Dog Behavior – Puppy Socialization and Habituation

<Updated on 10APR16>

Actively and wisely socializing a puppy between 8 and 16 weeks of age is as critical to a puppy’s behavioral health as vaccinations are to their physical health. Click here to listen  to an eight minute podcast where Dr. David Cloutier and Don Hanson discuss this critical issue.

I cannot stress enough the importance of socialization at this juncture in your puppy’s life. Dogs have a critical socialization period, which typically occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of age, allowing room for some individual variability. It is during this time that they will be most open to new and different experiences. What they are not exposed to during this time frame, they will be more likely to fear later in life. This does not mean that just because they were exposed to something they will never fear it, but it certainly decreases the chances of this occurring.

Gus Getting His 1st Bath
Gus Getting His 1st Bath

A Puppy Headstart class alone is not adequate socialization for your puppy but is a great place to start. Having a credentialed instructor there to ensure sanitation and hygiene, to supervise puppy interactions and to answer student’s questions is invaluable.

All puppies need to be safely exposed to as many different places, people, environments and situations as possible without over stimulating them. This is even more critical for the puppy that is unsure of himself, shy or fearful. It is even more important if you hope to have your puppy work as a certified therapy dog or as any type of service/assistance dog.

Many puppy owners are concerned about bringing their puppy out into public, as they have not completed their vaccination series. Since socialization is so essential to the behavioral well being of a dog and since much of this period occurs before a puppy is fully vaccinated, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends …it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”1

In a letter to the veterinary community at-large, Dr. R.K Anderson, a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists states; “Experience and epidemiologic data support the relative safety and lack of transmission of disease in these puppy socialization classes over the past 10 years in many parts of the United States. In fact; the risk of a dog dying because of infection with distemper or parvo disease is far less than the much higher risk of a dog dying (euthanasia) because of a behavior problem.”2

The 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines published by the American Animal Hospital Association states; “There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed as long as exposure to sick animals is prohibited, basic hygiene is practiced, and diets are high quality. 24,25 The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk.”

Since your puppy will not be fully vaccinated when you start socializing them you do need to give some thought as to where you take them. A well-managed puppy kindergarten class or daycare, where they check vaccination records, supervise the puppies, choose appropriate playmates, and have established cleaning protocols represent safe choices. Places where the health status of animals is not regularly checked and large numbers of dogs congregate (i.e. dog parks) should be avoided.

You have a short period of time to socialize your puppy; between 8 and 16 weeks of age, but rushing and not planning this process can be counterproductive. We recommend that you don’t just depend on socialization happening but that you plan and setup specific socialization events. You need to make sure that each event will be a positive and rewarding experience for your puppy. For example, if you are introducing your puppy to children for the first time, start with older children and with just one at a time. Then proceed to two at a time, then younger children, etc. The key is to go slow because if you overwhelm the puppy with too many people or too many new things at once, you may create a fear.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin wanted to make sure that both dog people and non-dog people understand how to greet a dog and how not to greet a dog as well as to be able to recognize the signs of fear in a dog. These are things you need to understand before you start socializing your puppy. Dr. Yin developed two great handouts on this subject, which we provide in our classes or which you can download at the links below.

How to correctly greet a dog – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/canine-body-language-how-to-greet-a-dog-and-what-to-avoid-dr-sophia-yin/

The body language of fear in dogs – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/body-language-of-fear-in-dogs-dr-sophia-yin/

When introducing your puppy to new situations, allow him to investigate and observe at his own pace. It is imperative that you watch him and gauge how he is feeling. If your puppy shows fear, take a mental snapshot of the situation so that you can devise a plan and work on it. Do NOT force a fearful puppy to confront its fears, as this will just make a bad situation worse. Your best option in this situation is to attempt to make light of what is occurring by having a happy voice and trying to jolly your pup a bit. When your dog relaxes, give a treat and leave.

When you take your puppy on outings take treats along. Reward him for not

Tikken and Sophie Playing as Pups
Tikken and Sophie Playing as Pups

jumping and practice your sits. Make every place you go a positive experience and reward the puppy with a treat for each and every positive interaction. Places you can go: stores, sidewalks in front of shopping centers, parking lots, banks, post offices, the groomers and your veterinarian. While you will eventually want to expose your puppy to places like playgrounds and parades, you will need to do much work beforehand.

Expose your puppy to different types and sizes of vehicles. Make sure they become familiar with well-behaved children as well as the elderly. Exposure to other types of animals such as cats and birds is also beneficial. Walking up and down stairs and on different types of surfaces is also part of the socialization process.

Remember to address seasonal items. A puppy born in the summer will not normally be exposed to winter clothing, snow shovels, skis and other seasonal items during the critical socialization period. I know of a summer puppy that was terrified of people the first time he saw them all bundled up in winter coats. Likewise a puppy born in the winter may not have an opportunity to be exposed to swimming unless you devise a way to make that happen.

In addition to taking your puppy places, consider having a puppy party. Invite a group of friends over to meet and help train your puppy. What better way to work on NOT jumping and sitting to meet a stranger. Just make sure everyone knows the rules beforehand.

It is very useful to take your puppy to your veterinarian and groomer for some positive visits. Just stop in to say “hi” or to get weighed. Bring a treat along and have one or more of the staff treat your puppy. Next time they go to these places they will be happy to do so.

Happy Real Life Example:

Xena, a cocker spaniel puppy had her very first experience at the groomer’s when she was 9 weeks old. She had previously been to the facility two times to just meet the employees and to receive some tasty treats. At Xena’s first official grooming visit, she went in and stood on the grooming table, was combed a bit, had a bath and then she went home. One week later she returned and stood on the table again and had the clippers held up to her so that she could hear them “buzz”. After investigating the clippers they were placed on Xena’s back so that she could feel the vibration, and then she went home. The following week she returned once again and stood on the table and had her back and head clipped, as well as her feet trimmed, then she went home. The fourth week Xena was enthusiastic about coming into the groomer’s and was able to have her first complete grooming. By breaking up the process, this puppy never had the opportunity to become overwhelmed and frightened.

What did Xena learn?

  • That the groomer’s is not a scary place.
  • That her guardian always returns for her.
  • That being handled by a virtual stranger is an okay thing.
  • How to be groomed.

 

To this day, Xena is a model groomer, who willingly stands on the table and is easily handled. She does not become at all stressed out when she is dropped off, rather Xena loves to come and be doted on.

Not So Happy Real Life Example

Gina, a 12-week-old Australian Shepherd puppy, a bit on the shy and timid side, was badly frightened when an adult male she had never met jumped out from behind a door and startled her.

What did Gina learn?

  • That people, men in particular, are very scary.
  • To be wary of what may be lurking around doors.

Since that episode, Gina has never had an interaction with a new person in which she has not behaved in a fearfully aggressive manner. However, she is perfectly comfortable with all of the people that she met prior to event. Gina’s owner will no need to do some additional work so that Gina does not have a life time fear of new people.

Socialization Treasure Hunt

We provide students in our Puppy Headstart and Basic Manners classes with a Socialization Treasure Hunt Sheet. It lists several items that their puppy should experience before they are 16 weeks of age. The list is certainly not exhaustive but includes; several variations of adults , several variations of children, different types of events, different locations, animals of varying species and sizes, vehicles, common objects, and different surfaces. The list is certainly not exhaustive. As you encounter an item that is on your treasure hunt list, check it off.

Adults

  • Man Wearing Baseball Hat

    Green Acres Puppy Treasure Hunt List
    Green Acres Puppy Treasure Hunt List
  • Man With Glasses
  • Man With Beard
  • Man Carrying Child
  • Man Carrying Bags
  • Man Jogging
  • Man With A Newspaper
  • Man With An Umbrella
  • Man Over Six Feet Tall
  • Woman Under Five Feet Tall
  • Woman Wearing Skirt
  • Woman Wearing Hat & Sunglasses
  • Woman In Shorts
  • Woman that is Pregnant
  • Person Pushing Baby In A Stroller
  • Person With Baby In A Sling Or Pack
  • Person Wearing Heavy Winter Coat
  • Person Wearing Winter Boots
  • Person Biking
  • Person In A Wheelchair
  • Person On Crutches
  • Person Using A Walker
  • Person Using A Cane
  • Person Limping
  • Person In A Police Uniform
  • Person In A Mail Uniform
  • Person In A Military Uniform
  • Person In A UPS Uniform
  • Pizza Delivery Person

Children

  • Child Under Age 1
  • Child Between 2 – 3
  • Girl Between 3-7
  • Girl Over Age 7
  • Boy Between 3-7
  • Boy Over Age 7
  • Child Running
  • Child Riding A Bike
  • Child Crying Or Yelling
  • Child On Rollerblades Or Skateboard
  • Child Jumping Rope
  • Children Sledding
  • 2 Children Together

Events

  • Picnic
  • Adult Sporting Events
  • Child’s Sporting Event
  • Gathering Of 5 Or More People
  • Gathering Of 8 Or More People

Locations

  • Outdoor Restaurant
  • Shopping Plaza
  • Post Office
  • Hardware Store
  • Vet’s Office (Good Visit Only)
  • Water Fountain
  • Body Of Water (Ocean, Lake, Pond, Stream)
  • Wooded Area
  • Congested Area (Downtown Bangor,
  • Bar Harbor)
  • Beach
  • Walking Trails
  • Rocky Terrain
  • Park With People
  • Parking Lot With Many Cars
  • Bridges
  • Elevator
  • Office Cubicle
  • Fast Food/Bank Drive Thru
  • Boat

Animals

  • Cat
  • Large Dog
  • Small Dog
  • Black Dog
  • White Dog
  • Young Dog
  • Old Dog
  • Puppy
  • Long Haired Dog
  • Hairless Dog
  • Short Haired Dog
  • Two Or More Dogs Playing
  • Barking Dog On Tie Out
  • Barking Dog Behind Fence
  • Bouncy Dog On Lead
  • Three Legged Dog
  • Pet Birds
  • Pocket Pets (mice, hamsters, gerbils,)
  • Sheep Or Goats
  • Cattle
  • Horses
  • Chickens
  • Deer/Moose
  • Turkeys

Vehicles

  • Ambulance
  • Fire Engine
  • Police Car
  • Push Lawn Mower
  • Ride On Lawn Mower
  • Farm Tractor
  • ATV
  • Motorcycle
  • Loud Motorcycle
  • Snowmobile
  • Backhoe
  • Bulldozer
  • Semi
  • Dump Truck
  • Delivery Truck
  • Tow Truck
  • Oil/Propane Truck
  • Garbage Truck

Miscellaneous

  • Lawn Furniture
  • Snow Shovel
  • Mirror
  • Coat Rack
  • Umbrella
  • Stack Of Cardboard Boxes (2.5 Feet
  • Or Higher)
  • Drains In Sidewalks
  • Covered Manholes
  • Laundry Blowing In The Wind
  • Trash Cans Outdoors
  • Rake
  • Stacked Bags Of Sod, Mulch, etc.
  • Foot Bridge
  • Bales Of Hay
  • Construction Equipment (Nail Gun,
  • Saw, Drill, Etc.)
  • Automatic Door
  • Automatic Garage Door
  • Snowblower
  • Dumpster
  • Traffic Cones

Surfaces

  • Cement
  • Asphalt
  • Grass
  • Gravel
  • Metal Grate
  • Carpet
  • Hardwood Floor
  • Ceramic Tile
  • Vinyl Tile
  • Snow/Ice
  • Plastic Decking
  • Stairs (wood, metal. concrete, stone)
  • Throw Rug
  • Train Tracks

SocializationOur friends at Mighty Dog Graphics recently published and shared a graphic which illustrates some of the many things you need to include in your puppy’s socialization plan. You can download it by clicking here.

 

 Questions?

If you have questions on puppy socialization and habituation we encourage you to enroll in a Puppy Headstart class at Green Acres Kennel Shop. You can learn more about that by “clicking here” or by calling us at 945-6841.

If you are not within our service area, you can find professional dog trainers offering classes at the links below. We recommend that you search for a trainer at The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) first, as all members of the PPG agree to abide by the PPG’s Pain-Free, Force-Free, Fear-Free philosophy as outlined in their Guiding Principles – http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles

The Pet Professional Guild – <click here>

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants – <click here>

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers – <click here>

Association of Professional Dog Trainers – <click here>

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

 

©2016, 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 – Introduction to Canine Communication

This material is from Best Friends for Life by Don Hanson>

Even though dogs do not ‘talk’ in the same way that we do, they do manage to communicate with other dogs’ quite well. Dogs use some forms of vocal communication (whine, bark, growl, howl, etc.) as well as a variety of body postures and movements to indicate their messages. Puppies learn these communication skills while with their litter and mother. Puppies separated from their litter before eight weeks of age run the risk of not having enough exposure to this process and may exhibit behavioral problems.

If you spend some time learning canine as a second language, you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and his behavior. With study and practice, you can learn to understand what your dog is trying to communicate.

Vocal Communication

Barking, whining and growling are all means of vocal communication. Whining is an indication of stress or anxiety. A dog may whine when he is doing something that he dislikes or that frightens him. Punishing a dog for whining will only make the problem worse. You need to determine the cause of the stress and find a way to remove it.

Growling can take two different forms. A ‘play’ growl can be heard when dogs are engaged in roughhousing or mock fighting. It is usually low and rumbly, but soft. A warning growl is different. This dog means business. A warning growl usually increases in volume as it continues and is accompanied by a menacing body posture (this will be discussed further below).

Never punish your dog for growling. A growl is a very useful warning signal. A dog that is punished for growling will stop the growling but it will not remove the reason for the growl. A dog that no longer growls, no longer gives a warning before taking more drastic action. As a trainer who sometimes deals with aggressive dogs, I much prefer a dog that gives me a warning.

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to barking than are others. A bark can convey many different kinds of information. If you listen closely, you can probably tell an “I’m bored” bark from a “somebody is at the door!” bark. Some dogs are recreational barkers and just love to hear the sound of their own voices. They bark and bark and bark. Since this behavior is self-reinforcing, it can be difficult to deal with.

People have gone to extremes to remedy a barking problem, everything from electronic shock collars to having the dog’s vocal cords cut. However, even these extreme methods do not stop many dogs and do not change the dogs emotional state which is often one of anxiety and fear. While a shock collar or removal of the dogs vocal cords may make us feel better, it usually makes the dog feel worse.

Barking is a very complex behavior. If you have a barking problem, I suggest you work with a qualified trainer or behaviorist.

Body Language

While dogs do vocalize, most of their communication with one another, and even us, is done through their body language. Canine body language is very subtle, yet also very sophisticated. Research by Dr. Patricia McConnell has indicated that “Important signals may last only a tenth of a second and be no bigger than a quarter of an inch.” For Example: Leaning forward ½ an inch can stop a dog from coming while leaning back ½ an inch encourages the dog to come.

Dogs manage to convey an enormous amount of information by small changes in posture and demeanor. For example, many people believe that a wagging tail signals a happy dog. If the tail is low and relaxed, this is probably true. However, if the tail is held high and is quickly switching back and forth, the dog is signaling agitation or the possible intention to attack. In addition to the tail, there are other cues such as whether or not the hackles (hair along the back of the neck) are raised. This little trick actually serves to make the dog look bigger and more frightening, and usually occurs when the dog feels threatened. However, the hackles may simply be up because the dog is in a high state of arousal or excitement. We often see this when dogs are simply playing.

Other signs of aggression can include a dog that takes a stance with most of its weight over its front legs, almost leaning forward on its toes. Ears may be back or up, depending upon the breed. Along with a low growl, the dog may snarl and show teeth. A dog that intends to attack will probably stare hard at its victim.

A submissive dog, displays a whole different set of postures. The submissive dog will keep its head down, and may lower itself to the ground. A really submissive dog may go ‘belly up’ or urinate when approached. These are indications that the dog is trying to avoid conflict and does not want to fight. The submissive dog will not usually look directly into your eyes. A dog that has panicked and is very frightened may stare at you.

Aside from tail wagging, a happy dog usually displays other signs. Some even go beyond tail wagging to whole body wagging! A happy dog’s mouth is usually slightly open and relaxed. They often look as though they are laughing. The entire body seems at ease when the dog is happy.

When two dogs are together, people often have a hard time telling whether the dogs intend to play or fight. One sure sign of intention to play is a play bow. In a play bow, the dog rests its front legs and chest on the ground and leaves its hindquarters in the air. This is accompanied by frenzied tail wagging and jumping from side to side. A play bow is an invitation to romp. Try getting a play bow from your dog by getting down on the floor and doing one first.

Dogs who intend to fight have a much stiffer body posture and their movements are sharper and more deliberate.

Verbal versus Visual Communication

When you bring your pet to us for boarding or grooming, you let us know your pet’s needs and requirements by talking to us. As humans, our primary method of communicating with one another is the spoken word. More simply, we make noises that other humans are able to understand. People are so accustomed to communicating with our own species by talking, that we presume it is the most efficient method of communicating with other species such as our dogs. That is not the case.

While our dogs offer many vocalizations (barking, whining, howling, etc.) their primary method of communicating with one another and with us is visual. They observe body language. When with one another they look at how they stand, what they do with their tails, ears, eyes, and lips. This is why most dogs will learn a hand signal easier and quicker than they learn a verbal cue for a behavior.

To demonstrate this, Dr. Patricia McConnell, a canine behaviorist at the University of Wisconsin, conducted a simple experiment. She selected 24 puppies, six and a half weeks old, four each from litters of Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Border Collies, Dalmatians, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers. She and her graduate students then spent four days training the puppies to “sit” upon presentation of both an audible and a visual signal. The trainer presented a sound at the same time they scooped their hand up over the puppy’s head. On the fifth day the trainers presented the puppies with one signal at a time so they could determine whether the audible or visual signal resulted in more correct responses. Twenty-three of the 24 puppies responded better to the visual signal than the sound. One of the puppies responded equally well to both. Eight of the puppies did not respond to the audible signal at all. The following table indicates correct responses to audible and visual signals by breed.

BREED VISUAL AUDIBLE
Australian Shepherd 92.5% 15%
Beagle 80% 0%
Border Collie 92.5% 15%
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 90% 50%
Dalmatian 80% 20%
Min. Schnauzer 80% 0%

 

This simple study suggests that when training our dogs we can make it easier for them and ourselves by teaching a visual cue first.

We also need to be aware of everything we are doing with our bodies when training our dogs. Just because we think the visual cue for sit is scooping our hands, does NOT mean that is what the dog is really cueing on. For example, one year one of our students commented his dog was inconsistently responding to a visual cue for sit. After watching them for a few exercises I quickly determined the problem. While the student usually scooped his hand for a sit, occasionally he would scoop his hand and then rest his hand on his stomach. The dog sat every time the student scooped and then rested his hand on his stomach. The dog had a visual cue for SIT; it just was not the cue the student intended.

Spend some time watching your dog interact with you and other living things. The better you learn their language, the happier you both can be.

 

Calming Signals

When dogs interact with one another and with us, they often use body language to cutoff perceived aggression or other threats. Turid Rugaas, a canine behaviorist from Norway, calls this type of body language “Calming Signals.” These signals are used to prevent aggression, and for calming down nervousness in others. Dogs use these signals to communicate with one another, us, and even other species of animals. They are a dog’s primary method of resolving a potential conflict.

By learning, understanding and using these calming signals, you can communicate better with your dog. I have outlined some of these calming signals below. If you would like to learn more about them, I suggest you read Ms. Rugaas’ book, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals and watch her video, Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You.

Averting the Eyes

Averting Eyes
Averting Eyes

Breaking eye contact, by averting the eyes is often the first sign of stress observed in a dog.

 

 

 

 

 

Turning of the Head

Turning of the head.
Turning of the head.

If your dog becomes nervous about the approach of another dog or person, he may turn his head from side-to-side, or may just turn away. This signals the other dog that they are approaching too quickly or too directly.

 

 

 

Turning Away

Turning away.
Turning away.

This is an extension of turning your head. If a group of dogs are playing and some of them get too rough, other dogs may turn their side or back to them in order to get the dogs settled down. We often saw this behavior with our dogs when playing. If our Border collieX Shed felt play was “getting too wild,” she would turn away from the other dogs. If your dog is jumping or whining at you, turning away from them may help calm them.

Nose Licking

Nose lick
Nose lick

Rapid flicking of the tongue over the nose is also a common calming signal.  It is often seen with dogs at the veterinarians or when the dog is at the groomers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sniffing

Sniffing
Sniffing

Sniffing as a calming signal must be reviewed within the context in which it appears. Obviously, dogs sniff for other reasons than to just indicate stress.

 

 

 

Yawning

Yawning
Yawning

Dogs may yawn when in stressful situations such as at the vet’s office or during a quarrel among its family. If your dog is feeling stressed, standing still and yawning may help them relax. They need to see you yawn though, so even though it is impolite, you do not want to cover your mouth if this is to work.

 

 

Play Position

Play bow
Play bow

Dogs will use a “play bow” (front legs and chest on the ground with hind quarters in the air) to initiate play or to calm another animal down that they are unsure about. You can do a play bow to initiate play or to help relax a dog.

You can learn much about your dog by just sitting back and watching them interact with you, other family members, other dogs and other animals. If you spend the time to do this, it will greatly increase your ability to communicate with your dog

 

Distance Increasing Signals

These signals are meant to increase the distance between two individuals. They are a way of saying “you are invading my comfort zone” and by paying attention to them, one is often able to avoid being bitten. These signals are:

Tooth Displays

Whale Eye

“Hard Eyes”

Body weight forward

Ears forward

Tense body/face

Head/Neck is lowered

Increase in Height

Intense Barking

Tail up high, “flagging”

Freezing in Place

Hackles Up (Piloerection)

Mouth Closed

Urine marking

 

How We Communicate With Our Dogs – Dog Handling Skills

Just as you can learn a great deal from your dog’s body language, your dog reads a lot about you from your body language. Some body language you can use to your advantage is:

Do not bend over your dog. Squat next to them or stand straight. When you bend over the dog, you are putting them in a defensive position.

When training the recall, stand straight or squat with your arms outstretched. Stooping over the dog will cause him to avoid you.

Smile. Your face says a great deal about your attitude.

When petting a dog for the first time, touch them on the sides of their body and on their chest. Never pat them on the top of the head.

Avoid hugging your dog. No matter how much pleasure you get from hugs, your dog does not enjoy it.

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

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

Canine – Behavior – Is it OK if our dog sleeps in our bed?

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on 25FEB15>

Tikken under the duvet
Tikken under the duvet

I do not know how many times a year we are asked “is it okay if our dog sleeps in our bed?” or someone with a very apologetic look on their face states, “I know I’m not supposed to, but I let the dog sleep in my bed.” The reality is there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog sleeping in your bed and contrary to popular belief, sleeping in your bed does not make a dog dominant (see Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth). If you do allow your dog to sleep in your bed, you’re in the majority. In an informal survey I conducted via FaceBook, 75 respondents (77.32%) indicated that their dog is allowed to sleep in bed with them, whereas only 22 respondents (22.68%) indicated that their dog was not allowed to sleep with them.

However, sharing a bed with a dog is not for everyone and not all dogs are fans of sharing sleeping space either. Therefore, before inviting Sparky into bed, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your partner comfortable with your dog sharing the bed? If not or if you are unsure, a discussion with your partner is in order.
  • Is your dog housetrained? Until a dog is has gone at least 6 weeks without an accident inside, I wouldn’t think of allowing the dog to sleep anywhere other than a crate.
  • Is the dog going to enjoy sleeping in bed with you or are they perhaps happier sleeping in their own crate or bed? Sleep habits vary widely between people and pets. If anyone of you is a restless sleeper, the others may be miserable. Many dogs are just as content to sleep beside your bed in their own bed or crate.
  • Is your pet going to be safe? A small dog could easily get hurt if someone accidently rolls over on them and they may even bite in that situation.
  • Is there room enough for everyone? A six month old Golden Retriever puppy is still growing for another 7 to 8 months. As space shrinks, allowing the dog in bed may no longer be as popular.
  • How will you feel about sharing the bed if you, your partner or the dog are sick? Some people desire closeness when ill while others cannot stand being touched.
  • Do you have other pets and how many in bed is too many? Always keep in mind that the bed may become a valued space that one dog may choose to resource guard.

My wife and I have had ten dogs in our life together and only two have had bed privileges. Gus, our Cairn Terrier, had privileges for a short time, but lost them because he would grumble every time we moved. He was simply of the temperament that he did not want to be disturbed when he was sleeping (I am sure we all know people like that). Gus really was more comfortable and well rested when he slept in his kennel in our bedroom rather than on the bed. Tikken, our Golden, was allowed in our bed once she was completely housetrained. During the winter months a better foot warmer could not be found however, in the heat of the summer, she would often choose to sleep on the floor. If one of us was restless, she would simply hop off and sleep elsewhere.  While there were times when I described Tikken as the “great immovable object” because she would not move when I tried to stretch out, allowing her to share our bed worked well for all of us.

So ultimately, the decision is up to you. There is simply no right or wrong answer about whether or not you choose to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. If it works for you, never apologize for letting your dog in your bed. If you would rather not share your sleeping space, that is okay too. Just remember, once you start letting your dog sleep with you, they will expect it. If you change the rules months or years down the road because you now have a child, a new partner, or some other life change, it will take time and work to help your dog adjust to new sleeping arrangements.

______________________________________________________________________________
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.

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

Dogs-Dog Training: A Holistic Approach to Dog Training (Parts 1 & 2)

[This article was originally published in two parts in the January 2015 and February 2015 editions of the Downeast Dog News.]

TriviaIt was forty years ago this month, when I had just turned 17 that my parents finally agreed to let me have a dog. I brought home a little black fluff of fur with no real idea of what to do other than to love and feed her. Neither the pet store where I bought Trivia, nor the veterinarian who examined her, suggested she have any level of training; in fact they didn’t even mention housetraining. Nor did they suggest I learn anything about what it’s like to be a dog.

Somehow Trivia and I survived, but as I look back I know that the relationship we had and Trivia’s quality of life could have been so much better if I had just taken the time to learn more about her, train her and more importantly prepare her for living in my world. Trivia was a social butterfly and she loved people, but because I had never socialized her or taught her any manners, she was a bit of a “wild child” when people were around. As a result, for the first several years of her life, she wasn’t taken places and when people did come over she was exiled to her pen outside or her room in the basement. She was basically denied the social interaction she craved. Every time I think of Trivia, it saddens me to know how much better her life could have been.

Seventeen years later, my wife Paula and I got our first dog as a family. Since we wanted to do everything right, we immediately signed Gus up for a puppy class. We were introduced to a very heavy-handed method of training, which was popular at the time, but really weren’t encouraged to think beyond “training the dog.” There was little or no emphasis on our learning anything about canine behavior, how dogs learn, how dogs communicate and express themselves, what motivates a dog, the role of health and wellness in learning  or a dog’s physical, mental and emotional needs. All we were taught was; “This is how you train your dog to do x, and this is what you do if he does not comply. Non-compliance is NOT an option.” If it weren’t for my innate need to understand “the why” of everything, coupled with Gus’ medical and behavioral quirks, we probably would have just muddled on and Gus would have had a life similar to that of Trivia. Gus

Sadly, in many ways the general public’s attitudes towards dogs and training has not changed much in forty years. According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Product Association National Pet Owners Survey, only 4% of the dogs in the USA are taken to a dog training class. While this number is trending up, it was only 2% in 1998, it is infinitesimally small. While some families do manage to train their dogs without going to a class, many dogs still remain untrained or under trained and totally unprepared for living in the human world.  Even though the science clearly supports the benefits of positive reinforcement in learning,  many people still cling to the heavy-handed method of training we were introduced to when we first got Gus because that is the way the dogs in their family have always been “trained.”

Even more alarming, an article from the November 2013 issue of Veterinary Medicine indicates that only 4.7% of puppies attend a puppy socialization class. I believe that these statistics provide an answer to why so many dogs are surrendered to a shelter or rescue because of behavior problems.  Proper socialization often makes the difference between a well-adjusted dog and one that develops behavioral issues. Socialization is about so much more than getting along with the neighbor’s dog or becoming familiar with grandpa and grandma or the neighbor’s kids. In my experience, very few individuals understand what socialization and habituation means without the benefit of attending a class or working with a professional trainer.

I see dogs for behavioral consultations. These dogs are brought to us because of aggression, reactivity or some type of anxiety, and often they have had little or no training. Typically they were not well socialized or were socialized inappropriately. Many dogs that develop behavioral issues end up being surrendered or spend their lives tied up in the yard or relegated to the basement for the majority of their lives. Some may be continually subjected to being yelled at and having guardians that are regularly rife with anger and frustration, simply because the dogs “should know better” or “are stubborn.” When people open their homes to a dog, it is not with this life in mind for their new pet. Many of these pets could have dramatically different lives if owners were made aware and had put forth the initial effort to learn about their dog and to train them, I believe that there are five fundamental reasons that people choose not to work with a professional when it comes to learning about their dog and training their dog.

  • First, many people are under the misguided impression that dog training is only for dogs that have problems or for dogs that compete in dog shows or sports. The reality is that most dog training programs are created with the average pet dog in mind and focus on the basics such as not jumping on the guests and walking nicely on a leash.
  • Additionally, people often underestimate the value of training to both themselves and their dogs. A well trained dog is more welcome in public places and because they are easier to care for become everyone’s favorite. Because of their exemplary behavior, owners with well-trained dogs often find it easier to find rental housing or insurance and may even qualify for discounts at the veterinarians, groomers, boarding kennel and daycare.
  • Another barrier to dog training is all of the misinformation about dog training and canine behavior, much of which is outdated and obsolete but still considered “state-of-the-art” by the dog owning public due to urban legends and the internet. Examples of these myths are things such as suggesting that a dog needs all its shots before it can start training, that some breeds are too stubborn to be trained, that you can’t train a dog until it’s “x” months old, that a dog will learn all it needs to know from other dogs, that you just need to dominate your dog and make them mind, etc. Our knowledge about dogs, their behavior and the most humane and efficient ways to train them has changed radically in the last 15 years, but often it’s only the professional trainers that are aware of this new information.
  • A lack of resources, both financial and time, is a further reason that people often use for not pursuing training with their pet. The reality is that compared to the purchase price of a dog, veterinary care, and a year’s worth of food, training is a bargain! If the resource one finds lacking is time, then you really need to question whether you really have time to have a dog. Working with a knowledgeable, experienced professional will actually save you time.
  • Finally, there often seems to be a cultural lack of emphasis on the importance and benefits of training by breeders, rescues, shelters, veterinarians, boarding kennels and daycares, groomers, and yes even dog trainers at times.

Training is about much more than teaching the dog to sit; a training program should have a comprehensive, holistic foundation.

What is “A Holistic Approach to Dog Training”?

Holistic is defined as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.”   It is essential to a dog’s welfare to understand a dog’s physical, mental, emotional and social needs and their methods of communicating with one another and with humans. It is the use of this knowledge that allows for the building of a trusting relationship with dogs, meeting their needs and thus ensuring their quality of life. As humans we have the ability to continue to learn about our dogs as a species as well as individuals.

A key component of a good trainer is that they will make the process of learning and training fun. This not only increases the probability of success, but also serves to further enhance the relationship. Also, central to training is the management of a dog’s environment to prevent dangerous and undesirable behaviors, while simultaneously using reward-based training to teach the dog to offer behaviors that help them thrive within our human world.

Why should I train my dog with a holistic approach?

Besides the obvious benefits of having a well-trained dog that is responsive to you, training, when done with humane methods, is extremely beneficial to your dog as well.

Dog’s Don’t Come With A User Manual

Spending some time to learn about your dog, their breed, what they were originally bred to do, normal and abnormal canine behaviors, how they learn and how they express what they are feeling will be very beneficial. A good place to start is with the following books ; On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas , The Other End of the Leash – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw, For the Love of A Dog – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, and Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar.

Building a Bond & Trust

If you make training fun and rewarding, which is not hard to do, training can become a central part of your effort to build and strengthen the bond with your dog. After all, isn’t companionship the main reason you got a dog?  My dog Muppy was a bit shy when we adopted her. Through training we’ve established a wonderful relationship that has helped her get over her shyness. Additionally, she’s learned; how to control herself around other people (sit, down, stay), behaviors that help keep her safe while enjoying the world (heel, coming when called, leave it), and things that help me take care of her (swallowing a pill, trimming her nails, combing out mats). All of these things she’s learned also make it easier for her groomer, her veterinarian, and others that care for her. Because she has learned these things through the use of positive reinforcement, her trust in the human world has grown immensely.

Socialization & Habituation

Properly socializing and habituating your dog when they are 8 to 16 weeks of age, and maintaining this socialization for the lifetime of your pet, can go a long way in helping your dog to enjoy being part of your everyday life without being fearful. Unfortunately, most people do not fully understand the concept of socialization and think that exposing their dog to a couple of friends and their existing dog or the neighbor’s dog is all it takes. Socializing a dog is not that simple and requires planning, which is why taking your puppy to a class taught by a professional dog trainer can help you get off to a good start. You will have the added benefit of meeting others that are going through all of the same puppy frustrations that you are. Many families and their dogs become longtime friends through puppy class.

Prevent Problems Before They Start

People have good intentions when they train their dog, but often they or a family member or friend inadvertently end up training the dog to do exactly the opposite of what they really want. Often people come to us with a dog that habitually jumps up on certain people and after we talk with them we discover they have unknowingly been rewarding jumping. It’s much easier to train what we want from the beginning than to have to “untrain” a behavior we don’t like.

Learning Basic Manners

When one gets a dog it is usually with the intention that it will be a member of the family and will be able to participate in family activities. One of the best ways to make this happen is by teaching the dog some basic manners like sit, down, walking on a loose leash, coming when called, and leaving things they’re not supposed to have.

Mental Stimulation

So many people worry about making sure their dog gets sufficient physical exercise, yet rarely do they think about their mental stimulation which is every bit as important. A dog that receives plenty of mental stimulation is much less likely to engage in problem behaviors like destructive chewing and digging.

Regular training sessions, even after a dog has successfully learned everything you want them to know, can keep their skills sharp and help expend that pent up energy. Teaching your dog something new and fun (e.g. retrieve a favorite toy, find a hidden object) can provide your dog with mental stimulation on those days when life does not accommodate a walk. Sometimes it can be as simple as training your dog during commercial breaks as you watch your favorite TV program.

Because It Is Fun!

My dog Muppy absolutely loves to “go to school.” When she prances in her heel position, it is obvious through her body language to see how much she is enjoying herself. Her mouth is open, relaxed and smiling while she is looking at me with rapt attention. Not only is she having a great time, it fills my heart with joy to watch her. And all the while, she is learning skills that will help her to successfully live in a human world. Give holistic training a try and spread the word!

Working With A Professional Is Worth It

Working with a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) is one of the best ways for you to implement a holistic training program for you and your dog. A good CPDT will teach you about body language and canine communication, they will introduce a fun, positive method of training and will help guide you through those difficult moments of canine chaos. A professional understands that all dogs are different yet ultimately learn the same way and can help you prevent problems before they begin. They are also there to answer your questions and to show you how to do something; not something you can get out of a book or a YouTube video. Yes, you can see a trainer on YouTube but they cannot see you and your dog and that is an essential factor in helping people and dogs to progress.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor and the 2014 Association of Professional Dog Trainers Dr. Ian Dunbar Member of the Year. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Voice of Maine  (103.9FM, 101.3FM, 1450AM & woofmeowshow.com) every Saturday at 7:30AM and Sunday at 8:30PM

______________________________________________________________________________
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.

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

Dog Training – It’s Responsible Pet Owners Month… Time to Train Your Dog

<This article was first published in The Maine Edge on January 28. 2015>

Don and Muppy practicing walking politely off-leash.
Don and Muppy practicing walking politely off-leash.

If you are like most people, you got a dog for companionship. Companions hang out together and training your dog makes that easier. February is Responsible Pet Owners month, and one of the most conscientious things any dog owner can do is to take the time to appropriately train their dog. Odds are if you train your dog they will be able to do more with you and will be welcome more places you would like to take them. Even your friends and family that don’t like dogs, and yes those people exist, will perhaps at least tolerate your well trained, well behaved, magnificent dog.

An untrained dog is likely to result in you, and possibly other family members, becoming frustrated. This results in a dog that also becomes frustrated and unhappy. A vicious cycle ensues and opportunities for you to teach and for the dog to learn cease to exist because you are both so wound-up.  The time for effective training is well before the bad stuff happens!

There are many advantages to having a trained dog. Trained dogs are often welcome at family and neighborhood gatherings, they are less likely to bite someone, and having a trained dog could very well end up getting you a lower insurance rate. Your veterinarian will likewise be very appreciative when you and your dog come in for a checkup and your dog shows off its skills, resulting in an easier visit for everyone. Lastly, when you truly understand your dog and have taken the time to train them; you are both more fun to be with! Really!

Unfortunately the actual training of your dog is beyond the scope of this column however, the following are some suggestions on getting started.  One option is to train your dog yourself, but you must first be well prepared with some basic information about your dog. A dog is a complex, living, sentient being very different than a human. Dogs do not come with a comprehensive user’s manual that covers everything you really need to know; what were they bred for, how they learn, what normal and abnormal behaviors look like, how they communicate and express emotions, etc. Yet we need this kind of information to make sure that we are meeting our dogs most basic needs; they need far more than food, water, shelter and a human that appreciates them. This is all essential knowledge to having a fantastic relationship with a dog.

Learning what you need to know about your dog does not happen overnight.  The following books are some recommendations that will serve as a good starter; On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas , The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, PhD, DOGS: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw, For the Love of A Dog – by Patricia McConnell, PhD, and Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar. Beware of information on the internet; as State Farm insurance has so graciously taught us; just because it’s on the internet does mean it is true or good advice. That holds true for the information from dear old Uncle Tim, your neighbor who considers training to be “yelling at the dog” and even some pet professionals, dog breeders and rescues. When you are reading and gathering information about dogs, please remember that not all of the information out there in the world is accurate or humane; it is your responsibility to be a critical thinker.

If you do not have the time or would simply rather not do all that reading and studying about dogs, your best bet is to contact a professional dog trainer who will be skilled not only at training dogs but also at teaching you. This part is absolutely critical! Be very wary of trainers that want to work with your dog alone and insist that they can do most of the work for you. That may sound appealing, but if you really want to be companions with your dog you need to be intimately involved with the process. Whether you choose group classes or private instruction, a professional trainer will be able to not only show you what to do but will be able to troubleshoot situations as they arise. I’ve asked books and YouTube videos questions but have yet to get an answer.

When looking for a professional dog trainer you want to make sure to select one that has kept current in the field. The best place to start is at the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org) or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org). Professionals credentialed by these organizations must not only take a test and comply with a professional standard; they must acquire continuing education units in order to maintain their certifications. So get studying or find a trainer and have fun!

 

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

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

(This article was first published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers Chronicle of the Dog  – [Click for a PDF of this article])

As trainers and behavior consultants, it is essential for us to consider whether or not a pet’s basic needs are being met if we are to offer our clients the best possible training and behavioral advice. This becomes even more important when facilitating the treatment of “problem behaviors,” as these often manifest when a pet’s welfare is compromised or when basic needs are not being met consistently. Brambell’s Five Freedoms are a very useful set of guidelines for assessing a pet’s welfare and developing a corresponding training, behavior modification, and management plan.

Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom as a result of Parliament creating a committee to assess the welfare of livestock raised in factory farms. In December of 1965, the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4) was published. The report identified what are known as the five freedoms that a farm animal should have: “to stand up, lie down, turn around, and groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” The British government then established the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to further define these freedoms to what we know today as: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.1,2

While originally intended for farm animals, the freedoms can be applied to any animal that is kept by humans. During my training in the Bach Practitioner program in the U.K., we discussed how Brambell’s Five Freedoms applied to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, rabbits, hogs, ducks, and a variety of other species. It is imperative that we have adequate knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements and natural behaviors in order to appropriately assess whether their freedoms are being restricted. Even when we do have adequate knowledge, we may find that the freedoms sometimes conflict with what are considered best practices. Likewise, they may be inconsistent with what may be necessary to protect a pet or others. Not everything is black and white, and considering the freedoms over the years has brought me many answers, but also many questions for which I have no definitive answer. I invite you to consider some of the questions that have occurred to me and contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

  1. Ensure the animal is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition.

This sounds relatively simple, right? Provide animals with food and water and the need is met, but…

  • Does the type of food matter? Cats are true carnivores and most dogs, if left to their own devices, would eat a diet with very few carbohydrates. However, the average dog and cat are fed a diet that is probably at a minimum composed of 40% carbohydrates. Both dogs and cats would usually be eating fresh food, yet most pet food is highly processed. Feeding a pet as naturally as possible is not inexpensive. Is it better to have one pet and to feed him really well, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? What about pets on prescription diets? They may need it for disease purposes, but is it optimal nutrition? Which takes precedence?
  • Many pets in the U.S. are obese, clearly due to overfeeding, improper diet, and lack of exercise. How does an animal’s obesity affect its welfare?
  • Does the source of water matter? Cats often depend on getting the majority of their hydration from eating live prey, yet few cats have that opportunity in today’s world. Would they drink more and have fewer urinary issues if they had ready access to fresh meat and running water? If you don’t drink from your tap, should the animals?
  1. Ensure the animal is free from discomfort.

Originally this freedom focused on shelter, and seemed relatively straightforward: make sure animals always have adequate shelter from temperature and weather extremes. However, there is much more to comfort than hot versus cold and dry versus damp.

  • Animals need down time. Does the pet have a quiet, comfortable resting place where he can be undisturbed and where he will feel safe? Is the pet’s environment free from things that may cause harm and discomfort?
  • Many people have multiple pets. Does each pet have adequate space, or are there too many animals for the amount of space available? Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there constant conflict? Are there sufficient resources for all of the animals?
  • Breed also affects what an animal needs to be comfortable. Pets with long coats often cannot groom themselves adequately, and their hair can become tangled and matted, causing them discomfort. This becomes an even bigger problem if the pet is obese and as he ages. Are your clients making sure that their pets are adequately and properly groomed?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from pain, injury, and disease.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with physical disease.

  • Working dogs and dogs who compete in dog sports can experience injuries that cause pain. Is just using painkillers enough, or do we need to consider removing the dog from the activity causing the pain? Physical therapy for pets is still a relatively new treatment modality. Should it be a routine part of care for a working or competitive dog?
  • Breeding has resulted in some pets who essentially have physical impairments that can affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How much should these animals be put through in an effort to correct their conditions? How do we help our clients separate their emotions from those of their pet? How do we handle it when it is one of our own pets?
  • Many purebred pets are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders, as well as physical conformations that often cause impairments. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these disorders and create healthier pets? When clients are considering what type of pet to get, should we steer them away from certain breeds that have physical impairments or are prone to genetic disorders? How do we educate without being judgmental?
  • Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, etc.) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of these disorders are often not considered as important as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog? How do we best counsel clients who wish to keep their dog involved in activities that have great potential to exacerbate behavioral issues?
  1. Ensure your pet is free to express normal behaviors.

The ability to express normal behaviors is often problematic, because many normal behaviors are the behaviors that people dislike the most (e.g., cats hunting and killing birds and dogs sniffing people’s crotches, to name two).

  • Do your clients’ pets have an adequate and safe space in which to run and express normal behaviors, both indoors and outdoors? Are they provided with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Cats are all too often neglected here. Are they getting ample chase games?
  • Is the environment in which the animals live suitably enriched so that it stimulates their minds? Do they search for their food or is it just dropped in a bowl?
  • Do the pets have sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide emotional enrichment?
  • Are there opportunities to interact with suitable members of their own species, if they choose to do so, in a manner that is rewarding for all parties?
  • Humans use dogs for a variety of jobs. Is it ethical to put dogs in working situations where they are not allowed to express many normal behaviors for most of their lives?
  • There are a number of breeds that humans choose to physically alter by docking their tails or cropping their ears. Tails and ears are both tools that dogs use to communicate with one another. Do physical alterations impair a dog’s ability to express normal behaviors and to communicate?
  1. Ensure your pet is free from fear and distress.

I truly believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect knowledge — about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in our canine and feline companions.

  • Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. What can we do to make clients, breeders, shelters, rescues, and veterinarians realize the importance of socialization and habituation? What can we do to help our clients to be successful in socializing their puppies gracefully and gradually without overwhelming them?
  • Cats have an even earlier socialization period than a dog (two to five weeks). How do we make sure that breeders and shelters are aware of this and taking steps to accomplish this? Should we be discouraging clients from adopting kittens that have not been properly socialized at this age? What about the feral population? Is it just kinder to leave them be?
  • Additionally, many animals have a more fearful baseline, either due to genetics, prior history, or a combination of both, and with the best of intentions, well-meaning pet owners throw the animals into situations that involve flooding to re-socialize them. How do we decide when enough is enough? At what point does management become preferable to continued trials of desensitization and counter-conditioning?
  • Dog bites, especially of children, are a significant problem, and are often caused by a dog who is afraid or is otherwise under stress. In some cases the child is the direct cause of that fear. How do we convince the dog-owning public and the non-dog-owning public of the importance of learning basic canine body language so that many of these bites can be prevented?
  • A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. How do we help clients understand and find the time to ensure that their pets get appropriate amounts of stimulation and exercise?
  • On the flip side, too much stimulation and exercise can also be detrimental, causing a state of chronic stress. Many dogs will not do well in a daycare setting, playing all day or going for a five-mile run every morning. How do we educate our clients and others in the industry that too much activity can be as detrimental as not enough activity? How do we help clients to find the balance for their pet between too much and not enough?
  • While both the domestic dog and domestic cat are considered to be social animals, some are more social than others. Feral dogs and cats choose which bonds to form; in most households, humans choose which pets live together. How do we get clients to understand that pets who do “okay” together may not be thriving, and may be living under stress? Is that fair to either pet? Should one be rehomed, or would that be worse? If so, how do we counsel clients about which one should stay?
  • Communication and understanding are the cornerstones of good relations. How do we get the dog-owning public to understand that learning dog body language and training their dogs with reward-based training is key to ensuring that their dogs do not live in fear and distress?
  • Stress comes in two varieties: distress (scary things, trauma) and eustress (excitement). Whether distress or eustress, what happens to the body physiologically is very similar, and being in a state of frequent eustress or distress can have negative impacts on health. How do we get people to understand that, while occasional, moderate distress and eustress is in fact essential to life (and unavoidable), high or frequent doses can be extremely detrimental? How do we help them balance and manage their pets’ lives to avoid long-term, high levels of stress? If going to the vet is causing extreme stress, yet is necessary for freedom from disease and pain, how do we respond? Which carries more weight?
  • As trainers we may choose to put our own dogs into situations where they serve as a decoy dog while we evaluate a client’s dog-aggressive dog. Even though we take great effort to prevent physical and emotional harm to our dogs, the latter is not always easy to measure at the time. Is it ethical to place our dogs in this situation?
  • Working with dogs, and observing others working with dogs, is an essential part of how we learn to become better trainers. Is it fair to bring out a dog who is experiencing fear and distress and to use him in a demonstration in front of a group? Can we come up with a better way for us to learn, without causing dogs even more distress?

There are not necessarily any straightforward answers to satisfying Brambell’s Five Freedoms for all animals in all situations. As with any treatment or training plan, all factors need to be considered and weighed. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the freedoms and how they apply to the animals in your life, the global ethical questions they bring, and also learning how you can use them to help your clients and their pets.

 

Footnotes

1 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms: http://www.defra.gov.uk/fawc/about/five-freedoms/

2 “Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05: http://www.fawc.org.uk/pdf/fivefreedoms1979.pdf

 

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

Dog Training – Alone Training

ALONE TRAINING

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog that it is safe to be left alone.

Dogs 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 in 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 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 at 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, or 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 also symptoms of separation anxiety which many need to be treated 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.

Things you should start doing immediately:

  • Make an appointment to discuss this issue with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian suggests medications follow their advice.
  • Contact and work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog. They may also suggest additional things you can try such as Adaptil/DAP and Bach Rescue Remedy.
  • Leave your dog home alone as little as possible until you have successfully modified their behavior.  This is the hard part and can take weeks and even months; however, it is essential if you wish this problem to resolve. Consider it from your dog’s perspective, they are living in extreme fear. Every time your dog causes through this process of your leaving and there becoming anxious makes this behavior more likely and decreases the probability of resolving the behavior. You also need to consider the serious damage a dog can do to your home and belongings and themselves. I have colleagues that have worked with families where the dog has done thousands of dollars of damage to themselves and to their surroundings in less than 30 minutes. If you yourself cannot stay home you have some alternatives. Perhaps a friend or family member can stay with your dog while you are gone. Doggie daycare or day boarding may also be an option. However these alternatives do not always work if the dog is very attached to you.
  • Do NOT make a big deal about your leaving and returning. No attention for the dog until they settle.
  • Look for cues you may be giving your dog that suggest your leaving is imminent. This can be things like; picking up keys, closing a brief case, putting on shoes, putting on a coat, packing a lunch, etc. Start offering these keys at times when you are not leaving so they are no longer predictors of being alone.

Other Articles You May Find Helpful

DAP/Adaptil – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

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

You can learn more about Green Acres Behavior Counseling services by clicking here.

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

Housetraining

(If reading is not your thing – checkout our podcast on housetraining below)

Training your puppy or dog not to urinate or defecate in your house should begin as soon as you bring them into your home.

The same process used to housetrain a puppy can also be used with an older dog that is not housetrained or that develops housetraining issues. If you have an older dog that you thought was previously housetrained but is now having issues, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is highly likely that your dog’s housetraining problem is not behavioral, but medical in nature.

With young puppies, a major factor in housetraining will be the size of their growing bladder and their control over it. A puppy that is under 10 weeks of age may need to go out every hour during the day and possibly once or twice every night. This is not necessarily a matter of training, but one of bladder control. By 12 weeks a puppy should be able to go up to 2 to 3 hours during the day without urinating and can usually make it through the night. When a puppy is 16 to 20 weeks of age, it should only need to go out every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Many adult dogs can eventually go up to 8 hours during the day before they require a potty break.

Crate Training

The first step in housetraining your puppy will be to get a crate. We recommend a fiberglass/plastic “airline” type crate. These crates are enclosed on all sides and provide a den-like atmosphere for your dog. If you prefer a wire crate, drape a cloth over the sides to make it more like a den, but be sure that the puppy cannot pull the cloth into the crate through the wires. You can achieve this by placing a board that extends out on all sides over the top of the crate, and then draping the cloth over the board so that it hangs at least a few inches away from the wires.

A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, the dog should not have enough room to sleep in one corner and urinate or defecate in the other. Usually it is most economical to purchase the size crate that will fit your puppy as an adult. For the time being you can place an old milk crate or some other non-edible object in the back of the crate to take up some space or else you can invest in a crate divider sold specifically for this purpose

There are beds specially made for dog crates, but we do not recommend them for young puppies. An old blanket or some towels will do just fine, providing the puppy does not tear and consume them. A couple of good chew toys will occupy a young dog’s time in the crate. While you are housetraining your dog, you should not offer water in the crate, but do make sure it is available at all other times.

Generally the crate should be placed 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. You may have a couple of sleepless nights initially, but it is worth it in the end. Having the dog near you while you sleep will also aid you in hearing the puppy when he needs to eliminate during the night.

It is very important not to abuse the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so it should never be used 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.

Introducing the dog to the crate

  1. Open 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. Feed your dog meals in the crate to further create a positive association.
  2. Pick a word such as “kennel,” toss a treat in and shut the door after the puppy enters. Now pass a treat through the gate and then let your puppy out. Repeat this several times, increasing the length of time your puppy is in the crate.
  3. Say “kennel,” wait for your puppy to enter and then shut the door and pass them a treat. Leave the room for one minute and then return to let the puppy out. Never make a big deal of crating your dog or letting him out. If you act as though it is nothing your dog will accept the idea much more quickly. Also, remember to not reward your dog as you let him or her out of the crate. Exiting the crate should be a non-event.
  4. Allow your dog to become used to the crate. Start with a couple of minutes and then increase the time from there.
  5. If your dog is barking, ignore him. Otherwise he will learn that barking results in your attention, which is what he wants. However, if he whines in the middle of the night, he may have to go outside. In this case take him out immediately and then put him back in the crate for the remainder of the night.

The happier you are with the crate, the happier your dog will be. You will be amazed at how rapidly dogs come to like their new home.

If you are having difficulty teaching your dog or puppy to accept its crate, please talk to us. There are many little tips and tricks that can help.

Diet and Housetraining

Your puppy’s diet will have a large impact on housetraining. The quality of what goes in will greatly determine the quantity of what comes out. The frequency of feeding will also have an effect on how often your dog needs to eliminate. By feeding at set intervals you will make bowel movements much more predictable. I recommend you feed a puppy 3 times a day. Set the food down for 15 minutes and if the puppy walks away from anything that is left, pick it up and put it away until the next meal.

The Housetraining Process

Until such time that your dog has been housetrained (roughly 6 weeks without an accident), they should always be in a crate, on a leash attached to you, or under constant supervision. You must not take your eye off the puppy if you want to prevent accidents. This means that if a responsible adult is not devoting all of their attention to the puppy, then the puppy should be in its crate.

It is essential that you minimize the number of accidents an animal has inside; your goal should be none. Every accident the puppy has provides positive reinforcement, in the form of relief, for eliminating inside. Positive reinforcement causes behaviors to be repeated, something we do not want in this circumstance.

You should take your puppy out to eliminate whenever:

  • They finish a meal or snack.
  • They awake from sleeping.
  • They come out of the crate, whether they have been sleeping or not.
  • Immediately before and after play sessions.
  • Any time the dog’s behavior suggests they may need to go out (circling, sniffing, walking away and sitting by a door).

When taking your puppy or dog out to eliminate, follow these steps:

  • Put your dog on a leash, 6ft in length or less, so you have control over them outside. You need to stay out with them, so dress appropriately.
  • Always go out the same door. This will help them to identify why they are going out.
  • Go directly to the area in your yard you have selected as the bathroom area. This area should be fairly close to the door so you can get there in a hurry when necessary. Dogs tend to favor porous surfaces so they will generally prefer to eliminate on a grassy area. After your puppy defecates here the first time, leave some stool for the first few days to serve as a marker that this is the place to go.
  • Remain standing in one place. When the dog starts to eliminate quietly say “good,” remain silent and allow them to finish. Give them a treat and lots of praise immediately after they have finished. This treat needs to be delivered within 1-2 seconds of the dog completing the behavior if it is to be associated with the behavior. If you wait to give the puppy the treat until after you get back inside, you are NOT rewarding for the bathroom behavior but for coming inside. This may create a puppy that is in a hurry to get inside and thus does not finish going to the bathroom outside but does so inside. After your puppy is finished eliminating, then it is time for play or a walk.
  • After your dog is eliminating in the same spot you can start to add a verbal cue. When your dog starts to eliminate, repeat the word you want to use for elimination (“Do your business,” “Go potty,” etc.). Always use the same phrase as we eventually will use this to get our dog to eliminate on cue.
  • Give your dog up to 10 minutes to eliminate. If a puppy, wait an additional 2 minutes after they have eliminated just in case they have not finished. If they eliminate again, reward them with another treat.
  • If your dog does not eliminate after 10 minutes go directly back inside with no play, walk or treat. Remembering that you have a “loaded” puppy, either put them in their crate or keep them attached to you by a leash. If your puppy starts to whine in the crate or shows any pre-elimination behaviors immediately take him outside.
  • Once your puppy is going reliably in his special place you should start training them to go on cue in other places. If you stay at Grandma’s be prepared for the possibility of an accident. You need to watch your puppy closely in new situations and may need to do some remedial training.

When Accidents Happen

No matter how good you and your puppy are, the odds are there will be some accidents in the house. If the puppy starts to eliminate inside, say “Out!” sharply. This should get their attention and cause them to momentarily stop. Quickly scoop them up or leash them and take them outside, following the steps above.

If an accident occurs in the house and you did not actually catch the puppy at the instant it was eliminating, just quietly put him in the crate while you clean up the mess. If you punish the dog after the fact it will not understand why it is being punished. If you think your dog “looks guilty” and knows it has done something wrong, your dog is picking up on your negative body language. He senses you are upset but does not understand why.

Be careful about reprimanding your puppy even if you catch them in the act. Rather than associating your punishment with going inside they may associate it with eliminating in front of you which can make housetraining even more difficult.

When your dog has an accident inside it is imperative you clean it thoroughly. Any residual feces or urine may trigger the puppy to eliminate in that specific location again. We recommend that you use an enzymatic based cleaning product such as such as Urine Off or Nature’s Miracle. These products contain enzymes which break down the urine that “mark” a spot as an appropriate bathroom area. Many household cleaners only cover the smell left behind and do not breakdown the urine. Do NOT use ammonia-based cleaners, as to many dogs these may actually smell like urine.

Things You Do Not Want to Do

Walking to Eliminate

Taking your dog for a walk to eliminate may actually make housetraining more difficult. Most dogs enjoy walks and if they learn that the walk ends when they go to the bathroom (essentially punishing them), they may delay eliminating in order to extend the walk. It is easier to teach that eliminating quickly at home results in a fun walk.

Paper or Pee Pad Training

Training your dog to go inside on newspapers or pee pads will make the entire housetraining process more difficult and lengthy. Every time a dog goes inside on a newspaper or pee pad, he is learning and being positively reinforced for going inside. Training him to only go outside after this has been allowed is extremely challenging so avoid this if possible.

That being said, at times you may find this necessary, particularly with the cold Maine winters and some smaller dog breeds that struggle to maintain warmth outdoors. If you do have to resort to inside toileting, just remember that you have added an extra step and will have to be patient when trying to retrain the puppy to urinate and defecate outside.

submissive urination – don’t punish, ignore until excitement diminishes

Housetraining Issues with Adult Dogs

Marking

Upon reaching sexual maturity, many male dogs and some female dogs exhibit marking behavior. They urinate on objects to leave their scent, thus staking out their territory. Remedial housetraining may be necessary in these cases. Early neutering of males, before this behavior develops, may help prevent this behavior from developing. Many veterinarians can neuter and spay puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.

Illness

If an adult dog with a good record of housetraining suddenly starts having accidents, take them to your veterinarian. Urinary infections or cystitis can cause a dog to urinate inside. Internal parasites or other illnesses can cause diarrhea or increase the frequency of defecation.

Dogs – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collar

< Updated 10OCT17 >

< To view this article as a PDF, click here >

<On March 29, 2014 Don and Kate discussed this topic on The Woof Meow Show. You can listen to that show by clicking here.>

What Is A Shock Collar?

A shock collar looks like a standard collar that has a small box with two metal electrodes attached to it. The collar is designed to be worn around the dog’s neck.  The collar is fit on the dog, so the electrodes penetrate the dog’s fur and press directly against the dog’s skin. When activated, there is a potential of 1500 volts to 4500 volts across the electrodes, which delivers a painful electrical shock to the dog5. Some collars may even operate at higher voltages. Unfortunately, it is impossible to confirm voltages because manufacturers are very secretive about the amount of voltage their systems apply. In addition to shocking your dog, these collars can cause burns, something we have observed on dogs wearing these devices.

Currently, there are three types of shock collars in use; 1) underground/non-visible fence containment collars, 2) remote training collars, and 3) anti-bark collars. The manner in which the collars are activated varies with the type of collar.

Underground fence containment systems administer a shock to the dog when they approach or cross a buried wire. Typical collars emit an audible warning tone or beep as the dog approaches the wire and ideally, the dog will stop upon hearing the warning tone and will not get a shock. However, if the collar is to be effective at all the dog will need to be shocked at least once, and typically many times if the collar is to be effective. During the training phase with this type of shock collar, small flags or some other visual indicator are supposed to be placed in the ground making the invisible border visible.

Remote training collars utilize a transmitting unit, held by the person. By pressing a button on the transmitter, the person can deliver a shock to the dog from a distant location. A warning tone may sound before the shock. The shock is used as a form of positive punishment (the dog is shocked when it does something the person does not want). For example: if a dog were chasing the neighbor’s livestock it would be shocked in the hopes of stopping the behavior. Remote shock collars are also used for negative reinforcement (the dog is shocked continuously until it exhibits a desirable behavior). For example: if a dog does not come when called it would be shocked continuously until it returned to the handler. People typically use these collars for treating behavioral problems (chasing livestock/predatory behavior, poor recall) and in dog sports such as field trials and hunting. There are even dog trainers that advocate the use of a shock collar for training typical pet dog behaviors such as sit and stay.

Anti-bark shock collars work by detecting when the dog barks and then administering an electric shock as a form of punishment, in theory, stopping the dog from barking.

Scientific Evidence Outlining the Concerns with the Use of Electric Shock

There is no doubt that shock collars cause pain. While proponents might call it a “stim” a “tap,” or a “static charge” we know from the science of operant conditioning that the aversive stimulus (electric shock) must be sufficiently distressing (i.e., physical or emotionally painful) to cause a change in behavior.

Multiple studies6,7,8,9 have reported that shock collars cause undue stress on a dog. A study of guard dogs6, specially bred for toughness and low sensitivity to pain and stress, found that training with shock collars caused long-lasting stress effects to the point that the dog continued to associate their handler as aversive even outside of a training context. The dogs exhibited behaviors associated with fear and anxiety long after they had received shocks. The scientists conducting this study stated: “The conclusions, therefore are, that being trained [with electric shock] is stressful. That receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the dogs have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context.”

Another study7 examined the use of shock for training to stop undesirable hunting/chasing behavior. This study also revealed the dogs found being trained with shock to be very stressful. The authors concluded, “…the general use of electric shock collars is not consistent with animal welfare.

A third study8 compared the features of several shock collars and examined how they are used by typical pet owners. The researchers concluded “for a subset of dogs tested, the previous use of e-collars in training are associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with significant negative emotional states; this was not seen to the same extent in the control population. It is therefore suggested that the use of e-collars in training pet dogs can lead to a negative impact on welfare, at least in a proportion of animals trained using this technique.” (p4).

The scientists conducting this study8 also observed that the instruction manuals that came with these products did not explain features well. When the individuals using the collars were interviewed they could not explain how to use the collar properly and often indicated that they had failed to read the instructions or ignored them. The researcher’s conclusion: “…some of the reported use was clearly inconsistent with advice in e-collar manuals and potentially a threat to the dog’s welfare.” (p25)

As noted in this study, misuse and inappropriate use of shock collars are not uncommon. One of Green Acres’ staff witnessed such abuse at a field trial event right here in Maine. A dog owner with two dogs was working with one of his dogs and had a second dog in his truck in its crate. The dog that he was working with did not respond to a command, so the owner pressed a button on the remote to shock the dog. The dog still did not respond to the command, so the owner shocked the dog again. Meanwhile, the dog in the crate was yelping each time the owner was intending to shock the dog he was allegedly training. It was not until our staff member pointed it out that the owner realized he was shocking his dog in the crate and not the one he was working with. It would seem that the owner had picked up the wrong remote unit.

Because of the findings of “Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs”8 scientists initiated a fourth study; Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training9. This study was designed to investigate how dogs would react when a shock collar was used per the manufacturer’s instructions. The study looked at three different groups of dogs; all with owners that had reported their dog either had a poor recall or chased cars, bicycles or animals. One group of dogs was trained with a shock collar by dog trainers that had been trained by shock collar manufacturers; the second group of dogs was trained by the same dog trainers but with positive reinforcement. The last group of dogs was trained by members of the UK APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) using positive reinforcement. The conclusion of the researchers: “…the study did find behavioural evidence that use of e-collars negatively impacted on the welfare of some dogs during training even when training was conducted by professional trainers using relatively benign training programmes advised by e-collar advocates.” The study also demonstrated that the shock collar was not any more effective at resolving recall and chasing behaviors than positive reinforcement training. This supports another recent study10 that concluded: “more owners using reward based methods for recall/chasing report a successful outcome of training than those using e-collars.”

You can read a summary of two of these studies8,9 at http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2013/06/the-end-for-shock-collars.html

Shock Based Containment Systems

We believe that individuals that choose underground fence systems for containment are not intending any ill will towards their pet; in fact, it is often quite the opposite. People want to give their pet as much room to run as possible, and they believe that an underground containment system allows for more “freedom” at less financial cost. The problem lays in the lack of understanding about the pitfalls of this type of containment system and the lasting harm that may come to the dog.

In our experience, shock collar systems, where a dog hears a beep followed by an electrical shock at their neck if they continue across the boundary line of your property, create a false sense of security for dog owners and often cause a dog to become fearful and anxious, especially towards other people. The false sense of security comes from the fact, as many have observed, the non-visible fence does not always keep the dog on their property. A dog can see, hear and smell beyond the invisible line buried under the ground and may be attracted to something on the other side of the line causing them to blast through the “fence,” resulting in their getting a shock. If the dog wants to return to its yard, it must now suffer a shock to do so. In other words, there is no incentive to go back home but an intense motivation to stay away.

Additionally, these containment systems do nothing to prevent others dogs, animals or people from entering into your yard. A regular fence has a much higher probability of keeping a dog in and keeping others out, thus ensuring the safety of your dog.

People also tend to think that since there is a containment system in place; their dog can be left alone in the yard. They leave their dog unattended, even though most of the manuals for these systems explicitly indicate you should remain with your dog at all times as they are not a substitute for a reliable fence. Containment systems using electric shock do not offer you the same level of freedom as a conventional fence.

Electric shock causes anxiety in a dog because it hurts. The cause of that pain is then often associated with what the dog was focused on at the time the shock occurred. This could be something totally benign such as; another dog, a neighbor’s cat, a person or someone’s child passing by your yard.  For example, if a dog sees your neighbor’s child, runs toward it intending a friendly greeting, and in its excitement crosses the invisible line and is shocked, it is quite likely that your dog will associate this pain with the child. Your dog may now feel anxious and possibly aggressive towards all children. The same can happen towards adults as well as other animals. (See How Does Pain Cause Aggression- Case #1 below for a real example)

While dogs do not always get the shock, sometimes they just hear the beep, that uncertainty in itself can create even more anxiety. If you are from the Midwest you can relate; the anxiety starts when the tornado sirens go off whether the tornado happens or not.

If people approaching the dog cause the dog to get a shock, or even just a beep (a reliable predictor of a shock or the system would not work) and the dog has nowhere else to go (the fence essentially traps them in their yard) then the dog is going to do everything possible to drive those people away – including taking an aggressive posture which may increase the probability of creating a dog with territorial aggression.

Other factors to consider are how your dog will feel about their yard, the space you have designed to give them “freedom.” Sadly I have consulted with clients where the experience of being shocked in the yard causes the dog to refuse to go into the yard. Even more distressing, I have worked with clients where the dog now trembles in terror anytime it hears a beep that sounds anything like the beep of the shock collar (e.g., your mobile phone when you get a text, the smoke alarm when the battery is low, or a kitchen timer when it goes off). The beep even without the shock can and does cause anxiety.

Lastly, like most pieces of technology, shock collars can malfunction. I know of people that have used shock based containment systems where the battery has stopped working which means the collar will no longer beep or shock. More frightening, I have been told of cases where the collar has malfunctioned resulting in the dog being shocked continuously until the battery dies.

The companies that design, manufacture and sell these shock collar systems are unregulated and are primarily interested in profit. They are under no regulatory obligation to report problems that have already occurred.   If you do report problems to the manufacturer, you will likely be told you did not follow the directions properly.

Since these products are not regulated, we have no idea how many problems have occurred or how severe those problems have been.  While these companies claim their products give pets more freedom, keep pets safe and even save pets lives, these claims are not supported by published scientific evidence. In fact, the evidence in the peer-reviewed literature on the subject of shock collars suggests the exact opposite.

Some people argue that using an underground fence to contain their dog gives the dog more freedom. Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinary behaviorist answers that argument like this: “It’s a myth that invisible fences provide dogs with more freedom. In fact, these devices violate the principles of three of five freedoms that define adequate welfare for animals:  Freedom from pain, injury, and disease, Freedom to express normal behavior and Freedom from fear and distress.”11. The five freedoms Dr. Overall has mentioned are Brambell’s Five Freedoms – a standard for assessing animal welfare since the 1960’s12.

Alternatives to using a containment system based on electric shock include; a real fence, a small fenced kennel area on your property, and more frequent walks/exercise with your dog – something that that would be good for both you and your dog.

Shock Collars for Remote Training

Electric shock via remote control is used to positively punish (a momentary shock to decrease behavior) or negatively reinforce (an ongoing shock to increase a behavior) a dog.

Our own experience in dealing with dogs that have behavioral issues, as well as scientific research by experts in the field, indicates that using tools that cause pain and fear can actually elicit or increase aggression and other behavioral problems.5,6,20,21 Fear, anger and confrontation are all stressful. Physiologically a dog’s body will react in the same manner as a human’s when stressed. Stress causes an increase in the hormone cortisol as well as other biochemical changes.13   Studies completed in Japan and Hungary in 2008 demonstrated that dogs that were strictly disciplined had higher levels of cortisol and that these increased cortisol levels were linked to increased aggressive behavior. The many adverse effects of using punishment led The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) to publish guidelines on the use of punishment in training in 2007.2

While punishment can temporarily stop a behavior, it often causes new and additional problems. A study published in Animal Welfare by E.F. Hiby in 2004 concluded that dogs trained with punishment were more likely to demonstrate behavior problems and were less obedient than those trained with positive, reward-based methods.14  Another study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior by Emily Blackwell in the fall of 2008 found that dogs trained with punishment had higher aggression scores while those trained with rewards had the lowest scores for fearful and attention seeking behaviors.15

For a real example of the use of a remote shock collar and its consequences, read How Does Pain Cause Aggression- Case #2 below.

Alternatives to using a remote controlled shock collar include; more effective management of your dog and its environment and a reward-based training program. As for performance sports or working dogs, Green Acres staff and students, as well as many others, have successfully trained dogs for field trials and search and rescue using clicker training and reward based training. Some of the most amazing working animals in the world, those working for the U.S. Navy, have been trained exclusively with reward-based training.

Shock Collars Used for Excessive Barking

Barking is a very normal and very complex behavior for a dog, meaning that there are many possible reasons a dog barks. One of the most frequent reasons a dog barks is due to anxiety. If a stressed dog suddenly receives a painful shock on its neck, it is much more likely to become even more anxious and increase its vocalizing, thus receiving more shocks. These collars cannot distinguish why a dog is barking so just keep shocking away. Because sound triggers them, even another dogs bark can trigger the collar around a dog that is being quiet. For this reason alone, these devices should never be used in multi-dog households or any places with multiple dogs like a boarding or daycare facility. Sadly there are such facilities in our community that use these devices.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on record stating “Dog collars which are activated by the noise of barking to produce an electric shock are considered as hazardous to the health of the animal.” “Complaints received, which were later corroborated by our own testing, included severe burns in the collar area and possible personality adjustment injuries to the dogs. The shocking mechanism was found to be activated not only by barking but by vehicle horns, slamming doors or any other loud noise.”16

Working with a qualified dog behavior consultant to determine the cause of the barking and to assist in developing a management and behavior modification plan to address the barking will have a higher probability of success.

How Does Pain Cause Aggression?

At some level this seems like a foolish question. I bet that everyone of us can come up with several examples of where we were hurting and not feeling well and were acting rather surly/ Animals are no better or different than us.

The use of positive punishment in the form of choke collars, prong collars, and shock collars can cause aggression. This occurs because the anxiety and pain the dog feels when shocked or choked are often associated with whatever the dog was focusing on at that instant rather than their own behavior. Both real-life cases described below illustrate how using a shock collar created aggression in previously friendly dogs.

Case #1

“Jake,” a very social dog, bounded off to greet every person he saw. Jake’s guardians were concerned about him leaving the yard because he frequently went to visit the neighbor. For what they believed was his protection, the family installed an underground fence system that would keep Jake in their yard. They trained him to the system per the manufacturer’s instructions.

A few weeks after the system was installed, Jake saw the neighbor out in her yard. Since Jake had always liked his neighbor he ran straight for her when he was shocked for crossing the line. This happened a few more times, the once friendly Jake always getting shocked as he ran towards the neighbor. Then one day Jake was inside his home when the neighbor knocked on the front door. When the family opened the door, Jake saw the neighbor and immediately reacted by biting her in the leg.

To Jake, the neighbor was the predictor of the shock, and he now associated the neighbor with being shocked. This incident could have been prevented with the installation of a good, old-fashioned fence or by supervising Jake when he was out in the yard.

Case #2

“Jenny,” would drag her guardians around on her leash, especially when she saw another dog. Jenny was just curious and friendly and wanted to greet the other dogs, but her guardians were older, and Jenny was a strong dog. They had made no attempts to train Jenny and were frustrated with being pulled all over anytime Jenny saw another dog. They went to a big-box pet store where it was suggested they purchase a remote shock collar. They were instructed to shock Jenny whenever she pulled on her leash.

On their next walk, Jenny, as she always had done, moved forward in friendly greeting when she spotted another dog. Jenny was fixated on the dog she wanted to meet when she was shocked. The next time Jenny saw another dog on a walk she immediately became anxious. As the dog approached, Jenny lunged, but this time she also growled and bared her teeth. Jenny had become very afraid and was trying to look fierce to scare the dog away before it hurt her when she was shocked yet again. Jenny, now anxious and confused about other dogs, has learned to become defensively aggressive.

Jenny’s guardians did not train her to stop pulling; all they succeeded in doing is making a previously dog-friendly dog, dog aggressive. If they had enrolled Jenny in a reward based training class or made use of a front-connect walking harness they could have taught her to walk nicely without ever causing her any pain or fear.17

These are not isolated occurrences. I have training colleagues throughout the country that could tell you of similar incidents.

What Do the Experts Say About Shock Collars?

A study published in 20005 looked at five dogs who were subjected to shock collar containment systems and who later bit people, resulting in a lawsuit. No dog had a prior history of displaying aggression towards people, and it is believed that the dogs received a shock at the time of the attack. There is no evidence to suggest that the humans bitten were acting threateningly before the attack. In all cases, the dogs bit the victim repeatedly and uninhibitedly, resulting in serious bodily injury. Other studies on the use of electrical shock on other species, including humans, have noted the extreme viciousness and intensity of shock-elicited aggression.

In their 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Guidelines, The American Animal Hospital Association says this about aversive training techniques:

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. Nonaversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, warps 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.” [Emphasis added]

In her book, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats noted veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall says this about the use of electrical shock for the training of animals.

“To understand people’s willingness to shock their dogs and cats (and sometimes horses), one important association needs to be acknowledged: people reach for tools such as shock when they feel helpless to address their pet’s behavioral concerns and when they feel that this is the only way that they can keep their pet safe and alive. Unfortunately, companies that make and market shock collars prey on these concerns, claiming that their products keep pets safe and save lives. There is no published evidence to support these claims, but there is now considerable evidence published in the peer-reviewed literature that refutes them. Anyone considering the use of shock for behavioral problems— whether it is a remote/ bark activated shock collar, a remote controlled collar, an invisible fence, or a device such as a Scat Mat that shocks anyone who touches it— should know:

  1. The use of shock is not treatment for pets with behavioral concerns.
  2. The use of shock is not a way forward.
  3. The use of shock does not bring dogs back from the brink of euthanasia; instead, it may send them there.
  4. Such adversarial techniques have negative consequences that are dismissed/ ignored by those promoting these techniques18 [Emphasis added]

Jean Donaldson, founder and principal instructor, The Academy for Dog Trainers and author of The Culture Clash states:

Electric shock has no place in modern dog training and behavior management. It is never necessary, and is inhumane and side effect-laden. I know of no valid argument for the continued sale of these devices.”

So What Can You Do To Help Prevent Dogs from Getting Shocked?

Visit the Shock Free Coalition by clicking on the graphic to the left or at the at the following link https://shockfree.org and educate yourself about why shock collars need to be banned. If you are ready to take the pledge and join us, click on the graphic to your right or on the following link https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Sign-The-Pledge 

 

 

 

Once you signed the pledge download materials from Shock Free Coalition and share them on social media. Get your friends and family members to take the pledge as well. While you’re at it, ask your veterinarian, boarding kennel, doggie daycare, groomer, dog walker, and pet store to take the pledge. Why wouldn’t they?

If you would like to learn more about what we are doing in the state of Maine visit our website at http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME or click on the graphic to the left.

 

 

As the late Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Using electric shock on animals is not treating them kindly or effectively. While we recognize both managing and training a dog can be frustrating at times, there is always a better way to deal with a situation than using electric shock.

References

1 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Guidelines, American Animal Hospital Association, https://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/behavior_management_guidelines.aspx

2 American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, AVSAB Position Statement The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals. https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

3 British Small Animal Veterinary Association Position Statement on Aversive Training Methods, http://www.bsava.com/Resources/Positionstatements/Aversivetrainingmethods.aspx

4 British Veterinary Association Policy on Aversive Training Devices for Dog, https://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Ethics_and_welfare/BVA%20position%20on%20Aversive%20training%20devices%20for%20dogs_PS20JUL2016.pdf

5 Polsky, Richard, (2000), Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems?, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3(4), 345-357, http://www.dogexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Electronic-fences.pdf

6 Schilder, Matthijs B.H. and van der Borg, Joanne A.M., (2004), Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects, Applied Animal Behavior Science 85 (2004) 319-334, http://eldri.ust.is/media/ljosmyndir/dyralif/Trainingdogswithshockcollar.pdf

7 Schalke, E., Stichnoth, J. and Jones-Baade, R., Stress Symptoms Caused by the Use of Electric Training Collars on Dogs (Canis familiaris) in Everyday Life Situations, Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159106003820

8 Defra AW1402 (2013) Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs. University of Lincoln / University of Bristol / Food and Environment Research Agency.  Final report prepared by Prof. Jonathan Cooper, Dr. Hannah Wright, Prof. Daniel Mills (University of Lincoln); Dr. Rachel Casey, Dr. Emily Blackwell (University of Bristol); Katja van Driel (Food and Environment Research Agency); Dr. Jeff Lines (Silsoe Livestock System). http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=15332

9 Defra AW1402a (2013) Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training. Final report prepared by Prof. Jonathan Cooper, Dr. Nina Cracknell, Jessica Hardiman and Prof. Daniel Mills (University of Lincoln). http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=17568#Description

10 Blackwell et al., The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods, BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:93, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/8/93

11 Overall, MA VMD PhD DACVB CAAB, Karen, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, Mosby 2013, location 4757

12 Hanson, Don, APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Fall 2015, Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedomshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/10/01/animal-welfare-assessing-pets-welfare-using-brambells-five-freedoms/

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

14 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://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ufaw/aw/2004/00000013/00000001/art00010

15 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

16 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Compliance Policy GuideSec. 655.300 Barking Dog Collar,  http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074684.htm

17Words, Woofs and Meows – How Do I Get My Dog to Walk Politely Instead of Pulling on the Leash? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/27/dog-training-how-do-i-get-my-dog-to-walk-politely-instead-of-pulling-on-the-leash/

18 Overall, MA VMD PhD DACVB CAAB, Karen, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, Mosby 2013, location 4862

19 Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training – https://petprofessionalguild.com/resources/Position%20Statements/Position%20Statement%20on%20The%20Use%20of%20Shock%20In%20Animal%20Training.pdf

20 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(08)00115-9/abstract

21 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. http://vet.osu.edu/assets/pdf/hospital/behavior/trainingArticle.pdf

Recommended Resources

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

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/25/dog-training-reward-based-training-versus-aversives/

The PPG and AAHA – Making A Kinder World for Dogshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/11/the-ppg-and-aaha-making-a-kinder-world-for-dogs/

How to choose a dog trainerhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Please Be Cautious When Choosing Who Cares For Your Petshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/11/pet-care-services-please-be-cautious-when-choosing-who-cares-for-your-pets/

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 – http://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/

 

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

Podcast – The Pet Professional Guild and the Shock-Free Coalition with Niki Tudgehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/27/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-the-pet-professional-guild-and-the-shock-free-coalition-with-niki-tudge/

Podcast –Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/07/02/podcast-encore-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-dr-dave-cloutier-veazie-veterinary-clinic/

The Unintended Consequence of Shock Collarshttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2014-03-29-Unexpected_Consequences_of_Shock_Collars.mp3

 

From the Green Acres Kennel Shop Web Site

Press Release – Green Acres Kennel Shop Joins the Shock-Free Coalition – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/09/25/press-release-green-acres-kennel-shop-joins-the-shock-free-coalition/

Maine Shock-Free Coalition –  http://www.greenacreskennel.com/donate/shock-free-coalition-of-maine.html

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2010/07/01/no-pain-no-force-no-fear-green-acres-kennel-shop-position-on-the-use-of-dominance-and-punishment-for-the-training-and-behavior-modification-of-dogs/

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet Friendly, Force-Free Pet Carehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2006/02/01/no-pain-no-force-no-fear-green-acres-kennel-shop-position-statement-on-pet-friendly-force-free-pet-care/

 

From the Shock-Free Coalition Web Site (https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/advocacy-resources)

The Shock-Free Pledge –  https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Shock-Free-Coalition

The Shock-Free Pledge (PDF) https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/resources/No%20Shock%20Coalition/PPG%20Pledge%20Document.pdf

What is shock traininghttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/What-is-Shock-Training

Electronic Fences, What You Need to Knowhttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Electronic-Fencing-What-you-need-to-know

Are Electronic Shock Collars Painful or Just Annoying to Dogs?https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Are-Electronic-Shock-Collars-Painful-or-Just-Annoying-to-Dogs

What Experts Sayhttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/What-Experts-Say

Myths and Misconceptionshttps://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Myths-and-Misconceptions

Other Web Articles

Can Aggression in Dogs Be Elicited Through the Use of Electronic Pet Containment Systems?http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15327604JAWS0304_6;jsessionid=nFup

Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effectshttp://eldri.ust.is/media/ljosmyndir/dyralif/Trainingdogswithshockcollar.pdf

Association of Pet Behaviour Counselors Press Release on Shock Collarshttp://www.apbc.org.uk/article2.htm

Dog Trainer & Author Pamela Dennison on Invisible Fenceshttps://www.pamdennison.com/why-i-really-hate-electric-sock-invisible-fences/

A scene on shock collars from the documentary Dogs, Cats and Scapegoatshttps://vimeo.com/231589923

©2017, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>