Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communication

< Updated 16OCT18 >

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

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

Vocal Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Verbal versus Visual Communication

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Calming Signals

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

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

Averting the Eyes/The Look Away

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

 

 

 

 

Head Turn

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

 

 

Full Body Turn

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

Nose Lick

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

 

 

 

Sniffing

SniffingSniffing as a calming signal must be reviewed within the context in which it appears. Obviously, dogs sniff for other reasons than to just indicate stress. However, if a dog suddenly starts sniffing in a difficult situation, it is probably a sign of stress.

 

Yawning

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

 

Squinting

SquintingWhen a dog squints, it is a way of showing that they are comfortable in a situation. As illustrated here this dog is also in a play bow.

 

 

 

 

 

Play Position

Play BowDogs will use a modified “play bow” (front legs and chest on the ground with hind quarters in the air) to initiate play or to calm another animal down that is causing them some uncertainty. Unlike a play bow as an invitation to play, a play bow used as a calming signal occurs slowly. You can do a play bow to initiate play or to help relax a dog.

 

Scratching

ScratchingScratching is like sniffing; dogs will scratch for many reasons, and it does not always mean they are feeling stressed or anxious. However, a dog that is under stress will often scratch while under stress.

 

Splitting

SplittingSplitting occurs when the “splitting” dog places themselves between two or more dogs in the early stages of an altercation, in an attempt to diffuse the situation. This behavior sometimes occurs when two humans are hugging.

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

Distance Increasing Signals

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

Tooth Displays Increase in Height
Whale Eye Intense Barking
“Hard Eyes” Tail up high, “flagging”
Body weight forward Freezing in Place
Ears forward Hackles Up (Piloerection)
Tense body/face Mouth Closed
Head/Neck is lowered Urine marking

 

Why Do We Need to Know All of This?

Dogs communicate very well with their bodies, and if we know what they are trying to tell us we can often help them get out of a stressful situation. The graphic below is the Stress Escalation Ladder developed by Turid Rugaas. It illustrates how stress increases and what signs we see in our dogs as the stress elevates. The earlier we can intervene the less likely our dog is to get out of control.

Stress Escalation Ladder

How We Communicate With Our Dogs – Dog Handling Skills

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

  • Do not bend over your dog. Squat next to them or stand straight. When you bend over the dog, you are putting them in a defensive position.
  • When training the recall, stand straight or squat with your arms outstretched. Stooping over the dog will cause him to avoid you.
  • Your face says a great deal about your attitude.
  • When petting a dog for the first time, touch them on the sides of their body and their chest. Never pat them on the top of the head.
  • Avoid hugging your dog. No matter how much pleasure you get from hugs, your dog does not enjoy it.

 

Recommended Resources

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

What Should I Don When My Dog Growlshttp://bit.ly/DogGrowls

Shared Blog Post – Does a Wagging Tail Mean a Happy Dog? – http://bit.ly/EileenAndersonWaggingTails

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress

Handouts to Download

Body Language of Fear in Dogs Dr. Sophia Yinhttp://bit.ly/Yin-BodyLang-Fear

Signs of Anxiety and Fear – Dr. Marty Beckerhttp://bit.ly/MartyBecker-AnxietyFear

 

Books & DVDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Sites

Turid Rugaas – Calming Signalshttp://en.turid-rugaas.no/calming-signals—the-art-of-survival.html

YouTube

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

 

©2018, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy

PODCAST – Maine’s Puppy Lemon Law and Your Rights As A Consumer

17OCT15-Maines_Puppy_Lemon_Law 400x400In this weekend’s episode of The Woof Meow Show Kate and Don interview attorney Christina Perkins about Maine’s puppy lemon law and your rights as a consumer when you purchase a pet.

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.

Listen to the show by clicking here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-03-14-Maines_Puppy_Lemon_Law_Consumer_Rights_When_You_Purchase_Pet.mp3

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

Animal Welfare – Understanding Behavior; Why It Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to leave you with three challenges today.

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

Maine Fed-Image-10

 


 

Other Articles of Interest

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

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

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

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

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars <Click Here>

Introduction to Canine Communication – <Click Here>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Changes in Dog Training

< A version of this article was published in the October 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

Don and Muppy - July 2015
Don and Muppy – July 2015

On October 11th, it will be twenty years since my wife Paula, and I closed on Green Acres Kennel Shop, becoming its third owner. Most of the time it seems like that was only yesterday. However, when I pause and take the time to look back, I can list many changes in our profession. Our products and services have changed as have the standards that we follow. Societal attitudes towards pets have changed, and of course, we have also changed ourselves. For my next few columns, I’ll be sharing my perspective on some of these changes.

As we planned our move to Maine and Green Acres, I was looking forward to becoming more involved in dog training. We had taken our dogs to several dog training classes in Wisconsin, and it was something I enjoyed a great deal. Gus, our Cairn Terrier, had several behavioral issues and dealing with those piqued my interest in this companion called the dog.

We arrived in Maine in the middle of October 1995. At that time, Green Acres training methods involved lots of verbal encouragement and praise, little or no food rewards, and the use of choke collars and corrections. It was the era of dominance and proving ourselves to be the superior beings and with this attitude, the book we most often recommended was by the Monks of New Skete. The premise of the time was that since we were superior, dogs existed to serve us and do our bidding out of respect (read fear). Science has spoken, and we now understand how erroneous much of the information upon which we based training was; our profession has come a long way in these past 20 years.

Early on we recognized the importance of further honing our training skills. I joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers in 1996, and Kate and I attended an Ian Dunbar training seminar in the summer of 1996. The methods we learned were so very different, and we came away from that seminar excited about incorporating games into our classes and with an interest in trying to use food rewards.

In 1997, with the encouragement of Dr. Dave Cloutier at Veazie Veterinary Clinic, we expanded our classes’ offsite to the Veazie Community Center. This meant we could offer even more classes each week, as we had previously been working out of the retail area after hours. It was at this time that we took on our first assistant trainers; we were now offering more classes than Kate, and I could teach on our own.

At the same time we were teaching in Veazie, we began the remodeling of the loft above the store into a training room at Green Acres. Our training room is far from ideal; it is smaller than average. However, working with what we have has kept our class sizes smaller than average and our instructor to student ratio higher than average. Both factors have been of great benefit to our clients. Today we teach as many as 14 classes per week, both inside and outside, the latter dependent on weather.

Tikken Recall
Tikken Recall

In early 1997, I attended my first seminars on clicker training. These seminars got me experimenting with my new Golden Retriever puppy, Tikken. In June, Tikken and I traveled to upstate NY to attend a Volhard Top Dog Instructor Camp for a week. Their focus was on motivation; not with rewards, but with corrections via a choke collar. It was a frustrating week for me as I was being taught things that I had recently rejected. I learned what I could about student management and instructional techniques, and while I learned a great deal, at night I found myself working with Tikken using my clicker and food rewards.

Don and Gus in WI
Don and Gus in WI

Gus and I continued to train and that summer we were enrolled in one of our advanced classes that Kate, our Operations Manager, was teaching. During recall work, we were to put our dog on a stay at one end of the training field, walk to the other end of the field and call them to us. Gus remained in place, and when I called him he came, but at a snail’s pace. As I recall, we did that exercise twice with the same result. At the end of the class, Kate took me aside and asked “Do you and Gus do anything that’s just fun? He’s clearly not enjoying this, and I can see that you’re disappointed in him. Why don’t you take some time off and stop classes with Gus?” Yes, I had just been kicked out of class by my employee. I am so grateful that Kate had the wisdom and the courage to make that suggestion as it was the best thing that could have happened to the relationship between Gus and me. That was the last training class Gus ever attended. Instead, we played fetch, and I taught him how to do silly things like spin using the clicker and a target stick.

After the Volhard experience, I attended another clicker training seminar, and my mind was made up. I was a bit concerned about the reception that I would get from the public, as this was a major shift away from the predominant training methodology in the area. However, in August of 1997 I sent out a press release and received coverage from our friends at the Bangor Daily News. When an article is on the first page of a section, above the fold with a color photo of a dog, people read it. Before the day was over I was getting calls; “How do we sign-up for your clicker training classes?” Still testing the waters, I quickly developed a clicker based curriculum and opened enrollment in Green Acres’ first two clicker classes. At the end of those classes, I no longer wanted to train with aversives; however, from a business perspective I was uncertain that our market would support this kinder and gentler form of training. I knew two other trainers, Gail Fisher and Carolyn Clark, that had made the switch, and they inspired me to do the same. I am glad to say that many years later I had no need to worry. Our training program has grown by leaps and bounds precisely because of our focus on science, kindness, and getting results.

In November of 1998, I attended my first APDT Educational Conference and Trade Show, five solid days of learning and networking opportunities. One month later I was invited to join the APDT’s Education Committee by APDT’s founder Dr. Ian Dunbar. The committee developed and implemented the profession’s first certification exam. This was a significant step forward for the dog training industry. The practice of dog training is unlicensed, mostly unregulated and until the release of this examination there was no universally accepted standard of what a dog trainer needed to know.  In 2001, I was one of the first Certified Trainers. Since then a total of seven Green Acres’ trainers has been credentialed as Certified Professional Dog Trainers. Four have since moved on to different career paths, but that does not diminish their accomplishment. More and more people are taking steps to ensure that a trainer has a CPDT credential before enrolling their dog in a class. Just the idea that we now have a credentialing body for our industry, where none existed 15 years ago, shows significant growth in our field.

So in summary how has dog training changed in the past twenty years? It has become less about art and “secret” techniques and more about evidenced based science. Science has refuted the dominance construct that prescribed the need for having an adversarial relationship with your dog and replaced it with the concept of cooperation and positive reinforcement. The majority of trainers no longer use or recommend harsh punitive-based methods like alpha-rollovers, choke collars, and shock collars but instead use management, clicks, and treats. There are now several independent certification bodies that credential and ensure that those in the profession keep learning. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has recognized the importance of behavior as part of animal wellness and has taken a very public stand against the use of any aversive tools in training. The Pet Professional Guild is building an organization of pet care professional and pet owners committed to “No, Pain, No Force and No Fear” pet care. Dog trainers, scientists, and veterinarians recognize that the dog, as well as other animals,  are pretty amazing and more like us than we ever could have imagined. We are moving away from an egocentric understanding of their behavior to one that is more animal-centric, In other words, we have finally realized that as humans, it is NOT all about us.

All of us in the dog training profession still have much to learn and to me that is what keeps me going. I cannot wait to immerse myself in the next amazing discovery about the delightful companion that we generically call the dog.

Lastly, remember that story about my Cairn Terrier Gus, his unenthusiastic recall, and Kate kicking me out of class?  I am happy to say that my current best friend Muppy has a most remarkable recall thanks to what Gus, Shed, Sandy, Dulcie, Crystal, and Tikken have taught me on this journey. Muppy thanks you all for being so patient and kind with me.


 

Other Posts You May Find Interesting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars <Click Here>

How I Trained A Chicken<Click Here>

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

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

 

Can You Trust Your Blogger and What You Read on the Internet?

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

Dear Don & Paula,

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

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

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

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

The small print:

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being

< A version of this article was published in the August 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

AAHA Bhx GuidelinesSince April of this year I’ve been writing about a trend towards kinder and gentler pet care; our pet-friendly philosophy at Green Acres Kennel Shop, the force-free principles of the Pet Professional Guild, and the fear-free movement among the veterinary community. I am extremely pleased that last month the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) took this trend one step further with the publication of their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This ground-breaking document acknowledges that your pet’s behavioral health is every bit as important as their physical well-being. The guidelines are meant to provide veterinarians and their staff with “… concise, evidence-based information to ensure that the basic behavioral needs of feline and canine patients are understood and met in every practice [Emphasis added].” While these are just guidelines, the AAHA is at the forefront of veterinary medicine and I expect that most veterinarians will begin implementing these guidelines into their practice immediately.

The adoption of these guidelines is critically important because “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering. [Emphasis added]” The reasons why behavioral problems have become the number one health concern for dogs and cats remains to be examined; however these guidelines offer some concrete steps that all of us who love, live with and work with dogs and cats can take to help make their lives better. This is a huge step as it now establishes that a behavioral wellness assessment should be part of every pet’s visit to their veterinarian.

While these guidelines are focused on veterinarians and their staff, everyone in the pet care services industry; boarding kennels, doggie daycares, dog walkers, groomers, dog trainers, and pet sitters as well as animal shelters, breeders, pet shops, rescue groups, animal control officers, humane agents, and animal welfare program directors should be aware of these guidelines and be implementing the policies, procedures and training necessary to ensure the behavioral health of the pets in their care.

Here the some of the key take-home messages from this document that every pet owner needs to know. Quotes from the guidelines are in italics and my comments are non-italicized. In some cases I have used bold type for added emphasis.

  • “Veterinarians must institute a culture of kindness in the practice and avoid using either forced restraint or punitive training or management methods.” Time and patience make for a better experience for all involved. I love that I can take my pets to see any of their veterinarians and my pets are unafraid. Not all people can say that and that needs to change.
  • “Veterinarians must be aware of the patient’s body language at all times, understanding that it conveys information about underlying physiological and mental states.” At Green Acres we teach clients to understand an animal’s body language and emotions in our training classes because it is an essential part of understanding, teaching, and living with our pets. The guidelines suggest that veterinary practices can and should use this same knowledge of body language and emotions to ensure your pets visit and exam is as stress free as possible. Both you as the person responsible for your pets care, as well as your veterinarian need to know and understand this so that together you make sure it happens. When choosing a veterinary practice I encourage you to look for one that invests in the training and continuing education necessary to teach all of their staff the fundamentals of animal body language and emotions.
  • “All veterinary visits should include a behavioral assessment.” While the veterinary team needs to ask about behavior, as an owner you need to be ready to talk to your veterinarian about behavioral issues. When I receive calls from clients about behavioral issues the first thing I ask is “Have you discussed this with your vet?” and too often the answer I get is “no.” Make sure that your pet’s behavior is discussed at each and every visit.
  • “Good behavioral evaluations are especially important in young animals. Studies show that 10 percent of puppies that were fearful during a physical exam at 8 wk of age were also fearful at 18 mo. Patients do not outgrow pathologic fear. [Emphasis added].” “Behavioral conditions are progressive. Early intervention is essential to preserve quality of life for both the patient and client and to provide the best chance of treatment success.” In my experience, patients often wait too long to address behavioral problems, hoping the pet will outgrow it. The sooner these problems are addressed the better the odds of resolving the problem and ending the distress felt by both the pet and the pet owner.
  • “… the presence or development of fear during sensitive periods is aggravated by forced social exposure. Overexposure can make fearful dogs worse, creating a behavioral emergency.” This is why socialization and habituation efforts need to be planned ahead of time and controlled while they are occurring. Talk to your veterinarian and certified, reward-based trainer about the best ways to do this. Preferably, you should start planning these effort’s before you bring the new pet home.
  • “There is no medical reason to delay puppy and kitten classes or social exposure until the vaccination series is completed as long as exposure to sick animals is prohibited, basic hygiene is practiced, and diets are high quality. The risks attendant with missing social exposure far exceed any disease risk. [Emphasis added]” This is why starting a puppy in an appropriately designed class is so important while the puppy is 8 to 16 weeks of age. It’s also why regular “fun” trips to the vet’s office, the groomer, the kennel and other places are recommended during this period. However, you need to plan these trips to make sure that they will be a good experience for your pet. Working with your trainer on this process can be very helpful.
  • Puppies should not be separated from their littermates and dam until at least 8 wk of age. Puppies separated at 30–40 days versus 56 days experienced a greater incidence of problems related to the early separation, such as excessive barking, fearfulness on walks, reactivity to noises, toy or food possessiveness, attention-seeking behavior, and destructive behavior as adults.” This is the law in Maine, but too often it’s not followed. If you’re getting a puppy from a shelter, breeder or rescue organization, do not take it home until it is 8 weeks of age. If they offer to let you have it sooner, report them to the Animal Welfare program and get your puppy elsewhere. If you want the best possible puppy, don’t start with one that is already at a behavioral disadvantage.
  • “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs may become apparent early. Clients may not understand that some undesirable behaviors are normal (e.g., young puppies cannot last 8–10 hr without urinating). Clients may not understand the difference between a behavior that is undesirable but possibly normal and responsive to training (e.g., grabbing someone during play) and abnormal behavior that requires professional care (e.g., becoming aggressive if not permitted to play after grabbing). [Emphasis added]” People have so many incorrect and damaging beliefs about dog behavior based on myths that have been recycled over and over again for the past 70+ years. This is why working with a veterinarian and trainer who participates in regular continuing education is essential.
  • Qualified trainers can be valuable partners on a veterinary behavior management team… Trainers should have obtained certification from a reliable organization that has, as its foundation, the sole use of positive methods. Certification for trainers should require annual continuing education, liability insurance, and testable knowledgeable in behavior and learning theory trainers. Unfortunately, credentials don’t guarantee the use of humane methods or honest marketing.” When looking for a trainer don’t choose one strictly on price or how close they are to where you live. Check out their credentials as recommended by the AAHA guidelines and make sure that they are certified by either the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and that they are continuing their education
  • It is essential that clients ask trainers about specific tools and techniques used. If the tools or techniques include prong collars, shock collars, or leash/collar jerks/yanks, or if the trainer explains behavior in terms of ‘dominance’’ or throws anything at a dog, advise clients to switch trainers. [Emphasis added].”  The techniques and tools used to train a pet and to change behavior do matter and some should never be used. Do not assume that just because a trainer is certified that they will not use these tools. You need to ask.
  • This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Non aversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. [Emphasis added]”

Kudos to the AAHA and this Task Force for saying what many in the training community, both individuals and organizations, have been afraid to say for fear of offending a colleague who still insists on using pain, fear and coercion. The guidelines make it very clear that certain techniques, some still used all too often (prong (pinch) collars, shock collars, alpha rolls), some promoted by TV personalities like Cesar Milan, have absolutely no place in the training or altering of behavior of pets.

The only association of professional trainers in the USA to currently have a similar position to the AAHA guidelines is the Pet Professional Guild with their Guiding Principles (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles).  As a pet owner, that’s important for you to know when seeking a pet trainer.  Here at Green Acres we have not used, recommended or sold these techniques/tools since 1998. It’s time for the other large training and behavior organizations, as well as individual trainers and businesses to quit making excuses for using these harmful tools and techniques.

While there are many excellent recommendations in the guidelines that I agree with, I cannot completely agree with: “Under no circumstances should aggression or any condition involving a clinical diagnosis be referred to a trainer for primary treatment. Referral to a dog trainer is appropriate for normal but undesired behaviors (e.g., jumping on people), unruly behaviors (e.g., pulling on leash), and teaching basic manners.” While I agree that clients should ALWAYS see and discuss behavioral concerns with their veterinarian to rule out any medical causes, I believe suggesting that the client should not be referred to a qualified, certified dog trainer or dog behaviour consultant may be counter-productive. I’m not saying that all dog trainers that take behavioral cases are qualified to do so, but truth be told, many veterinarians are also not comfortable developing a behavior modification program and then teaching the client how to implement that program.

The guidelines suggest that aggression cases can be referred to a Board-certified veterinary behaviorist (diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists); however, according to the ACVB website there are only 66 such individuals worldwide. While such a specialist may be helpful they may not be an option for many people simply due to geography or cost, thus forcing a client to euthanize or relinquish their pet. Instead, I suggest that primary care veterinarians take the time to get to know the trainers and dog behavior consultants in their community so they can determine if they feel comfortable referring to those individuals. A good place to start is with members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org) and the Animal Behavior Society (http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/).

However, since these organizations do not have clear and definitive guidelines on the use of techniques the AAHA guidelines has defined as aversive, it is up to veterinarians and pet owners to make sure that the individual practitioner they select does comply with the AAHA guidelines.

There is much more in this ground-breaking document that has the potential to greatly improve the lives of the dogs and cat we love. However, it only has the potential to do that if veterinarians and other pet care professionals heed its advice and if pet owners take the time to familiarize themselves with what’s written in this document so that they can be an advocate for their pet. You can read the document in its entirety at: https://www.aaha.org/graphics/original/professional/resources/guidelines/2015_aaha_behavior_mgmt_guidelines.pdf

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

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

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

25JUL15-Dog Training w-Mark Hanks-Part-3 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.

 

This is part three of a four part series with Dr. Hanks as guest host.

In this episode 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.

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-07-25-Dog_Training_Questions_for_Don_and_Kate_w_guest_host_Dr_Mark_Hankspart-3.mp3

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – 10JAN15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 1– 12JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, 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/

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/woof-meow-show/the-woof-meow-show

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

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

18JUL15-Dog Training w-Mark Hanks-Part-2 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.

In this episode 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.

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-07-18-Dog_Training_Questions_for_Don_and_Kate_w_guest_host_Dr_Mark_Hankspart-2.mp3

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – 10JAN15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 1– 12JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/12/podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-1/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/woof-meow-show/the-woof-meow-show

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

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

A dog that growls is not a bad dog.

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

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

Dog growling over a stick
Dog growling over a stick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links

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

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

 

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

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

11JUL15-Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate w-Mark Hanks-Part-1 400x400Dr. Mark Hanks from Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic has been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, giving Kate and I several opportunities to “pick his brain” about a wide variety of topics. For quite some time he’s been asking to “host” the show and to turn the tables so to speak; interviewing Kate and I and asking us questions about animal behavior and training.

In the second of four shows in this series, 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.

You can listen to this episode of The Woof Meow Show at: http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2015-07-11-Dog_Training_Questions_for_Don_and_Kate_w_guest_host_Dr_Mark_Hankspart-1.mp3

You can download this episode of The Woof Meow Show at the Apple iTunes store, or you can download it at: http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/webpage

You can listen others episodes in this series at the links below.

Pet Behavior Counseling and Don and Kate – 10JAN15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/01/10/podcast-pet-behavior-counseling-and-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, 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/

Dog Training Questions for Don and Kate, part 3– 26JUL15 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/27/blog-post-27jul15-podcast-dog-training-questions-for-don-and-kate-with-special-guest-host-dr-mark-hanks-part-3/

For more information on the Woof Meow Show go to: www.woofmeowshow.com

 

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