Podcast – Listener Questions No. 30

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Kate and  Don answer questions they have been asked by clients and listeners. In this show they answer the following:

  1. What is it like working with dogs and cats all day?
  2. What does one do when they work at a pet boarding facility?
  3. What do you like best about your job?
  4. What is the hardest part of your job?
  5. How do I transition my pet to a raw food diet?
  6. What is the benefit of rotating diets and can it be done with all dogs?
  7. My pet is not supposed to have a certain ingredient in their food, so how do I make sure that ingredient is not in anything they eat?
  8. What should I do when the pet food I feed is recalled? Do I need to change brands?
  9. I have a pet that is very aggressive to anyone other than family members. Can you safely board my pet?
  10. What should I consider when looking for a place to board my dog?
  11. My dog is urinating throughout my home even though I take him on walks and he frequently humps my leg, what do I do to make him stop?
  12. My 7-year-old dog was housetrained, but we recently moved into a new house across town, and now she urinates inside the house almost every single day. What do we need to do to get her housetrained again?

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Recommended Resources

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

Professional Development – Trends in Training – The Evolution of a Pet Care Professionalhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/04/19/professional-development-trends-in-training-the-evolution-of-a-pet-care-professional/

Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet?https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/09/11/pet-nutrition-should-i-feed-my-pet-a-raw-diet/

Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sensehttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2012/05/04/nutrition-why-rotating-diets-makes-sense/

Recalls – What Do I Need to Do If My Pet’s Food is Recalled?https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/03/10/recalls-what-do-i-need-to-do-if-my-pets-food-is-recalled/

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do?https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/03/help-my-dog-is-aggressive-reactive-fearful-anxious-etc-what-do-i-do/

Traveling – Do you take the dog along or leave him with someone?https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/11/traveling-do-you-take-the-dog-along-or-leave-him-with-someone/

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

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/02/yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-green-acres-kennel-shops-pet-friendly-philosophy-part-1/



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

Podcast – Introducing The Woof Meow Show with Kate Dutra and Don Hansonhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/02/07/podcast-introducing-the-woof-meow-show-with-kate-dutra-and-don-hanson/

Podcast – Pet Health and Wellness – Don and Kate’s Journey with Complementary Medicinehttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/08/29/podcast-pet-health-and-wellness-don-and-kates-journey-with-complementary-medicine/

Podcast – Pet Care Options When You Go Away: Pet Sitter, Neighbor, Boarding Facilityhttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/09/05/podcast-pet-care-options-when-you-go-away-pet-sitter-neighbor-boarding-facility/


©24MAR18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – Listener Questions No. 29

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Kate and Don answer questions from their audience. In their 29th Listener Question show they address;

  • How do I best prepare my medium-length fur cockapoo to go outside for her 15-20 minute potty breaks in really low temps & snow?
  • I was recently blessed with my first grandchild! My dogs are great with older children but have never been around a baby. What is the best way to introduce my two 10-year-old Dobermans to a newborn in the house?
  • I have a 5-year-old rescue that will chew fabric such as blankets, her bed, and even the carpet if not watched and is also terrified of lights such as the flash from a camera and noises such as from toy guns and thunder. How can we soothe her anxiety?
  • What should I consider when looking for a place to board my cat?
  • We have two new rescues that that are aggressive towards each other and me, can you evaluate them and determine if they will get along?
  • I have a new rescue dog. What is a good age to bring them to a training class?

< Click to Listen to Podcast >


Recommended Resources

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

Cold Weather and Holiday Tips for Pets http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/23/seasonal-issues-cold-weather-and-holiday-tips-for-pets/


Book Review – Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelarhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/01/10/book-review-living-with-kids-and-dogswithout-losing-your-mind-a-parents-guide-to-controlling-the-chaos-by-colleen-pelar/

Book Review – A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudgehttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/01/10/book-review-a-kids-comprehensive-guide-to-speaking-dog-by-niki-tudge/

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/01/17/how-can-i-tell-when-my-dog-is-anxious-or-fearful/

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/04/03/help-my-dog-is-aggressive-reactive-fearful-anxious-etc-what-do-i-do/


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

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/behavior-consulting-management-of-an-aggressive-fearful-or-reactive-dog/

What is Dog Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/02/05/what-is-dog-training/

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

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


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


Podcast – Cold Weather and Holiday Tips for Pets-2017 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/11/11/podcast-cold-weather-and-holiday-tips-for-pets-2017/

Podcast – Kids & Dogs with Colleen Pelar – part 1 – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2007-02-11-LivingwithKidsDogs-part-1.mp3

Podcast – Kids & Dogs with Colleen Pelar – part 2 – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2007-02-18-LivingwithKids-Dogs-part2.mp3

Podcast – Dogs and Babies with Jennifer Shryock from Family Paws Parent Education – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2013-08-17-Dogs_and_Babies_w-Jennifer_Shryock_.mp3

Podcast – Thoughts on a Kids & Dogs Seminar – http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow-2013-11-09-Kids_and_Pets-Thoughts_on_A_seminar_.mp3

Podcast – Pet Care Options When You Go Away: Pet Sitter, Neighbor, Boarding Facilityhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/09/05/podcast-pet-care-options-when-you-go-away-pet-sitter-neighbor-boarding-facility/

Podcast – The Importance of Training Your Dog and 2018 Classes at Green Acreshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/12/10/podcast-the-importance-of-training-your-dog-and-2018-classes-at-green-acres/

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


©27Jan18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Podcast – The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

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 companion article to this podcast can be found at http://bit.ly/ShockCollars

< Click to Listen to Podcast >


Recommended Resources

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

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collarshttp://bit.ly/ShockCollars

Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member?, If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge – http://bit.ly/BestFriendsAndShock

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

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

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

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

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/04/02/yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-green-acres-kennel-shops-pet-friendly-philosophy-part-1/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The PPG – Part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/05/02/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-the-ppg-part-2/


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

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

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


From the Green Acres Kennel Shop Web Site

Press Release – Green Acres Kennel Shop Joins the Shock-Free Coalition – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/images/stories/press-releases/2017/green%20acres%20kennel%20shop%20joins%20the%20shock-free%20coalition-25sep17.pdf

Maine Shock-Free Coalition –  http://bit.ly/Shock-FreeME

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Web Articles

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

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

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

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

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

 Handouts to Download

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (PDF)http://www.greenacreskennel.com/images/stories/pdf/ShockFreeCoalition/the%20unintended%20consequences%20of%20shock%20collars.pdf


Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats – Shock 1https://vimeo.com/231589923

©21OCT17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Shared Article – Is This Dog Dangerous? Shelters Struggle With Live-or-Die Tests

The New York Times published an article yesterday discussing the validity of the behavioral assessments being conducted by many shelters and rescues. The article brings up many legitimate concerns about the validity of the current tests and how they are performed. I am glad to see shelters reconsidering these tests but at the same time believe it would not be good to throw caution to the wind and to abandon any level of behavioral assessment. Shelters and rescues that place dogs with a known bite history are not helping dogs, their community or themselves.

Click to read the article – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/science/dogs-shelters-adoption-behavior-tests.html

Recommended Resources

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

Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Knowhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/06/07/dangerous-dogs-what-shelters-rescues-prospective-adopters-and-owners-need-to-know/

©1AUG17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
< Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Pet Behavior and Wellness – Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness

This post is a handout for my presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29th as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis.



What is behavior? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines behavior as:

  • the way a person or animal acts or behaves
  • anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation

In August of 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) addressed behavior-problems-are-a-major-issuethe issue of behavior problems in pets with the publication of the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This groundbreaking document reports that “Behavioral problems affect more dogs and cats than any other medical condition and are one of the most common causes of euthanasia, relinquishment, or abandonment of pets.” The report recommends that a behavioral wellness assessment should be part of every pet’s visit to the vet.

The task force that wrote the AAHA Guidelines also looked at the question “Why have behavior issues become the number one issue for our pets?” According to the AAHA guidelines, it is because of:

  • “Mistaken or misinformed beliefs…..” about canine behavior held by Breeders, Rescues and Shelters, Pet Care Professionals (Boarding Kennels and Daycares, Dog Trainers, Dog Walkers, Groomers, Pet Sitters, and Veterinarians), and Pet Owners
  • The Use of Aversive Training Techniques

While not cited in the guidelines, studies suggest only 5% of dog owners ever attend a dog training class, and I suspect that also plays a factor in the frequency of behavior problems. A well-designed dog training class will cover much more than just how to train the dog. Our classes at Green Acres discuss husbandry issues, health and wellness, ethology, animal learning, and normal and abnormal behaviors. As a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer, I work with clients on both training and behavioral issues. Most of the clients that I see for behavioral issues did not take any dog training classes and may not have spent any time training the dog. I see very few clients for behavioral matters when the dogs and their people have been through at least one training class taught by a professional.

knowledge-1The AAHA Guidelines suggest that the some of the “knowledge” we have about pet behavior may be more myth than fact while some of it is just plain erroneous. This antiquated mythology may be detrimental to our pet’s well-being and our relationship with our pet.

So, let’s look at where people acquire knowledge about their pets. When I ask people this question, typical responses include; books, the breeder, a dog trainer, a family member, a friend, the internet, the shelter or rescue, or my veterinarian.

Not typically mentioned in the list is the societal influence of what we have knowledge-2learned about pets, especially dogs, through the mass media. Many of us had our first exposure to dogs through characters like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Eddie, and Wishbone. We were probably exposed to these fictional dogs through TV shows, movies, books and sometimes all of the above. However, whether it was a book, movie, television show or comic book, it was a marvelous, heart-wrenching piece of fiction. Did it causes us to like dogs? Most likely it did, however, what these stories tell us about dog behavior is not real. As for cats, there is not as much “hero worship” in movies, books, and TV. When cats are portrayed in a movie, they are often the villain.

knowledge-3Personally, much of what I first learned about dogs was based on these two popular books written back in the 70’s. When we brought our Cairn Terrier puppy home, we purchased copies of How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete and Mother Knows Best by Carol Lea Benjamin. These were two of the most highly recommended books at the time, and both authors took the position that the dog is a descendant of a wolf and that we as its “parent” should teach it, or train it, just as a mother wolf would teach or train their offspring. Sadly, that often involved lots of intimidation, fear, and pain. Even sadder, these recommendations were not made based on any sound science. To this day I regret how following the recommendations in these books damaged the relationship between Gus and me. I cannot recommend these two books under any circumstances, expect as examples of what not to do.

I am pleased to say that there are now many books that I can recommend. They knowledge-4are based on sound science and respect for dogs. Five books that I believe belong in every dog aficionados library are: On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, Dog Sense by John Bradshaw, The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, For the Love of A Dog by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, and Dogs by Lorna Coppinger and Raymond Coppinger. My training colleagues will probably want to know why I have not included a training specific book in my recommendations. My answer is that basic training information will typically be provided by any professional trainer teaching private or group classes and I believe that pet parents/owners should take their dog to classes taught by professionals if they want the best for their dogs. However, for those that want a book on the topic, I recommend The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.

knowledge-5I have not forgotten cats. Unfortunately, cats have been studied much less than dogs and have typically been easier to acclimate into our lives. As a result, not as much as been written about them, especially their behavior. However, if you ask me to recommend a book on cats, the book I recommend will be Cat Sense by John Bradshaw.

knowledge-6Family members, friends and co-workers are often listed as a source of information about pets, often because they have had pets themselves. Some of these folks keep up with the latest information, but often they take the approach that is expressed in this slide; “I have had pets for over 40 years, and this is the way we have always done it!” implying there is no need to change. Since this person is often an authority figure in our eyes, we tend to follow their advice blindly. Recently I had a client tell me that their boss had suggested that they take a switch to their dog when the dog was whining. Even sadder is that I still occasionally have clients tell me that their breeder or even a member of their veterinary team has recommended hitting the dog with a newspaper for urinating in the house. It takes a long time for erroneous information and bad ideas to go away, so be a critical thinker when people suggest something and do not feel compelled to follow their advice.

knowledge-7Today, many people look to television, “Reality TV” in particular, for information. I am not sure why they make this choice, other than “it is easy” and that it is also allegedly entertaining. The fact that it appears under the auspices of National Geographic also frankly gives it an aura of credibility that is not deserved. As I address some of the specific harmful myths about dog behavior still being perpetuated, you will find that these are the things people are “learning” on this particular show.

Just to be fair, I am not a fan of most reality TV shows. They often present complex behavioral issues and then show them being “fixed” in a week’s time. I get it. People want an easy fix. Easy fixes are seldom reality with behavioral problems. When these same shows recommend things that the AAHA Guidelines specifically cite as the reason for behavior problems, I am going to advise you to turn them off.

Last on my list is the internet. In the last twenty years, the internet has become knowledge-8the first choice of information for many. Earlier in this article, I shared a definition from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I love this easy access to valuable information, but as the State Farm Insurance commercial illustrated in this slide has demonstrated so well is that not all information on the internet is reliable information. Just because it is on the internet does not mean that it is true. Just as the internet has made information more accessible, it has also made the dissemination of inaccurate information easier. Be a critical thinker.

I am now going to address some of the most egregious myths about both dog and cat behavior. This will not be a complete discussion of the topic but will be a start. For those of you that want to know more (Good for you!!) I will list recommended resources at the end of this article where you can do just that.

This idea that dogs are the same as wolves is the big lie on which many of these dogs-are-wolvesother myths have been based. The fact is the wolf, coyote, and the domestic dog did have a common ancestor 9,000 to 34,000 years ago. However, that ancestor has been extinct for centuries, and the wolf, coyote, and domestic dog have each evolved to fit a different ecological niche. While biologically they can interbreed, behaviorally they are very different.

dogs-are-not-wolvesWolves do everything they can to avoid humans, having an almost instinctual aversion to us. This is easy to understand since humans have been trying to exterminate wolves as a species for thousands of years. At the same time, most dogs are drawn to humans as long as we treat them kindly. This attraction has much to do with how the domestic dog evolved. The best theory on the domestication of the dog was developed by Lorna and Ray Coppinger and is discussed in their book Dogs. The domestic dogs came about around the same time that humans shed their hunter-gather ways and settled into villages and developed agriculture. Since we were no longer on the move, we could not just walk away from all of the refuse our wasteful species creates, so some early person invented the concept of the village dump. The least fearful wolves noted this development and started feasting at the dump as the humans slept. Why go out on a dangerous hunt where you might not find something or could get maimed or killed, when you could feast on the waste of humankind. Over thousands of years these wolves evolved into the domestic dog, basically domesticating themselves.  In fact, feral populations of dogs can still be found in many places throughout the world, often around the city dump.

Since many people erroneously believed that dogs are wolves, they also assumeddogs-are-pack-animals that dogs were pack animals. A wolf pack consists of a breeding pair of wolves and often multiple generations of offspring, working together as a family, to survive and to pass on their genes. Both parents, as well as older siblings, play a role in raising the young. For male domestic dogs, procreation is all about a one night stand. In feral groups of dogs, the male plays no role in raising the young and usually is not seen again. A group of dogs does not resemble the tight-knit relationship of a pack in any way.

Dogs are social animals, and when they live ferally, they may form loose, dogs-are-not-pack-animalstemporary associations with a few other dogs. Two or more dogs may occasionally hang out together, but they do NOT live in close family groups like wolves. While many of us have multiple dogs living in our homes, they also do not have the tight-knit family connection and evolutionary drive to keep the family genes alive. That may be one of the reasons it is not always possible to get a group of dogs to live together peacefully. I have lived with a variety of multiple dog scenarios, and I can only recall two dogs that enjoyed one another’s company on a regular basis.

i-must-be-alphaAlso out of all this wolf nonsense came the doctrinaire belief that to keep order and to be able to train my dogs that one must be dominant, or that one must be the “Alpha.” Dominance is not only an erroneous understanding of the dog-human relationship, but it is also counterproductive to a harmonious relationship with our dog. Trying to be dominant may cause aggression.

The two books I mentioned previously, How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete and Mother Knows Best by Carol Lea Benjamin, bought into the Alpha concept big time. In my opinion, this is the myth that has done the greatest harm to dogs. The idea that we must be the Alpha is responsible for training methods and tools based on force, pain, intimidation, and fear. Which is why, in the AAHA guidelines, the American Animal Hospital Association specifically tells veterinarians to avoid recommending clients to trainers that use the dominance model of training.

Most people get a dog to be their companion. Why would we want to use fear, force, and pain to nurture a relationship with a friend?

If you want detailed information on the dominance myth, with references to the scientific literature, read http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/20/dog-behavior-dominance-reality-or-myth/

Directly associated with the idea that one must be dominant over a dog was the you-need-aversivespromotion of aversive tools and methods designed to compel and intimidate the dog. These tools included; squirt bottles, choke collars, prong collars, citronella collars, shock collars, the Monks of New Skete’s infamous alpha roll and others. Some trainers and books even went so far as to recommend beating a dog or even almost drowning a dog for digging.

aversives-have-no-placeThe 2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines opposes the use of aversives.

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.”

The fact is, dogs respond well to a kind and trustworthy leader skilled in the dogs-respond-well-to-leadershipscience of reward-based training. Even children, with adult supervision, can take part in training when food rewards are used.

For reasons known only to them, the Monks of New Skete stressed that a dog should work just to please us and not for food. The fact is, rewards work very well for training almost all species of animals. When it comes to dogs, food has more value as a reinforcer than either praise or touch, as confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior in July of 2012.

dogs-want-to-pleaseI hear students say it, I see it all over the internet, and I get why people might want to believe that dogs naturally want to please us. Unfortunately, it is just not true. Put your logical hats on and ask yourself this; “If dogs naturally want to please us, why are behavior problems the number one problem facing dogs and dog owners? Why do dog trainers and dog behavior consultants even exist? The fact is, dogs are like every other living thing on this planet, they do certain things because it benefits their existence.

Now I will agree that most dogs, not all, have an affinity for people. They enjoy dogs-have-an-affinity-for-peopleour company, seek us out, and have an uncanny ability to read us and behave accordingly. In fact, studies suggest that dogs read us better than wolves, the species closest to the dog, and chimpanzees, the species closest to humans. This ability to read humans probably has much to do with how dogs evolved, hanging around humans and observing our behaviors and signals that indicate when we are “safe” versus “dangerous.”

There are many other myths about canine behavior, but due to our limited time I have only covered some of them today. Subscribe to my blog http://www.words-woofs-meows.com and you will be notified when I post new articles.

so-what-about-catsSo what about cats? I think we would all agree that they do have behavioral issues. Like any animal, they can be afraid, angry, anxious and depressed. For whatever reasons people are more likely to live with a cat with behavioral issues than they are with a dog. Also, cats have been studied much less than dogs, so we do not know as much about them. However, there are some misconceptions about feline behavior that I would like to address today.

Many see the “domestic” cat as being independent to the point of being anti-cats-are-antisocialsocial. Compared to most dogs, cats are less gregarious, but there are some very good reasons for that behavior. Like puppies, kittens have a critical socialization period where they are more likely to be accepting of novel stimuli; however, this period is over before a kitten is eight weeks of age. Unless the breeder, humane society, or person with a box full of kittens has been actively and appropriately socializing those kittens, as adult cats they will most likely be fearful or at least suspicious of anything that they have not experienced before eight weeks of age.

We must also recognize that cats have been persecuted by humans for centuries, and I suspect we all have at least a few people in our lives who have stated: “I hate cats!”

cats-are-commensalistsLastly, although we consider the cat to be domesticated, animal scientists would suggest that is not the case. Feral colonies of cats are abundant throughout the world, and they survive well on their own. Cats are just not as dependent on us as dogs, which is why they are classified as commensalists; a species that derives benefits from living with another species but does not cause it harm.

Unlike their wild ancestor’s, cats are highly social with one another, and female cats-are-highly-socialcats that are related will often live in social groups and may even raise one another’s young. However, males are excluded from these groups as they would typically kill the kittens if given the opportunity. As a result, the males live in less affiliated social groups, away from the females.

cats-are-territorialCats are very territorial, both outdoors and indoors and with known and unknown cats. Litter box issues, the most common behavioral complaint with cats, can be caused by a cat guarding and denying access to the litterbox or a new outdoor cat moving into the neighborhood. Typical behavioral responses to territorial issues include; fighting, urine spraying, urine marking, fecal marking, scratching, and scent marking.

Most cats will live longer if they are kept indoors and not allowed to go outside; cats-are-not-better-off-indooorshowever, a cat who is not allowed to go outdoors is not necessarily living a better life than those who live indoors and out. The dog and cat are both predatory creatures, but the cat, because it is less domesticated, typically has stronger predatory instincts than most dogs. They still have a very instinctual need to hunt and if given the option, would be highly mobile, traveling as much as six miles per day.

Brambell’s five freedoms describe the basic needs we must meet to ensure an animals basic welfare, and one of those freedoms is the ability to express normal behaviors. Hunting, killing, and consuming small rodents is a normal behavior for a cat. When we deny that behavior, it may cause other behavioral issues.

bhx-driven-by-emotionBehavioral issues are usually driven by emotion. Whether your pet is displaying aggression, hyperactivity, fatigue, irritability, or a loss of interest in life, there will usually be an underlying emotion such as fear, anger, grief, frustration, or depression behind the behavior. Training, teaching a dog to sit or stay, does not typically change emotions and can, in fact, make a negative emotional response worse. For example, is your dog likely to feel better or worse if they are afraid of men in beards and you make your dog sit and stay next to you while you have a conversation with a bearded man? I suspect they will feel trapped and more fearful.

Now while you may believe that there is no reason for your dog to fear the bearded man, that DOES NOT MATTER! While your dog’s response may seem irrational to you, it is not irrational to them.

Some pet guardians insist that their pet MUST like all people. I understand why a pets-like-peopleperson may want that response, but is that a realistic expectation? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that we do not like and enjoy the company of every other human on the planet. Is it fair to ask that of our pets?

Equally problematic are the people who insist that they “love all animals” and that all animals love them. These folks then try to force their “love” on an animal and will not stop until you ask them to, and sometimes even then they continue. The fact is not all pets are going to like all people, and there is nothing we can do but to accept that.

What a wonderful world it would be if your dog liked all other dogs and all other dogs liked your dog. Moreover, it would be even better if all cats liked all cats, and dogs and cats all enjoyed one another’s company. While we are at it, let’s add mice and chickens to the dog and cat Kumbaya moment. Is this a realistic expectation? We all know that is not realistic.

pets-like-petsI have lived in a multi-pet household for over twenty years with a total of eight dogs and six cats. I had two dogs that, in my opinion, enjoyed one another’s company, two cats that had frequent positive social interactions, and I had a dog and a cat that had a “relationship.” However, in all those cases there were always times when the “friends” were not friends. In most cases, most of my pets had no interest in the other pets.

When we bring a pet into a home with existing pets, we cannot guarantee it will work out, and sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to rehome the newest pet. We introduced a new dog to our family that had to be rehomed because she was going to kill one of our other dogs.

I think it is great that people rescue pets; however, and each situation is different, I do believe that a home, and by “home” I mean more than the physical environment, has a maximum carrying capacity for pets. When you exceed that capacity, you start to see behavioral problems. My wife and I have intentionally downsized or furry family so that we can make sure each pet has the best life we can provide.

So, if you accept that your pet’s behavioral health is an essential component to seek-knowledgetheir overall health and wellness, what can you do? Since lack of knowledge or erroneous knowledge is a primary reason for behavioral issues with pets, continue to seek knowledge. Be open-minded and willing to let some of those old notions, like dominance, drift away. Be a critical thinker. Make sure what you are learning makes sense and feels right.

seek-help-earlyIf you have behavioral concerns with your pet, seek professional help early. The longer these problems continue, the longer they will take to resolve. The probability of satisfactorily changing a behavior also decreases the longer it occurs, as many of these undesirable behaviors are self-rewarding.

Many behavioral problems can be the result of medical issues.  Seek medical seek-vet-adviceadvice from trained veterinary professionals to rule out medical issues first. If there is an underlying medical issue, a behavior specialist may be of limited help. Discuss your pet’s behavior, good or bad, with your veterinarian at EVERY visit. Changes in behavior can be an early indicator of other health issues.

Make sure that your veterinary team meets or exceeds the standards set in the American Animal Hospital Association AAHA 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and that they will work with the behavioral professional you choose. Also, make sure that your veterinary team does not use or recommend aversives.

Avoid seeking veterinary advice from Google, breeders, family members, friends, or co-workers.

seek-bhx-adviceSeek advice from trained behavioral professionals not Google, breeders, family members, friends, or co-workers. Pet training and behavioral consulting is an unregulated profession, so you need to choose your caregiver wisely. I only refer to those credentialed by the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Also, make sure that your behavioral consultant meets or exceeds the standards set in the Position Statements of The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association AAHA 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines.

Make sure that your behavioral consultant will work with the veterinary professional you choose and does not use or recommend aversives.

Reject the use of ANY and ALL aversives and choose professionals that do so as well.

Aversives may stop behavior temporarily, but they do not resolve the underlying reject-aversivescause of the behavior nor do they teach the pet the behavior we want instead. Aversives impair learning and often cause the behavior to become worse. They can also damage the bond between you and your pet.

train-your-dogAs a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant I work with a wide variety of people and their dogs. They might seek out my advice on what to look for in a dog or enroll in one of our training classes to learn how to effectively and humanely train their dog in a fun manner. In some cases, they come to me because they need help with a dog with separation anxiety or aggression issues. In almost all of the latter cases, those dogs have had little or no training.

If you get a dog, invest the time in taking them to at least a Puppy Headstart and Basic Manners training class. You will not regret it.

Thank you for your time today. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at Green Acres Kennel Shop (207) 945-6841 or email me at donh@greenacreskennel.com



Recommended Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

The Four Essentials to A Great Dog  

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

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

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

The Dominance and Alpha Myth


Dog Behavior

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 Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011,

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 which resulted in the longstanding canine-human relationship.

Stress in Dogs, Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007, This book outlines the physiology of stress in dogs, signs of stress, and how to make your dog’s life less stressful. It emphasizes that more activity and involvement in dog sports is often not the answer to reducing stress in dogs but can be a major contributing factor. This book is a must read for anyone with an anxious or hyper dog.

The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005. An exciting book by an outstanding dog trainer and one of Don’s favorites. Donaldson makes a powerful case for thinking in terms of behavior modification rather than the older and more anthropomorphic dominance models of dog training. Includes an excellent section on operant conditioning. Winner of the Dog Writer Association of America’s “Best Behavior Book” award for 1997.

Dog Training – Basic

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 Dog Whisperer, Paul Owens with Norma Eckroate, Adams Media Corp., 2007. This book emphasizes a compassionate, nonviolent approach to dog training. It offers great advice on building a relationship with your dog and shows you how to teach your dog all of the basics they need to be a great companion.

Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999. A pioneering book using shaping to change behavior in animals – dogs, cats, even humans.

Cat Behavior & Training

Training Your Cat, Dr. Kersti Seksel, Hyland House Publishing, 1999. Written by an Australian veterinarian, this book is an excellent primer on cat behavior, care and training. While many people think cats cannot be trained, this book demonstrates exactly how easy training a cat can be.

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.

©26-Oct-16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy)

Shared Blog Post – Treat or euthanize? Helping owners make critical decisions regarding pets with behavior problems

In this article from dvm360, Dr. Lore I. Haug, DVM, MS, DACVB, a veterinary behaviorist discusses factors to consider when evaluating a pet with behavioral issues. While written for veterinary and animal behavior professionals, I believe it will also be helpful to people with pets with behavioral issues. You can read the entire article at http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/treat-or-euthanize-helping-owners-make-critical-decisions-regarding-pets-with-behavior-problems


©23SEP16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Behavior – Dog Bite Fatalities & Dog Bites – Parts 1, 2, and 3

<Updated 11JUN17>

< Part 1 of this article was published in the July 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News, and Part 2 was published in the August 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News, and Part 3 was published in the September 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

Dog Bite Fatalities & Dog Bites – Part 1

On Saturday, June 4th, deputies from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of a dog attack at a home in Corinna, ME. A seven-year-old boy died as a result of the attack.

Don and Muppy-Fall 2015-1As of a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, the media often contacts me to comment on incidents where a serious dog bite occurs, and this one was no different. The following week I was interviewed on two radio stations and by reporters from the three major TV networks in Maine. Typical questions in this type of interview are; why do dogs bite or kill, is it because of the dogs breed, and how could this have been prevented?  Unfortunately, because of the way the news works, I felt my comments were far too brief for a topic of this complexity. Without adequate information, I do not see the dog bite situation changing, so I arranged to interview a national expert on dog bites on The Woof Meow Show and to also to discuss this issue here in a series of articles.

How “serious” of a problem are dog bite fatalities?

Janis Bradley is a professional dog trainer, author and the Director of Communications & Publications for the National Canine Research Council. Her first book, Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous was written as a result of an especially horrific dog attack and fatality that occurred in San Francisco in 2001. At the time, Bradley was working at the San Francisco ASPCA, teaching professional dog trainers and working with what would be considered ‘high-risk” dogs, yet she nor none of her colleagues had experienced a serious dog bite. Yet, both the local and the national media were giving extensive airtime to this incident using phrases like “dog bite epidemic.” As a result, Bradley started researching the academic literature on dog bites because she wanted to understand the seriousness of this issue. What she learned was that there was not much reliable research on dog bites. Thankfully, due to Bradley’s efforts, we have a better understanding of dog bites and fatalities today.

Dog bites resulting in fatalities to humans in the US are thankfully very rare. Over the last decade, there were about 30 human deaths per year due to dog bites.   That is about one person per 11 million people. While this is an extremely tragic event for all those in some way connected to the victim and the dog, statistics indicate that you are far more likely to be killed by other causes. For example:

  • You are1000 times more likely to be killed in a car accident or an accidental fall.
  • You are 500 times more likely to be murdered by another human.
  • You are 1.5 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike.

The Center for Disease Control has stopped tracking dog bite related fatalities because they are so rare and cannot make any useful conclusions from the data.

While death by a dog bite is tragic, such deaths are exceeding rare, and it is their rareness and often the horrific nature of the incident that attract a disproportionate amount of media attention. Add to that the response by people on social media, and it is understandable how misinformation is created and circulates.

I want to thank the Penobscot County Sheriff’s office for their responsible release of information for this particular incident.

Next month I will address non-fatal dog bites and what we think we know and what we really know.

Dog Bite Fatalities & Dog Bites – Part 2

Last month I started a series on Dog Bite Fatalities and Dog Bites due to the death of a seven-year-old boy on Saturday, June 4th. My July column dealt specifically with fatalities from dog bites and the fact that while they are tragic, they are also quite rare. You are 1000 times more likely to be killed in a car accident or an accidental fall than to die as the result of a dog bite.

There are some common factors in dog bite fatalities. A study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in December of 2013 identified several controllable factors that played a part in dog bite fatalities. Four or more of these factors were present in at least 80.5% of the dog bite fatalities examined.

No able-bodied person was present to intervene to attempt to stop the attack. In 87.1% of the cases reviewed, it is quite possible that an attack could have been prevented or interrupted if another person were present. This is why all interactions between a child and a dog should ALWAYS be closely monitored and supervised by a responsible adult. The same applies to an adult who may not have the physical or mental capacity to interact with the dog.

The victim had no relationship with the dog. In 85.2% of the incidents, the victim did not have an established relationship with the dog for at least ninety days. They were not necessarily a total stranger, but they were not part of the immediate household or one who interacted in a positive manner with the dog on a regular basis.

The dog had not been spayed or neutered in 84.4% of the incidents. The decision to spay or neuter a dog has many variables, and it is not as clear cut as it was a few years ago. In some cases, people delay a spay/neuter due to medical reasons or the cost. However, the benefits of spaying and neutering from an animal welfare and a behavioral perspective are also well established. An individual who does not choose to spay/neuter should consider that their decision may increase their dog’s probability of biting.

The victim was physically unable to manage their interaction with the dog or defend themselves due to their age or physical condition (77.4%). – For purposes of the study, “Victims were deemed unable to interact appropriately with the dog if they were < 5 years of age or they had limited mental or physical capacity that increased their vulnerability (e.g., dementia, alcohol intoxication, impairment from drugs, or uncontrolled seizure disorders). As noted above, dogs must be supervised when they are left around those who may not be able to control the dog.

The dog was not a family pet, but lived on the property, often kept outside and often kept in isolation from people, resulting in little or no regular opportunities for positive interactions with people (76.2%). It does not surprise me that dogs that are considered to be part of the family, and thus have a closer bond with people are less likely to bite as opposed to a dog that is mostly consigned to an outdoor kennel or being tied-out on a rope or chain. The study described the latter as “residential dogs.” Those that keep a residential dog as opposed to a family dog, should make sure that said the residential dog is contained to limit any possibility of interactions that could result in a bite.

There was a documented history of inadequate management of the dog (37.5%). In this case, there was evidence that the owner of the dog had allowed the dog to be a danger to others in the past as indicated by previous bite incidents or allowing the dog to run at large.

The owner abused or neglected the dog (21.6%). Neglect by an owner included the dog not being given access to shelter, food, or water or having an untreated medical condition. Abuse constituted cases where the dog was used for fighting or where there was clear evidence of deliberate physical punishment or deprivation.

So what about the breed of dog? This same study reported that the breed of the dog which had killed could NOT be reliably identified in more than 80% of the cases. Sadly, when a dog bite fatality is reported, often the first question from the public and media is “What breed was the dog?” Far too often the dogs breed then becomes the focus of local authorities who then propose new laws centered on breed (Breed Specific Legislation [BSL]) when the dogs breed is not relevant. This paper discusses other studies that have demonstrated that breed-specific legislation has not been effective at reducing dog bites or dog bite fatalities. That is why “…major professional bodies (e.g., veterinary associations in the United States and Europe, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Control Association, and major humane organizations have not recommended single-factor solutions such as BSL.”

Clearly, reducing dog bites is the responsibility of all of us. Next month I will address some of the things that I believe we could all do that would help do just that.

1 Gary J. Patronek, Jeffrey J. Sacks, Karen M. Delise, Donald V. Cleary, and Amy R. Marder. Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, December 15, 2013, Vol. 243, No. 12 , Pages 1726-1736.  (doi: 10.2460/javma.243.12.1726)

Part 3

Even though statistically, dog bites are not a serious societal problem, a dog bite, no matter how superficial, is a traumatic event for the person bitten, the dog and the dog’s owner. We need to do everything we can to prevent dog bites and it is going to take all of us if we want to be successful. We also need to understand how dog bites are classified by canine professionals, the legal system, and insurance companies. You can learn more about canine bite levels by downloading this poster from Dr. Sophia Yin <Click Here>

Here are my thoughts on what we can do to decrease the incidents of dog bites. First of all, we need to accept some basic facts.

  • All dogs, irrespective of breed or how good they have always behaved in the past have the potential to bite.
  • Misinformed beliefs about canine behavior and the continued use of aversive training tools and philosophies (choke, prong, and shock collars and the dominance construct) are a major reason for behavior problems such as aggression and dog bites which often result in a dog’s death.1
  • Most dogs give ample warning before biting, and if people would learn these signs, many dog bites could be prevented.
  • Not all dogs will like all other dogs nor will they like every person just because that is what we want.
  • If you have a dog that is aggressive and has bitten or has almost bitten, seek out professional help from your veterinarian and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant immediately. The longer this behavior continues, the longer you delay, the lower the probability of changing the behavior. Biting is often an emotional response and training alone will not make your dog feel emotionally safe. There is no evidence to suggest that dogs will outgrow this behavior.
  • Not all dogs with behavioral issues can be rehabilitated.

Prospective Dog Owners – Do not get a dog on impulse nor should you get a dog without first meeting it in person. You will hopefully have your dog for many years, probably longer than you keep your automobile and perhaps the home where you live. You are making a lifetime commitment, so it is essential you choose wisely.

Do your research before you start looking for a dog, Seek advice from trained professionals such as veterinarians, dog behavior consultants, and dog trainers. These individuals typically have knowledge and experience with a wide variety of dog breeds and temperaments and can provide less biased information than someone trying to convince you to adopt/purchase a dog.

If you are unsure of your ability to evaluate a puppy/dog, consider hiring a qualified pet care professional to assist you.

When you do agree to adopt/purchase a dog, make sure you have the return policy in writing.

Breeders are often criticized, and shelters and rescues are often given a free pass; judge both critically. In the past several years we have had more clients complain about bad experiences with rescues than with breeders or pet stores.

For my information on finding the right dog or puppy <Click Here>

Puppy/Dog Owners – Attend and complete a pain-free, force-free and fear-free dog training class with your puppy/dog, taught by a dog training professional accredited by either The Pet Professional Accreditation Board, The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. In my experience, most of the dogs that I see for aggression and other serious behavioral issues have never attended a training class and were often not properly socialized during the critical period between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Taking a training class with your dog will further your understanding of their behavior and needs and will strengthen your bond. For information on what to look for in a reputable trainer – <Click Here>

If the training class you attend does not thoroughly discuss behavior, canine body language, and dogs and kids, seek that knowledge elsewhere. You can find many articles on my blog (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/),

Those Selling/Placing Puppies – Please make sure your puppies stay with their mother and siblings until they are 7 to 8 weeks of age. Puppies that do not have this opportunity to learn are often more likely to develop behavioral issues.

When you sell or place a puppy, make sure that you inform the new owners of the importance of properly socializing that puppy between 8 and 16 weeks of age. If you keep the puppy longer than eight weeks of age, make sure that you are properly socializing the puppy daily. Emphasize the importance of pain-free, force-free and fear-free training classes specifically structured for proper puppy socialization. For more information on puppy socialization <Click Here>

Shelters/Rescues – Rescue dogs, and I have had several, can be wonderful companions; however, they often have a rough start in life and thus have a higher probability of behavioral problems. Do your best to assess a dog’s behavior and to be completely and totally truthful about what you learn or suspect. Do not omit any information, even if you believe it will make the dog less adoptable. You are not doing your organization, or the dog, any favors when you adopt out a dog with a history of biting or aggression.

Thoroughly assess, in-person, any potential adopter. Please make sure an adopter is physically and mentally equipped to care for the dog. Be especially careful with adoptions to the elderly who may have been able to care for their 12-year-old sedentary Doberman, but will find a young, hyperactive Doberman with behavioral issues beyond their capabilities, despite their best intentions.

Understand that placements do not always work out. If a dog you have placed is threatening people in its new home or bites someone, be proactive in removing the dog immediately. Do not attempt to shame the family into keeping the dog by telling them that it will be euthanized or require that they keep the dog until you find a foster home.

All Pet Professionals (Veterinarians, Dog Behavior Consultants, Dog Trainers, Boarding Kennel & Daycare Operators, Groomers, Shelters & Rescues) – Read and make sure you understand the American Animal Hospital Association 2015 AAHA Behavior Management Guidelines and adopt an official policy statement demonstrating your support of these standards. Ensure that you train all staff and volunteers on the basic premises of the guidelines as well as canine and feline behavior, canine, and feline body language, and the standard definition of bite levels. Commit to pain-free, force-free and fear-free pet care and make that philosophy a core part of your educational efforts in your community.

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


Thank you to colleagues Mychelle Blake, CDBC, Gail Fisher, CDBC, Tracy Haskell, CPDT-KA, and ,Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA for their input on this column.

Recommended Resources

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

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Familyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/16/adopting-a-pet-finding-the-right-dog-for-you-and-your-family/

How to Choose a Dog Trainer http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Puppy Socialization and Habituationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/27/dog-behavior-puppy-socialization-and-habituation/

Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellnesshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/10/28/pet-behavior-and-wellness-pet-behavior-as-an-essential-component-to-holistic-wellness/

Canine Body Language – How To Greet A Dog and What to Avoid – Dr. Sophia Yinhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/canine-body-language-how-to-greet-a-dog-and-what-to-avoid-dr-sophia-yin/

Dog Behavior – Introduction to Canine Communicationhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/16/dog-behavior-introduction-to-canine-communication/

Canine Behavior – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/07/18/canine-behavior-what-should-i-do-when-my-dog-growls/

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

Behavior Consulting – Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/04/behavior-consulting-management-of-an-aggressive-fearful-or-reactive-dog/


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

 Podcast – Dog Bites and Fatalities with Janis Bradleyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/06/24/podcast-dog-bites-and-fatalities-with-janis-bradley/


Web Sites

Was It Just a Little Bite or More? Evaluating Bite Levels in Dogs – https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/was-it-just-a-little-bite-or-more-evaluating-bite-levels-in-dogs/

Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale (Official Authorized Version) – http://www.dogtalk.com/BiteAssessmentScalesDunbarDTMRoss.pdf

Dr. Sophia Yin Canine Bite Levels Posterhttp://info.drsophiayin.com/download-the-bite-levels-poster

Dog Bite Preventionhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-bite-prevention


©11JUN17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>


Podcast – ENCORE: Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

<Click to listen to podcast>

2JUL16-ENCORE-AAHA Bhx Guidelines w Dave Cloutier 400x400Sometimes the topics we discuss on the show are so important we choose to run the show again. This is one of those shows. In this encore presentation of a show that aired on March 12th,  Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” Tune in and learn why behavior is so important and why a behavioral assessment should be part of every pet’s annual wellness exam.

Dr. Cloutier, Kate, and Don discuss reasons for an increase in behavior problems, and how these problems can best be addressed. Dr. Cloutier explains changes he and his colleagues have made to work towards free-free visits for their clients. We address serious behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and aggression as well as nuisance behaviors like jumping, barking, and counter surfing. We discuss how veterinarians and dog trainers can work together and why it is essential to focus on rewarding desired behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors. Lastly, we review the guidelines recommendations on refraining from using any training methods that use aversive techniques such as electronic shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, alpha-rollovers, and other things that work on the basis of fear, intimidation, force, discomfort or pain.

You can hear The Woof Meow Show on The Pulse AM620, WZON, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://www.wzonthepulse.com or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show, and can be downloaded at www.woofmeowshow.com and the Apple iTunes store.

<Click to listen to podcast>

Recommended Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

2015 Dog Training Classes at Green Acres Kennel Shop

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

The Four Essentials to A Great Dog  

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

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

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

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

Nicole Wilde – Can Every Dog Be Rehabilitated?

In this blog post, Canine Behavior Specialist Nicole Wilde discusses whether or not every dog that is rescued can be successfully rehabilitated. Her answer, and one that I agree with, is no.

Aggression cannot always be fixed. It can sometimes be managed, but management is not failsafe and has it’s own risks. It is important to also understand how much these dogs with severe behavioral issues may be suffering.

Sadly, some rescues and shelters seem to feel that every dog can be rehabilitated and as a result rehome dangerous dogs. And yes, I have seen this happen in Maine, often with out-of-state rescues. Never adopt a dog without seeing it first and never adopt a dog unless you have the rescue/shelters return policies in writing.

For Nicole’s blog post in its entirety go to – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicole-wilde/can-every-dog-be-rehabili_b_10052516.html