshavsky says. “Many dog bites have resulted from exactly this situation. It is especially important for parents to teach children early not to do this.” Looking for a dog that will be good with children? Check out the best dogs for kids and families.

7 / 23
sitting with dog in bed
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Pretending everything is fine after a bad day

Many dogs are very tuned in to their human’s emotions and they can feel confused if you’re acting in a way that doesn’t match your feelings, Olshavsky says. “Your dog can easily read body language and emotion. Dogs study your gestures, and can understand when you’re not having the best day,” she explains. So instead of hiding your feelings, just let your dog snuggle and comfort you—it’s all they really want to do anyhow!

8 / 23
Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppies playing
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Breaking up a puppy wrestling match

Owners see puppies nipping, growling, barking, and tackling each other and assume that they’re fighting but the truth is that is how puppies play and learn and breaking up “the fight” can stunt their doggy social skills, Askeland says. “This play fighting might seem scary to new pet parents but it is all perfectly normal dog behavior,” she says. “The only time an owner needs to remove their pups from a play situation is if a dog is clearly scared: tail tucked, trying to get away, hide, or appears to be frantic or panicked.”

9 / 23
A large bin full of dog toys!
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Lavishing your dog with all the newest toys and gadgets

From toys to TVs to special feeders, there are so many cool products aimed at dogs. But while you might want to get them all for your best furry friend, dogs don’t really need—or even want—all that stuff, Askeland says. In fact, getting them too many things, particularly those that make noise or move, can lead to overstimulation, she says. And an overstimulated dog often reacts by doing things you don’t want them too, like hiding or destroying things. What your dog wants most, more than any gadget, is quality time with their favorite person: You.

10 / 23
a chow-chow and a pekingese dog sniffing each other on the street

Forcing them to “make friends” with everyone

This may be hard to hear but your chill, friendly pup may not be as into street meet-and-greets as you think he is. “While your dog may adore your affections, he may not be so keen when it comes to others,” says Meg Marrs, a dog behavior expert and senior editor at K9 of Mine. He may do it to please you, but if he shows any signs of discomfort, don’t push it. You can also discover why dogs hate cats. “It’s important to respect a dog’s wishes and give them space if they don’t seem interested in saying ‘hi’ to strange people or dogs.” Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s weird behavior might be the difference in curbing bad habits.

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Woman touching on her Pomeranian dog in the park

Patting their head

You can pat your dog on her head, but that’s only because she loves you and recognizes you as the one in charge. For the most part, dogs really dislike being patted on the head, Marrs says. This is doubly true for anyone who’s not you. “To a dog, a head pat is a somewhat rude and threatening gesture, especially when the human stands over the dog, as most do,” she explains. Instead? Dogs prefer it if you crouch down to their level and let them come to you. And if you are petting another dog, opt for chin or chest scratches instead of head pats.

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dog in laundry basket - Jack Russell Terrier

Being a clean freak

No one wants to smell like their dog (we assume) but the opposite is definitely not true. Your dog takes a great deal of comfort in your scent and the stinkier, the better, Marrs says. You may prefer the scent of freshly washed sheets and clothing, but your dog prefers your natural scent. Indulge them by giving them one of your sweaty shirts to snuggle with while you give everything else a good wash, she says. In the meantime, make sure you’re protecting them from these 11 common household items that can harm pets.

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home comfort when watching TV - dog from the shelter

Chilling for hours in front of the TV

Eh, your dog doesn’t mind curling up on the couch with you for a Netflix marathon every once in a while, but if your first instinct when you get home from work is to kick off your shoes and spend the rest of the night in, your dog is going to suffer. “Dogs are desperate for stimulation,” Marrs says. “While most owners know that their dog needs a couple of walks each day, many don’t realize that their dog also needs mental stimulation by playing with you or interactive toys.” Make sure you’re taking some time every day to get your dog the mental and physical exercise he needs. But he sure to know the things your dog actually hates.

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new born half french bulldog puppy looking on cute female asian Thai girl kid teen face while she talking with copy space pet and animal mental healthcare therapy concept
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Constantly reassuring them everything is fine

Think you’re helping your dog by telling her she’s fine, you’re fine, and everything is great? While speaking in a soothing tone can be calming, constantly reassuring her may be confusing—especially if what you’re saying doesn’t match your emotions or actions, says Andrew Horan, dog expert, and owner of Citizen K9. “Dogs don’t need to be told everything will be okay, they don’t know what that means,” he explains. “Instead, show your dog that everything is OK by demonstrating calm behavior, and they’ll follow your cues.”

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Dog in bed with human. Female person drinking morning tea or coffee and working with laptop in bed with dog sleeping next to her.
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Each owner having their own rules

Does your partner forbid the dog from the bedroom while you let your pup sleep with you the second your partner is out of town? Stop. It. Now. “Dogs absolutely hate mixed signals,” Horan says. “Inconsistent rules causes confusion, confusion leads to frustration, and frustration leads to anxiety, destruction, or even aggression.” So don’t bring your dog into your pet-parenting battles; make sure you and your partner maintain the same consistent rules, always. You’ll also want to watch out for these 15 more signs your dog is secretly mad at you.

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Badly Behaved Dog Ripping Up Cushion At Home

Not having any rules

Some owners think that letting their dog have the run of the place is a great way to pamper their favorite four-legged friend. Nope. “Most dogs are not born leaders and they do not want to be in charge of anything,” Horan says. “They need you to give them structure and they like knowing where they fall in the chain of command.” However, dogs will take a leadership role if they feel no one else is providing it, which can cause some serious issues, like aggression (especially towards children), destroying furniture, or pooping on your carpet, he adds.

17 / 23
Happy child with down syndrome and Labrador retriever dog cuddling on sofa
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Giving great big snuggly hugs

People, especially kids, love to hug their dogs, and because they seem to put up with it, you may think your dog enjoys the close contact as much as you do. We’ve got some bad news for you: Hugging dogs makes them feel scared and anxious, according to one (controversial) study, in Psychology Today. Hugs restricts their movement and can feel intimidating, particularly if you’re getting right up in their face with yours, says Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, a pet behaviorist and training manager at Camp Bow Wow. It may help you out to pay attention to the 50 secrets your pet wishes you understood.

18 / 23
happy young woman with laptop in bed playing with dog
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Staring lovingly into their big, brown eyes

Dogs have the biggest, cutest, most expressive eyes, so it’s no wonder you love to look into them. But sustained eye contact isn’t the bonding experience you think it is; in fact, it can make your dog feel intimidated, pressured, uncomfortable, and confused, says Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA, author of Considerations for the City Dog. Make sure to give your pup lots of love and attention, but skip the deep staring.

19 / 23
white english bulldog smile and show tongue, fat dog walking together with woman on the street.
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Hurrying them through a walk

Dogs see the world through their noses and sniffing around is how they stay connected. So it’s important to let your dog meander and take in all the smells instead of forcing them to walk briskly with no breaks, McCue-McGrath says. “Sniffy walks give your dog an opportunity to check their ‘pee-mail,’ catch up on all the neighborhood dog news, or see what wild critter skittered by just a few hours prior,” she says. While you’re at it, take a cue from your dog and relax and smell the roses yourself. Just make sure you follow these 9 etiquette rules all dog owners need to know.

20 / 23
The dog in the rain

Dressing them up

Nothing is cuter than a poodle in a sweater with matching pom-pom booties. But even though their humans enjoy playing doggy dress-up, it’s not as fun for the dogs. “Clothes in many cases change the look of the dog, and many dogs hate the feel and smell of the clothes,” McCue-McGrath says. Plus, unless it’s extreme weather, they really don’t need additional clothing for protection, she adds.

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sleeping dog

Waking them from a dead sleep

Before you pounce on your snoozing pooch, take a minute to consider what you’re doing. “Who really likes being jolted out of sleep? No one and that includes your dog,” Askeland says. “As dogs age, they can sleep more heavily and can be startled and react poorly if woken up abruptly.” Turns out there’s some practical truth to the old saying “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Chances are she heard you come in anyhow and she’ll be up to greet you soon enough. If you’re gone, use these 6 ways to keep your dog busy while you’re at work.

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portraits photo of a lovely white fat cute pug dog laying flat on home outdoor floor making sad and lonesome face under natural sunlight shallow depth of field, blur background

Locking them in the garage during fireworks

More dogs run away on the 4th of July than any other day, thanks to the unnatural booming of fireworks, according to Cesar Millan, dog behaviorist and host of Dog Nation on NatGeo Wild. Locking them in a room is one way to keep them safe, but it can add to their terror. Instead, your best option is to make arrangements for them to stay somewhere far away from the noise, like a friend’s home or doggy daycare, he says. If that’s not possible, put them in their kennel and talk to your vet about possible sedation medications and always make sure they’re tagged and chipped in case they do escape.

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Dog gets ready to welcome baby to the family, dog stands in the nursery

Bringing home a new baby

Your dog is family, and it’s natural to want them to welcome any new additions as eagerly as you do. Unfortunately, dogs are more likely to see new people (of any size) as a threat, Askeland says. “It can be scary to a dog to have new people enter their household (their safe zone), so introductions need to be done outside your house, on neutral ground,” she explains. Before you even bring baby home from the hospital, bring home a blanket your newborn was swaddled in and a dirty diaper for your pup to sniff. Then, when it’s time for the big introduction, go slow, stay calm, follow your dog’s comfort level, and don’t force interactions. And forget snapping any adorable baby-puppy napping photos until they’re older.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.