Theresa Barlow and Craig Roberts, authors of The Psychology of Dogs, talk about the joy of understanding dog behaviour

The rewards that come with working with both people and dogs for me, are multiple!  The relationship between a person and a dog are as complex, as for different individuals the dog fulfils a range of needs.

One of my most enjoyable cases I experienced was a visit to a house of multiple occupancy where an elderly immobile person lived with a Jack Russell Terrier. The dog belonged to her daughter who was placed in a rehabilitation centre for those with drug and alcohol addiction. The dog had become accustomed to living on the streets (and more precisely on the beach) and was not adjusting to living in a studio flat and so was barking as a result of any external noise and voiding inside the home with more frequency all of which was extremely upsetting to its new owner (who was already in an anxious state given her concerns about her daughters welfare) and the noise was disturbing the other residents.

After spending a morning with them, which involved a lengthy process of organising the logistics of getting the lady and her dog on a beach walk, meeting the other residents and simply talking to everyone about why the dog was behaving as it did and there was actually no need for any advice on a behaviour modification programme required!

In understanding the dog’s behaviour the owner and the other residents were more than happy to organise a rota for dog walking, trips to the beach, visits to other residents’ rooms and the dog that was initially a problem became an integral member of the household.  More importantly the human spirit shown by the other residents towards not only the dog but to the dog’s owner who became more mobile as a community built around the needs of the dog. Consequently the residents were now needed as they all had a purpose to walk (and talk) and a social cohesion was created that didn’t exist when the residents were isolated to their individual rooms complaining about the noise and smell of the dog. This may have been a form of animal assisted therapy, this may have been therapeutic but suffice to say everyone was enjoying the rewards of shared dog ownership (not least the dog who I noticed was getting a little bit fatter with the seasons, bit that’s a lesser issue).

For me this case reiterated how much we can underestimate the value of education, which is based on the results of a scientific research approach, as well as us having a respect for the needs of each other and other animals, is the single most valuable tool in the understanding and getting the most out of the human animal relationship.