There are three typical reasons people give their dog treats. In order of importance, they are: 1) as reinforcement or rewards for desired behavior when training, 2) to keep them busy and occupied, and 3) “just because.” These treats are all used for different purposes, so things that will treat “best” will vary depending on how the treat will be used. However, since all treats are meant to be ingested I look closely at that as sources of nutrition. I recommend looking for these essential qualities in all treats.
All Treats Must be Healthy and Nutritious
When I give my dog something to eat, I want it to be healthy and benefit them nutritionally. That means I need to be an informed consumer and review the actual ingredients list on a package of treats and not let myself get seduced by the name or images on the packaging. Just like pet food, ingredients for treats must be listed in order by weight. When selecting treats for my dog, I want at least one of the top three ingredients to be a specified meat source. It should say something like turkey, chicken, or beef. Ingredients I avoid include; unidentified meat, poultry, by-products, sugar, propylene glycol, chemical preservatives such as BHA, artificial colors or dyes.
I also want to know the number of calories in each treat. Calories are typically reported as “kcal/treat.”
Over 50% of the dogs in America are obese, which is the definition of unhealthy. The average 50-pound dog only needs 700 to 900 calories per day. Some dog biscuits are equivalent to a third of a dog’s daily caloric intake and typically include low-quality ingredients, and are mostly carbohydrates. I prefer to give my dog high-quality calories in their food bowl rather than as a low-grade snack. Calories matter.
What I Look for in Training Treats
My treat bag always contains a variety of five or more different training treats. Some are high-value, meaning they are very palatable and usually at least ninety-percent meat. Freeze-dried meat treats are ideal in this category. I also include many lower-value treats and many treats that fall somewhere between the two. However, all meet my standards for healthy and nutritious, as noted above.
While training treats must be highly palatable, they must also be small, about the size of a pea, so the dog can rapidly consume it. Training is all about rewarding the dog many times for the desired behavior. In a training session, I will typically try to get multiple behaviors per minute. If I need to wait for the dog to consume the treat, it decreases efficiency. It also increases the probability of the dog becoming distracted. Since I may reward the dog ten to twenty-five times in a 5-minute training session, I want the treats to be small to minimize caloric intake. One of the meat treats I frequently use comes out of the package as a 0.75” by 1” rectangle that contains 5 calories. Because the treat is soft, I break it up into 6 to 8 pea-size pieces, limiting calories to 0.6 to 0.8 calories per behavior. Treat companies would love it if I told you to use the entire treat because you would buy more, but you don’t need to.
What I Look for in Treats Used to Keep My Dog “Busy”
Treats used to keep a dog “busy” should be thought of as snacks. Unlike a training treat, we want these treats to keep our dog engaged so that we can do something we need to do. I still want these treats to meet my healthy and nutritious standards noted above. I will always look closely at the ingredients list. Products in the snack category include; bully-sticks, pigs’ ears, beef tracheas, and a wide variety of freeze-dried products like chicken, duck, and turkey necks, cod, and salmon skins, and more. Smoked bones and frozen bones are also great, long-lasting snacks. Since all of these products are meant to be consumed and made from natural, non-manufactured ingredients, your dog needs to be supervised until you are confident that they will safely consume these snacks.
Also found in this category are No-Hide Chews, a long-lasting, easily digestible chew far safer than rawhides. And a Kong toy stuffed with some of your dog kibble and a dollop of peanut butter can also keep your dog busy. When Tikken was a puppy, a Kong would keep her occupied for up to an hour, after which she would take a long nap.
What I Look for in Treats I Give My Dog “Just Because”
Some of you might think I’m stingy, but it’s rare I give a dog something edible for no reason at all. There is almost always some level of interaction with me, which makes it a training exercise my dog loves. The treats I use in this case are often in the snack category described above.
For many, “Just Because” treats are often dog biscuits or other products made of questionable ingredients. Biscuits can often be too high in calories and carbohydrates, both of which contribute to dog obesity.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don 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 is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
The Deferential Equation is an excellent article by my friend Diana Logan of Pet Connection Dog Training that appears in the November 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News. Diana addresses the importance of a puppy learning that not all dogs will appreciate or tolerate an exuberant puppy greeting. I had one of those puppies, my Golden, Tikken. As a puppy, Tik was miss congeniality++++, and her “in your face” overly-enthusiastic greetings towards other dogs were not always well received. I still remember the day she went charging towards my friend’s dog Rey, an older dog who was a card-carrying member of the “Go Away You Obnoxious Puppy” club. What happened next occurred in a couple of seconds. As Tikken was a puppy, she still did not have the training for me to intervene successfully. Tikken was running at full speed, and Rey started showing teeth and growling when Tik was about 10 feet away. Tik just kept charging, flipped on her back when she was about 2 feet from Rey. With her forward momentum slid Tik into Rey like a baseball player sliding into home base. Rey went tumbling and responded with several choice canine expletives, and thankfully, due to Rey’s restraint, no injuries occurred. This is a lesson puppies need to learn early on, before the end of their socialization period at 14 to 16 weeks of age.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from June 6th, 2020, Don talks with Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Christine Calder about anxiety, fears, and phobias in pets. We start with a discussion of the multitude of words used to describe fear in our pets; anxiety, nervous, shy, skittish, timid, and more and then discuss how pets indicate they are afraid through body language and their actions. We also discuss extreme fear, phobias, specifically noise, storm, and firework phobias. Lastly, we offer suggestions to help you help your pet.
If your pet is afraid of summer storms or fireworks, you will not want to miss this show
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from May 30th, 2020, Don talks with Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Christine Calder about separation anxiety in dogs. Separation Anxiety is a panic disorder in dogs that cannot cope with being left alone. These dogs are not misbehaving to get revenge but are suffering.
During the show, we discuss separation anxiety and its symptoms, sharing experiences with mild and extreme cases. We discuss which dogs are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety and address other disorders that may have some of the same symptoms. We discuss treatment options and things one can do to prevent separation anxiety.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts, at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.
We encourage you to refrain from asking your puppy to perform behaviors during class unless you are 100% confident that your puppy will immediately and consistently respond when you give a single, visual, or verbal cue.
Some of your pups may sit immediately and consistently on a single cue, but most will not. Not responding to a single cue to sit is not a surprise to us, and it will not become a problem unless you continue repeating the cue. Every time you say the word “sit” again without the correct response by your dog, the cue becomes more confusing and less meaningful. Sometimes the cue becomes so useless, that we may suggest you restart training with a new word to get an immediate and consistent response. If we see or hear you repeating cues, we will point it out, as it is our goal to have your puppy respond consistently.
Your puppy will need to be trained in a wide variety of scenarios and environments before they reliably start to respond in new situations consistently. We cover this in more detail in Puppy Headstart lectures and in great detail in our Basic Manners orientation, the first class without your dog, and in the remaining seven sessions of Basic Manners.
We briefly discuss training your puppy in Puppy Headstart and begin with addressing how your puppy learns (see next section). However, the only typical behavior we address in Puppy Headstart is the Attention or Look behavior, which is part of the handfeeding protocol we discuss in the week we call “Food = Power3.” We do provide information on start to teach your puppy to recall in this handout in the section entitled “STARTING TO TEACH YOUR PUPPY TO COME WHEN CALLED.” If you wish to start working on this behavior, we encourage to follow the protocol we have outlined.
Listed below are some essential training tips that will help you and your puppy to be successful.
Be patient. Training takes time, lots of rewards, and lots of repetitions. Remember how long you went to school before your parents felt you were ready for the world? Your puppy will not need to go to a school that long but plan on training your dog being a significant part of your life and theirs for the next six to eighteen months. Your dog will probably learn some things like sit and down quickly because it is something they usually do; we need to teach you how to train them to do this when presented with a cue. Other things, like coming when called and walking on a loose leash will take longer and will require more effort on your part; however, we can help you get there. If a six-year-old child can teach a 6-month old, forty-pound dog to walk on a loose leash, so can you.
Focus on the relationship with your dog. If your dog does not enjoy your company and you do not enjoy theirs, you may not succeed. If you come home from work frustrated or angry, it is probably not a good time to try to teach your dog. Training MUST be fun for both of you if you are to be successful.
Learn how your dog communicates and how you can best communicate with them. Dogs communicate visually with many parts of their bodies (mouth, eyes, ears, tail, body posture and look to our body language to determine what we are trying to communicate to them. Because we are primates we tend to vocalize, when we would be more successful using our bodies. Scientific research has demonstrated that dogs learn a great deal about us by looking at our faces. By doing so they can tell when we are safe to be around and when we are not so safe. Even subtle signs of displeasure like the woman frowning in this picture can cause a dog to believe that she is unsafe. You will not have a good relationship with your dog is they see you frowning and angry al the time. Take the time to learn how you can communicate with your dog and to understand their body language so that you can understand what they are trying to tell you.
Please do NOT repeat cues if your dog does not respond quickly and consistently. Your dog is not stubborn when they do not instantly respond; they do not understand the context in which you are giving the cue. If you give a cue and the dog does not perform the desired behavior, and you get frustrated, you may cause your dog to become distressed, which makes it even more difficult for them to learn. Yes, if you get frustrated, your dog knows you are no longer fun to be around. Think about a time where you were trying to master a skill, and whoever was teaching became irritated because, by their standards, you were not learning quick enough. Their attitude didn’t help you learn, did it? I recall the first time my father tried to teach me to drive a standard transmission in an old WW2 vintage Willy’s Jeep with a bad clutch. I loved my dad, but he did not set up the teaching scenario for optimal success. Trying to learn became so aversive that I questioned whether or not learning to drive a standard transmission was worth the aggravation. That is not helpful.
Start teaching a visual cue or hand signal before using a verbal cue. We are humans and most of us like to communicate verbally. When we try to communicate with our dogs, we naturally talk. Dogs communicate visually, using all parts of their body to give various signals to others. Instead of listening to us, our dog looks at us for visual signs that indicate what we want. Therefore, dogs typically respond more readily to visual cues, which is why we teach a hand signal first. You can use anything you want as a visual cue. However, the ones we will teach you have been chosen for a reason.
Think about what you are teaching your puppy, is it something you want them to do for the rest of their life? I often caution people about teaching their dog to “shake” or to do anything with their paws. Yes, it is a cute trick, kids love teaching it, but a puppy that has been rewarded for shake will often paw at people throughout their life in search of a reward. The same can be said for teaching “speak.” Un-training a behavior takes much longer and a great deal more of your energy than training what you want.
It is essential you recognize that your puppy has been learning since the moment it was born and will continue learning for the entirety of his life. Since dogs, like humans, are always learning, it is your job to manage what they learn and to respond accordingly to their behavior. When you are not paying attention, your puppy will be learning that your shoe tastes even better than rawhide and that books and magazines make fantastic noises when they rip them apart. What is your puppy learning right now as you read this? Is it a desirable behavior?
Dogs do not learn by reading a textbook or watching a video on YouTube. Dogs learn by doing. When there is a rewarding result to a behavior, your puppy will be more likely to repeat that particular behavior in that specific context. For example, if they get a treat when they sit, dogs are very likely to sit in an attempt to earn another tasty morsel. If stealing your sock causes you to chase them, your puppy has just discovered an effective way to get your attention and to play with them. Countless puppies love the game “Chase me I have your sock!”
Always remember, dogs do what works FOR THEM; they do not perform behaviors simply because we want them to do so, nor does your puppy do things solely to please you. Sorry, that is one of the great myths about dogs. They do not and never will do things we want “just because.”
Our best strategy for teaching our puppy is to determine what our puppy likes and to use these items as rewards for behaviors we want to reoccur. Dogs do not waste energy on actions that they do not find rewarding. It is our responsibility to show them what earns rewards and what does not. Be very cautious about inadvertently training behaviors that you do not want. Always take the time to stop and ask yourself, what is my dog learning right now at this given moment in time?
If your puppy does something that you do not want, ask yourself, why is that behavior rewarding? What can I do to prevent my puppy from doing that in the future?
Happy/Not So Happy Real-Life Example
Zeus, a 14-week-old Labrador puppy, sometimes played “tag” with his guardians when they were interacting with him in the yard.
What did Zeus learn?
That chasing people was fun.
That running away from people was fun.
That his guardians could be unpredictable, as he was never quite sure when they were playing the game, or when they were going to become frustrated with him because he tried to initiate the game by running away from them.
We humans often find chasing our dogs and having them chase us to be a great form of entertainment, but what are they learning here? The game of tag can have some pros and cons. When we are having our puppies chase us, they are learning to play a game of staying with us and keeping us in sight at all times, particularly if we dart behind trees and couches. However, the flip side of this is that when we chase our dog, they are learning to run away from us and not to let us catch them. When push comes to shove, unless your dog is ill or overweight or you are an incredible sprinter, you will never successfully catch your dog if he or she is running away from you.
If you wish to play tag with your puppy, we recommend that you do so with the following rules:
You are ALWAYS the one being pursued.
Allow your puppy to catch you, and each time he does so, give him a high-value food reward and then run away again, repeating this process.
Before you begin the game give it a verbal cue, such as “Catch Me” and when it is time to end the game, allow your puppy to catch you one final time, give a couple of great treats and give an all done cue, such as “That Will Do.” (This will help to prevent him from chasing those joggers at 6 AM.)
Always end the game before your puppy is ready to finish so that you can help him remain interested in the game and not become bored with it.
That Dominance and Alpha Stuff
By now, it is possible that someone has told you that you need to worry about your puppy becoming dominant or that you need to be the “Alpha.” The best advice we can give you is – forget about it. The whole idea of “dominance,” “pack hierarchy,” and “the alpha dog” is a concept that came about through poor scientific research. If you talk to a wolf biologist or well-educated pet care professional, they will tell you that wolf packs are more like a well-adjusted family than a tyrannical “kill or be killed” dictatorship.
Moreover, while the dog and wolf may be closely related species, they are separated by several thousands of years of evolution. Behaviorally the domestic dog is not even considered to be a pack animal. We explain this topic in more depth in the orientation session for our Basic Manners class, but if you want more information now, check out these articles on our website and the many resources they suggest.
Punishing a puppy can have some dangerous pitfalls, and we highly encourage you to avoid this. When we apply punishment in an attempt to extinguish a behavior, we may unintentionally make the behavior worse and harder to change. We never know how a dog will associate punishment. It can very easily and quickly damage your relationship with your puppy. Punishment causes fear and stress, which impairs your dog’s ability to learn. We have found that people often resort to punishing their dog more as an expression of frustration than as a learning tool. Raising a puppy will probably be frustrating. Your willingness to accept that and learning to deal with it without responding aversively is critical to developing a strong and life-long bond with your puppy.
Most of the behaviors that we humans list as being “problem” behaviors are typical canine behaviors and not issues for our dogs. For example, dogs have to urinate and defecate – it is humans that have the problem with the locations our puppy may choose to defecate or urinate. As the species with more gray matter, we challenge you to create an environment of success and to reframe your “problem” behaviors. Ask yourself, what do I want my puppy to learn, and how can I teach this behavior? How can I manage my puppy and his environment to prevent him from being rewarded for actions I do not want?
Not So Happy Real-Life Example
Moxie, a mixed-breed puppy, who was often left alone for extended periods, was kicked by her male owner for urinating and defecating in the house.
What did Moxie learn?
To fear men.
To NEVER eliminate in the presence of a human being.
To immediately consume her feces to hide it.
To continue to urinate and defecate in the house (she was rarely allowed to eliminate outdoors, and each time that Moxie did defecate or urinate inside, she was immediately rewarded because she felt better).
Moxie learned the above in 8 weeks. It took three years for Moxie to become comfortable urinating or defecating while on a 6-foot leash. It took one year of daily work to habituate Moxie to men (she always remained aloof. However, her fear dissipated). This dog never learned not immediately to attempt to consume her feces – it had become a fixed action pattern. She did learn to leave her feces on cue, but her first instinct was always to consume it until the day she passed away at the age of 14. Moxie was a real dog, and this story is true.
What Do Pet Care Professionals Say About the Use of Aversives?
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) recommend that aversives NEVER be used.
We explain this topic in more depth in the orientation session for our Basic Manners class, but if you want more information now, check out these articles on our website and the many resources they suggest.
Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1
Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2
Our training philosophy at Green Acres can be summed up as “Manage your puppy to prevent undesirable behaviors and always reward the behaviors you like.” In most cases, the best reward for a puppy or an adult dog is going to be a tasty treat or some fun, interactive play. Many of the outdated training books of the 1970’s promoted a philosophy that stated dogs should do everything we want just for our praise, and that they should never be given food as a reward. I wonder if those authors would have accepted “Fantastic Book” instead of payment in cold hard cash? I sincerely doubt it, just as I know that very few people would work solely for praise. Dogs are like every other animal on this planet; they do something because there is something in it for them. Food is often the most powerful “something” for rewarding our dog for desired behavior, so we encourage you to use it and to use it well!
Study Confirms That Food Is A Better Reinforcer Than Praise or Touch
Food has more value as a reinforcer than either praise or touch was confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior in July of 2012 (Relative Efficacy of Human Social Interaction and Food as Reinforcers for Domestic Dogs and Hand-Reared Wolves – Feuerbacher and Wynne). The following is from the conclusions of the study – https://bit.ly/FoodAsReward-Wynne-2012
Our goal was to identify the reinforcers that maintain social behavior between dogs and humans. We hypothesized that social interaction might function as a reinforcer that could maintain dogs’ social interactions with humans. Although there were some individual differences, our results suggest that social interaction did not reinforce canid behavior as well as did food. If social interaction functions as a reinforcer, it may do so only under specific conditions not explored in the present experiments. The greater efficacy of food as a reinforcer parallels the evolutionary origins of dogs as scavengers of human refuse (Coppinger & Coppinger, 2001) and supports the use of food as a reinforcer for training. The present findings might provide empirical evidence for trainers to give clients who object to using food to train canid behavior (e.g. Donaldson, 1996). [ Emphasis Added ]
A Word on Dog Parks
We do not recommend taking your puppy to a dog park. While dog parks usually have rules, there is seldom someone present to enforce those rules. As a result, there may be dogs at the dog park that are not adequately vaccinated, that carry harmful parasites, or that are aggressive to other animals. Any of those things can put the physical health of your puppy at risk. Aggression and inappropriate play may also place your puppy’s mental and emotional health at risk. For more information on dog parks and making sure an experience at the dog park is a good one, we suggest you read Don’s article at – http://bit.ly/BeforeYouVisitTheDogPark
Management is about taking the necessary steps to ensure that your puppy is not placed in to a situation where he may have the opportunity to behave in an undesirable manner. In its purest form, management translates to: If you do not want your puppy chewing on your new shoes, then do not leave your puppy unsupervised and a room where your shoes in the middle of the floor.
The primary reason people have problems with housetraining and destructive chewing of personal items is poor management. Appropriate management is one of the most overlooked training tools and is essential to responsible canine guardianship. When your puppy is managed correctly, you will have the time to develop the right relationship with him/her and your dog will get the training it needs. Many of the behavior problems clients call us about are management problems due to inadequate supervision or unrealistic expectations of a young dog.
All puppies have a minimum of two trainers: 1) their guardian and 2) their environment. While you may spend a significant amount of time training your puppy, even you need to eat, sleep, and take mental breaks. However, the environment never needs time off and is available to train 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you do not initially manage your puppy’s interaction with its environment, they may quickly learn things you do not want them to learn. While providing this management may seem extremely time-consuming, when done right, it pays off handsomely.
When a puppy is loose in the home, they require constant supervision. Constant supervision means that a responsible person is devoting all of their attention and energy to watching and managing the puppy so that they can intervene before something undesirable happens. You cannot provide a puppy with adequate supervision while reading the paper, watching TV, doing homework, preparing a meal, or talking on the phone. Remember, we have brought this species into our home and expect them to live by rules that make absolutely NO SENSE to them. A puppy has no concept of valuables and as such does not get why chewing up your grandchild’s doll is an issue. It is our responsibility to properly manage our puppy to prevent unwanted behavior while also training them and rewarding them for desired behavior.
Proper management and training requires a plan to be established as to what your options are when you cannot supervise your puppy. Crates, pens, and tethers make ideal management tools. Always have treats and chews handy so that when you have to place your puppy into its crate or pen suddenly you have a reward ready to go. Additionally, tethering a puppy can be useful, providing you remain in the room and can give partial supervision and reward good behavior. (Note: A puppy on a tether should NEVER be left unattended!)
A puppy or even an adult dog will always be like a young child. They can be trained, but training does not happen overnight or even in a month. Nor can you train your dog for all possible contingencies. Until your dog is trained, it is your responsibility to make plans so he/she can succeed.
Happy Real-Life Example:
Susan was playing with Fido, her 14-week old Lab puppy, when the phone rang in the kitchen. Susan immediately got up and placed Fido in his crate with a treat and a special chew toy located on the shelf by the crate and then proceeded to answer the phone.
What did Fido learn?
Going into his crate gets rewarded
Chewing on a special toy is fun
Interruption in play gets rewarded
Spending time alone for a few minutes is okay (providing Susan does not let Fido out if he is barking)
No inappropriate behaviors were practiced such as eliminating in the house or destructive chewing
Not So Happy Real-Life Example
Sally was playing with Rex, her 12-week old Golden puppy, when the phone rang in the kitchen. Sally immediately got up to answer the phone, leaving Rex alone in the living room. While Sally was in the kitchen, Rex urinated on the carpet, tasted the coffee table, and chased the cat. Rex then proceeded to go into the kitchen and bark at Sally until she hung up the phone.
What did Rex learn?
Urinating on the living room carpet is rewarding (he immediately felt better)
Humans are great because they even have sticks indoors to chew on
Cats are lots of fun; they run fast when you chase them
The best way to get humans attention is to bark at them.
Sometimes Sally gets mad for no apparent reason (Rex has no idea that Sally’s anger is associated with his urinating on the carpet or the puddle of urine in the room)
Sally can be unpredictable, sometimes she is nice and sometimes she is scary.
The material presented above will be discussed over the next four weeks. If you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to bring them to the attention of your instructor, so that we can help you to plan for success.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. 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). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from March 28th, 2020, Kate and Don have a conversation with Jennifer Shryock about keeping children and dogs safe. We believe this podcast will be especially useful to anyone called upon to supervise the interactions between a child and a dog. This podcast is not just for people with kids and dogs. Any professional that works with parents, children, and dogs can benefit from this information.
Jennifer Shryock is the founder of Family Paws Parent Education and is an excellent resource for helping parents manage a home with a little human and a canine. As a mother, pet parent, teacher, and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Jennifer knows how to help mom, dad, a child, and the dog live in harmony.
In this show, we discuss the behaviors dogs need to learn to perform reliably and the fact that training a dog takes time. Prepping the dog and your home for the arrival of the baby should begin many months ahead of time. If the dog has anxiety or fear issues, working with a veterinary behaviorist may be essential and should start even earlier than training. Jennifer discusses the importance of parents learning how to familiarize themselves with carrying an infant while interacting with the dog and recommends that be done before the child ever comes home.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts , at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.
Dogs and children can become wonderful companions. However, do not assume for one second that a dog and a child will automatically enjoy one another and live together harmoniously every moment of their lives. Parents need to teach both child and dog how to interact with one another appropriately.
Most children have multiple caregivers; parents, grandparents, older children, other family members, babysitters, and more. Therefore, ALL caregivers must be knowledgeable about dogs and infants, toddlers, children, and young adults and how to manage their interactions.
Below I have listed resources I believe you will find useful in working with your children and dog. These are my favorites resources on the subject.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! By Niki Tudge – If your family includes children and a dog, if you have children that spend time with friends and family members that have a dog, or if you have a dog that spends any time around children, you, your children, and your dog will benefit from this book. This is not a book you hand to your child, but it is a book you need to read with them. You can read our full review by clicking this link http://bit.ly/BkRvw-KidsGuide-Tudge
Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar – This book provides a realistic, down to earth discussion about how to successfully manage the probable mayhem that accompanies a home with dogs and kids. You can read our full review by clicking this link http://bit.ly/BkRwv-LvngKidsDogs-Pelar
Is your child actively participating in the care and training of the family pets? If so, I encourage you to consider enrolling them in the Pet Professional Guilds (PPG) Junior Membership Program. The program helps children learn and understand about pet care and training and will be especially beneficial to those contemplating working with pets as a volunteer or as a career. There are three levels to the program; Basic (for ages 8 to 12), Advanced (for ages 13 to 17), and Apprentice (for ages 18-20).
The PPG Junior Membership program allows participants to earn preliminary credentials in force-free pet care. Junior Members receive a membership badge and certificate and a free e-book –A Kid’s Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog. They will also be invited to participate in the Annual Training Deed Challenge. All Junior Members also have access to the Provisional Junior Accreditation Program for their age group, as administered by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB). Junior Members who successfully complete the accreditation process and receive an accreditation card will receive a 50% discount on the Green Acres Kennel Shop training class of their choice.
The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) is a membership organization representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results-based, science-based, force-free training, and pet care. Members include veterinarians, veterinary technicians, behavior consultants, dog trainers, dog walkers, pet care technicians, pet sitters, and groomers. PPG represents training and behavior professionals across many species. All members of the Green Acres Kennel Shop staff are members of the PPG.
We have a responsibility to make our dog’s life the best life possible. Your dog’s quality of life is directly under your control.
In this post I will be discussing Brambell’s Five Freedoms and how you can use them to help your dog have a long, fun-filled life. I will examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of your dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life.
Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom in December of 1965. The Brambell Commission published its report over 50 years ago, yet it is still a very applicable standard for evaluating the holistic health of any animal kept by people, including dogs.
The Five Freedoms are Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.
Fundamental to being able to assess an animal’s welfare is having a thorough knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements, behavior, and how they communicate and express emotions. I invite you to consider some of the questions that I will pose in these columns and to contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms as you care for your dog.
Freedom from Hunger, Thirst, and Malnutrition
At first read, this sounds relatively simple; provide your dog with food and water, and you have met their needs. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Does the type of food we feed our dog matter? The dog has the digestive system of a carnivore; an animal meant to thrive on meat- animal protein and fat. When you feed your dog kibble or dry dog food, they are consuming food that is predominantly made up of carbohydrates. This highly processed “far from fresh food” is composed of 40% or more carbohydrates. The dog does not need carbohydrates in their diet. That is why you will not find the percent of carbohydrates listed in the Guaranteed Analysis panel on a bag of dog food. Kibble or dry dog food was not created to provide optimum nutrition for our dogs but to provide convenience for us and a long shelf life and higher profits for pet food manufacturers. Dogs can survive on kibble, but my question is: can they thrive on such an unnatural diet?
Can we say, in good conscience, that our dog is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition if we are feeding them a sub-optimal diet? Feeding a dog food that will provide them with the best nutrition possible is not inexpensive, at least when compared to grocery store kibble. However, when we start to factor in reduced veterinary bills with an improved diet, we may be further ahead when we feed the best food we can afford.
Is it better to have one pet and to feed her the best diet you can afford, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? It is a question my wife and asked ourselves and is a reason we have downsized from a maximum of five dogs to one dog. We want to do the best we can for Muppy and having a single dog allows for more resources, both time and financial, to be focused on her.
What about pets on prescription diets? In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet for your dog that you can only get from a veterinarian. These specialized foods are available in a kibble or wet (canned) formula. Prescription diets are typically presented as being necessary to treat a specific disease or health issue. They are often much more expensive than a basic kibble, but because they are kibble, they will still be high in carbohydrates. Veterinarians who take a holistic approach to nutrition will seldom recommend kibble-based prescription diets preferring to suggest a diet consisting of fresh, whole food. Again, it comes down to choosing between optimal nutrition or our convenience? Which takes precedence?
What about pet obesity? Studies indicate that 50% of the pets in the U.S. are clinically obese. Obesity is typically due to overfeeding, an improper diet, and lack of exercise. Just as with humans, obesity will affect a dog’s health and welfare. It can tax your dog’s skeletal system and can even change behavior. How much of the obesity problem with our dogs is related to our feeding them diets high in carbohydrates, something they do not need?
Does the source of water you use matter? If you do not choose to drink water from your tap, should your dog? Should they at least be given a choice?
Next month we will examine more of Brambell’s Five Freedoms; Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.
Freedom from Discomfort
an inconvenience, distress, or mild pain
something that disturbs or deprives of ease
to make uncomfortable or uneasy
– Collins English Dictionary
Many things in our dog’s life may cause pain or anxiety. This may vary in individual dogs depending on their genetics, temperament, anatomy, size, age, and other variables.
Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is anxious and afraid? – Dogs often indicate stress by various changes in their body language, often called calming or displacement signals. Signs such as looking away, yawning, and tongue flicks will typically occur before signals such as growling or snapping. If you wish to keep your dog comfortable, you first need to know how they indicate their discomfort. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are comfortable. Most people have not been taught how dogs communicate, yet it is one of the most important things they need to know. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear )
Is your dog’s environment free from things that may cause anxiety, stress, and pain? This will vary with the individual dog. Common causes of anxiety can include children, adults, other animals, objects, loud noises, having their picture taken, having their nails trimmed, being hugged, wearing a costume, and many more. One of the easiest ways to avoid these issues is to spend time thoughtfully socializing and habituating your puppy to novel stimuli during their critical socialization period which occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of age. (FMI – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy ) If your dog was older than 16 weeks of age when they joined your family it is very likely that they were not adequately or appropriately socialized. Remedial socialization is possible with an older dog, but it is even more essential that you plan such sessions carefully and that you proceed slowly. In this case, consulting with a professional fear-free, force-free, pain-free trainer is highly recommended. ( FMI –http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer )
Have you trained your dog? When a dog joins a family, many expect them to automatically fit in, even though dogs and humans are two very different species with different cultural norms. We must teach our dogs how to live in our world, and that can best be accomplished through reward-based training. Failing to train our dog is almost sure to cause discomfort for both them and us. ( FMI –http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining )
Are you committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? If you are using an aversive (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish) to train or manage your dog, you are making your dog uncomfortable. The very definition of an aversive is to cause discomfort, possibly up to the point of causing physical or emotional pain. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI –http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive )
Does your dog have shelter from the elements, especially extremes of temperature, wind, and precipitation? This one seems straightforward, yet every year dogs are left out in dangerous weather and freeze to death.
Does your dog have a quiet, comfortable place where they can rest undisturbed and where they will feel safe? Dogs, like people, need downtime and a place where they will feel secure and safe so that they can get adequate rest. People and especially kids need to respect the adage “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
If you have multiple pets, does each pet have adequate resources? Many people have multiple pets. Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there frequent conflict? Are there sufficient resources (food, space, and attention) for all of the pets? If your dog feels they do not have what they need to survive, or if they feel threatened or intimidated by another pet in your home, they are not free of discomfort.
Do you maintain your dog’s physical condition, so they do not experience discomfort? – Fifty percent of the dogs in the US are clinically obese. Just as with people, obesity often causes pain and discomfort. Many dogs with long coats require weekly grooming by us to prevent their coats from becoming tangled and matted and uncomfortable.
Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
In many ways Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease is directly related to the previous topic Freedom from Discomfort as pain, injury and disease are often the cause of extreme discomfort.
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 the physical illness.
Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is in pain? –Dogs can be very stoic about hiding their pain. Signs of pain may include agitation, anti-social and aggressive behavior, changes in eating, drinking, and bathroom habits, non-typical vocalization, excessive self-grooming, panting and non-typical breathing patterns, trembling, difficulty moving, changes in posture, restlessness, and anxiety. It is essential to have a thorough understanding of the many subtle signals our dogs use to indicate that they are under stress or anxious. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are free of pain. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear )
Is your dog a working dog or do they compete in dog sports? Dogs that are more physically active have a higher probability of injury than the average pet. Appropriate physical training, just like that for an athlete may be beneficial. Also, if the dog is injured having adequate time off from work and sports to recover can be critical. Depending on the injury, retirement from the activity may be the best decision. Working and competing can negatively affect mental health just as much as it can cause physical problems.
Are your dog’s pain and injury being adequately addressed? Sadly, I remember a time when dogs were not given pain medication because it was believed they did not need it. However, today we also need to ask ourselves are painkillers enough? Physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture can be very helpful in alleviating pain in people as well as pets and should be considered.
Does your dog see their veterinarian for regular wellness exams? – Dogs are subject to chronic diseases such as anxiety, arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, periodontal disease and more. Early diagnosis and treatment of disease help prevent pain and discomfort. Every dog should see their veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam, and as they age this may need to be more frequent. Behavior and mental health should be discussed at every exam.
Is your dog obese? Just as with humans, fifty percent or more of the dogs in the US are overweight. A dog that is obese is more subject to injury, pain, and disease. If your dog is a little chubby or profoundly corpulent, please see your veterinarian and learn how you can address this issue. Your dog will thank you.
What is our responsibility when breeding pets? Some dogs, because of their breed standard, are intentionally bred for physical characteristics that often affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How does this benefit the pet? Would it not be more appropriate to breed to eliminate these exaggerated physical deformities that affect soundness and health? Would it not better for dogs if people looking for a pet avoided these breeds?
Are you doing all that you can to prevent and avoid genetic disorders? Most purebred dogs are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these diseases and create healthier pets? When a person is considering what breed to get, should they avoid breeds prone to genetic disorders?
Are you as concerned about your dog’s mental and emotional health as you are about their physical health? Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, ) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of behavioral issues are often not considered as necessary as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be regarded as an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog?
Do you use tools and methods for training, management and the care of your dog that are designed to work by causing pain and discomfort? – Aversives (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, etc. ) are used to physically or emotionally punish a dog. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI –http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive )
Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
When discussing what constitutes normal behavior, I mean behavior for the dog as a species, not what we as a human believe should be “normal” behavior for our dog. As much as we might want to, we cannot dictate what is normal or abnormal for a species.
In our classes, I ask students to list what behaviors they dislike in their dog. The list almost always includes: barking, begging, chasing, chewing, not coming when called digging, eating “yuck,” getting on furniture or in the trash, growling, guarding things, humping, jumping on people, not listening, play biting, pulling on the leash, rolling in “yuck,” sniffing butts, stealing, being stubborn, and going to the bathroom inside. After reviewing the list, students learn almost everything they have listed is normal behavior for a dog.
One of the easiest ways to create behavior problems in any animal is to deny them the opportunity to express normal behaviors. Caged animals in a zoo that pace back and forth are exhibiting stereotypical behavior caused by stress because they are not able to do what they would normally do. So even though we find some of our dog’s typical behaviors undesirable, we need to find ways to allow them to express these behaviors so as not to compromise their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Some questions you can ask yourself to assess if you are adequately meeting your dog’s behavioral needs are listed below.
Do your dogs have an adequate and safe space in which to run, explore and express normal behaviors? Do you provide your dog with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Dogs like and need to sniff and explore. You can do this in your yard, home or on a walk. When you take your dog for a walk do you allow them adequate time to sniff, or do you expect your dog to heel by your side during the entire walk? Walking the dog is very overrated as physical stimulation but can be great for mental stimulation if you allow time for exploration and sniffing.
Is the environment in which your dog lives suitably enriched so that it stimulates your dogs mind? Mental stimulation is one of the things people often neglect, yet is very easy to provide. Instead of always feeding your dog in a bowl, feed them in a Kong or several Kong toys that you hide throughout your home. Having to search to find their food and then work to get it out of a Kong is great mental stimulation. Walking a different route every day also provides for mental stimulation as do training sessions.
Does your dog receive sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide ongoing emotional enrichment? Most of us get a dog to be a companion. It is vital that we provide companionship to the dog and not just expect them to be there for us when we want company from them. Like any relationship, both dog and person need to contribute to that partnership. Are you always there for your dog when you come home from a disaster of a day? Some would argue that dog’s offer “unconditional love,” and therefore our role in the relationship does not matter. Really? The idea that a dog offers “unconditional love” is a beautiful myth but believing it is our greatest disservice to dogs because it sets them up to fail and allows us to presume that they will always be okay with whatever we do. Dog’s want and need more from us than our love when it is convenient for us to offer it. Take time to cuddle, to play, and whatever else you and your dog enjoy doing together.
Does your dog have canine friends? No matter how wonderful our bond is with our dog, from their perspective, we will never be another dog. Having appropriate doggie friends is just as important for our dog’s social life as having human friends is important to us. However, it is essential to make sure that your dog’s friends are well-matched so that they do enjoy one another’s company. Dogs do not automatically like all other dogs.
Do you allow your dog to decline to participate in events they find stressful? Dogs will often tell us with their body language, their normal way of communicating when they are uncomfortable. Are you able to read your dog and when you see these signs do you respect them? Just because we want our dog to be a therapy dog and they can pass the test, is it okay to use them in that role if they do not enjoy it? ( FMI – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear )
Freedom from Fear and Distress
I will be readdressing some of the same topics from part 2 of this series, Freedom from Discomfort, as fear and distress are an extension of discomfort, especially when considering our dog’s emotional state.
I genuinely believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect information about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in dogs.
Experiencing fear and distress is normal for any living thing throughout its life. However, since one fearful event can be traumatic enough to create a permanent and debilitating disability, it is essential we understand fear and distress and that we do everything possible to minimize its effect on our dog.
Can you readily tell when your dog is fearful or stressed? Dogs typically do one of four things when afraid. 1) They flee and run away as fast as they can from whatever it is that has scared them. 2) They fight by barking, growling, lunging at, and attacking whatever has threatened them. 3) They freeze in place, not moving a muscle, and not making eye contact with what they fear. 4) They fidget about, displaying normal behaviors (sniffing, scratching, etc.) in an abnormal context while ignoring the threat. These four are the most extreme reactions, but well before your dog exhibits any of those behaviors they will give you subtle signs of their emotional distress. It is essential that you know and understand these signs so that you can intervene early. Unfortunately, when many dog parents see their dog freezing or fidgeting about they say “Oh, he’s fine” not understanding that the dog is in fact distressed. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear ).
Have you and your family committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? By definition, an aversive is anything that causes your pet fear or distress, so if you use these tools or methods, you are NOT ensuring your dog is free from fear or distress. Commonly used aversives include but are not limited to shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish the dog as part of training or management. Dogs subjected to aversives are likely to develop behavioral problems and have a much higher probability of becoming aggressive. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that the use of aversives is a significant reason for behavioral problems in pets and that they should NEVER be used. ( FMI –http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive )
Was your puppy well socialized? Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. Inadequate socialization or inappropriate socialization is a frequent reason for a dog to be fearful in certain situations. Remedial socialization is possible, but you should work with a reward-based, fear-free trainer so that you do not make things worse. (FMI – http://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy ) ( FMI –http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer )
Do you actively look out for your dog’s best interests so that you can protect them from people that do NOT understand canine body language? Most people do not realize that not all dogs want to interact with people nor do those people comprehend the subtle signs that a dog gives that says “please leave me alone.” Most dogs do not want to bite, but only do so when they feel they have no other option. As our dog’s caregiver, we have a responsibility to look out for our dog’s welfare which means intervening when others do not respect our dogs right not to interact. Additionally, we need to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do for our dog is to leave them at home. Not all dogs enjoy walking in the animal shelters annual fundraiser.
Do you understand the necessity of providing both physical and mental stimulation for your dog while not letting either go to extremes? A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. However, too much stimulation and exercise can also be even more detrimental, creating a state of chronic stress. Playing fetch or going to the dog park every day can become addictive, causing chemical changes in the brain which can contribute to distress and other behavior problems.
Do you understand that while the dog is a social species, they may not like every dog they encounter, even ones that you may want to add to your family? While the domestic dog is considered to be a social animal, some are more social than others. Dogs do not automatically like on another. If we force a dog to live with another pet that they are afraid of, we are causing fear and distress.
This is a companion piece to a Woof Meow Show podcast on the benefits of training your dog and working with a credentialed dog professional. It provides information on determining if you need a dog trainer or a behavior specialist, and what to look for when choosing any pet care professional.
Our pets do not come with a user manual, and their normal behavior can often be quite different from what we expect or desire. When we chose to live with another species, it is important to understand their normal behaviors as well as abnormal behaviors, if our relationship with them is going to be mutually beneficial.
In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, which state: “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The report explains that a major reason for behavioral problems is erroneous information about pets and what constitutes normal versus abnormal behavior and appropriate training methods. Misinformation often comes from family, friends, neighbors, rescues/shelters, and even pet care professionals such as veterinarians and trainers. The following resources will provide you with current, and accurate information based on science, so you can better understand your cat or dog, and have a more harmonious relationship with them
Canine Behavior, Dog Training, and Dog to Human Communications
Articles & Blog Posts
Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being – A review of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and the importance of attending to our pets emotional and behavioral well-being. – http://bit.ly/WWM_AAHA_Bhx
PODCAST – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this podcast from The Woof Meow Show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines, “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The guidelines outline how the continuing promulgation of erroneous information about pet behavior and the ongoing use of aversives to train and manage pets are major causes for behavior problems, and recommend that concepts like dominance and the use aversives are not scientifically sound and are, in fact, counter-productive and harmful to the pets in our care. Every pet care professional needs to be aware of the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – http://bit.ly/WfMw-AAHA-Guidelines-13MAR16
2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – You may read the entire document and references at this link, or download a copy as a PDF file. If your veterinarian is not familiar with this document, I recommend you share it with them. – http://bit.ly/AAHABhx2015
How to Choose a Dog Trainer – Don and Kate believe that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet. In this blog post and podcast, they suggest criteria you can use when looking for a dog trainer. – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer
Do I Need A Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist” – Don discusses how to determine what type of professional may best be able to help you with your canine challenges.– http://bit.ly/WWM-Trainer-Behaviorist
Reward-Based Training versus Aversives – This blog post discusses how dog training has changed from using aversives to being aversive-free. Dog training should be fun, and that means it is pain-free, force-free, and fear-free, a position supported by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Both the AAHA and the PPG have position statements that indicate that aversives must never be used in the training or management of a dog. – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Podcast) – While Don and Kate would never recommend using a shock collar on a dog for any reason, they recognize that not everyone who uses a shock collar on their dog does so understanding the harm it can cause. Sadly, often, the companies that sell and manufacture shock collars do not provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision. This podcast addresses the following questions; What is a shock collar?, How are shock collars used?, How does a shock collar change a dog’s behavior?, What makes the use of a shock collar inappropriate?, What do experts say about shock collars?, and what can people concerned about a dogs well-being do to help prevent dogs from getting shocked? We invite you to tune in and learn more about shock collars and their dangers. – http://bit.ly/ShockPodcast
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Blog Post) – This article provides a detailed analysis of shock collars, how they are used, and why there is always a better choice for both training and management. References to the scientific literature supporting the conclusion of this article are listed. – http://bit.ly/ShockCollars
Dominance: Reality or Myth – Both a podcast and blog post, this article discusses the myth of dominance and explains why it is so detrimental to the human-dog bond. The blog post also cites the scientific articles referenced and provides links to those articles, where available. – http://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth
Introduction to Canine Communication – This blog post discusses canine body language and contains photographs illustrating common calming signals. – http://bit.ly/CanineComm
How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? Most behavioral issues with dogs are rooted in anxiety. It is essential for anyone working with dogs to have a thorough understanding of the signs of anxiety. This blog post list resources that will help you to understand better what a dog is trying to tell you.– http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear
Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – The following articles were originally published in Downeast Dog News in January of 2018 through May 2018. These articles discuss how one can use the five freedoms to help ensure their dog has a long, fun-filled life. I examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of a dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life. Anyone that shares their life with a dog, as well as all pet care professionals, will benefit from understanding Brambell’s Five Freedoms. – http://bit.ly/Brambell-1thru5-PDF
Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – This post from Don’s blog is a handout from his presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29, 2016, as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis. It discusses the importance of addressing behavior as well as the reason for behavior problems becoming a more common issue for pets. – http://bit.ly/PetBhxWellness
Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress – Stress is a major contributor to behavior problems. This post from Don’s blog looks at both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), discusses their physiological effects on the body, and reviews what animals do when afraid. Common causes of stress are reviewed, along with how you can identify stress and reduce it. How stress can escalate and go from an acute event to a chronic condition is reviewed. Any dog exhibiting behavioral issues is under stress, as are most dogs in a shelter or rescue environment. That is not typically due to any fault of the shelter; it is just the nature of being homeless and uncertain. – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress
Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – This post is was first published in Downeast Dog News as a three-part series in July, August, and September of 2017. It discusses the seven breed groups currently defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and examines behavioral traits in these groups and why they matter. – http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter
A Rescue Dogs Perspective – Written from the perspective of Don’s rescue dog Muppy, this article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News and on Don’s blog. It discusses training from Muppy’s point of view and why sometimes delaying starting a training class can be in a dog’s best interest. – http://bit.ly/Rescue-Muppy
Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know – This article was originally published in Downeast
What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – Barks from the Guild July 2019– In this article from the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Don Hanson review the many peer-reviewed scientific studies that have reported that shock collars cause undue stress to dogs and often have a negative impact on their health and well-being. Hanson reviews the professional organizations and legal jurisdictions that believe shock collars should never be used. He then looks at these questions and what scientific research tells us; 1) Does the electric shock from a shock collar cause pain?, 2) Is training a dog with an aversive such as a shock collar more efficient than using positive reinforcement training and food?, 3) Is the use of aversives necessary to train behaviors such as snake avoidance?, and 4) Does using a shock collar save dogs’ lives? – http://bit.ly/ShockBARK-JUL2019
Podcast – What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – In this podcast from July 27th, 2019, Don and Kate discuss the article What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training published in the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild. – http://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatShock-27JUL19
Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog
The following are a series of articles I have written where I acknowledge some of the mistakes I have made during my journey with dogs. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and I share this material with the hope that others can learn from my experience and save their pets from suffering from human error and ego.
Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011, 2012 – Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and if you look at recent scientific papers on dog or cat behavior, you will often find Bradshaw listed as one of the authors. In Dog Sense, Bradshaw summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward-based training over the old training model based on force and intimidation.
Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018 – If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book! The science of canine behavior and dog training is continually evolving. As such, every year, I like to select a new book to recommend to my students, my staff, area veterinarians, and my colleagues that I feel will be the most beneficial to them and their dogs. For 2018 I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. Case’s book addresses several issues which anyone with a dog, or anyone working with a dog, needs to be aware of and must understand. These are dominance, dog breeds, the importance of puppy socialization, and the unnecessary use of aversives for the training of dogs. Her book is packed with the latest science on dogs and offers excellent advice on the best and most humane ways to train them. You can read my full review at http://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart
What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, Amy Sutherland, Random House, 2008 – While not a traditional dog training book, this is a book where you can not only learn a great deal about training your dog, but it can also help you have a more harmonious relationship with those around you. The author notes, “The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t,” the same thing we will tell you when teaching you how to train your dog. If your goal is to live in harmony with all the living things around you, read this book.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2013 – I first read John Bradshaw’s two previous books on cats; The True Nature of the Cat and The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat back in 2003. Cats, and specifically cat behavior is still under-researched compared to dogs, but Cat Sense nicely sums up what we do know. Bradshaw also discusses how the cat and society are changing and suggests what that means for the cats’ future. Bradshaw has posed some important questions and concerns about neutering and breeding which merit further discussion and action.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006 – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to understand better what they are trying to tell us, and in turn, she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.
Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language,’ for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!, Niki Tudge, Doggone Safe, 2017. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! is written to be used as an interactive resource and uses cartoons and photographs to illustrate body language dogs use to signal when they are happy, afraid, and angry. By teaching children and adults how to read and respond to these signs, the book helps keep people and dogs safe. The world is full of children and dogs, and we must teach them how to interact safely. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! combined with a parent or teacher does just that.
For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006 – This book explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We do not know what it is they are feeling, but it is obvious they have a rich emotional life; in some cases, very joyous and others quite sad.
After reading For the Love of A Dog, you will have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why our dogs and we get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects, and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for pet professionals and dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park, you MUST know this stuff.
The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, by Patricia B. McConnell, is an information-packed, immensely readable book. In it, you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another, smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach are very confrontational to a dog.
Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying, “sit, sit, sit, ahh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who, in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who knows how to communicate with dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.
Doggone Safe – Committed to education about safe human-canine interactions to prevent dog bites that can ultimately lead to serious and life-altering ramifications for both people and their pets. – https://www.doggonesafe.com/
I Speak Dog.org – Is an excellent resource for learning to understand your dog by better understanding how they communicate with other dogs as well as with you. You cannot effectively teach your dog if you do not speak their language. – http://www.ispeakdog.org/