< A version of this article was published in the December 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News>
If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book!
What we know about 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. This year I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case.
At the beginning of her book, Case states she has two primary objectives: “…to provide accurate summaries of some of the most important evidence regarding present day understanding of the dog’s history and domestication, behavior, social cognition, and learning process.” and “… to apply this information to practical dog training methods and to provide means for communicating this information and teaching these methods in ways that are both interesting and useful to all dog owners.” From both my perspective as a pet care professional and as a pet parent, I believe that Case has met her objectives admirably.
The idea that one must be dominant or the “Alpha” with their dog has probably done more damage to the human-dog relationship than any other piece of bad advice given by anyone about dogs. Case does an excellent job of getting into the scientific details about dominance. She clearly explains how dogs and wolves are related and how they are also very different. Case then goes on to discuss the scientific view of how the dog evolved and eventually became our companion. No discussion of that process would be complete without a review of how humans developed a seriously flawed theory called the “hierarchical model of pack behavior” which led to the false belief that we had to dominate our dogs and physically punish them to ensure we were always in control. Case uses science to explain how this model has been refuted and goes on to state “A parent-family model better describes wolf relationships in packs than does an outdated hierarchy model that focuses on strict social roles and conflict.” If you are a trainer and having difficulty explaining this to your clients, or a pet parent trying to explain this to other family members, you need to purchase and share this book.
Other topics addressed by Case include:
Dog breeds and how they influence behavior. Anyone thinking of getting a dog should read this section before deciding which kind of dog they want as a companion.
The critical importance of adequate and appropriate puppy socialization and habituation. Case explains why early socialization is crucial to a puppy’s development but adds a very important warning; if you do not do it right, you may create behavioral problems. Socialization is one of those issues that I find far too many alleged “dog experts” do not understand well. They are all perfect candidates for this book.
The emotional response to the use of aversives in training and why reward-based training free of pain, fear, and force is the only humane choice. Case notes that she has chosen “…reward-based training methods (aka positive reinforcement) as a training approach because: 1) It works well. 2) It has desirable emotional and relationship benefits for our dogs and for us and is not associated with causing pain, anxiety or stress in dogs. 3) We have evidence for 1 and 2.”
As a pet care professional, I have found the biggest obstacle to helping my clients, and their dogs are often the erroneous beliefs they have acquired about dogs and their behavior from the internet, TV, friends, family, and sadly even ill-informed pet care professionals. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) acknowledged this as a serious problem in 2015 when they published their 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Guidelines. Unfortunately, this document was not written for Jane and Joe Pet-Parent and does not offer the additional wise counsel found in Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog. Linda Case, thank you for filling that void! For those that want to know as much as possible, Case has also provided ample references to the scientific articles supporting her work.
If you love your dog, or if you work with people that love their dogs, you owe it to them to read Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. It is the smart thing to do.
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 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 heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
This article is a work-in-progress but if you attended my seminar at the P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center on 10NOV18, I wanted you to have at least an outline of what I discussed. I encourage you to check back at this link < http://bit.ly/DogTrainingKeysToSuccess > as I finalize this article.
Recognize That Your Dog Is A Sentient Being with Feelings
Dogs are thinking and emotional creatures. They clearly demonstrate positive feelings such as happiness, joy, and contentment. A dogs emotions can also have a negative nature, like anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger. Whether positive or negative, the emotions of you and your dog can both affect training. Make sure that both of you are in a positive and healthy emotional place before beginning any training session. Take the time to learn how your dog expresses their emotions. < FMI – Introduction to Canine Communication – http://bit.ly/CanineComm >
Recognize That Training Will NOT Resolve Negative Emotions
Training a dog to sit, or down, or to come when called will not typically resolve the dogs fear or anger. Asking a dog to do something counter to their emotional instincts may in fact make their emotional response more severe. This is often misunderstood by trainers, veterinarians, and shelters or rescue groups. Those that are unaware may suggest that a dog with aggression or reactivity issues towards dogs or other people, or both will improve with obedience training. While such training can be wonderful for helping an unruly dog to learn manners to make them easier to live with, it will not inherently make their fear go away or their anger dissipate. If a dog is reacting to people or other dogs, putting them in an environment where they are confronted by their triggers may in fact make their reactive behavior become more likely and more intense. Dogs and the people who love them can be helped but they would be better off working with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) or a veterinarian accredited by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). It is also imperative that no aversive of any kind are used with these dogs as a response to their reactivity or aggression.
< FMI – What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? –http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting >
When you get a dog, you may have certain goals and ambitions for that dog. Your dog may have a different agenda. It is important to recognize that not every dog will be the dog we want them to be. When I brought my Golden Retriever Tikken home, it was with the goal and the hope that she and I would eventually compete in agility. Tikken had no real interest in agility so I found something else for her to do that she enjoyed, being a therapy dog and visiting seniors and children. < FMI – Accepting the Pet You Have – http://bit.ly/AcceptingYourPet >
Work As A Team & Be Consistent – ALWAYS!
Training your dog will be much easier if you and your dog have a relationship based on mutual trust and acceptance and the simple fact that you enjoy being with one another. The old model of dog training was based on the idea that you and your dog were on two different teams. I can tell you that after twenty-three plus years of working with people and their dogs, those that view themselves as being on the same team and working together are not only happier but they are also more successful.
If your dog lives with more than one person, or frequently is around other people, you need to recruit those people to join the team and to work with you and your dog. It only takes one person around your dog to undo what you and your dog have accomplished together. You know that one person that continues to encourage and reward your dog for jumping up on them? They are not helping. Even extended family members, those that might only see your dog every couple of months, can and should be part of the training process.
Consistent rules, training methods, and cues are essential to successfully training your dog. All those involved need to understand and be doing things in the same manner.
ALWAYS – Manage to Prevent Behavior You Do Not Want
At some point, almost all dogs will exhibit a behavior we do not like. While we do not need to accept these behaviors, in most cases, we do not always need an elaborate training solution to stop the behavior. Sometimes the simplest and most effective solution is to use are allegedly more powerful brains to develop a strategy to prevent the behavior. For example, if our dog is anxious and uncomfortable around the grandchildren when they visit once a year, keep the dog in another room with their favorite toys or board them when the grand kids come to visit.
Many of the behaviors we do not like, such as jumping, are inadvertently rewarded by us because we give the dog attention whenever they exhibit the behavior. Attention can be looking at the dog, talking to them, or touching them. The same often happens if you have a dog that steals socks. They can quickly learn that stealing socks from the floor or the laundry basket results in a rousing game of chase. Since they love the game, they quickly learn exactly what to do to get you to play. Would it not be easier just to keep the socks somewhere the dog cannot get to them? As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
ALWAYS Focus on Rewarding Behavior You Like
Equally important to ignoring undesirable behavior is the need to reward behavior you like. A reward can be many things and will vary from dog to dog, but in most cases, it will be food. If you ignore the dog when they jump up on you and instantly reward them with a tiny morsel of food the instant they have all four feet on the ground, they will learn much faster. One of the most frequent errors I see people make when training there dog is to failing to reward behavior, or to stop rewarding the behavior before it is firmly established.
Do NOT Get Stingy with Rewards & Treats
Directly related to rewarding behavior is the quality of the treat you are using. Just as most people would find a piece of fine chocolate more rewarding than a stale saltine cracker, most dogs will find a tiny piece of meat more valuable than the largest dog biscuit.
The frequency of the reward is also important, especially when training in more distracting environments or when working on more difficult behaviors like walking on a loose leash. If you are not making progress, try rewarding more frequently.
NEVER Forget to Reward Your Dog For Just Being Good
Sadly, it seems to be human nature, mine included, to be more likely to react when our dog is doing something we do not want than it is to acknowledge desired behavior with a reward. If you enjoy your dog when they are lying at your feet or calmly sitting in your lap, do not forget to reward them. If our employer forgot to pay us, would we be happy? Remember, behaviors that are rewarded consistently will be consistently repeated.
Be Thoughtful About the Cues You Use for Behavior
People like to talk hoping their dog will listen and perform a requested behavior, while dogs like to watch not understanding the need for all the chatter. Remember dogs are visual creatures. Start by training a visual cue before you even think about adding a verbal cue. Do not add a verbal cue until the visual cue is reliable; the dog responds 90 times out of 100 in any environment, context or situation. Dogs typically never develop a reliable response to a cue because people do not adequately train the cue and do not sufficiently reward the desired behavior.
Visual and verbal cues need to be consistent among all of those training the dog; they need to look the same. Remember your dog is great at discriminating tiny differences while they generalize poorly. I also find that many people like to give visual cues like a “fast-talking” urbanite that has consumed five Red Bulls too many. Or alternatively, a visual cue where the individual giving the cue has so many moving body parts, it looks like a pitcher winding up to win the World Series. Make your visual cues slow, deliberate, and simple.
Consistency is equally important with verbal cues. There is a difference between: “sit”, “siiiit,” “sit sit, sit?” and “can you sit?” Again, keeping a verbal cue short, deliberate, and simple will make training easier. Also, make sure a verbal cue for one behavior does not sound like that for another behavior.
ALWAYS Keep Training FUN! – ALWAYS!
If a training session stops being fun for either you or your dog, STOP and go do something you will both enjoy. If that is not possible, STOP and seriously evaluate why training is no longer fun.
Back when I first started training dogs professionally, I was still taking my Cairn Terrier Gus to classes on a regular basis. At one point, Kate, our class instructor, witnessed what was probably the least enthusiastic recall she has ever seen. Gus and I were at opposite ends of our field when I gave him his cue to come. He came but at the slowest pace possible, acting like he wanted to do anything but come to me. At the end of the class, after the other students had left, Kate took me aside and politely kicked us out of class. She observed that neither Gus nor I were having fun and that training was damaging our relationship. She suggested we just go and have fun. It was the last class Gus and I were part of, and we had a great relationship the rest of his life. Thank you Kate for such good advice and your honesty!
Work with a Force-Free Certified Professional Dog Trainer
No matter how many dogs you have trained or how many training classes you have attended, I would encourage you to work with a Force-Free, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) every time you bring a new dog into your home. Such an individual has proven their knowledge experience through a rigorous examination and will typically have experience with more dogs and a wider variety of breeds and temperaments than you ever will. They should also be committed to force-free, fear-free, and pain-free training, as any other type of training will be counter-productive. Even though I am a CPDT I take my dogs through classes taught by others. Many of my colleagues do the same.
< FMI – How to Choose a Dog Trainer – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer >
A Force-Free Certified Professional Dog Trainer will:
Help you understand your dog’s physical, mental and emotional needs.
Teach you about the myths and facts about dog behavior.
Help you to understand how your dog communicates.
Teach you how to most effectively and efficiently teach and reward behaviors.
Help prevent you from unintentionally rewarding undesired behaviors.
Coach and reward you on what you are doing, because it is not just your dog that is learning.
Teach you the importance of being proactive and not just reactive.
Help you set realistic expectations for your dog, you and your family, and your situation.
Show you the benefit of making training FUN! for both you and your dog.
In addition to teaching people how to train their dogs, I also help people that have dogs with often extremely serious behavioral issues such as aggression and separation anxiety. In my twenty-three years of training and working on behavioral cases, the vast majority of dogs I have seen for behavioral issues have never been trained. Training, when done proactively, can prevent behavioral issues.
On Saturday, November 10thth, Don Hanson of the Green Acres Kennel Shop presented a seminar for the P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center of Camden, Maine entitled Understanding Dog Behavior, How Dogs Learn, and the Most Humane (Best) Ways to Train Them. This blog article contains links to articles and podcasts that may be used as a reference to material presented at the seminar.
Podcast – Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2– 19JUL15 –http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/19/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-2/
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006, An excellent book on understanding a dog’s body language. Includes descriptions of how you can use your own body language to better communicate with your dog.
Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018, If you love your dog, or if you work with people that love their dogs, you owe it to them to read Dog smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog.
Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011,
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!: A Fun, Interactive, Educational Resource to Help the Whole Family Understand Canine Communication. Keep … Generations Safe by Learning to “Speak Dog!”, Niki Tudge, Joanne Tudge, 2017
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 really knows how to communicate to dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.
The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2002, An information-packed, immensely readable book. In it you will learn how to have a better relationship with your dog through better communications. Dr. McConnell clearly explains the manners in which dogs and their people communicate.
For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006, A superb review of emotions in both dogs and their people and how they bring us together and can rip us apart. Once again Dr. McConnell helps us to better understand our dogs and in doing so have the best possible relationship with them.
Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution,Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001, An evolutionary biologist and dog lover, Coppinger outlines the likely process that resulted in the longstanding canine-human relationship.
< A version of this article was published in the November 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News>
It was a year ago that I first wrote about the formation of the Shock-Free Coalition, an international initiative that “…believes that pets have an intrinsic right to be treated humanely, to have each of their individual needs met, and to live in a safe, enriched environment free from force, pain and fear. Members of the Shock-Free Coalition consider it to be their responsibility and utmost obligation to be vigilant, to educate, to remain engaged and work toward eliminating shock as a permissible tool so it is never considered a viable option in the training, management and care of pets.” ( FMI – http://bit.ly/BestFriendsAndShock ).
Eleven pet care professionals representing thirteen businesses in the state of Maine joined together to run a full-page ad in the November 2017 issue of the Downeast Dog News announcing their support of the Shock-Free Coalition. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME-Ad-NOV18DEDN )
In January of 2018 electric shock collars were banned in Scotland.
In February the Sun reported, “Electric shock pet collars to be banned for being ‘unnecessary and cruel’ forbidding their sale and use in the UK.”
The Shock-Free Coalition launched an improved website with chapters and regional coordinators in AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, ME, OR, TX, Australia, Canada, England, Gibraltar, Ireland, Scotland, & Wales ( FMI – https://www.shockfree.org/Chapters )
A paper published in Volume 25 of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior by Dr. Sylvia Masson et al. discussed electronic shock collars used to address barking, containment (underground fences), and remote training. The paper’s authors concluded “...there is no credible scientific evidence to justify e-collar use and the use of spray collars or electronic fences for dogs. On the contrary, there are many reasons to never use these devices. Better training options exist, with proven efficacy and low risk.” and recommend that the sale, use, and promotion of shock collars be banned.
The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) has designated Saturday, November 17th, 2018 as the first-ever International Day of Advocacy to celebrate its official launch of the Shock-Free Coalition one year ago. The focal point of the celebration will be Let’s Celebrate +R, a photo and video competition where pet professionals and enthusiasts can showcase the best of positive reinforcement-based pet training and education.
Let’s Celebrate +R
Let’s celebrate +R is a competition open to all who wish to advocate for force-free training by demonstrating their skills as a way to promote the educational message of pain-free, force-free, and fear-free training. Most people do not want to harm their dog and do not understand that shock collars work by causing physical and emotional pain and fear.
To participate in the International Day of Advocacy 2018, all you need to do is take a photo and/or make a short video and submit it to one of the Let’s Celebrate +R competition categories. There are three competition categories in both photos and videos. The contest will run from November 10th through November 24th and is open to all.
Winners and runners-up from each category will have the opportunity to win fabulous prizes! The winners from each of the six categories will then be forwarded to the final judging category, Best Overall Entry.
Each entry will receive 1) One 2018 competitor medal – mailed to you in November 2018, 2) your supporter certificate, 3) access to purchase a unique event participant T-shirt, and 4) eligibility to win the grand prize, which is The Pet Professional Guild Annual Convention Package (USA: Portland, Oregon – April 26-28, 2019). ( FMI – https://petprofessionalguild.com/Lets-Celebrate-Plus-R )
To Learn More
If you want to learn more about shock collars and why the Shock-Free Coalition believes that their use, sale, and promotion should be banned, I encourage you to visit these two sites – http://bit.ly/ShockCollars or https://www.shockfree.org/About/What-Experts-Say. The scientific evidence against the use of shock is overwhelming with no scientific evidence to support its use.
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 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 heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.
< A version of this article was published in the August 2018 issue of Downeast Dog News >
When we put our dogs into new situations, they often divert their attention away from us and toward anything and everything but us. Sometimes they even get a little over-enthusiastic or what some people consider CRAZY. One example of this is the dog in a training class that is more attentive to the instructor than the person they live with 24/7. Students often attribute this to a mystical ability only found in dog trainers, but it comes down to something much simpler. The dog trainer, provided they are reward-based and pleasant, is also often more interesting than you merely because they are novel and different. Remember, living with you 24/7 leads to a sense of familiarity which can cause, no offense intended, boredom (yawn!). I understand why you want your dog to learn self-control, especially in public situations. To get focused, undistractable behavior you need first need to understand why you may not be able to hold your dog’s attention.
Your dog is young and well socialized. – Remember when you were young and carefree? Every new thing you experienced was exciting and an excuse to have some fun. Young dogs can be much the same way, especially if you did a good job socializing and habituating them so that they are not fearful. Pat yourself on the back and let your dog enjoy the moment because you will be sad the day they lose that enthusiasm.
Your dog is insufficiently trained for the situation in which they have been placed. If you have attended a dog training class, hopefully, you have learned that dogs do not generalize well. In fact, if you teach your dog the sit behavior to pure perfection, but only train your dog in your kitchen, your dog may be clueless if you cue them to sit in the living room or at a park filled with novel distractions. Dogs need to learn a behavior in a wide variety of environments and situations before you can expect them to respond to a cue in almost any situation. I am not just talking about teaching your dog in various spaces but also around a wide variety of distractions. Also, recognize you need to do this in small increments. Just because your dog will sit in front of one motionless child that they know does not mean they will sit in front of seven children they do not know that are running around erratically while giggling.
Your dog has not learned the benefit of focusing on you. One of the first and most important behaviors we teach in our classes is the Attention or Look behavior. Attention is all about teaching your dog that focusing on you is one of the most rewarding things that they can do. Training your dog to pay attention to you is fundamental to teaching them anything else. A great Look behavior eases teaching both Leave It and Heeling. If you do it right, increasing difficulty and distractions in tiny increments, you will be able to maintain focus in distracting environments. FMI – http://bit.ly/GAKS-Attention
Your dog finds interactions with others more rewarding than you. If your dog is going through the motions with you and would rather be with anyone but you, you need to stop training and focus entirely on restoring your relationship. Years ago one of my employees kicked me out of a class because Gus and I were just going through the motions. We were working, but neither of us was having fun. It was the best advice I could have received. Do NOT delay, find a dog trainer who can help you and your dog rediscover the fun in one another! FMI –http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer
Your dog is fearful and stressed. Not everyone can tell when a dog is stressed or afraid. In some cases, a dog might shut down and freeze doing nothing at all, and other times they might be bouncing around acting crazy. I believe everyone should be aware of how a dog expresses his or her emotional state through body language. FMI – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear
Reinforce the bond you have with your dog on a regular basis, train them with rewards and fun to respond in the environments that they will experience, keep them out of stressful situations and be patient. Do these things and your dog will focus on you.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor 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). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
In a recent interview, I was asked a series of questions about how to choose a dog trainer. One of the questions was “What would you like to have known when you started training dogs?” This post will be the first of a series of article inspired by that question.
In the spring of 1991, I had a new 12-week old Cairn Terrier puppy named Gus. I had no knowledge of dog training, but a desire to learn. I started to learn by reading two of the most popular dog training books at the time; How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend and Mother Knows Best. The basic premise of both books was that a dog is a wolf and the best way to train and care for a dog is to dominate it like an Alpha wolf would dominate a wolf pup. My wife and I also enrolled ourselves and Gus in a puppy kindergarten class offered by the local dog club.
Our first night in puppy class was a complete disaster. I was told to command Gus to sit, and Gus failed to comply. Now, this was not a big deal to us nor a surprise, as we were well aware that Gus had no clue what we wanted him to do when we said the word “Sit.” However, Gus’ failure to comply was a massive deal to the two instructors. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that Gus was exerting his dominance and that I had to alpha roll him to show him that I was the Alpha. The alpha roll was precisely what the books we were reading recommended, so not knowing any better I did as I was told. As I grabbed Gus by the scruff and pinned him, he immediately began thrashing around underneath me, growling and snapping, and trying to connect his teeth with me, so that I would let him go. I know now that Gus was terrified but at the time believed I was doing the right thing.
The instructor now became even more adamant: “We can’t have that! Grab his muzzle and clamp it shut!” My instincts said “Whoa! That’s not safe!” but these people were the “experts” so I tried grabbing Gus’ muzzle in my hand. Instantly, I felt his canines puncture my palm. As my blood started dripping on the floor, Gus broke free and moved as far away from me as he could. There is something to be said for listening to your gut instincts. Gus followed his; I failed to pay attention to mine.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything that I had read and been taught about the alpha wolf rollover was based upon flawed knowledge. My puppy was afraid for his life, and it was my fault.
When we got back home, it was evident that the relationship between Gus and I was severely damaged. I was no longer being asked to “throw the ball” by the puppy with the vibrating tail. Gus did not trust me, and I did not trust him. Over many months Gus and I learned to trust one another again, and training and behavior became something we both enjoyed. We were fortunate to discover Dr. Patricia McConnell where we learned about the wonders of reward-based training. We had fun; our dogs had fun.
So this is what I would have liked to have known before I started training Gus.
Just because something is in a book written by an alleged expert does not mean it is good advice or even factual.
The study of wolf packs in the wild has taught us that a wolf pack is a family working cooperatively to survive to pass on their genes. Their survival depends on cooperation, not competition to be the alpha within the pack.
The violent alpha roll described in the books I read has never been observed happening in a wolf pack. A wolf pup may voluntarily roll on its back and submit to an older wolf, but it is never physically forced to do so.
Dr. Karen Overall, in the 2017 documentary, Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats sums it up very well when she states: “In the evolutionary literature “alpha” was just a shorthand for breeding. I’m the alpha – that you feel that you have to compete with a dog in your household over some imaginary rank, what does that say for how you live with people?“
The entire concept of dominance is not only an erroneous understanding of the dog-human relationship, but it is also counterproductive to a harmonious relationship with our dog and may cause aggression as it did with Gus.
Unfortunately the same bad advice I received in 1991 is still being promulgated today, in spite of the fact that major canine organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), all warn of the use of dominance-based training.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from October 21, 2017, Don and Kate discuss electronic shock collars. 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 show 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?
< A version of this article was published in the October 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>
Dogs were first referred to as “Man’s best friend” in 1789 by Frederick, King of Prussia. Today it is not uncommon for a person to say that they consider their dog to not only be their friend but to be a member of their family. That is how I view both my dog and cats. In spite of this apparent devotion to dogs, there are still too many people in this country that routinely use electronic shock collars to subject their dogs to shock on a regular basis, all in the name of training and containment.
When a dog receives an electric shock from a shock collar, the shock is meant to be sufficiently aversive to change the dog’s behavior. An aversive typically causes either physical or emotional pain or both. If the dog does not find the shock aversive, the shock will not stop the behavior. That is basic psychology. Rewarding a dog for a behavior causes that behavior to increase, and punishing a dog or adding an aversive, causes a behavior to decrease. Those that insist the shock does not hurt the dog and that it is merely a “stim” or “tickle” are either misleading people or do not understand the fundamentals of psychology and learning theory.
What makes the use of electric shock on animals even more distressing than the fact that we are intentionally hurting our pets, is that science has demonstrated that the use of punishment is unnecessary to train or manage a pet. In fact, we know with certainty, that the use of shock and other aversives can be extremely detrimental. The use of aversives can damage the bond we have with our pet, impair our pet’s ability to learn, and often cause fear and aggression. Considering that shock is unnecessary, its use amounts to nothing less than abuse. So I ask, why would anyone intentionally abuse their best friend or a family member?
Since its beginnings in 2012, The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) has advocated against the use of aversives in the training and management of pets. In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), an accreditation body for veterinary practices and hospitals, issued their Behavior Management Guidelines. The guidelines clearly state: “Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating.None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior.” [Emphasis added]. The experts on our pets health, behavior, and training agree; shock should NEVER be used.
Whether the use of electric shock is intentional, due to casual disregard because “it is just a dog,” or due to ignorance, I and many others believe it is time for this inhumane treatment of our best friends and family members to stop. On September 25th the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) launched the Shock-Free Coalition ( http://www.shockfree.org ) “…an initiative that aims to build an international movement committed to eliminating shock devices once and for all in the care, training and management of pets.” This noble cause is long overdue and one that I support without hesitation. I hope that you will join me in this movement to educate and advocate for the abolishment of the use of shock devices for the management and training of our best friends and family members. Please take the first step, and join me by taking the pledge at http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Sign-The-Pledge.
What else can you do to support the Shock-Free Coalition?
Dog Parents – Ask any and every pet care provider that participates in the care of your dog (animal shelters, boarding kennels, breeders, daycares, dog walkers, groomers, humane societies, pet related periodicals, pet sitters, places you buy pet food and supplies, rescues. Veterinarians, ) if they are aware of the Shock-Free Coalition and if they have taken the pledge. Encourage them to do so. If they chose not to take the pledge, ask them why. Suggest that they do some research and reconsider. You might even provide them with a copy of this column. If they are still unwilling to take the pledge, remember, you can choose who gets your pet related business. Sometimes money speaks louder than words.
Pet Care Professionals – Take the pledge and make your support known to your employees, customers, and clients. Tell them about the pledge and ask them to take it as well. Show your support for the Shock-Free Coalition with signs in your facility, articles in your newsletter, information on your website, and with posts on social media. I know that pet parents care about this issue and they want to know that you care too!
Dog Parents and Pet Care Professionals in Maine – It is my goal to place an ad in the November issue of Down East Dog News listing everyone one in the state of Maine who has taken the pledge. We need to show that those that still recommend and sell shock collars are a minority. We need to show them that we want to stop the unnecessary abuse of our pets. To make that ad happen, I need your help and some donations. Learn how to add your name to the list for the November ad and to make a donation at http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME
To learn more about the problems with shock collars, visit these resources:
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. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
Contact: Don Hanson Green Acres Kennel Shop 945-6841
[Bangor] – Green Acres Kennel Shop is honored to be part of the Shock-Free Coalition, a global initiative launched today, by the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). The PPS is an international membership association for animal behavior and training professionals. The Shock-Free Coalition aims to end the practice of using electric shock to train and care for pets.
Green Acres Kennel Shop first warned our clients of the dangers of the use of shock collars in an article in our newsletter in May of 2004. Although we have never used shock collars at Green Acres, we officially adopted and announced our Pet-Friendly Policy in the spring of 2006 when we learned of other kennels and daycare’s using these devices on their client’s dogs. Eventually we also added our position statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs
I am astounded and disappointed that it is still legal in many countries, including the USA, for pet owners to deliver an electric shock to a collar worn by their cat or dog via the simple press of a button from a remote control. Countless studies, conducted by veterinary scientists and canine behavior specialists, indicate that using pain and fear to train animals can cause physical injury, as well as a host of psychological issues that may include their becoming fearful of other animals and people — and potentially aggression. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) explicitly states that shock collars nor any other aversive should be used to train or manage animals in their Behavior Management Guidelines of 2015.
Anyone who loves animals and wishes to share their support for this initiative may do so by taking the pledge by clicking on the graphic to the left or the following link www.shockfree.org. You may also learn more at the Shock-Free Coalition website.
An article by Green Acres Kennel Shop owner, Don Hanson, The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars, can be found on his blog at http://bit.ly/ShockCollars If you wish to participate in a Maine based shock-free coalition, you may learn more by clicking on the graphic to the right or on the following link http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME.
In business since 1965, Green Acres Kennel Shop, located at 1653 Union Street, is committed to pet-friendly, force-free pet care. We offer boarding, daycare, and grooming for dogs, as well as pet behavior consultations and group and private dog training classes. Voted Best Kennel every year since 2002, Best Pet Store every year since 2007, Best Dog Trainer every year since 2011, and Best Pet Groomer every year since 2013, the Green Acres retail store offers a wide variety of wholesome pet foods, treats, and quality supplies. In December of 2016, we were recognized by Best Businesses of America as one of the Top 15 Kennels and Top 40 Dog Trainers in New England. We are a proud member of The Pet Professional Guild. For more information, please call 945-6841 or visit www.greenacreskennel.com.
If you have a new dog that is 12 weeks of age and older, this is the article you want. If you have a puppy between 8 and 16 weeks of age, check out this article – http://bit.ly/EspcNewPuppyParents
A new dog can be a great addition to your family, but they will also require some work on your part. Older dogs may come to your home already trained and ready to be that perfect companion, but more often than not, a dog ends up in a rescue or shelter because they have some behavioral issues. They were probably not well socialized and had little or no training. It is also entirely possible that their previous family inadvertently created some problem behaviors by unintentionally rewarding those behaviors. This article offers some recommendations to help you and your new friend get off to the best start possible.
My first word of advice; “patience.” It is very easy to want the ideal dog immediately, but just as “Rome was not built in a day,” Your will not dog be the perfect companion in a week, nor in all likelihood in a month. Training is a process, and as such it takes time. Yes, there will times you may become frustrated, but when you look back in a year you will realize it was a precious time for you and your dog, one filled with learning and fun!
I encourage you to read the following shared blog post, all about patience, by dog trainer Nancy Tanner. Read it, print it, and then post it on your refrigerator, or somewhere in your home where it is close at hand anytime you are feeling frustrated with your dog. –
Enrolling yourself and your dog in a reward-based dog training class designed by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the best thing you can do for you and your dog. Not all trainers and dog training classes are equal. Because dog training is currently a non-regulated and non-licensed profession, the quality of instruction and practices used can vary widely, sometimes into the inhumane. The following article will provide you with information on what to look for in a dog trainer and dog training facility.
Do not try to teach your dog everything at once. We will teach you certain behaviors, in a specific order, for a reason; to make training easier.
During the critical socialization period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age, it is far more important to work on planning and appropriately socializing and habituating your dog than it is to teach them to shake or any other behavior. This is a limited period, and you want to make the most of it. Inadequate or inappropriate socialization is a common reason dogs develop behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety.
If your dog is older than 16 weeks of age, it is still important for you to read the following article. If you see any signs of shyness, timidity or fearful behavior, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session so that we can offer you some guidance on a remedial socialization program for your puppy. Socialization is not as simple and straightforward as meeting the neighbors and their dog or taking your dog to the dog park. In fact, a visit to the dog park may be the worst thing that you can do.
If you are having problems with your dog guarding food and other items, stealing things, or growling, make an appointment with us for a Help Now! session as soon as possible. Punishment in any form will likely make these behaviors worse and could result in someone being bitten.
Dogs and children both need training and supervision to learn how to appropriately and safely interact with one another. Dogs and children will not automatically get along. If you do not have children, your dog will still need to be socialized with children and learn how to interact with them. If you have children and a dog, you will need to spend time working with both. I highly recommend the book A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge. You will discover some things that you probably did not know about dogs while learning how to teach your children about interacting with your dog and any other dog they may meet.
Think carefully about what you teach your dog; intentionally or unintentionally. Un-training a behavior takes a whole lot more time and energy than training a behavior. A trick like “shake” is cute, but think long and hard if you want a dog that will always be trying to get every person they see to shake, even when they have muddy paws.
If there are multiple people that will be interacting with your dog, discuss what cues, visual and verbal, that you will use for specific behaviors so that you are all being consistent. Do not be in a hurry to add a visual (hand signal) or a verbal cue to a behavior. We do not start using a cue until we are confident that the dog understands the behavior in multiple contexts and environments. If you start using the cue too soon, you may need to change it. We will talk about that more in class.
If you have questions that just will not wait until class starts, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session.
The blog posts listed below will all be beneficial for anyone thinking about getting a new dog or for those of you that just added a dog to your family.
The shows listed below are from The Woof Meow Show (www.woofmeowshow.com) and cover a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone with a new puppy. Click on the title to listen to the show.
Common Dog Training Issues
We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 1 – Once you have found your new furry companion, whether they are a puppy or an older dog, there is much you need to be thinking about before you bring your new friend home. In this show, Don and Kate discuss the things you will need, might need, and don’t need. They finish the show with a discussion of the importance of a well thought out socialization and habituation plan for a puppy. If you have a puppy or dog selected, or are thinking about getting a canine companion, this show will help you prepare for your new dog.
We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)! – part 2 – In this show Kate and Don address the most typical behavior concerns with a new puppy or dog; housetraining, jumping up on people, play biting, and chewing. While this show is no substitute for a well-designed puppy or basic manners class, it will get you pointed in the right direction.
Podcast – How to Choose A Dog Trainer – Kate, and Don discuss what to look for when choosing a dog trainer and dog training class, as well as what to avoid. Dog training and recommended approaches to training a dog have changed dramatically as we have learned more about canines. As a result, we now know that some long-standing methods used to train a dog in the past, are in fact detrimental and can cause serious, long-term harm to your dog. Learn what to look for so that you and your dog have the best experience possible. FIRST AIR DATE: 7JAN17
The benefits of training your dog and 2017 Training Classes at Green Acres – Kate and Don discuss why training a dog is so beneficial to all involved; the dog, the dog’s immediate family, and society in general. They discuss the advantages of working with a certified professional dog trainer so that you have someone that can coach both you and your dog when things are not going as expected. Additionally, they discuss why choosing a trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free and fear-free training is so important. Lastly, they discuss the training classes that will be offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2017.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 1 – Dr. Hanks interviews Don and Kate about their experiences as professional dog trainers. He asks Kate and Don about how training has changed in the past 26 years since Mark began his practice, why training a dog is important, the importance of training for mental enrichment, how breed effects training and compatibility with a family, how human intervention has adversely effected health and behavior, researching dogs before one decides what dog and breed to get, making temperament a key decision when picking a dog, what we typically teach a client and their dog, Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training), inadvertent reinforcement of undesirable behaviors, the continuing necessity to refute antiquated and inaccurate myths about canine behavior, the optimal age for starting training, the structure of Green Acres training classes, Green Acres program to help parents find the best pet for them, how family lifestyles have changed and how that affects time for a dog, knowing when to wait before starting a group training class, and how they deal with special needs rescue dogs.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 2 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: Green Acres holistic approach to training (husbandry, nutrition, body language, ethology, and training) and how we work with families to understand their dog and the importance of having a good foundation of education so people can better understand their dogs, how some students may attend class without their dog either because their dog is sick, in heat or simply because the dog learns better at home, private training options at Green Acres, the critical period of puppy socialization and habituation, why socialization needs to be actively planned and implemented by owners – it doesn’t just happen, what do you do you when want your puppy to be a therapy dog, the difference between therapy dogs, service/assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs, the fake service dog epidemic, can you teach an old dog new tricks, how do you deal with constant barking, and how do you deal with clients that need the dogs behavior changed tomorrow.
Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate with special guest host Dr. Mark Hanks – part 3 – Dr. Hanks asks Kate and Don about: dominance, pack hierarchy and alphas and the current science which indicates wolves are a cooperative social species, the benefits of kind leadership as opposed to coercive based leadership, the myth of dogs doing things just to please us, temperament and personality in dogs, the importance of knowing parents because of the genetic role in temperament, “stubborn” dogs versus under-motivated dogs, epigenetics and the possibility of mental health disorders in dogs like autism and PTSD, and temperament as a continuum and nature versus nurture.
Dogs and Babies with Jennifer Shryock from Family Paws Parent Education – Kate and Don interview Jennifer Shryock the founder of Family Paws Pet Education about their innovative programs; Dogs & Storks™ and the Dog and Baby Connection. We’ll discuss why prior planning is so important for the successful integration of a new baby in a home with a dog and what you can do when you have questions.
First Air Date: 17AUG13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 1 – In part one of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this first show, we discuss the dog bite problem (50% of all children will be taken to the ER for a dog bite by the time they are 12), why these bites usually occur, and what Doggone Safe and their partners like Green Acres Kennel Shop are doing to help prevent them. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 6APR13
Dog Bite Prevention & Doggone Safe with Teresa Lewin of Doggone Safe- part 2 – In part two of this two-part series Kate and Don talk with Teresa Lewin, one of the founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. In this second show, we discuss Doggone Safe’s innovative Be A Tree program for children and their Be Doggone Safe at Work program for adults that encounter dogs during work. We’ll discuss how these programs work and their availability through Green Acres Kennel Shop. If you have dogs and children or family with either, or if you work with children, you will want to listen to this show. Checkout the dog bite prevention page on our website for more information – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention
First Air Date: 13APR13
Pet Food Myths – part 1 – In part one of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget.
First Air Date: 6JUN11
Pet Food Myths – part 2 – In part two of this two-part series, Don and Kate discuss several myths and conceptions pet guardians have about pet food. The fact is that not all pet foods are the same, and the quality varies greatly. Kate and Don reveal these myths and guide the listeners on how to evaluate their pet’s food so that they can provide their pet with optimal nutrition that fits their budget.
First Air Date: 13JUN11
While getting a new pet usually goes very well, occasionally people have a bad experience when purchasing a new pet. This can happen when getting a pet from a pet store, a breeder, and even when getting a pet from a shelter or rescue. In this show, we address consumer’s legal alternatives when things do not go as you wanted.