Dog Training – Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on March 2, 2016 – click to view>

naughty playful puppy dog after biting a pillow-canstockphoto11002737Dogs are social animals and actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to being part of a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young, playful puppy, people have a tendency to interact with them constantly. While this interaction is a very important part of socialization and bonding, you need to make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around and 2) you will come back. When leaving your puppy/dog alone, put him in his crate or a puppy-proof room. Be sure to give him some of his favorite chew toys so he can have some fun while he awaits your return. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy/dog in his area and leave.

Your puppy/dog may start to whine or bark when you leave. This is very normal. Your first impulse may be to return to the puppy/dog and try to calm him, however, that is the worst thing you can do. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy/dog for whining. Do not pay any attention to your puppy/dog and do not let him out until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.

Leaving your puppy/dog at home, at the veterinarians, at the groomers or a boarding kennel should also be a very low-key, non-emotional event. Likewise, the same applies when returning to your puppy/dog. If you make leaving or returning into a big event, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy/dog is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy/dog when he is not with you. We just do not want to let him know that.

Start your alone training by building time slowly. Five to ten minutes is a good place to start if your puppy/dog has never been out of your site for that length of time. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. Continue leaving your puppy/dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.

If this behavior does not improve after a few days, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) or Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). They can help you assess the behavior and make recommendations on how to help your dog. If your dog exhibits destructive behaviors such as digging, scratching or chewing on themselves, house soiling, destructions of objects, extreme vocalization, constant pacing, digging and scratching at exits such as doors and windows in an attempt to reach you, and following you excessively, never letting you out of sight, then you should immediately discuss this situation with your veterinarian.  These are symptoms of separation anxiety which may require treatment with appropriate medications and a behavior modification program specific to separation anxiety. Your veterinarian will probably refer you to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog and your family.  Resolving separation anxiety will typically involve changes in your family’s behavior in addition to your dogs.  This is typically not an easy problem to resolve and becomes more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on. That is why teaching your dog to cope with being alone is an excellent investment of your time.

Recommended Resources

Alone Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxietyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/30/dog-behavior-crate-habituation-to-reduce-anxiety/

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy®http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©13-Mar-16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – Dog to Dog Interactions

Not all dogs enjoy interactions with other dogs. Whether you and your dog are at the dog park, a fundraising walk with other dogs, or just with other friend’s dogs, your dog may be afraid and may prefer to be somewhere else. Unfortunately, not everyone can readily read the signals that their dog uses to say “Help! I’m afraid, can we please go home?” These new posters created by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) will help dog lovers look out for their dogs.

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Scared

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Scared-2

Just as some dogs do not like the dog park because they get picked on, some dogs bully other dogs at the dog park. If you have a dog that is being pushy, you should intervene immediately. These images will show you what to look for and what to do.

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Pushy

iaabc-dogpark-Is Your Dog Pushy-2

Recommended Resources

Blog Posts

Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communication – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Books

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006

Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You – DVD – Turid Rugaas,

The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D, Ballantine Books, 2002

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

The Language of Dogs – Understanding Canine Body Language and Other Signals- DVD’s – Sarah Kalnajs, Blue Dog Training and Behavior, 2006

OFF-LEASH Dog Play, Robin Bennett, CPDT and Susan Briggs, CKO, C&R Publishing, 2008

YouTube

Turid Rugaas Calming Signals DVD – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7BWxC6iVs

Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

<Last updated 17MAY16>

 

dog going in crate-canstockphoto3233849Dogs are den animals and often find security and comfort in a den-like space such as a crate, under a table, or in some other small, confining area. In order for a crate to offer your dog security, it must be “den like.” Crates often work best when they are not a wire cage, but are one of the airline style crates that are plastic or fiberglass, and are enclosed on all sides except for a door at the front. In the wild, a den would typically be enclosed on all sides except for an entrance.

If you have a wire crate, you can convert it into a den by placing a board on top of it to make it more den-like. Make sure the board extends a couple of inches beyond both sides of the crate so you can hang a blanket over the board to close in the sides. You do not want the dog to be able to pull the blanket into the crate. Many wire crates have a pan at the bottom which can make noise and move around unexpectedly, which some dogs may find unsettling. You may wish to remove the pan or place an old towel or blanket over the tray, but make sure that your dog will not rip it apart and ingest it.

A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, if still housetraining, the dog should NOT have enough room to sleep in one corner and eliminate in another part of the crate.

Some beds are specifically made for dog crates, but I do not recommend them for dogs with anxiety issues, as they will often chew and possibly ingest items like this when left in the crate. Until you know your dog will do well in the crate, and is housetrained, I would recommend you do NOT use any bedding material. Muppy Under the End Table

Place the crate in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family. They do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you.

Do not to abuse the use of the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so NEVER use it for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate, it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.

If Your Dog Is Already Acting Negatively Towards the Crate

Some dogs have already had a bad experience in a crate and will panic if you try to put them in a crate. In this case, we need to go slower and start with something crate-like, but different. What I am going to suggest will NOT confine the dog, thus, active management is mandatory, but will hopefully allow them to acclimate gradually to a crate-like environment.

Find a small table, a card table can work nicely for most size dogs, and start practicing the following exercises:

  1. Toss a treat or a favorite toy under the table, so your dog goes underneath to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals under the table. Place the dish right up near the front of the table so the dog barely has to put his head in, to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back under the table.
  3. Once the dog is happily eating and spending time under the table, get an old blanket or some pieces of cardboard and cover two sides of the table so that it is now semi-enclosed. The front and back should still be open. Continue the exercises above with this newly configured table, recognizing that you may need to start slowly to get your dog comfortable.
  4. When the dog is happily spending time under the table with two sides enclosed, enclose the back of the table and continue the exercises you started above. After the dog is comfortable in this setting, try introducing a crate as noted below.

Introducing the dog to the crate

  1. Remove the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Do this a couple of times a day for several days.
  2. Start feeding your dog his meals in the crate. Place the dish right up near the front of the crate so the dog barely has to put his head in, in order to eat. Over several meals, as the dog becomes more comfortable, start putting the dish further back in the crate.
  3. At the same time, you start feeding your dog his meals in the crate, you can also begin some other crate exercises to practice during the day. Have your dog go into the crate and feed him a high-value reward (cheese, a piece of chicken, something really good) through the door of the crate. While doing this, he is learning he gets the best rewards while in his crate. To keep these rewards high value, he should only get this treat for this particular exercise.
  4. When your dog is comfortable going all the way into the crate to eat his meal, put the door back on and quietly close the door behind them, but do NOT latch it. Let him come out when he wishes.
  5. Pick a word such as “kennel” and use it immediately before you put the dog in its crate for eating. When the dog is comfortable with the door closed, start latching it, but stay close.
  6. When the dog is comfortable staying in the crate eating with the door latched, start leaving them in the crate for longer periods after they finish eating.
  7. When you can keep the door latched for 5 minutes after the dog has stopped eating, start leaving the room. Be out of site but close by so you can hear your dog if they become anxious. Return after 5 minutes as long as the dog has not become anxious, and let the dog out of the crate. Do not make a big deal out of letting him out. Continue this until you can stay out of site, with the dog in the crate for at least 15 minutes. What we hope will happen is that the dog will eventually lie down and settle in the crate.
  8. Start using the word “kennel” to put your dog in the crate for short periods other than at mealtime. Give them a sturdy toy like a stuffed Kong or Nylabone to interact with while in their crate. The first time you do this, just step out of site for 5 minutes or less. If the dog does not panic or become anxious, continue to gradually, in baby steps, increase their amount of time in the crate with you out of site.
  9. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you just out of site, try leaving the dog in the crate, and leaving the house. Come back in the house after a couple of minutes, listen, and see if the dog is still calm. If so, just stay out of site and continue to work on increasing the amount of time left in the crate. Gradually, increase the time you are outside until you can leave the dog for 30 minutes with you outside.
  10. When you can leave the dog in the crate for at least 30 minutes, with you outside, leave the dog in the crate, leave the house, get in the car, start it and drive at least 100 feet away. Turn off the car, walk back to the house and see if the dog is still relaxed. Gradually, increase the time you can leave the dog for in the crate with you driving away until the dog can be left for 3 to 4 hours. Remember, if you want to be successful, you need to go in baby steps. For some dogs, this might mean increasing the amount of time you leave them by just 1 or 2 minutes per session.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (HTTP://WWW.WORDS-WOOFS-MEOWS.COM)

Alone Training – <click to read>

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – <click to read>

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy® – <click to read>

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™ – <click to read>

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Book Review: Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas

Barking- The Sound of a Language by Turid RugaasAnother excellent little book from Turid Rugaas, this one dealing with a common complaint from dog guardians – “My dog barks too much.” Rugaas explains the many reasons dogs bark and offers advice on how to determine why your dog is barking. She also offers suggestions on how to change your dog’s behavior so they bark less. Since many of the reasons dogs bark excessively are a result of stress and anxiety, Rugaas addresses the need to reduce the dog’s stress, which may mean changing our behavior as well. She also clearly explains why punishment based strategies and tools like anti-barking shock collars are more likely to make the problem worse, rather than better. If you feel your dog is barking too much, this book is a MUST READ. Even if your dog is quiet as a mouse, I recommend this book as it will give you greater insights to your dog’s vocalizations and their canine point-of-view.

©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Like us, our dogs can and do experience stress. Just as stress can make us feel afraid or hyper or edgy or irritable, it can do the same to our dogs. It is a well-established fact that the “wrong kind” of stress or chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our behavior, health, and overall well-being. Whether “good stress” or “bad stress”, physiologically, the manifestation of stress in dogs is similar as to that in humans, with the same negative and positive effects. Stress has the potential to make one ill, suppress the immune system, cause behaviors that damage relationships with others, and increase arousal. This increase in arousal greatly increases the probability of aggressive behavior.

As a pet behavior consultant, I have observed that most behavior problems with pets, especially the more serious such as aggression and separation anxiety, are the result of stress. Therefore, as responsible guardians for our dogs, we have an obligation to understand stress and its impact so we can do what is necessary to minimize stress in the lives of our canine friends.

Definition of Stress

Stress is the response of an organism to a demand placed upon it to change or adapt.*”

*Canine Neuropsychology, third edition, by James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005, page 3

“Good” Stress versus “Bad” Stress

Certain levels of stress are normal and even necessary for survival and the increase of gray matter in the brain. Good stress is called eustress. This “positive” stress allows an organism to utilize energy in a positive manner and assists in the development of new capabilities. This type of stress, in appropriate quantities, is essential to normal growth.

When stress is negative or becomes excessive, it is called distress. Stress of this manner can damage an organism, resulting in illness and behavioral problems such as anxiety and aggression. This may become a vicious cycle, with stress contributing to even more stress until an organism collapses in exhaustion or self-destructs.

The susceptibility to distress varies with each individual organism. How an individual responds to distress is often affected by a combination of inherited genes and events within the organism’s environment.

It is important to understand that eustress and distress occur over a continuum. Eustress can range from contentment to extreme excitement and distress can range from worry to extreme fear or minor irritability to severe aggression.

Eustress and Distress

What Does Stress Feel Like?

Stress affects us both physiologically and emotionally, and the two are always interconnected. Whether experiencing eustress or distress, the physiology and the effects on the body are essentially the same. Therefore, the biggest difference between the two types of stress is a matter of our perception of how we feel.

Good Stress (eustress) Always Acute Bad Stress (distress) Acute or Chronic
Heightened Sense of Awareness Increased Reactivity/Jumpy
Alert Hyper-Vigilant
Euphoria Irritability
Learning a new task (confident) Inability to learn (doubtful)

We have all experienced both eustress and distress at some point in our lives, but fortunately not all of us have experienced extreme distress. Some medications can cause the same physiological effect as distress so if you have ever been on prednisone, or known someone who has, you may have a better idea of how severe distress feels.

Prednisone is a man-made corticosteroid that is used to suppress the immune system. It is often used to treat autoimmune disease, asthma, lupus, colitis, Bell’s palsy, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Prednisone mimics cortisol, a major stress hormone, so the side-effects of prednisone can be similar to those of an organism in extreme distress. These side effects include; insomnia, euphoria, depression, mania, mood swings, irritability and even psychotic behavior. (As an asthmatic I have been on prednisone numerous times and know how it makes me feel. While it eventually makes me physically healthier, the side effects are not pleasant for me, or those around me. I have also observed animals on prednisone, and sometimes they can react negatively and experience significant behavioral changes, which do not always resolve long after the drug is no longer being used.)

Physiological Effects of Stress

When something stressful happens; we are frightened or startled or experience physical or emotional pain, our body falls under the control of the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System (SANS). The SANS is part of the body responsible for controlling the flight or fight response. Our body goes on auto-pilot to protect us from the perceived threat.

The SANS is closely associated with the limbic system, which is the section of the brain that deals with the expression and experience of emotions, storage of memories and expression of aggression. It is the most primitive part of the brain and is very involved with instinctual survival mechanisms. It is separate from the cerebral cortex, which is thought to be the “thinking” part of the brain and the site of conscious thought and intelligence. Note that the brain is hard-wired to ALWAYS remember negative emotional responses to help ensure our future safety.

When the limbic system (emotional auto-pilot) is activated, the cerebral cortex is suppressed. This is why one does not typically behave rationally when in a highly charged emotional state. This can also help us to understand why expecting our dogs to respond to a well-trained cue when they are in distress is usually a futile effort. Likewise, the parts of the brain responsible for learning something new are shut-down at this time. Conversely, when the cerebral cortex is highly active, the limbic system is suppressed.

The release of various neurotransmitters and stress hormones triggers a plethora of reactions within our body that shuts down all of our bodily systems not necessary for defense. Levels of adrenaline, a neurotransmitter, become elevated which in turn increase pulse rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and the dilation of bronchial tubes and pupils, preparing the body for the surge of energy necessary for a flight or fight response. Cortisol production increases which turns off the immune system and other non-essential systems. The above is a gross oversimplification. For a more in-depth understanding, please refer to the books listed in the resources section of this article.

After the stressful situation has passed, the body’s stress response is supposed to turn-off and levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones should return to normal levels. However, these changes do not “turn-off” instantly but can, in fact, take 24 to 72 hours to return to their normal (non-stress) levels. As a result, if an organism is exposed to frequent stress events (daily or multiple times per day) those levels may never return to normal, leaving the individual in a constant/chronic state of stress. Think of the dog that aggressively reacts to the mail carrier Monday through Saturday of every week. That dogs stress levels may never get a chance to return to normal. The same can happen with the dog that demands to play fetch each and every day. Sometimes when an individual is subjected to chronic stress, the mechanisms that are supposed to turn off stress no longer work and levels continue to build and can reach four times normal levels. Normal now becomes a much higher level.

 

Causes of Stress in Dogs

Brambell’s Five Freedoms

A significant cause of stress for an animal occurs when its most basic needs are not being met. One of the first and most comprehensive efforts to define an animal’s most basic welfare needs started in Great Britain in 1965 with the establishment of the Brambell Commission. This commission, created by Parliament, was charged with reviewing the treatment of farm animals and developing a minimum standard for meeting their needs. They created what is known as “The Five Freedoms,” which is an excellent starting point for evaluating the welfare of any animal, including companion dogs. The five freedoms are:

  1. Ensure your pet is free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple — provide your dog with food and water and the need is met. However, I encourage you to give this more thought. Is the food you feed your dog wholesome and a type that would be in their natural diet? Are they allowed to consume this food in a manner that is natural for their species? We also must consider that too much food is equally bad, as evidenced by the significant number of obese dogs we see today.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from discomfort.

Again this freedom seems relatively straight forward — make sure your pet always has adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

Your dog also needs a quiet, comfortable resting place where they can be undisturbed and where they will feel safe. You need to make sure that their environment is free from things that may cause them harm.

Your dog’s breed also affects what they need to be comfortable. If they have long hair, they may be unable to properly groom themselves. If that is the case, you must groom them on a regular basis, so that their hair does not become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort.

Obesity puts a strain on the joints and may cause pain and discomfort, so it is important not to allow our dogs to become obese.

Lastly, dogs, like humans, are social animals and may depend on interactions with others, particularly of their own species, to be comfortable. However, if they do not feel safe around another dog, being compelled to live with another dog may cause discomfort. Knowing and responding properly to your dog’s social needs is critical

  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury and disease.

One of the easiest ways to meet this freedom is to make sure your dog gets an initial series of vaccinations to ensure that they are protected against diseases, followed up by annual and as-needed visits to your veterinarian. At home, a weekly body check can alert you to any changes in your pet’s physical condition.

Being free from pain is very similar to being free from discomfort so the dog’s grooming needs must also be considered. Remember, dogs are designed by nature not to show pain and thus weakness, so often they will attempt to hide their pain. Obesity and matted coats may cause pain.

  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

If you are going to allow your pet to express normal behaviors you first need to know and understand what constitutes both “normal” canine behavior and “abnormal” canine behavior. This is not easy because there is so much incorrect information about canine behavior circulating as myth and being perpetuated in out-dated books and inaccurate websites.

What we know about canine behavior today has changed greatly since the 1970’s. Many of the old “truths” are in fact not true. Statements such as; “…you need to be dominant or “alpha” over your dog, dogs are like wolves and should be treated as such, dogs are pack animals, and dogs should be trained with choke collars, shock collars, and alpha-wolf rollovers and other types of intimidation” are NOT true and in fact cause far more problems than they resolve. In fact, all of those methods and techniques are a perfect recipe for causing fear, stress, and aggression. That is one reason the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) specifically recommends that the dominance construct or any tools and methods which cause discomfort, pain or intimidation should NEVER be used.*

*2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines

The freedom to express normal behaviors is the one that is most often overlooked, as many dog guardians are either unaware of the huge repertoire of normal dog behaviors or because they do not approve of some of these normal behaviors such as “butt sniffing.” It is imperative you take the time to learn what constitutes normal behavior. The best way to do this is to enroll you and your dog in a dog training class taught by an individual who has been certified by either the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT. They should also comply with the PPG philosophy of training that is Pain Free, Force Free and Fear Free.

Minimally, to express normal behaviors your dog needs adequate space in which to run and an enriched environment to stimulate their minds and bodies. The ability to sniff and explore the world is key to a dog’s life.

Toys enrich your pet’s environment by giving them something to play with; however your dog also needs appropriate interaction with living things as well. That can come from us as well as other dogs.

Playing with your dog is good for establishing and maintaining a lifelong bond. It is also a great outlet for mental and physical activity and can be just plain fun! However, it is essential to understand that play, especially very active play, is stressful in itself and increases your dog’s arousal level. Play should be frequently interrupted and as soon as the dog has calmly settled that behavior can be rewarded with more play. If the dog does not or cannot settle, then play stops. Overly rough play between a person and a dog, especially play where the dog exhibits mouthing and nipping behavior, is inappropriate and for the safety of others, as well as yourself, should ALWAYS be discouraged. The best way to discourage such play is to immediately stop playing when it occurs. You should also learn to recognize the signs that tell you that your dog’s level is arousal is increasing so that you can stop play before the mouthing occurs.

While our dogs hopefully enjoy our companionship most also need adequate opportunities to interrelate with others of their own kind in a positive situation. That does not mean you need to have more than one dog, but it does mean your dog may need to have some suitable doggie friends in the neighborhood or at doggie daycare. However, these friends must be of a similar temperament, age, size and play-style and the interactions must be enjoyable for all. Lastly, not all dogs enjoy the company of other dogs, just as many people do not enjoy others. In this case, it is important to understand that you cannot make a dog like another dog or a person.

  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their dog fear or distress. However, lack of knowledge, or incorrect perceptions and beliefs about canine behavior, certainly causes a great deal of fear and distress in our canine companions. As a behavior consultant, I see a great number of dogs for “aggression” that is almost always based in stress related fear.

Far too many people are still not aware of how critical a well thought out socialization plan is for a puppy when they are between 8 and 16 weeks of age. During this time, most puppies are very accepting of new environments, people, and situations — as long as they are setup to ensure it is a positive experience. Socialization does not end after the critical socialization period; rather it should continue throughout a pet’s life. A dog can be socialized after 16 weeks of age, but I recommend that you work with a certified dog behavior consultant to help you develop a remedial socialization program that will be beneficial and not cause more harm.

A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can also cause a dog to become anxious and fearful. A dog needs a moderate amount of both physical and mental exercise on a daily basis. A pet that does not get adequate exercise may become bored and frustrated, and start exhibiting behaviors that you will find undesirable. On the other hand, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Daily visits to the dog park or a doggie daycare are often counter-productive and unhealthy. Activities need to be well balanced with ample opportunities for rest. A dog normally sleeps 17 hours per day.

When we add a dog to our family we are bringing them into a very foreign environment and culture with very different rules. On top of that we are expecting them to understand a foreign language while we often make no effort to learn their language. We need to educate our dog to live in our world and educate ourselves about the dog world if we are to keep them free from fear and distress.

We also need to actively protect our dog by avoiding stressful situations until they have had adequate socialization and training. You are their guardian and as such must take responsibility for managing their interactions with the environment and other living things.

 

What Does An Animal Do When They Are Afraid?

Animals, humans included, have four typical responses when they are afraid; Flee, Fight, Freeze, and Fidget About.


What Do Animals Do When AfraidFlee
is self-explanatory and is all about the normal fight or flight response. It is important to understand that when a dog is on a leash they know that they cannot run away from what is scaring them. That is one reason a dog may be more reactive when they are on a leash; they are desperately trying to scare what they are afraid of away. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep a reactive dog out of situations where they react like this because every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again.

To Fight or become aggressive is also part of the normal fight or flight response.  To allow your dog to react in this manner is a liability risk for you and a safety risk for yourself and others. Dogs can do in an incredible amount of very serious damage in a very short amount of time. As your dog’s guardian, it is your responsibility to prevent this type of behavior. As explained with fleeing, a dog on leash comprehends that the leash will restrain them from fighting effectively. It also can make the situation worse if two dogs are fighting and they are both on leashes that become entangled. Separating dogs in this scenario becomes even more difficult and risky. This is NOT an excuse to have a reactive dog off-leash; in fact a known reactive dog should ALWAYS be on a regular six-foot leash or inside a secure fenced area when they are outside of your home. It is essential to keep an aggressive dog out of situations and environments where they could attack another person or animal because there is ALWAYS a risk of serious injury or death. Every time such a reaction it occurs it becomes more likely to occur again. Dogs that have attacked other dogs should NEVER be taken to a dog park.

To Fidget About is essential the dog exhibiting a normal behavior in an abnormal context. It may be as simple as looking away, sniffing, or playing with a toy. It is the dog’s way of ignoring what they perceive as being threatening with the hope that the threat will ignore them and go away.

Freezing is becoming totally rigid and immobile. It is essentially the absence of any behavior that the dog feels could be provocative. This often occurs when the dog’s emotional state has moved from being afraid to being terrified. Freezing is often misunderstood by dog guardians who because they see that their dog is non-reactive they assume the dog is “fine.” While the dog is not barking, lunging or running away in this situation, it is not doing so because it is terrified. This is a tremendous emotional response that will not be forgotten easily.

The key thing you need to remember with any of the four F’s (Flee, Fight, Fidget About, or Freeze) is that you want to minimize putting your dogs in these situations once you know this behavior is a likely possibility. The brain is designed to remember scary things after the very first event. Subsequent exposures will just make reduce the probability of ever being able to move beyond this fear.

Common Causes of Stress in Dogs

  • Any change in environment (schedule, people, animals, increased noise)
  • Arguments among family members
  • Combination training (rewards and punishment)
  • Excessive play that becomes borderline “obsessive/”
  • Excessive stimulation (too much play, doggie daycare, dog sports, )
  • Frustration
  • Grief due to the loss of a companion (human or animal)
  • Humans ignorant of needs and ways of communicating
  • Inappropriate play partners, human or animal
  • Insufficient stimulation
  • Not being taught how to be alone
  • Punitive training (shock, choke and prong collars)
  • Scary events
  • Too many dogs per available space
  • Unreasonable expectations (expected to like all people and all other animals in all situations, expected to be 100% on all the time)
  • Insufficient social time/family time
  • Uncertainty

 

Identifying Stress in Canines

Dogs express themselves and communicate with body language, vocalizations, and behavior. By getting familiar with our dogs’ bodies, we can tell when they start to feel stressed. It is imperative to look at the entire body and not just isolated parts to get the best understanding of what your dog is feeling.

Ember-headturn-nose lickCalming signals, as described by Norwegian ethologist and dog behaviorist Turid Rugaas, are very subtle changes in the body of a dog that suggest building stress and are used to diffuse conflict before it happens. A calming signal is a polite request to another dog to change their behavior and, therefore, prevent any dispute from occurring. Dogs use calming signals to communicate with us as well.

Two of the calming signals people see most frequently are “licking of the nose” and “yawning.” The dog in the picture is demonstrating both “averting of the eyes” and a “nose lick,” probably because the camera is staring at her. Other signs that can be calming signals are; turn away, softening of the eyes (squinting), freezing, play bow, sitting down, lying down, sniffing, scratching and splitting up.

For more information on calming signals read the article Introduction to Canine Communication http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/.

Some key indications of stress, by body part, are noted below.

Eyes

  • Avoiding Eye Contact
  • Blinking or squinting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Furrowed Brows
  • Hardened Eyes (direct stare with pupils dilated)
  • Staring
  • Tightness around eyes
  • Whale eye/ Half-moon eye

Mouth

  • Barking
  • Biting
  • Cheek puffing
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Growling
  • Lip Curling
  • Lip/Nose licking
  • Mouth closed tightly or lips pulled back
  • Mouthing
  • Nipping
  • Panting
  • Showing teeth
  • Smiling
  • Snapping
  • Teeth chattering
  • Wrinkled muzzle
  • Whimpering
  • Yawning

Ears

  • Flattened or lowered
  • Pinned back
  • Upright and alert

Body

  • Cowering
  • Defecation
  • Dribbling or submissive urination
  • Excessive shedding
  • Freezing – little or no movement
  • High body posture, rigid forward stance
  • Groveling posture
  • Low body posture, weight shifted back
  • Penis crowning
  • Piloerection (Hackles)
  • Shake off
  • Stretching
  • Sweaty paws
  • Tail up and flagging
  • Tail Tucked
  • Tense all over
  • Tight brow
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Urogenital “check-out.”

Vocalizations

Dogs may also indicate they are stressed through vocalizations. Some of the more common stress related vocalizations are:

  • Barking – low pitch = threatening, high pitch = fear/stress
  • Growling
  • Howling
  • Screaming
  • Whining
  • Whimpering

 

Behavior

When stressed a dogs behavior will often change. Common behaviors that are often stress induced are:

  • Clinging to or hiding behind guardian
  • Cowering
  • Destructive behaviors, chewing, ripping, shredding, clawing
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Excessive sleeping, often due to exhaustion
  • Freezing or walking slowly
  • Hiding
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Inability to focus
  • Inappropriate urination and defecation
  • Increased urination and defecation
  • Irritable
  • Jumping up on guardian
  • Jumpy/Easy to startle
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive/Compulsive behaviors – (e.g. shadow chasing)
  • Pacing
  • Poor sleeping habits, less than 17 hours sleep per day
  • Refusing food or treats
  • Restless, inability to relax
  • Running off
  • Sniffing, out of context
  • Unable to settle
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

 

The Stress Escalation Ladder

Stress and the dog’s arousal happen on a continuum. Some of the signs of stress start appearing at very low levels of arousal. As the arousal level continues to rise it may result in growling, showing of teeth, lunging and biting at the most extreme levels. It is important to remember that arousal levels increase with positive stress (eustress) just as they increase with negative stress (distress). A dog that is ramped up and highly aroused in play is also more likely to bite and lose their bite inhibition. The chart below, created by Rugaas, illustrates the signs seen at various levels of arousal. It should always be our goal to keep the dog out of the yellow and red zones.

Stress Escalation Ladder-Rugaas

Reducing Stress in Dogs

In order to reduce our dogs’ stress we first need to understand it. Once we have identified the cause, there are many approaches to eliminating the stress.

The easiest way to deal with a dog under stress is usually management — removing the dog from the situation/context where the stress occurs. While this does not solve the problem, it is a temporary fix that will make the dog feel better. If this is a context/situation the dog will need to be exposed to in the future, it is advisable to work with a qualified behavior consultant to help get the dog over this fear. Few dog guardians are successful resolving this type of issue by reading books or watching programs on TV. In our experience, they usually make the problem worse.

A qualified, professional behavior consultant will ALWAYS first recommend that you discuss your dog’s behavioral issues with your veterinarian. Pain and other medical conditions can cause behavioral problems, and they need to be addressed first.

A behavior consultant will consider a number of methods to help your dog deal with their stress. They will almost always recommend a behavior modification protocol, which is a specialized program for your dog’s situation. A dog training class is seldom recommended for a dog with stress-based issues such as anxiety and aggression, as it often puts a dog in an environment where they will be stressed. Any organism must be free from fear if they are going to be able to learn.

Teaching your dog to sit, down, stay, etc. will not change the way your dog feels. In fact, asking your dog to sit in the presence of something that causes them to react may make them more fearful. For example, let’s say that you are afraid of bees and wasps. Now imagine sitting in a room full of bees and wasps and imagine trying to learn. You will not be learning but will be focusing on keeping yourself safe from getting stung.

A behavior modification program is all about changing your dog’s emotions and the way they feel about what is making them fearful or angry. Additionally, a behavior consultant may also recommend changes in diets, and treatment with complementary therapies; Bach Flower Remedies, Herbs, Homeopathy, T-Touch, if they are so qualified. They may also suggest that you ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinary behaviorist so that the veterinary behaviorist can determine if drug therapy is necessary. A behavior consultant should always be working with your veterinarian.

Stress can make us feel miserable, and it does the same for our dogs. If you have a dog living in stress — take steps to help them as soon as possible!

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog

Understanding Behavior; Why It Mattershttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/category/dogs/canine-behavior/problem-behavior/aggression/

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being: The New AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/01/pet-health-and-wellness-your-pets-behavioral-health-is-as-important-as-their-physical-well-being/

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Mythhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Puppy Socialization and Habituation – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/27/dog-behavior-puppy-socialization-and-habituation/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/boarding/what-is-pet-friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/05/dogs-the-unintended-consequences-of-shock-collar/

Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/05/dog-training-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet? –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/09/03/can-you-trust-what-you-read-on-the-internet/

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/02/yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-green-acres-kennel-shops-pet-friendly-philosophy-part-1/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/05/02/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-the-ppg-part-2/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/30/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-a-veterinary-perspective-part-3/

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/02/01/dogs-dog-training-a-holistic-approach-to-dog-training-parts-1-2/

Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professionalhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/04/19/professional-development-trends-in-training-the-evolution-of-a-pet-care-professional/

An Overview of the Bach Flower Remedieshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-remedies/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hankshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

 

Books

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007

Canine Neuropsychology, 3rd edition, James O’Heare, Ph.D., DogPsych, 2005

The dog’s brain — a simple guide, Val Strong, Alpha Publishing, 1999

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Animal Welfare – Understanding Behavior; Why It Matters

On Wednesday, October 14th, Green Acres Kennel Shops Operations Manager Kate Dutra and I had the opportunity to address the Maine Federation of Humane Societies at their annual conference. I want to thank Maine Fed and all of the attendees who work so hard every day to take care of Maine’s homeless and sometimes abused pets. Your job is not an easy one, and you never get enough thanks, so THANK YOU!

Maine Fed-Image-1My presentation Understanding Behavior; Why It Matters, focused on why being knowledgeable about canine behaviors is so important to the work you do every day. I have posted a summary of what I talked about so that those who were unable to attend can find it here.

As I explained, I believe having a fundamental understanding of canine behavior is essential to every pet care professional and even the average dog owner. Most dog training classes focus on teaching owners how to train their dog to sit, walk nice on a leash, come when called and other basic manners. At Green Acres’ we have always felt classes should cover more, which is why we also discuss canine behavior, body language, and nutrition. I believe that if we are going to successfully and happily live with another species in our home, it helps to understand them and why they do what they do. Unfortunately, outside of Green Acres’ I have often felt that ourMaine Fed-Image-2 message was falling on deaf ears. Therefore, when the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines in August of this year, I was ecstatic! This groundbreaking document acknowledges that behavioral problems are one of the top health issues for pets and recommends that every visit to the veterinarian should also include a discussion of behavioral concerns. It also discusses why behavior problems so prevalent.

The AAHA guidelines note that a significant reason for behavior problems are “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs…..” about canine behavior being perpetuated by breeders, pet care professionals, pet owners, and even humane societies, rescues, and shelters. The use of aversive training techniques and tools like; alpha rollovers, choke collars, prong collars, and shock collars, also are often the cause of behavior problems. When these methods are used to “correct” a problem, the animal often becomes fearful and exhibits more problem behaviors. Although not noted in the guidelines, other studies indicate that only about 5% of dog owners ever take their dog to a training class. Training a dog with reward-based techniques almost always prevent behavior problems from starting, I see very few dogs for aggression consults that have completed a training class. It would be in a shelters best interest to strongly encourage all adopters to take their dog to a training class if they want to minimize returns.

Maine Fed-Image-3As I noted above, a major reason for behavior problems in dogs is the perpetuation of misconceptions and erroneous information about what constitutes normal canine behavior.  For many, their knowledge of dogs is based on idealized notions about dogs that go back to Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. Portrayed as “canine perfection” in books, comic books, television shows and movies, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were the dogs everyone wanted as his or her pet. Unfortunately, these brilliant pieces of heart-wrenching fiction have created unrealistic expectations for many first-time dog owners. When we expect a dog to be Lassie, we are setting them up to fail.

To stop or at least decrease the circulation of these myths about dog behavior, I want to discuss what I believe to be the four most damaging myths about dogs. These myths are 1)  dogs are wolves, 2) dogs are pack animals, 3) one must be dominant or Alpha over their dog and 4) you need to use aversives to train a dog. Then I will address two vital truths; aversive techniques and tools are detrimental to training a dog and dogs benefit from being trained.

I am fortunate in that I have had an opportunity to live with a wide variety of Maine Fed-Image-4dogs. Additionally, through my work and my client’s dogs I have learned even more. Learning about wolves at Wolf Park in Indiana did teach me a great deal about wolves; however, the most important thing I learned is that dogs are not wolves.

Wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs are biologically the same species; that means they can successfully reproduce and give birth to offspring that can also reproduce. While these three canines had a common ancestor at one point, they started down different evolutionary paths tens of thousands of years ago and from a behavioral perspective are very different.

The myth about dogs being wolves has also led to their being misidentified as pack animals. A wolf pack is like a family. It is made up of mom, dad, the pups Maine Fed-Image-5and often pups from previous years. Like most families, they have some squabbles, but overall they work cooperatively to perpetuate the families genes. The domestic dog, when living outside of a home, is very different from the wolf. They do not live in family groups, but at best form loose associations with a few dogs. They may hang around together every day or only occasionally. While mom and dad raise the pups together in a wolf pack, the domestic dog dad does not stick around for any family chores.

Also related to the myth that the dog is a wolf is the idea that one most show the dog that they are dominant, or the “Alpha” to live in harmony and to prevent the dog from usurping the humans role as leader. This myth, more than any other, has done severe damage to the relationship we can have with dogs because it emphasizes a relationship based on fear, intimidation and training by force.Maine Fed-Image-6

What makes this even sadder, is the whole conflict-ridden alpha/dominance construct is not even true with wolves. As noted above, a wolf pack is all about working together to survive. Unfortunately, when wolf researchers started studying wolves back in the 1940’s they did not study wolves in the wild, but based their conclusions on observations of captive, non-familial wolves that they confined to small spaces. The wolves were totally dependent on humans for the resources necessary to survive. It was more like an episode of Survivor than reality. Alternatively, put another way, roughly analogous to studying a group of prisoners and concluding that their behavior is representative of a normal family.

The idea of the dog as a wolf and the dog as a constant “alpha-seeker” exploded in the dog world in the 1970’s due to books written by the Monks of New and Carol Lea Benjamin. These books were the first that I read about dogs and not knowing any better I accepted what them as the truth. They represented a philosophy of dog training that many pet care professionals followed for a long time. However, for several years more and more pet care professionals and organizations have been spreading the word about the inherent problems in the dominance construct. Today, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) and Green Acres Kennel Shop all have policy statements on the dangers of the dominance construct.

Along with the dominance construct came a variety of aversive tools and training methodologies designed to intimidate the dog and cause discomfort or pain. Maine Fed-Image-7None of these tools are necessary to successfully train a dog, yet they are still sold and used. Not only are these tools unnecessary, but they can also cause significant behavioral problems when used. For this reason, the new AAHA behavior guidelines state: “Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating.” The guidelines go even further, recommending that veterinarians do NOT refer to trainers and others that use these tools and techniques. It is my hope that organizations such as the Maine Federation of Humane Societies and its members vote to endorse the AAHA guidelines and adopt similar policies for their organizations.

One of the truths about canine behavior is that dogs do benefit from being Maine Fed-Image-8trained. Sadly, it is estimated that only 5% of dog owners train their dog. Many dog owners believe that training is only for dogs that participate in dog shows or dog sports. Most people who do train their dog do neither of those things but simply want to help their dog become a well-mannered companion. As a dog trainer. I spend most of my time teaching people how to train their dog to live successfully and happily in a human-centric world. Additionally, I also see clients that have dogs with aggression, resource guarding, or separation anxiety issues. It is rare for one of those dogs to have attended a training class. At the same time, it is also rare to see a graduate from a training class develop a severe behavioral problem such as aggression.

So why train a dog? Dogs that are trained: are less likely to develop behavior problems, typically have more freedom and can go more places with us, can be part of family functions, and typically have a closer bond with their people. As someone concerned about animal welfare one of the best recommendations you can make to someone adopting a is to enroll in a reward-based dog training class taught by an appropriately certified professional dog trainer committed to a philosophy of pain-free, force-free, and fear-free pet care. Now if they tell you “I took a class once before and learned all I need to know” feel free to tell them that professional dog trainers still take their dogs to classes. When I adopted my most recent rescue, Muppy, we started in a dog training class just like any other student.

Maine Fed-Image-9I have just touched on a few of the myths and truths about canine behavior. There is a huge amount of urban legend and old spouse tales being circulated about dogs that are just plain ridiculous. The internet and reality TV are full of dog behavior “experts” who are not always that knowledgeable. Just because it is on the internet does not make it true, and “reality” TV is seldom real. Sadly, many people do not understand that.

If you are unsure of how to answer a question from a potential adopter, it is much better to say “I do not know” then to continue to circulate wrong information. One of the reasons Kate and I were so excited to talk to you today is because as pet care professionals we feel it is important to teach others entering the field. We regularly present seminars on a wide variety of topics to pet owners and pet care professionals. If you want to learn more, please contact us and we can talk about the programs that we have available.

I want to leave you with three challenges today.

  • Never stop learning! We are learning more about animal behavior, husbandry, nutrition, and training all the time. True professionals realize that they do not know it all and continually seek knowledge.
  • Personally commit yourself to pain-free, force-free and fear-free pet care. You can start by joining the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) as a pet owner, it is free! Alternatively, you are a pet care professional so consider joining as a paying member and help support their work.
  • Ask your Executive Director and Board of Directors to join the Pet Professionals Guild and to adopt policies endorsing and supporting: Pain, Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free pet care and the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines.

Maine Fed-Image-10

 


 

Other Articles of Interest

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being: The New AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – <Click Here>

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth<Click Here>

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care –  <Click Here>

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – <Click Here>

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars <Click Here>

Introduction to Canine Communication – <Click Here>

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet? – <Click Here>

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms – <Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1<Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2<Click Here>

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3<Click Here>

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)<Click Here>

Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professional<Click Here>

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1<Click Here>

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2<Click Here>

PODCAST – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3<Click Here>

PODCAST – Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – <Click Here>

 

 

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Can You Trust What You Read on the Internet?

Words-woofs-Meows-High Res with TM 755x800As the internet has grown, blogging has become very popular. It’s a great medium for a writer to share their thoughts and an easy means for a reader to learn something new. However, as we’ve learned from that famous commercial for State Farm Insurance just because it’s on the internet does NOT mean it’s true. Likewise, just because someone writes about something and posts it online does not mean that they have any qualifications to be posting on a particular topic. Lastly, some bloggers, like myself, write to share information and do so freely. I get no financial remuneration for anything that I post on my blog unless after reading something you decide to utilize the services of my business. However, some bloggers are compensated every time you read their work or are compensated by companies for posting articles that promote certain companies and products. For example, my wife and I, and Paula is not a blogger, recently received the following email:

Dear Don & Paula,

We are reaching out to you to invite you to participate in our sponsored paid post program. While conducting research we identified your company’s blog as an excellent fit to help us create awareness of our brand and product. We’d love to inform your readers about how Company with Questionable Ethics [NOTE: I changed the company name for the purposes of this post] can be used to help keep dogs safe in the home and yard. We are limiting participation to 10 bloggers on a first come, first serve basis.

As a sponsored host, you will receive a payment of $225 USD via PayPal upon publication of an article on invisible fencing options. Additionally, we will give you a $25 Amazon gift card for one winner to serve as an incentive for your readers to engage by either commenting or sharing the post on social media.

Because we want our messaging to be aligned to your readership, you may choose to either write an article from your perspective as a pet services provider, or you may choose to post an article provided by us and specifically crafted for your blog [emphasis added].

If you decide to participate we do need the post to be published no later than August 7 and the giveaway winners selected no later than August 14. If we find that you are an influencer, we will add you to our list of preferred bloggers and invite you to participate on additional paid and sponsored blogging activities.

The small print:

The article must include several do-follow links to informational material on our website. You may indicate this is a sponsored post.

We are happy to help you by engaging in conversation with your readers and addressing concerns regarding dog fences.

Attached is a sample sponsored post. If you agree to participate, we will provide you with more specific guidelines for posting. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.

Now obviously this company did not research me or Green Acres Kennel Shop very well or they would have discovered that the likelihood of me posting anything on my blog recommending shock collars is non-existent. However, I suspect that they use this approach because it works and unfortunately for dogs and the people who love them, found 10 bloggers who played along and just like Judas received their 30 pieces of silver, or in this case $225.

The point to this post: Be careful out there, not everything you read is true, and not everyone will be honest with you. Endorsements by celebrities and less-than celebrities are often far from honest and nothing more than paid advertising made to appear as sincere belief.

Not sure why I wouldn’t recommend a shock collar? <Click here>


 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?

A dog that growls is not a bad dog.

<This article was also published in the July 14, 2015 edition of The Maine Edge>

While a dog’s growl can be frightening and disheartening, it also serves the very useful purpose of alerting us or another being that the dog is feeling threatened, uncomfortable or angry. It is the dog’s way of saying “If something in this situation does not change, I may have no other choice except to bite.” Growling is a communication tool that is designed to increase the distance between the dog and that which the dog perceives as a threat.

Dog growling over a stick
Dog growling over a stick

While a growl is usually associated with “aggression”, it is important to understand that there are many causes of aggression. Pain or other medical issues can cause an aggressive response, as can fear. Fear arises for many reasons; a reminder of a previous negative experience, a perceived loss of a resource or space, expectations of punishment and associated pain, and maternal protective instincts can all cause a dog to react “aggressively”. Sexual competition, barrier frustration, low tolerance for frustration, differences in personalities between dogs, and genetics may also cause or contribute to aggressive behavior.

As a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC) I deal with a greater number of aggressive dogs than the average person. I appreciate it when a client’s dog growls thus giving me a warning and an opportunity to change my behavior so I do not get bitten. For this reason, I advise all my clients and students that it is NEVER wise to punish a dog for growling; even saying “No” or looking at the dog crossly can constitute punishment. Dogs that are repeatedly punished for growling eventually may not give warning and immediately escalate to biting.  A dog that has learned not to growl due to punishment is far more dangerous than a dog that will give a warning growl before escalating to biting. These dogs will also be much more difficult to rehabilitate.

If your dog is in a situation where they growl; as calmly as possible step back and assess the circumstances surrounding the growling. If possible, ask whatever is causing your dog to remain still and to increase the distance away from your dog. Keeping safety foremost in your mind, and with as little fanfare and emotion as possible, call your dog back to you or if they are on leash get them to follow you as you back away from the situation to a place where they will feel safe and secure. Your dog will pick-up on your emotions and if they sense you are upset, angry or afraid your dog is likely to become more reactive. Do not keep your dog in a stressful situation and try to reassure them or yell at them for growling, neither is likely to be helpful. Once you have ensured the safety of all parties, you need to try to determine what caused your dog to feel threatened and defensive in the first place. To keep you and your dog safe, you should make sure that they are on a short leash, nothing longer than 6 feet, in any similar situations in the future.

If your dog is growling frequently, or growling is very out of character for your dog, you should schedule a veterinary exam to rule out any physical causes such as pain or illness. If the growling and aggression are not due to medical reasons it is time to seek a consultation with a credentialed and experienced dog behavior consultant to work with you in resolving your dog’s behavior. The sooner you seek guidance the better. Aggression rarely improves without intervention and the more times it occurs, the more likely it is to reoccur and the longer it will take to resolve.

It is important to understand that obedience training alone is extremely unlikely to resolve an aggression issue. Training certain behaviors like “Look” and “Leave It” may be useful in managing your dog when they are reactive, but will not change the way your dog is feeling. Aggression is an emotional response, sometimes due to a feeling of having no control over a situation. Sitting and staying for you on cue does not afford the dog a sense of control and may actually increase their fear and the accompanying response. Imagine how you would feel if you were afraid of bees and someone forced you to sit in a room full of bees until you “got over it.” I think you’d agree that would only make you more reactive and afraid.

In order to resolve aggression, we need to change the dog’s emotions. This is most commonly accomplished through a program of behavior modification and may include the use of medications prescribed by your veterinarian as well as complementary remedies, such as Bach Flower remedies, selected by a qualified practitioner. Aggression will seldom go away on its own and the longer you wait, the harder it is to resolve. Dogs grow into aggression, not out of it. If you are having concerns, the time to seek help is now.

Links

To find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant – <click here>

To find a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner <click here>

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth

Listen to a podcast on this topic that first aired on The Woof Meow Show on March 21st, 2010 by clicking here

It was in the September of 2002 that the first version of this article appeared in Paw Prints, the Green Acres Kennel Shop newsletter. I update the article on a regular basis because sadly there are still too many people, some of them animal professionals, and some who try to play the part on TV, promulgating the dominance myth. Unfortunately a popular reality TV show has captured people’s attention and is talking about dogs as pack animals and again perpetuating the idea of using “calm-assertive energy” (read: fear and intimidation) to resolve issues with problem dogs.  Like most “reality” TV shows there is very little that is real here. The methods and approach used on this show are contraindicated by science and behavioral experts and many consider them inhumane. Unfortunately, many viewers do not seem to understand that the show is edited but instead believe “miracles happen in 30 minutes.” Even though each show contains a disclaimer; “please do not attempt any of these techniques on your own, consult with a professional,” people do try these techniques at home and cause further harm to dogs that are already suffering. As result the two largest organizations of professionals that deal with animal behavior; the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) have issued official positions warning against the use of the dominance approach in training or dealing with behavioral issues with dogs. In 2010 Green Acres elected to do the same in an effort to educate dog lovers about our position on this topic. That position statement can be found on our web site at http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs OR http://bit.ly/g6Pqq5

If you attended a dog training class anytime  through the 1990’s, if you read any dog training books written during this period, or if you have had any behavioral issues with your dog, then you have most likely heard about dominance. You were probably told that in order to prevent your dog from becoming dominant that you had to do one or more of the following things:

  1. Always go through doorways first,
  2. Always eat before your dog,
  3. Never allow the dog on furniture where they might be elevated above you,
  4. Never allow the dog to sleep on your bed,
  5. Always punish your dog for stealing or chewing things that belong to you,
  6. Push your dog away when they jump up or paw at you, and
  7. Never let your dog pull on leash.

Essentially you were advised to be ever vigilant and to show your dog that you were the boss in order to prevent him from taking over your home and becoming disobedient and even possibly aggressive.

The Myth

The concept of the dominant dog was based on an experimental model of how wolves interact socially within a group. The wolves being studied were described as having a strict, force-based hierarchical structure where one male and one female were always the dominant ones, also known as the alpha pair. These dominant wolves had first access to the resources necessary for survival: food, water, and a mate, and fought to maintain these resources. The other wolves in the pack were constantly challenging the alphas so that they could take their positions and have first access to the resources. Someone then extrapolated that since wolves and dogs are biologically the same species, dogs must also be struggling for dominance amongst each other and with us.

This myth that dogs were striving to be the alphas over us led to the philosophy that we must always maintain dominance over our dogs and that the best way to do that is to use physical and mental intimidation, just like the captive wolves used with each other. This philosophy was pushed in a popular book of the 1970’s, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete. The Monks included detailed instructions for physically disciplining your dog. They recommended hitting your dog hard enough under the chin so that it hurts and shaking the dog by the scruff of their neck while yelling at them. The Monks described something they called the alpha wolf rollover as the ultimate punishment for the most severe disobedience. This involves grabbing the dog by the scruff of their neck, and firmly and rapidly rolling the dog on its back and pinning it while making eye contact and yelling at the dog. In their book the Monks asserted that these disciplinary techniques are what a mother wolf would use in the wild to discipline her pups.

The fact is the Monks had no idea what they were talking about, and some of them have since recanted this particular method of punishment, as the “alpha wolf rollover” does not happen with wolves. The Monks of New Skete were not alone in their flawed understanding of canine behavior. The concept of dominance and putting the dog in its place was, and in some cases still is, very pervasive in the field of dog training.

My first personal experience with the alpha wolf rollover occurred in 1991 at the very first dog training class that I attended. Based on the recommendation of our veterinarian, Paula and I were taking our 12 week old Cairn Terrier puppy, Gus, to an obedience class.  It was the first night of class and all of the puppies were expected to sit on command. When Gus would not sit, the instructor told me I had to show him who was boss and make him sit, and if he still wouldn’t do it, then I should alpha roll him. Well Gus wouldn’t sit (I know now he had no clue what I was even asking for) and so I was told to “alpha roll him!” I soon had a terrified (unknown to or disregarded by everyone) puppy, flat on his back, pinned to the floor, eyes rolling, body writhing, mouth growling and snapping at everything. The instructor was really adamant now: “We can’t have that! Grab his muzzle and clamp it shut!” My instincts said “Whoa! That’s not safe!” but these people were the “experts” so I grabbed Gus’ muzzle in my hand. Instantly, I felt his canines puncture my palm. As my blood started dripping on the floor, Gus broke free and moved as far away from me as he could. There is something to be said for listening to your gut instincts. Gus listened to his; I failed to listen to mine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything that I had read and been taught about the alpha wolf rollover was based upon flawed knowledge. My puppy was afraid for his life and it was my fault.

The “alpha wolf rollover” or other methods of physical punishment have no place in dog training. They are:

  • Dangerous and a great way to give your dog a good reason to bite you.
  •  Damaging to the relationship between pet parent and dog. It teaches them to mistrust you.
  •  A great way to make a good dog aggressive – aggression by the pet parent will result in escalated aggression by the dog.

Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. describes these methods in her book, The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs: “So much old-fashioned obedience training could be summarized as, Do it because I told you to and if you don’t, I’ll hurt you.”

As for Gus and me, I do not really remember much of what happened next other than being offered ice for my hand as Paula worked with Gus for the remainder of the class. In fact, Gus and I were rather wary of each other for quite some time and I let Paula take him to the rest of his classes for the next year. Over time and lots of games of tennis ball, Gus and I learned to trust one another again and started having fun. As I started to learn more about dogs I discovered that there were far better ways to train a dog than with fear and intimidation and trying to be dominant.

The Reality

The wolves being studied that resulted in the conception of the dominance construct were not a pack of wolves living in the wild but were in fact a mixed non-familial group of wolves living in a fenced enclosure, some as small as 5 acres, with far less resources than what would be available in the wild. This was not a normal family of wolves nor were these wolves in a typical environment. They were forced to live under extremely stressful and unnatural conditions. Is it any wonder they became aggressive?

We now know that true wolf packs, living in the wild, do NOT have a strict, force-based hierarchical structure. In Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs, biologist L. D. Mech notes “… in natural wolf packs, the alpha male or female are merely the breeding animals, the parents of the pack, and dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all. During my 13 summers observing the Ellesmere Island pack, I saw none.” What Mech observed was a family of wolves: a breeding pair, pups and possibly some of last year’s pups. The breeding pair provides for and raises the young until such time that they move on to start their own pack and families. This is how a typical wolf pack in the wild interacts. In order to survive they must work together. If they were constantly fighting one another they would not live to reproduce.

Regarding the role of the alpha-wolf-roll-over, noted wolf ethologist Erich Klinghammer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Purdue University and the founder of Wolf Park has this to say: “As for myself, the so-called alpha roll over practiced by some is nonsense. The context in which people do it with dogs does not coincide with the situation in which a wolf actively submits to a high ranking wolf.” “There is really a big difference between wolves and dogs. To simply extrapolate from wolves to dogs is at best problematical.” And renowned ethologist and canine behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. in her book The Other End of the Leash says “Forcing dogs into ‘submission’ and screaming in their face is a great way to elicit defensive aggression.” “Within their social framework you are acting like a lunatic.”

Not only were we in error in our understanding of the structure of wolf pack, we also now have a significant amount of evidence that dogs and wolves are behaviorally very different. In his book Dogs, evolutionary biologist Dr. Raymond Coppinger states: “Dogs may well be closely related to wolves but that does not mean they behave like wolves. People are closely related to chimps but that doesn’t make us a subspecies of chimpanzees. Nor does it mean we behave like chimps.” Coppinger goes on to explain some of the differences between dogs and wolves:

  1. Dogs are not as quick at learning and have poor problem solving skills,
  2. Dogs have smaller brains,
  3. Dogs are easily tamed,
  4. Dogs are better scavengers, and
  5. Even when feral, dogs do not have a pack structure.

Based on his observations and study of dogs throughout the world, Dr. Coppinger states, “I don’t think a dog knows what people are talking about when they exhibit this “alpha wolf” behavior. Dogs do not understand such behaviors because the village dogs didn’t have a pack structure; they were semi solitary animals.” “In fact, contrary to popular belief, dogs around the world do not (or only rarely) exhibit ‘pack’ behavior.”

So, if my dog Is not dominant, why does he misbehave?

So, if wolves do not have a rigid force-based hierarchy and dogs are not really wolves and do not form a dominance hierarchy, why then do some dogs exhibit some of the obnoxious, undesirable behaviors which in the past have been attributed to dominance? I believe the following are some of the most common reasons we see undesirable behaviors in dogs:

Unrealistic expectations – Many people expect dogs to be furry little people with human values and morals. They do not like that dogs exhibit normal canine behaviors such as mounting, sniffing butts, and jumping up on people, just to name a few. Some of the behaviors we find undesirable are perfectly normal for dogs.  Not accepting these actions as being normal canine behaviors is simply unrealistic.  However, if we find something such as mounting undesirable, we can easily teach our dog “sit” or “leave it.” This gives the dog something else to do that is mutually exclusive to mounting. For some illogical reason people expect a dog to always comply with every command they give. How many people do you do know that always do everything they are told to do?

Failure to manage the dog and its environment – Dogs are scavengers and are always looking for food. If your dog steals a steak off the countertop it is not because they are trying to become dominant, it is because steaks taste great to them and we left the dog and the steak in a situation where this could happen. We need to take advantage of the fact that we are smarter than the dog and be responsible by managing the environment so that the dog cannot behave inappropriately. If a dog is successful in a behavior, it will be repeated, not because it is dominant but because it has learned the behavior is rewarding.

Failure to train the dog – Too few people take the time to successfully complete at least one training class with their dog, or follow through with an adequate level of training at home. These dogs are then presumed to “know better” when in reality they are being expected to do calculus when they have only been taught basic addition. Often these dogs are then labeled “dominant”. Every dog needs to be trained and needs to be trained for life. The best way to train any animal, dog or human, is by rewarding the dog for behaviors we like.

Fear of their guardian – Physical punishment and even lots of yelling are going to cause your dog to fear you. When a dog is afraid it will try to done of two things, run away or fight. Fighting often involves biting.

Unintentional training – Many people do not realize that they are rewarding the dog for the behaviors they do not like. Chasing the dog when he steals a sock rewards the dog for stealing, pushing him off when he jumps up rewards him for jumping, and letting him go forward with the leash tight is rewarding him for pulling on leash. We cannot blame the dog when we reward these undesirable behaviors.

Allowing the dog to train you – A lot of “dominance” issues involve dogs that have essentially become spoiled brats. Dogs do what works, and if they find they can stay on the couch by growling or get attention by pawing at you, then that is what they are going to do. These dogs are not dominant; they have quite simply done a very effective job of training you, instead of you training them.

Physical Punishment – Choosing to train with physical punishment is more likely to result in “dominant” like behaviors such as growling and snapping, because it puts the dog in a position of fearing for its safety. Tools such as shock collars and choke collars are designed to cause the dog fear and pain. When a dog is afraid or feels pain he will respond accordingly. Rather than rewarding desirable behaviors, punishment for undesirable behaviors creates a dog that is always on the defensive and afraid that making the wrong choice will cause pain.

Failure to meet the dog’s needs – While not really associated with dominance, a common reason for undesirable behaviors in dogs is our failure to meet our dogs’ needs for physical exercise and mental stimulation. Stealing a sock or underwear is a great way for the dog to get the attention he wants and needs. To a dog, it can be very rewarding to be chased and yelled at, especially if this is the only exercise or play their guardian provides.

Emotional issues – In my experience most aggressive behavior by dogs is not due to “dominance” but is due to an emotional reaction, fear and anger being the most typical. A dog that is afraid is a dog under stress and like a person under stress can react very irrationally, and if they feel threatened very forcefully. Sadly there are still trainers that tell people to punish their dogs for growling or advise them to force the dog into a sit-stay and allow people to pet it until the dog becomes comfortable. This would be akin to taking a person afraid of snakes and tying them in a chair and allowing snakes to crawl all over them. This approach is certainly not humane and is more likely to make the fear worse. Dogs with emotional issues can be helped, but a training class is usually not the answer. An individual behavior consultation would be our recommendation in this situation.

Undesirable behaviors in dogs that are attributed to “dominance” are not due to a pack driven instinct of the dog, but rather are due to our failure to take responsibility for the dog’s needs, and to properly, humanely train ourselves and our dog. If a dog is “dominant” it’s because we have trained them to be so.

Strive to be good guardians and provide your dogs with everything they need, including food, water, shelter, training, mental stimulation, physical exercise and common sense management. This way they will not learn the undesirable behaviors that in the past have been erroneously attributed to dominance.

For a more information on the dominance myth, we recommend the following books and articles:

Recommended Reading for Further Education

Books

Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton, 2002.

Dominance Theory and Dogs Version 1.0, James O’Heare, DogPsych Publishing, 2003.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006.

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007.

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.

The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.

Videos

Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs, Anchorhold Films, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIjMBfhyNDE

Extended interview with Adam Miklosi, Ph.D. on the dominance myth. http://video.pbs.org/video/1488005229

Articles

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2009. AVSAB Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of animals. (http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/dominance_statement.pdf)

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2007. AVSAB Position Statement – Punishment Guidelines: The use of punishment for dealing with animal behavior problems. (http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements1-25-13.pdf )

Association of Professional Dog Trainers 2009. APDT Position Statement on Dominance and Dog Training (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominance.aspx)

Association of Professional Dog Trainers 2009. Dominance Myths and Dog Training Realities (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominancemyths.aspx )

Blackwell, Emily J., Twells, Caroline Anne, Seawright, Rachel A. Casey. 2008. The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, September/October 2008, pp 207-217. (http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878%2807%2900276-6/abstract )

Bradshaw J.W.S., Blackwell E.J., Casey R.A. 2009. Dominance in domestic dogs – useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, May/June 2009, pp 135-144. (http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878%2808%2900115-9/abstract )

Hanson, Don, 2010, Brambell’s Five Freedoms, Green Acres Kennel Shop web site, (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/brambells-five-freedoms )

Herron M.E., Shofer F.S., Reisner I.R. 2009. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 117, pp. 47-54. (https://vet.osu.edu/assets/pdf/hospital/behavior/trainingArticle.pdf )

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., 2004. Dog training methods—their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Anim. Welfare 13, 63–69. (http://img2.timg.co.il/forums/1_149537364.pdf )

Mech L.D. 1999. Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology. (http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf )

Mech L.D. 2008. Whatever happened to the term alpha wolf? International Wolf. (http://www.4pawsu.com/alphawolf.pdf )

Overall, Dr. Karen, Dumbed down by dominance, Part 1, DVM News Magazine, March 2012, (http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=762103&pageID=1&sk=&date=)

Overall, Dr. Karen, Dumbed down by dominance, Part 2, DVM News Magazine,  April 2012, (http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/Medical+news/Dumbed-down-by-dominance-Part-2-Change-your-domina/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/767068)

Ryan, David. 2010. Why Won’t “Dominance” Die? Association of Pet Behaviour Counselors website, (http://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/why-wont-dominance-die ),

Originally published in Green Acres Kennel Shop Paw Prints, September 2002.
Updated July 2011
Updated March 2013
Update June 2015

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Training – How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking? Barking

Barking

<Updated 3SEP16>

Barking is the way dogs express an emotion of some kind. In order to be able to reduce it, we need to know why the dog is barking. – Turid Rugaas, Barking: The Sound of A Language, Dogwise Publishing, 2008

OBJECTIVE: To resolve issues with a dog whose barking is disruptive.

barking-person yelling-canstockphoto2214314Barking is one of many forms of communication for dogs. Some breeds of dogs have a tendency to bark more frequently than others. Barking is a complex behavior, meaning there are several reasons that your dog may bark. He may be barking to alert you that something or someone is approaching. He also may bark in order to obtain something such as a treat or attention. He may bark to tell you that he needs to go outside to go to the bathroom. Many dogs bark simply because they have been left alone and are frustrated, bored or anxious.

Like any behavior, a dog barks because they find the result of their barking to be rewarding. For example, your dog may bark repeatedly if they get anxious or upset when strangers enter their territory; like the postal carrier delivering the daily mail or children gathering at the end of the drive as they wait for the school bus. The dog barks and barks. “Intruder!!!” “Go away!!” Shortly thereafter the postal carrier and children leave, not because of your dogs barking, but that’s not how your dog sees it. From the dogs perspective he has just driven away the invaders in his territory. That is a huge reward!  And if it is repeated 5 to 6 times a week, as it would be in the above example, it becomes even stronger every time it occurs. Lastly, some dogs can also bark for the pure joy of it. In this case, the behavior is self-reinforcing and can be even more difficult to control.

NOTE: Do NOT get into a barking contest with your dog. All too often we inadvertently contribute to our dogs barking by yelling (barking) back at them. If your dog does not stop barking and you yell louder, your dog gets more excited and thus barks more. It will rapidly become a vicious circle.

Punishing your dog for barking; yelling at them, throwing something at them, using a shake can or an anti-barking collar, or anything else that the dog may perceive as aversive, typically will not resolve the barking and will often make it worse. Aversives cause fear and anxiety, which are a common cause of excessive barking in dogs. Green Acres Kennel Shop as well as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) all strongly recommend against the use of aversives for training or behavior modification.

This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Non aversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.” – from the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, published August 2015

As behaviorist Turid Rugaas so aptly noted in the quote at the beginning of this article, before we can deal with a dogs barking we first need to understand why they are barking. In her book Barking: The Sound of A Language, she recommends that the first step in getting your dogs barking under control is to keep a chart of your dogs barking so that you can better determine the cause. Such a chart might look like this:

Barking Log
Many people find it helpful to work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) in developing a behavior modification plan to reduce excessive barking. Barking is the result of an emotional response so training the dog a new behavior will seldom be sufficient to resolve the barking unless we also help the dog to have a positive emotional response. Barking is complex and having a thorough understanding of normal and abnormal canine behaviors is often necessary to determine why the barking is reinforcing to the dog. You can learn more about Green Acres Behavior Consulting services at our website <click here> or by calling us at 207-945-6841.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Book Review: Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaashttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/29/book-review-barking-the-sound-of-a-language-by-turid-rugaas/

©2016, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>