Can Dogs Feel Force?

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Introduction

Watch a pair of Great Danes playing, and the question may pop into your head - do dogs even feel force? The two take turns knocking each other to the ground and bashing faces, all the while being completely happy in their play. While it's fairly obvious that dogs are subject to gravity and other earthly pulls, when it comes to blunt force, sometimes it seems to not even phase them.

Flash forward to the tragedy of a dog getting hit by a car or getting beat by an abusive owner, and the answer is a definite "yes". Dogs do feel force, it just may be that they are quite a bit tougher than we are (for the most part).

Signs Dogs can Feel Force

A new puppy in the home is a fun and wonderful time in between cleaning up their little accidents and trying not to be annoyed about the chew marks on your slippers. Youth is exuberant and a joy to be around, but friends are telling you it’s time for some basic training to make junior a good citizen.

You recall your father teaching the family Boxer how to sit. Clay, named after the infamous boxer, Cassius Clay, was not a great learner and as your dad kept saying sit, Clay would tilt his head or raise his paw.

You could hear your dad’s frustration as he demanded they quickly respond. This was met with a whine and then Clay would just walk away. Your dad decided to stick to gardening and pay someone to train Clay.

You recall the trainer hired to get the job done and how Clay became a different dog. Sure he could sit, stay and come but something had died in his eyes from the harsh tones of the trainer. Clay was now a nervous pooch who snapped when you tried to pet him. He'd cower when it was time for a walk and whimper when voices were raised. 

As a puppy, he'd never been much of a barker but now he woofed when someone came to the door. Something had happened to Clay as he stared out the window and no longer played with his toys. It looked like his spirit was broken, as he howled when you asked him to sit.

Back in the day, dog training was a different story - a more military-style of event. The sergeant major would bark the commands and the dog would soon submit.

Early training regimes made dogs a robotic style of pet. Their feelings were not considered and they soon learned their place. It was similar to the way kids were punished for not doing as they were told.

Today, hitting is unacceptable but still dogs are punished physically. The advent of the rolled up newspaper saw many a mutt learning how to bite. Fear aggression can be a reaction to a dog being constantly punished. They’ll growl with teeth fully barred teeth waiting for the next slap. Dog owners thought this was the wolf trying to get on top, when really it was just a pooch tired of being hurt.

Body Language

Some signs that your dog has felt impact or force include:
  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Cowering
  • Howling
  • Snapping
  • Biting
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Signs a dog has reacted badly to training with force are:
  • Lack of trust
  • Fear aggression
  • Fearful behavior
  • Losing interest in play
  • Getting upset with harsh voices

The History of Dogs Feeling Force

During the great domestication, dogs were bred to herd and guard. Their natural instincts were encouraged and owners learned ways to get them to respond.

It wasn’t until the First World War that dog training was truly recognized. Dogs were instructed to obey with inducements and punishments, influencing a world of dog trainers to coach pooches in this way.

A dog was descended from a wolf, so it seemed reasonable to assume you needed to train them not to eat you! This was the staple among dog trainers who took the Konrad Most school of forcing a dog to listen and applied it to a Miniature Poodle.

Most was training police dogs in Germany before the first World War broke out. He was then called upon to work with military mutts. His infamous "Training Dogs - A Manual" became a dog training bible for the modern age. Most used a form of operant conditioning long before an American psychologist named B.F Skinner gave it a name.  If a dog does something right, he is rewarded, but if that same pooch does not perform a command, they could then be punished by a harsh vocal tone or leash correction using a prong collar.

To make matters more interesting, a study in the 1970’s of captive wolves made dog owners believe their Dachshund was part of the wolf clan. Wolves were ruled by the Alpha and constantly challenged in the role.

Family packs sprung up all over the world as pet-parents practiced their new Alpha rank. Dogs were then forced to be a lowly member of the pack.

Then along came Barbara Woodhouse with her strict approach and classic “walkies” and“sit” mantra.  Proclaiming to be telepathic, this talkative TV celebrity of the 80’s believed any dog could be trained within six minutes.

It may be best to look away from the TV and, instead, seek local dog trainers who use new, innovative methods in their training and bring a list of positive reviews in their trail. Not all dogs are the same, not all dogs have had the same experiences, and definitely, not all dogs will respond to every style of training. 

One thing is for sure - dogs do feel force, so always keep training controlled and respectful, and opt for positive reinforcing methods whenever possible.

The Science of Dogs Feeling Force

We love our dogs, so we want them to feel they can trust us to make good decisions for their welfare. That includes listening to the words of science and the insights into how dogs think.

Lucky for us, our pooches have shown in studies they really like us and whenever we around, their brain lights up in happiness. This was the discovery of neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, who wanted to know, what secrets lay beneath those floppy ears.

This was a first, as he looked into the canine brain and saw they are big fans of humans. His research team learned that dogs problem solve in a similar way to us and can recognize the face of their guardians. They also feel a depth of emotion, but the jury is out whether they can negotiate more complex feelings, like guilt, pride, and shame.

Training a Dog to Avoid Trauma

Gentle persuasion is the key to helping a pooch that may have known force in its life. It’s the nicest way to form a long-lasting bond. Your dog will enjoy training sessions and look forward to the leash going on and learning time in the backyard.

If you fur-baby is a shelter pup, they may never have learned to sit. This could be a fun experience as they hear the word and look blankly into space. Older dogs require a little more patience, but once they realize treats are the reward, your rescue pup will be sitting on request.

According to Healthy Pets, if your new dog has a few behavioral issues, the way forward is with positive reinforcement. This training method sees your pup getting yummy chicken treats for good behavior and ignored for behavior you don’t want to encourage

It’s highly possible your rescue dog has not been socialized and may fear loud noises or people that remind them of a forceful past. It's a little trickier teaching an old pooch new tricks and introducing them to the sights and sounds of the world they may know nothing about. Taking in new smells and places could see a precious pup feeling emotional, so they will need your reassurance that everything is OK!

Some shelter pups are a little timid and tend to shy away from people talking to them. Fearful Dogs suggest the “Name Game”, where you say your pooches name over and over again while giving treats. This gets them familiar with their name and the good vibes that go with it.  

Dogs that have known force may be defensive, so give treats in the palm of your hand. You want a dog that feels uncomfortable with sudden hand movements to know they can bring positive things, like a treat or pet.

Holding a treat in your hand, let your dog take it and say “good dog” each time they do this. Then, close your hand and let the pooch sniff and touch your hand. Praise them and give the treat. You can do this exercise targeting their head area and, in time, an apprehensive pooch will be relaxed when approached by strangers.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe from Force:

  • Always train in a controlled manner.
  • Keep your dog secure when outside.
  • Monitor all play sessions and stop them when things get too rough.
  • Teach all family members to treat the dog with respect.

Tell Us About Your Dog's Experiences with Force