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A Dog’s Guide to Understanding Humans

Written by Anna Hollisey


big dog talking to little dog all about life

Dear Pup, You’re new here, and you have a lot to learn. To help you out, I’ve written down some things I know about humans. It’s a strange world, but if you learn fast, you can start getting more belly-rubs and leftovers. I hope we get to have lots of adventures together! Love, Your Big Brother.

Humans Love Rules

Rules are difficult to understand. When you’re a dog, you get hungry, you eat. You feel tired, you lie down for a nap. You need to pee, you go anywhere. You get nervous, you bark. You feel lonely, you howl. One thing leads to another. 

But humans don’t work like that. They have RULES which mean we can’t always eat what we want or sleep where we want. These rules don’t seem to make any sense but if you ignore them, your human will be unhappy. If you want a peaceful life, you need to learn about their rules and make a few compromises.

Food… Eating from YOUR bowl is OK, and you can do that any time. We are fed at the same time every day, and your tummy will learn when that is. If you’re very hungry and the time seems right, try sitting near your bowl and look at it a lot. If you get a REAL special treat, you can eat it all at once (best) or take it outside and hide it (but the humans don’t like that much). 

When humans leave food on their bowls, they call it “leftovers” and even though THEY don’t want it, they don’t want YOU to lick it up while they’re looking. But if they look a different way, or leave the room, then it’s OK. In fact, that is true about many of the human rules. 

Floor Food is also OK (most of the time), although sometimes humans will yell and pick up their Floor Food (if it is very special).

The humans keep a secret list of things which are NOT OK for you to eat, and that list is not easy to predict, but here are some things which are definitely on it: Poop (any kinds), Socks, Plastic Bags, and Hard Plastic (hurts when it comes out). You will have to work out the rest of the list for yourself, because there are new items on it all the time. 

Mouth Rules… I know that your mouth helps you to learn about things around you, and you love to play with biting. But you can hurt your humans if you chomp them, even though you are just playing puppy games. It’s not just humans – tables, mail, cushions and toys are not suitable for biting either. If you are stressed and you accidentally chew a thing to bits, your human will be angry (but sometimes it is worth it). 

Even though we like to kiss our humans because we are so excited and happy when they come home and we just love them so, so much, they might not like it. Give it a try and see. 

Walking your Humans

Humans don’t love the outdoors as much as we do. But they really need to be exercised every day, otherwise they get grouchy and lazy. Here are some pointers to help you enjoy your walk.

  • If you’re off-leash, lucky you! Now you must always return to your human when they shout your name. Otherwise, you risk being put back onto the leash forever and ever. 
  • Learning about other dogs is a challenge when you are a puppy. You will have to watch them carefully to see if they want to play (paws forwards, bottom in the air) or if they don’t (standing very hard and still, with all the fur raised on their back). 
  • Take your time to check pee-mail and leave messages for your friends in the neighborhood. You can learn all kinds of stuff, like what they ate for breakfast.
  • Humans love it when we walk right beside their legs, but they are very slow, and we are very fast. This is one of the hardest things about being a dog. But you should know that sometimes running TOO MUCH makes you feel sad and tired later. So walking beside your human is OK in moderation. 

Making your Humans Happy

Our MOST important job is taking care of our humans. They are very sensitive, and their feelings are complicated. As dogs, our role is to stay close to them at all times and monitor their activities. We should also protect them from threats like squirrels, strangers, and people with long sticks. 

  • If your human has a wet face, eyes and nose, that means they are crying. It might make you feel sad, too. Try a “face hug” where you climb up and push your face onto theirs as much as you can. If your human laughs, that means you won the game.
  • Humans spend a lot of time on the couch, which works for us too. If you can lie right next to them ON the couch that is ideal, because you can stay warm and know when they are about to leave (even if you are dozing). Plus, you might get extra petting, and that makes our happy feelings stronger. If you are banned from the couch, try lying right on top of your human’s feet for the same effect. 
  • Humans are VERY happy when you learn some of their language. They like it when we perform tricks such as “SIT” or “Lay Down” or even “Play Dead”. I don’t know why we need to do these, but they are not hard, and your human will reward you with a happy sound and sometimes nice foods. It can be fun. You will learn lots more words like “dinner”, “car”, “walk” and “grandma”, which give you clues about what happens next.
  • Sometimes our humans leave the house to go for their own long walk. I still don’t know why they do it without us, but we must try to be patient. But if you cannot, it is OK to howl and express your anguish until they return (when you must be silent again and pretend that nothing happened). 

Further Reading…

Here are 9 things you should know before getting a new puppy./learn/dog-lifestyle/9-things-nobody-tells-you-about-getting-a-puppy While you’re deciding, read The Puppy Diaries 1: Thinking about getting a puppy!/learn/dog-diaries/the-puppy-diaries-1-thinking-about-getting-a-puppy