In August, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a position statement on humane dog training. I encourage all veterinarians, dog trainers and behavior consultants, other pet care professionals, animal shelters and rescues, breeders, and pet parents to familiarize themselves with the position statement and the cited studies. This is information they MUST be familiar with to practice ethically. The position statement refutes many myths about dogs, their behavior, and training, such as dominance, pack hierarchy, and the need to be “alpha.” AVSAB concludes its statement with the following:
“Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems. Aversive training methods have a damaging effect on both animal welfare and the human-animal bond. There is no evidence that aversive methods are more effective than reward-based methods in any context. AVSAB therefore advises that aversive methods should not be used in animal training or for the treatment of behavior disorders.” [emphasis added]
AVSAB joins the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which have similar position statements. FMI – https://bit.ly/Pos_HumaneTraining
One of the critical reasons for this position is that aversive methods and tools negatively affect animal welfare. They cause distress which is inhumane.
“In observational studies, dogs trained with aversive methods or tools showed stress-related behaviors during training, including tense body, lower body posture, lip licking, tail lowering, lifting front leg, panting, yawning, and yelping.” 4–8
In contrast, “Dogs trained with reward-based methods showed increased attentiveness to their owner.” 5
As a pet parent, minimal or no stress and increased attentiveness are precisely what I want in my dog. As a professional dog trainer, I know it is what my clients desire as well. Having a relationship with your dog based on mutual trust is essential to successful training. Anyone who has been intentionally subjected to force, pain, or fear by someone knows those things will NEVER build trust.
Unfortunately, there are also long-term effects related to the use of aversives.
“Survey studies have shown an association between the use of aversive training methods and long-term behavior problems including aggressive behavior towards people and other dogs, and anxiety-related behaviors such as avoidance and excitability.” 8–15 Additionally, “Several studies show the effect of aversive training persists beyond the time of training. After dogs learned a cue taught using aversive training methods, they continued to show stress-related behaviors when the cue was presented, suggesting the cue itself had become aversive.” 5,7,8
In other words, the use of aversives can create a lifetime of chronic stress for a dog. Most of us consider our dog our companion, and many refer to their dog as their best friend. But, who wants a life of chronic stress and fear for their best friend? No one, I hope.
Dogs with behavior issues such as reactivity, aggression, anxiety, and hyperactivity are challenging to live with and often have chronic stress in their lives, often creating distress for their person. Since these undesirable behaviors result from an emotional response, they cannot be “trained” away without first building trust. As noted above, aversives NEVER build trust. FMI – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress
As a trainer, one of the first things I teach my clients is how to manage their dog and the environment to avert behaviors like aggression and anxiety. These behaviors are much easier to prevent than they are to fix after they develop. Incidentally, studies by Blackwell and Hiby10, 14 demonstrated that dogs trained using rewards are less likely to develop behavior problems than dogs trained with aversives.
Proponents of inhumane training techniques often argue that force is the only way to get results. However, that position is not supported by science. On the other hand, ample evidence in the peer-reviewed literature demonstrates that reward-based training works very well.
“Reward-based training methods have been shown to be more effective than aversive methods” .1,2,17
“Multiple survey studies have shown higher obedience in dogs trained with reward based methods.”9,14,18
A study by Hiby et al. (2004) “…found that obedience levels were highest for dogs trained exclusively with reward-based methods and lowest for dogs trained exclusively with aversive-based methods.” 14
The evidence from multiple studies is clear; if you want a well-trained dog, the best way to achieve that goal is with rewards, not punishment. I genuinely believe that no one with a dog wants to hurt their dog. If you or your trainer cannot get results without punishment, step back and recognize it’s time for you to learn a better way. Many trainers can help you get the results you want without resorting to aversives.
When looking for a trainer, AVSAB recommends:
“An appropriate trainer should avoid any use of training tools that involve pain (choke chains, prong collars, or electronic shock collars), intimidation (squirt bottles, shaker noise cans, compressed air cans, shouting, staring, or forceful manipulation such as “alpha rolls” or “dominance downs”), physical correction techniques (leash jerking, physical force), or flooding (“exposure”). The learner must always feel safe and have the ability to “opt out” of training sessions. All efforts should be made to communicate effectively and respectfully with the learner.”
I sincerely hope that all veterinarians, pet care professionals, pet training and behavior associations, breeders, and animal shelter and rescues will develop their own positions statements and policies that support the AAHA, AVSAB, and PPG positions. It is long past time for people to continue abusing dogs in the name of training.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
January marks the anniversaries of two of the dogs that have been part of my life. They have both passed, but there is not a day I do not think about them or acknowledge how they helped me to become a better dog trainer and a better person.
Trivia – I had wanted a dog since I was five years old. My parents finally succumbed when I was 17. I found a puppy at a pet store that was described as “A Poodle/Keeshond mix, and they never found the father.” I didn’t care about the breed; I just wanted a dog. Trivia had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with her, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.
Why my parents let me get a dog at this point in our lives, I will never know. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we had lost my older sister to a brain tumor just days before Christmas. Looking back, their decision makes even less sense, as my dad was scheduled to retire in two months, and they planned on traveling. I was a junior in high school, active in many extracurricular activities, and had a girlfriend. You know what happened and who did most of the work of caring for Trivia the first few years of her life. My mom. Thank you, mom and dad, for your crazy decision to let me get a dog. It was clearly based on love with no logic involved.
In 1977 I knew nothing about training a dog or the benefits of training a dog, and no one suggested I train Trivia. I regret I did not know then what I know now as I believe I could have made Trivia’s life so much better. Trivia inspires me to help my clients and students do all they can for their furry companions. Thank you, Trivia; you were small but were in no way trivial. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/TriviaNOV74AUG89 ]
Gus (Laird Gustav MacMoose) – Gus was the first puppy Paula and I raised together. He was a Cairn Terrier, and despite our knowing better, we bought him at a pet shop. Most of my friends in the pet care professions believe that we learn the most from the dogs that are difficult. Paula and I remember Gus as the equivalent of a post-doctoral program.
Gus bit me on our first night in puppy class due to my ignorance and the class’s two instructors’ arrogance. That led to my interest in canine behavior and training. [ FMI – http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance ]
Gus was the epitome of a silent thief. He walked off with tools from people working in our home and stole food right out of our hands and those of some of our staff. He taught me that the management of a dog and his environment was as crucial as training.
Within the first few months of his life, Gus developed a chronic urinary tract infection, which caused crystals to form in his urine. His veterinarian felt it was due to nutrition but could offer little advice other than to suggest resources where we could teach ourselves more about his nutritional needs. That led to a lifelong interest in pet nutrition for Paula and me and a commitment to educating others. We eventually found the answer for Gus’ crystals in 1997.[ FMI – http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition ]
Thunderstorms were a significant event for Gus. One to two hours before the thunder and lightning started, he would become agitated. By the time the storm arrived, he was barking and lunging at the door to get outside so he could “kill it.” Most dogs that have issues with thunderstorms want to hide. Not Gus. The medications prescribed by his veterinarian were of no help, nor was the
desensitization CD played at very low levels on a world-class sound system. Gus knew the difference between a real storm and one on the stereo. The closest we came to a cure was moving from Wisconsin to Maine, where thunderstorms were not as frequent.
Gus started having seizures as he became older, which were diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Like everything else in his life, Gus lived large, even with seizures, each in the Grand Mal category. He was treated for many years with the medications in use at that time. Even then, he would still have a seizure about every ten days. Eventually, we could not increase the dose of his medication without harming his liver. Paula started investigating complementary therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture. Gus finally found his most significant relief from seizures through acupuncture, which, interestingly, also stooped his reactivity to thunderstorms. Both Paula and I credit Gus for opening our minds to complementary healing modalities that we now use with our pets and ourselves to supplement traditional medicine.
Gus was ultimately the catalyst that caused Paula and me to join the ranks of pet care professionals and to buy Green Acres Kennel Shop. He inspired our interest in behavior, training, nutrition, and complementary healthcare. While there were times, Gus frustrated us beyond belief; there was not a day he did not make us laugh. Thank you, Gus!
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
The Deferential Equation is an excellent article by my friend Diana Logan of Pet Connection Dog Training that appears in the November 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News. Diana addresses the importance of a puppy learning that not all dogs will appreciate or tolerate an exuberant puppy greeting. I had one of those puppies, my Golden, Tikken. As a puppy, Tik was miss congeniality++++, and her “in your face” overly-enthusiastic greetings towards other dogs were not always well received. I still remember the day she went charging towards my friend’s dog Rey, an older dog who was a card-carrying member of the “Go Away You Obnoxious Puppy” club. What happened next occurred in a couple of seconds. As Tikken was a puppy, she still did not have the training for me to intervene successfully. Tikken was running at full speed, and Rey started showing teeth and growling when Tik was about 10 feet away. Tik just kept charging, flipped on her back when she was about 2 feet from Rey. With her forward momentum slid Tik into Rey like a baseball player sliding into home base. Rey went tumbling and responded with several choice canine expletives, and thankfully, due to Rey’s restraint, no injuries occurred. This is a lesson puppies need to learn early on, before the end of their socialization period at 14 to 16 weeks of age.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from August 1st, 2020, Kate and Don share some of their experiences with their pets. Even with their knowledge and expertise, their pets are not always “perfect.” In this show, they discuss our pet’s interactions with wildlife and going back to work after being home with the pets almost continuously for several weeks.
Lastly, they discuss a new peer-reviewed study, (Efficacy of Dog Training With and Without Remote Electronic Collars vs. a Focus on Positive Reinforcement, Front. Vet. Sci., 22 July 2020-China Mills, Cooper) This study indicates that positive reinforcement training is more effective than training a dog with a shock collar. These finds are incredibly significant. Many shock collar proponents have long argued that shock is necessary for some behaviors, such as recall, and is more efficient at training than reward-based methods. Note, no research supports this conclusion by shock proponents. However, there is now evidence that suggests the exact opposite; an electric shock is not more efficient nor more reliable when teaching the recall.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts, at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.
Green Acres Kennel Shop
1653 Union Street
Bangor, ME 04401
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from May 30th, 2020, Don talks with Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Christine Calder about separation anxiety in dogs. Separation Anxiety is a panic disorder in dogs that cannot cope with being left alone. These dogs are not misbehaving to get revenge but are suffering.
During the show, we discuss separation anxiety and its symptoms, sharing experiences with mild and extreme cases. We discuss which dogs are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety and address other disorders that may have some of the same symptoms. We discuss treatment options and things one can do to prevent separation anxiety.
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts, at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from December 7th, 2019, Kate and Don discuss the benefits of training a dog and why it’s so important. They explain how your learning about canine behavior and how your dog communicates is an essential part of your ability to successfully and efficiently teach them things like sit, down, and coming when called. They also review training classes offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop in 2020 and stress the benefits of working with an accredited professional and always making sure that the learning process is fun for both you and your dog!
You can hear The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ , at Don’s blog http://bit.ly/Words-Woofs-Meows and the Apple iTunes store.
This is a companion piece to a Woof Meow Show podcast on the benefits of training your dog and working with a credentialed dog professional. It provides information on determining if you need a dog trainer or a behavior specialist, and what to look for when choosing any pet care professional.
Our pets do not come with a user manual, and their normal behavior can often be quite different from what we expect or desire. When we chose to live with another species, it is important to understand their normal behaviors as well as abnormal behaviors, if our relationship with them is going to be mutually beneficial.
In 2015, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, which state: “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The report explains that a major reason for behavioral problems is erroneous information about pets and what constitutes normal versus abnormal behavior and appropriate training methods. Misinformation often comes from family, friends, neighbors, rescues/shelters, and even pet care professionals such as veterinarians and trainers. The following resources will provide you with current, and accurate information based on science, so you can better understand your cat or dog, and have a more harmonious relationship with them
Canine Behavior, Dog Training, and Dog to Human Communications
Articles & Blog Posts
Pet Health and Wellness – Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being – A review of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines and the importance of attending to our pets emotional and behavioral well-being. – http://bit.ly/WWM_AAHA_Bhx
PODCAST – Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic – In this podcast from The Woof Meow Show Kate, Don and Dr. Dave Cloutier of the Veazie Veterinary Clinic discuss the American Animal Hospital Associations (AAHA) new guidelines on behavior management for dogs and cats. This groundbreaking document represents the first time that a major veterinary organization has addressed pet behavior. According to the guidelines, “More dogs and cats are affected by behavioral problems than any other condition, often resulting in euthanasia, relinquishment of the patient, or chronic suffering.” The guidelines outline how the continuing promulgation of erroneous information about pet behavior and the ongoing use of aversives to train and manage pets are major causes for behavior problems, and recommend that concepts like dominance and the use aversives are not scientifically sound and are, in fact, counter-productive and harmful to the pets in our care. Every pet care professional needs to be aware of the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – http://bit.ly/WfMw-AAHA-Guidelines-13MAR16
2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – You may read the entire document and references at this link, or download a copy as a PDF file. If your veterinarian is not familiar with this document, I recommend you share it with them. – http://bit.ly/AAHABhx2015
How to Choose a Dog Trainer – Don and Kate believe that finding a good dog trainer, even before you get your puppy or dog, is every bit as important as finding the best veterinarian for your pet. In this blog post and podcast, they suggest criteria you can use when looking for a dog trainer. – http://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer
Do I Need A Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist” – Don discusses how to determine what type of professional may best be able to help you with your canine challenges.– http://bit.ly/WWM-Trainer-Behaviorist
Reward-Based Training versus Aversives – This blog post discusses how dog training has changed from using aversives to being aversive-free. Dog training should be fun, and that means it is pain-free, force-free, and fear-free, a position supported by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Both the AAHA and the PPG have position statements that indicate that aversives must never be used in the training or management of a dog. – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Podcast) – While Don and Kate would never recommend using a shock collar on a dog for any reason, they recognize that not everyone who uses a shock collar on their dog does so understanding the harm it can cause. Sadly, often, the companies that sell and manufacture shock collars do not provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision. This podcast addresses the following questions; What is a shock collar?, How are shock collars used?, How does a shock collar change a dog’s behavior?, What makes the use of a shock collar inappropriate?, What do experts say about shock collars?, and what can people concerned about a dogs well-being do to help prevent dogs from getting shocked? We invite you to tune in and learn more about shock collars and their dangers. – http://bit.ly/ShockPodcast
The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars (Blog Post) – This article provides a detailed analysis of shock collars, how they are used, and why there is always a better choice for both training and management. References to the scientific literature supporting the conclusion of this article are listed. – http://bit.ly/ShockCollars
Dominance: Reality or Myth – Both a podcast and blog post, this article discusses the myth of dominance and explains why it is so detrimental to the human-dog bond. The blog post also cites the scientific articles referenced and provides links to those articles, where available. – http://bit.ly/Dominance-RealityorMyth
Introduction to Canine Communication – This blog post discusses canine body language and contains photographs illustrating common calming signals. – http://bit.ly/CanineComm
How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? Most behavioral issues with dogs are rooted in anxiety. It is essential for anyone working with dogs to have a thorough understanding of the signs of anxiety. This blog post list resources that will help you to understand better what a dog is trying to tell you.– http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear
Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms – The following articles were originally published in Downeast Dog News in January of 2018 through May 2018. These articles discuss how one can use the five freedoms to help ensure their dog has a long, fun-filled life. I examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of a dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life. Anyone that shares their life with a dog, as well as all pet care professionals, will benefit from understanding Brambell’s Five Freedoms. – http://bit.ly/Brambell-1thru5-PDF
Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness – This post from Don’s blog is a handout from his presentation Pet Behavior as an Essential Component to Holistic Wellness given on Saturday, October 29, 2016, as part of Green Acres Kennel Shop’s fundraiser for The Green Gem Holistic Healing Oasis. It discusses the importance of addressing behavior as well as the reason for behavior problems becoming a more common issue for pets. – http://bit.ly/PetBhxWellness
Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress – Stress is a major contributor to behavior problems. This post from Don’s blog looks at both good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), discusses their physiological effects on the body, and reviews what animals do when afraid. Common causes of stress are reviewed, along with how you can identify stress and reduce it. How stress can escalate and go from an acute event to a chronic condition is reviewed. Any dog exhibiting behavioral issues is under stress, as are most dogs in a shelter or rescue environment. That is not typically due to any fault of the shelter; it is just the nature of being homeless and uncertain. – http://bit.ly/Canine-Stress
Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – This post is was first published in Downeast Dog News as a three-part series in July, August, and September of 2017. It discusses the seven breed groups currently defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and examines behavioral traits in these groups and why they matter. – http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter
A Rescue Dogs Perspective – Written from the perspective of Don’s rescue dog Muppy, this article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News and on Don’s blog. It discusses training from Muppy’s point of view and why sometimes delaying starting a training class can be in a dog’s best interest. – http://bit.ly/Rescue-Muppy
Dangerous Dogs! – What Shelters, Rescues, Prospective Adopters, and Owners Need to Know – This article was originally published in Downeast
What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – Barks from the Guild July 2019– In this article from the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Don Hanson review the many peer-reviewed scientific studies that have reported that shock collars cause undue stress to dogs and often have a negative impact on their health and well-being. Hanson reviews the professional organizations and legal jurisdictions that believe shock collars should never be used. He then looks at these questions and what scientific research tells us; 1) Does the electric shock from a shock collar cause pain?, 2) Is training a dog with an aversive such as a shock collar more efficient than using positive reinforcement training and food?, 3) Is the use of aversives necessary to train behaviors such as snake avoidance?, and 4) Does using a shock collar save dogs’ lives? – http://bit.ly/ShockBARK-JUL2019
Podcast – What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training – In this podcast from July 27th, 2019, Don and Kate discuss the article What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training published in the July 2019 issue of Barks from the Guild. – http://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatShock-27JUL19
Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog
The following are a series of articles I have written where I acknowledge some of the mistakes I have made during my journey with dogs. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and I share this material with the hope that others can learn from my experience and save their pets from suffering from human error and ego.
Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2011, 2012 – Dr. John Bradshaw is an animal behaviorist and if you look at recent scientific papers on dog or cat behavior, you will often find Bradshaw listed as one of the authors. In Dog Sense, Bradshaw summarizes the latest research for dog lovers like you and me. Topics he covers include; how the dog evolved, the fallacy of the dominance construct, how the dog’s role in society is changing and how that has led to higher expectations for non-dog like behavior and how these changes might affect the dog’s future. He addresses breeding issues and how the dog fancy’s focus on appearance rather than temperament and health may threaten the existence of many breeds. He also talks about how dogs learn and how research has demonstrated the many advantages of positive reinforcement/reward-based training over the old training model based on force and intimidation.
Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog, Linda P. Case, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018 – If You Love Dogs or Work with Those Who Love Dogs, You Need to Read This Book! The science of canine behavior and dog training is continually evolving. As such, every year, I like to select a new book to recommend to my students, my staff, area veterinarians, and my colleagues that I feel will be the most beneficial to them and their dogs. For 2018 I have chosen Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog by Linda P. Case. Case’s book addresses several issues which anyone with a dog, or anyone working with a dog, needs to be aware of and must understand. These are dominance, dog breeds, the importance of puppy socialization, and the unnecessary use of aversives for the training of dogs. Her book is packed with the latest science on dogs and offers excellent advice on the best and most humane ways to train them. You can read my full review at http://bit.ly/BkRvw-Case-DogSmart
What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, Amy Sutherland, Random House, 2008 – While not a traditional dog training book, this is a book where you can not only learn a great deal about training your dog, but it can also help you have a more harmonious relationship with those around you. The author notes, “The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t,” the same thing we will tell you when teaching you how to train your dog. If your goal is to live in harmony with all the living things around you, read this book.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw, Basic Books, 2013 – I first read John Bradshaw’s two previous books on cats; The True Nature of the Cat and The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat back in 2003. Cats, and specifically cat behavior is still under-researched compared to dogs, but Cat Sense nicely sums up what we do know. Bradshaw also discusses how the cat and society are changing and suggests what that means for the cats’ future. Bradshaw has posed some important questions and concerns about neutering and breeding which merit further discussion and action.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006 – This book and its author, Turid Rugaas, have influenced my understanding of dogs more than any other book or seminar. While this book is few in pages, it is rich in information depicted in great photos. This gentle, kind, woman is incredibly knowledgeable about canine behavior and ethology. She has taught many how to live in harmony with our dogs by helping us to understand better what they are trying to tell us, and in turn, she has taught us a better way to express ourselves to our dogs.
Full of photographs illustrating each point, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals focuses on how dogs use specific body language to cutoff aggression and other perceived threats. Dogs use these calming signals to tell one another, and us, when they are feeling anxious and stressed and when their intentions are benign. If you have more than one dog, or if your dog frequently plays with others, or if you are a frequent visitor to the dog park, you need to be familiar with calming signals. This book will help you learn ‘dog language,’ for which you will be rewarded with a much better understanding of your pet and its behavior.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!, Niki Tudge, Doggone Safe, 2017. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! is written to be used as an interactive resource and uses cartoons and photographs to illustrate body language dogs use to signal when they are happy, afraid, and angry. By teaching children and adults how to read and respond to these signs, the book helps keep people and dogs safe. The world is full of children and dogs, and we must teach them how to interact safely. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! combined with a parent or teacher does just that.
For the Love of A Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2005, 2006 – This book explores the emotional connection we make with our furry, four-footed canine companions. She also discusses how revolutionary it is to view animals as having a vibrant emotional life. Kudos to McConnell for being one of the few scientists with the courage to admit what almost everyone has known all along; animals experience joy and fear and everything in between. We do not know what it is they are feeling, but it is obvious they have a rich emotional life; in some cases, very joyous and others quite sad.
After reading For the Love of A Dog, you will have a better understanding of the science behind emotions and why our dogs and we get along so well. McConnell has also included an excellent section on canine body language, one of my favorite subjects, and one that is not emphasized enough in classes for pet professionals and dog owners. If you take your dog to the dog park, you MUST know this stuff.
The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, by Patricia B. McConnell, is an information-packed, immensely readable book. In it, you will learn how to have an improved relationship with your dog through better communication. As a scientist who has studied both primate and canine communication systems, Dr. McConnell has a keen understanding of where the communication between humans and dogs often breaks down, creating frustration and stress for both species. For example, she explains how simple innate greeting patterns of both species can cause conflict. We know that when two people meet, the polite thing to do is to make direct eye contact and walk straight toward one another, smiling. However, as Dr. McConnell notes: “The oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head.” Direct eye contact and a direct approach are very confrontational to a dog.
Dr. McConnell also emphasizes how dogs communicate visually, while humans are a very verbal species. The picture she paints of the frustrated chimp, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and screeching repeatedly is only a slight exaggeration of the frustrated human, saying, “sit, sit, sit, ahh please sit” while displaying countless bits of body language. Primates, including humans, “…have a tendency to repeat notes when we’re excited, to use loud noises to impress others, and to thrash around whatever is in our paw if we’re frustrated. This behavior has no small effect on our interactions with dogs, who, in spite of some barks and growls, mostly communicate visually, get quiet rather than noisy to impress others, and are too busy standing on their paws to do much else with them.” With these fundamental differences, it’s amazing we can communicate with our dogs at all.
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001. I have been reading Pat Miller’s articles in the Whole Dog Journal for years and have loved everything she has written. She is a skilled and compassionate dog trainer who knows how to communicate with dog owners through her writing. This book is a superb “basic dog book” for anyone with a dog, and I highly recommend it.
Doggone Safe – Committed to education about safe human-canine interactions to prevent dog bites that can ultimately lead to serious and life-altering ramifications for both people and their pets. – https://www.doggonesafe.com/
I Speak Dog.org – Is an excellent resource for learning to understand your dog by better understanding how they communicate with other dogs as well as with you. You cannot effectively teach your dog if you do not speak their language. – http://www.ispeakdog.org/
Dogs do not come with written instructions, and whether you have an 8-week old puppy, a six-year-old rescue dog, or anything in between having a relationship with a professional and accredited dog training or behavior expert can be your greatest asset.
Dog trainers typically teach you how to train your dog to be a great companion. They will address house-training, bite inhibition, jumping, and socialization with puppies and skills like teaching sit, down, stay, come, heel, leave it, and attention. Dog training is not a licensed profession, so you need to do your research carefully before making a selection. You can learn more at these links
If you have a dog with anxiety, fear, or aggression issues, you may need more than an accredited, professional dog trainer. In, fact if you are experiencing any of these issues, you should start with a visit to your veterinarian as there are medical issues that could be contributing to your dog’s undesired behavior. Any medical issue causing pain or discomfort can contribute to aggression. Other medical problems that can affect behavior include endocrine and neurological disorders and even tick-borne diseases.
Aggressive behavior is often an emotional response (anger or fear), and training alone may not be helpful. For example, a dog who has been trained in a wide variety of scenarios may well be able to sit on a single visual or verbal cue, but when under stress they may not respond to the cues you give. For example, you may be able to recite Shakespeare or solve differential equations, but your ability to do so when stressed may make it doing those tasks very difficult. We need to recognize and accept that a reactive dog is stressed and uncomfortable.
If your veterinarian rules out a medical reason for your dog’s behavior, you will want to seek the assistance of a professional credentialed to work with behavior cases. There are three levels of professionals to consider.
At the top of the list is a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. This is a veterinarian that has completed additional training in behavior and is entitled to use the term “Veterinary Behaviorist’ and use the initials DACVB after their name. They will be experienced in training, behavior modification, and in the use of pharmaceuticals to aid in treating behavioral issues. As of the Fall of 2019, Maine has its first Veterinary Behaviorist in the state, Christine D. Calder DVM DACVB. [ FMI – Introducing Dr. Christine Calder, Maine’s 1st Veterinary Behaviorist – http://bit.ly/WMw-DrCalderVetBhx ]
Next on the list are individuals who are credentialed by the Animal Behavior Society. They usually have a doctorate or master’s degree in animal behavior and have passed an exam that then allows them to use the title Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB). You can find a list of these individuals at http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-directory.php. I am not aware of any currently practicing in Maine.
At the next tier are those like myself that are credentialed as Behavior Consultants. Although people occasionally refer to me as a behaviorist, I am not. The only people that should be using the title “behaviorist” are those that are credentialed by the Animal Behavior Society or the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. There are three independent accrediting bodies that credential people like myself doing behavioral work listed below.
Like dog training, behavior consulting is not a licensed profession, so please verify the credentials of whomever you select to help your dog. If they recommend the use of any type of aversive (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, spray bottle, dominance downs), anything meant to punish, look for someone else. Punishing your dog is only likely to make their aggression worse and more dangerous.
Lastly, you might want to review a past column of mine at the link below.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
To teach your dog to immediately orient towards you upon hearing you say their name once, and
for you to learn the importance of only using the dog’s name once, and
for your dog to learn that responding to their name will be rewarded.
Every time you repeat your dog’s name, or a cue for a behavior like “Sit,” your dog is learning what you are attempting to communicate is not relevant. They may even be learning that they are only to respond when you use the cue more than one time. They could also learn to tune you out. After all, how do we react to nagging?
You may practice this behavior for a set period, a couple of minutes, or do it randomly throughout the day or while you are watching TV at night. You will need to wait for the dog to become mildly distracted to practice this behavior. By mildly distracted, I mean the dog is not looking at you. Do not try this behavior if the dog is intently focused on something else like watching a squirrel through the window or chewing on a bully stick.
PREREQUISITE(S): You must have exposed the dog to the clicker so that they understand a “click” marks the desired behavior and will result in a food reward.
Have your clicker in your hand and treats readily available.
Read all of these instructions before practicing.
With you and your dog in the same room, wait for your dog to orient away from you. The instant they do so, say their name ONCE, wait and then click at the precise moment they look towards you (they do NOT need to make eye contact, sit, or approach you at this point), and then offer them a treat immediately in front of you.
Disengage with the dog and wait for them to orient away from you before repeating.
If you have someone else with you, they can be a mild distraction for the dog. If you live alone, wait until the dog disengages and then immediately repeat. If you wish to do this while you are watching TV, you might want to practice the behavior every time there is a commercial.
Practice the Name Game at least twice a day, ten repetitions each time. As your dog responds faster and more reliably, start to change variables one at a time. For example, if the dog is immediately looking at you upon hearing their name when you are standing in the kitchen, start to practice in a different room. Practice with you standing in the living room. Once the dog is responding with you standing in at least three places in your home, practice in each of those rooms with you sitting in a chair. You can then repeat teaching the behavior in those three rooms with you sitting on the floor. When your dog is reliably responding to their name when you say their name once, in every room of your home, it is time to start training outdoors in your yard. Recognize that this will be more difficult as the outside is much more distracting.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.