Words Matter

< A version of this article was published in the January 2017 issue of Down East Dog News>

Dog lovers use a variety of words when talking about their favorite subject. Sometimes we use a word because it is it is the only one we know, or sometimes we use a word out of habit, even when we know there is a better choice. That is why, as our knowledge of dogs has changed, it is important to reevaluate some of the words and phrases that we commonly use to define our dogs and the relationship we have with them. Word choice is especially important when we are teaching someone new to dogs, such as a child.

Words can be very powerful. The word we choose can alter perceptions, and not always for the better. A change in perception can alter attitude, which can then cause our behavior towards our dog to change, again, not always for the better. Sometimes we intentionally choose a word because we want to change perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. For example, let’s look at two words that are often used when discussing a dog’s bathroom habits; “Housebreaking” versus “Housetraining.”

Housebreaking suggests that we are breaking the dog of a bad habit, which in turn causes many to think that punishment is the best way to deal with a dog that urinates or defecates in an inappropriate location. Whereas housetraining suggests that we need to first teach the dog where and when we want them to go to the bathroom and how to inform us of their need. When I adopted my first dog, I was told how to housebreak her. I dropped “housebreaking” from my vocabulary many years ago, because I believe it sets up a counterproductive relationship between dog and human.

Many of the words long associated with dog training have negative connotations. Obedience, which dictionary.com defines as “the state or quality of being obedient., 2. the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance: Military service demands obedience from its members,” is one of the words most canine behavior professionals no longer use. Most dogs are considered to be part of the family, and while most families want a well-behaved dog, they are wise enough to realize that the concept of instilling blind obedience in any living species is difficult and often leads to a rather, joyless existence for everyone. When you consider that you can teach your dog to be well-mannered without the military rigidity of obedience training by using rewards and kindness, deleting the word “obedience” from our dog training vocabulary makes perfect sense.

Two additional words directly associated with the militaristic concept of obedience are command and correction.  Traditional dog training suggested that one gives a dog a command, whether they know it or not, and when they do not perform the behavior indicated by the command, you correct the dog. Using the word “correction” was probably an intentional choice to soften what was actually occurring, which was punishment.  For example, I would say “sit” and if the dog did not “sit” I would correct the dog by jerking on a leash, connected to a choke collar, which would momentarily cause the dog pain or discomfort which would hopefully teach the dog to appropriately respond to the command the next time it is given. Now I am not arguing that this technique is ineffective, but there is a much better way to teach a dog, which is why the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), and most modern trainers will tell you that commands and corrections no longer have a place in dog training.

I use the word “cue” instead of command and use rewards instead of corrections to teach a dog everything they need to know. The word cue suggests that we need to teach the dog to respond to our visual or verbal signal and that we cannot and should not expect blind obedience without teaching. Dog training is us teaching our dog to respond to specific cues. Rather than setting the dog up to fail so we can then correct the dog for an inappropriate response, why not set the dog up to succeed so that we can then reward them? It makes the training experience more enjoyable for both our dog and us. I think that we can all agree that if we are enjoying ourselves, we are more likely to do something, and when it comes to training, the more we work with our dog, the more success we will have.

The last two words I suggest that dog lovers remove from their vocabulary are dominance and alpha. Science has proven that the whole concept of being dominant or alpha has been misunderstood when applied to both wolves and dogs, which is why the AAHA Behavior Management Guidelines state “…if the trainer explains behavior in terms of ‘dominance’’ … advise clients to switch trainers”. [for more information on this subject read Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth on my blog]

Whether you are a dog owner/companion/caretaker/guardian or a professional that works with dogs, I hope you seriously consider the words you use when thinking about your own dogs and when talking to others about their dogs. It really does matter.

______________________________________________________________________________
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.

©04JAN17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Complementary Medicine – A Chiropractic Adjustment and Acupuncture Treatment for Muppy

< A version of this article was published in the December 2016 issue of Down East Dog News >

Don and Muppy-Fall 2015-1Like you I want my pets to have a long, healthy, wonderful life. That is why I appreciate that there are so many healthcare options for our pets. My pets have both a traditional veterinarian and a homeopathic veterinarian. As of this fall, Muppy is also seeing a specialist in veterinary chiropractic care and Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

I had recently noticed that Muppy had occasionally started sitting with her right leg out to one side, much like our dog Gus had done for most of his life. Muppy was showing no obvious signs of pain or discomfort, but as we know, dogs hide these things well. Muppy does like to fly off and on our deck so I was concerned about a possible orthopedic injury, and since Gus’ started sitting normally after his first chiropractic adjustment, I decided that taking Muppy to see a veterinary chiropractor for a preliminary exam made sense. I like having the little scamp around, and if there is any chance she is in pain, I want to address that sooner rather than later.

As we entered the office, Dr. Munzer greeted Muppy with a treat. That was a brilliant move because he made a friend for life. He allowed Muppy to meet him on her terms and while we discussed the reasons for our visit, Muppy was allowed to explore his office and get comfortable. She felt so relaxed she started getting into things on Dr. Munzer’s bookshelf before joining me on the futon as I talked with Dr. Munzer. This served two purposes; Muppy had time to settle in, and Dr. Munzer had the opportunity to watch her and assess her posture and gait; an important part of a chiropractic exam.

As we talked, he was taking a complete health history that covered physical issues, behavior, and nutrition. Next were a combined chiropractic and Chinese medicine exam. This involved:

  • Checking the color, shape, size and coating of Muppy’s tongue. The tongue is examined as part of a Chinese medicine exam as it is used to assess circulatory status, systemic temperature and pain/stagnation.
  • Examining Muppy’s head, ears, spine and extremities for heat or cold.
  • Going over her skin and coat looking for any abnormalities or sensitive areas.
  • Checking the condition of her nails and footpads. Scuffed nails/pads are a sign of toe drag, which may indicate an orthopedic or neurological problem.
  • Palpating the spine, limbs and surrounding muscles for pain or trigger points. Muppy exhibited some discomfort in her lower spine.
  • Tracing along the acupuncture meridians and looking for twitch responses and feeling for deficient Chi points.
  • Checking the femoral pulses for symmetry, rate, strength, depth and character.
  • Moving all the joints of the spine and extremities to assess if there are restrictions on the range of motion or if any joints are stuck out of neutral.

After the initial exam, Muppy received her first chiropractic adjustment. She was on top of a large foam block with me sitting in a chair near her head. Dr. Munzer gently adjusted the joints that were out of alignment. Following the chiropractic adjustment, he repeated his exam of the acupuncture meridians. This was followed up by the insertion of acupuncture needles at several points. The needles remained in place, and Muppy remained calmly on the table, for several minutes. I remember that Gus would fall asleep during his acupuncture treatments, a not uncommon reaction to acupuncture.

Muppy's acupuncture treatment
Muppy’s acupuncture treatment
Muppy's acupuncture treatment
Muppy’s acupuncture treatment

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of her treatment, the acupuncture needles were removed, and Muppy hopped off the foam block, and we went home. Since her first treatment, she has been moving better. She had her second treatment a week later, the third treatment three weeks after the first, and will have her next one a month after the last. Both chiropractic and acupuncture treatments focus on preventative care.

So when should you consider acupuncture for your pets? Acupuncture can be very beneficial for treating pain as well as noninfectious inflammation such as that caused by allergies. It can be helpful for neurological issues; Gus was treated for idiopathic epilepsy, and it did reduce the frequency of his seizures. Acupuncture is also helpful in the treatment of musculoskeletal issues like arthritis and disc disease. It can be beneficial for treating feline asthma and gastrointestinal issues and even behavioral problems.

You might want to consider chiropractic care for your dog if they have any mobility issues or as in my case if you see something that does not look normal, but there are no obvious indications of pain or discomfort.

Muppy is feeling better since she started her chiropractic and acupuncture treatments and that makes me happy.

POST PUBLICATION UPDATE – Muppy had her fourth adjustment and treatment yesterday (6DEC16). He joints were moving freely and without discomfort and her Chi was strong. She will be going back for her next checkup in one to two months.

Recommended Resources

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

 

Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets – Veterinary Acupuncture and Chiropractic for Pets with Dr. Michael Munzer – All Creatures Acupuncturehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/10/09/podcast-holistic-and-complementary-wellness-for-pets-veterinary-acupuncture-and-chiropractic-for-pets-with-dr-michael-munzer-all-creatures-acupuncture/

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pets with Dr. Michael Munzer from All Creatures Acupuncture Mobile Holistic Veterinary Therapieshttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-03-28-Acupuncture_Traditional_Chinese_Medicine_Pets_Dr_Michael_Munzer.mp3

 

To Contact Dr. Munzer

All Creatures Acupuncture
77 Main St, Bucksport, ME 04416

(207) 956-0564

http://www.allcreaturesholistic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/allcreaturesholistic/

______________________________________________________________________________
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.

©7DEC16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

 

Canine Behavior – Myths and Facts – Part 1, Where do we get our knowledge about dogs?

< A version of this article was published in the May 2016 issue of Down East Dog News>

Don and Muppy-Fall 2015-1I recently asked listeners of The Woof Meow Show to email me questions that we could answer on the show. A dog training colleague who listens to the show asked: “What is the one thing you wish every dog owner knew about dogs? My answer was that I wished people knew more about canine behavior, specifically what is factual, and what is not.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association’s 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines,Behavioral problems affect more dogs and cats than any other medical condition and are one of the most common causes of euthanasia, relinquishment, or abandonment of pets.” This document posits that mistaken or misinformed beliefs about canine behavior are a major reason for these behavioral problems, This column is the first in a multi-part series where I hope to educate readers and dispel some of these myths. However, first, I think we need to look where we get our information about dogs.

Interestingly, society has many misconceptions about dogs and what constitutes normal canine behavior. Many of those misconceptions go back to what we “learned” about dogs as children. For some of us, that goes back to Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. Both dogs were portrayed as canine perfection; however, whether it was a book, movie, or television show or all of the above, it was a marvelous, heart-wrenching piece of fiction.

In my case, in addition to fictional stories, I was also greatly influenced by two dog training books we purchased when Paula and I brought our first puppy home. The Monks of New Skete How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend was published in 1978 and Mother Knows Best by Carol Lea Benjamin was published in 1985. These books were very popular at the time. Both authors insisted that dogs are essentially wolves and thus the best way to train a dog is to treat it the way a mother wolf would treat a wolf pup. This “motherly love” often involved lots of intimidation, fear, and pain. [see Gus and the Alpha Roll below for my experience with how these techniques worked.]

For some, their knowledge of dogs is based on what a family member or friend has told them about their experience with dogs. This is may be someone with no formal training but who will tell you that they have been training dogs since “Pluto was a pup” and know all that they need to know. They often insist that this is the way they have always done it and scoff at doing anything differently for any reason, even if it is easier or offers other benefits. Sadly this approach is also often counter-productive to our relationship with our dog.

Today, many people reach their conclusions about canine behavior based on “reality” television which in reality is not very real. The Dog Whisper, broadcast by the National Geographic Channel, involves “self-credentialed” “dog psychologist” Cesar Millan solving serious behavior problems while using force, intimidation, and pain because that is all part of being the pack leader. It is the same misinformation from the two books I’ve mentioned, formulated for television. Because the National Geographic brand has a long standing reputation as being based on solid science, it gives the show an aura of credibility that it does not deserve. Since its inception, it has been challenged by experts in the field of canine behavior. For example, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist credentialed by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University said this back in 2006: ”My college thinks it [The Dog Whisperer – Cesar Millan] is a travesty. We’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years.” Yet versions of the show continue to air today.

Lastly, there is the internet. I know of very few professionals that do not have mixed feelings about the “Dr. Google” and the misinformation spread via the internet on a daily basis. Sharing information is great when the information is factual and reliable; however erroneous information can be very harmful. And as State Farm Insurance has taught us, just because it is on the internet does not mean it is true. Unfortunately, too many people think otherwise.

The fact is, much of what we think we know about dogs, is incorrect. Sadly, this misinformation has done a great deal of harm to the dog – human relationship and the dog’s wellbeing. To repair that damage, in future columns, I will examine the most significant and damaging myths about dogs, and then discuss the facts that counter those myths.

Gus and the Alpha Roll

My experience in my first puppy class with “experts.”

Gus and Don on lawn-croppedThe instructors in the first dog training class I attended advocated training that viewed the dog as a wolf. Gus, our Cairn Terrier, was about 12 weeks old our first night in class and had no prior training. I was told to ask Gus to sit and when Gus failed to comply, remember he had never been trained to sit, the instructor told me that Gus was being dominant and that I needed to alpha-roll him.

The Monks of New Skete described the alpha wolf roll-over as the ultimate punishment for the most severe disobedience. It 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.

Not being a dog trainer at the time, I did what I was told to do and alpha-rolled Gus. Gus reacted immediately, wildly thrashing around, growling and snapping his teeth. It was at this point the instructor told me to grab Gus’ muzzle and hold it closed. This did not sound safe or smart to me, but I believed that the instructor would not tell me to do anything dangerous, so I did what she said. Instantly Gus’s canine teeth pierced the flesh of my palm; I instinctively let him go, and we both pulled away from each other. Gus and I were wary of each other for several weeks. The trust we had built in the few days we had him was destroyed in one senseless act of violence.

Years later I learned that by alpha-rolling Gus’ I had probably caused him to fear for his life. How this was supposed to make him understand “sit” means to sit, is still unclear to me. We now know that those professing to treat dogs like wolves really did not understand either species. Sadly, these methods are still popular and recommended by some breeders, dog trainers, and even veterinarians. They are clearly responsible for much of the misinformation about canine behavior.

Gus and I eventually reconnected and became pals, but to this day, I regret the damage I caused because I blindly followed the advice of an alleged expert.

Recommended Resources

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

Dog Training – How science and reward-based training have pulled dog training out of the dark ages – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/21/dog-training-how-science-and-reward-based-training-have-pulled-dog-training-out-of-the-dark-ages/

 A Rescue Dogs Perspective on Dog Training –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/04/dog-training-a-rescue-dogs-perspective/

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

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

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

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 1 –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/02/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-1-knowledge-relationship-management-training/

Dog Training – The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2 –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/28/dog-training-the-four-essentials-for-a-great-dog-part-2/

Dog Training – What Is Clicker Training? –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2007/02/01/dog-training-what-is-clicker-training/

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

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

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

 

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

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

2015 Dog Training Classes at Green Acres Kennel Shop

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

The Four Essentials to A Great Dog  

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3

The Dominance and Alpha Myth

______________________________________________________________________________
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.

 

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