More often than not, it might feel like the latter. Luckily, though, dog brains don't angle toward the vindictive route - not the way you might fear, anyway.
Dogs are instinctual creatures that react to the stimuli in front of them. Dog brains don't have the ability to understand or communicate spite or vindictive behavior. Dogs are incapable of these complicated, human emotions.
So, next time your dog pees on the rug, remember: they are not doing it because they're mad at you, they simply needed to be let out a lot sooner.
Want to know more about doggy behavior that could be labeled as vindictive or spiteful? Do you want to better understand the science behind "dog emotions" and why you can't assign vindictive or spiteful to your doggo's emotional repertoire?
Read on! We've got the ultimate vindictive-doggy guide below!
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Signs Your Dog May be Giving You that Could be Confused with Vindication
If your dog is experiencing feelings of anxiety, boredom, or nervousness, it's possible that they'll manifest in vindictive-like behaviors like chewing, digging, incontinence, and other behaviors that they've been trained to recognize as "bad." If your dog does these things after you've either spent too much time away from them or haven't given them enough attention, your pup is simply responding to the stimuli in front of them. They are not mad at you and getting back at you.
You might notice your pup getting destructive or aggressive, too. For example, they might bark, growl, or be more vocal in situations where they typically wouldn't or knows they aren't supposed to.
Additionally, they might start tearing up furniture, the backyard, or items in your home out of boredom or anxiety. It's important to remember your dog isn't doing these things because they are angry or trying to get back at you. Instead, they are letting you know that they require more attention, more time, or a change of schedule to keep them happy and well taken care of.
- Exposed teeth
- Destructive behavior
- Uncharacteristic aggression
History of Dogs Being Vindictive
Dogs, however, simply don't think that way. They are unable to be motivated by spite. What was the likely case, Fisher suggests, is that the dog didn't understand which behavior the owner deemed incorrect. He does this when he's alone and no one is there to chastise him - so how could he know it's wrong when he's alone. It's possible that connection was never made.
There was a simple miscommunication. Additionally, the owner's pleas and scolds of "be good while I'm gone" likely caused the dog a bit of stress, and that stress, in turn, had him revert to stress-relieving behavior - lifting his leg.
The Science Behind Dog's Emotions
We often think that dogs can share the same emotions as humans, but in reality, they're unable to process such complex, human emotions. According to Dr. Marty Becker and trainer Mikkel Becker, dogs aren't capable of those sentiments. Often, the guilty expressions that follow their behaviors aren't omissions of guilt because of their vindictive-like actions, but more because of how we're reacting to their actions (like ripping up a shoe, or having an accident in the house). Instead of an "I did this because I was mad" they're giving us more of an "I see you're upset because of what I did, and I'm sorry" feeling.
Training Your Dog to Avoid "Vindictive" Behavior
Beyond that, though, you have to ensure your dog knows you're in charge. Make sure they understand basic commands like "no," "kennel," and "stop it." It's important that they can abide by these basic obedience commands so they understand you're the alpha dog and they have to listen to you.
Further, make sure that you stay consistent with the rules. If you confuse your pup, they are liable to slip back into behavior that doesn't coincide with what you want from them. If they are not allowed on the furniture, make sure they are always off the furniture, not just when you're home. If they are not allowed to chew on socks, make sure they know that socks are always off limits and don't give them any as a fun toy or treat when they are behaving his best.
Make sure they are crate trained, as well. Keeping them in a safe, comfy spot while you're away will help eliminate any bad behavior they might undertake while you're gone.
How to React to Your Dog Being "Vindictive":
Stay calm, as your dog probably did the bad thing well before you found it, and they will not be able to understand your anger.
Remember, dogs do not feel vengeful.
Look for what is causing their actions.
Work on consistent training.