In Search of the “Perfect” Dog

< A version of this article was published in the FEB 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News >

This is part one of a three-part series published in the Downeast Dog News in February, March, and April of 2020

< Updated 01FEB20 >

< A short link for this page – http://bit.ly/SearchingForThePerfectDog >

What Can Affect Our Dogs Behavior?

I am often asked, “How do I get the perfect dog.” I always start by asking for clarification of how the person that asked the question defines “perfect.” Typical responses are; I want a dog that will: have good manners, NEVER bite, NEVER growl, like ALL people, like ALL dogs, like ALL of our current pets, will NEVER chase cars, will ALWAYS stay in an unfenced yard, will NEVER jump on people, will ALWAYS alert me when someone “sketchy” is in the yard but will NEVER bark at people I like, will NEVER kill a squirrel, will ALWAYS be safe around ALL kids, will ALWAYS come when called and will stay close to me but will not hang around me when I don’t want them to, and so on. At its most extreme, that sounds like “I want a dog that will do anything I want, whenever I want, and will do nothing and be content if I don’t want them to do anything.” That is not a realistic expectation and is failing to meet some of our dog’s most basic welfare requirements. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/Brambells-1-5 ]

I often wonder where people get their expectations of what constitutes a “perfect” dog. Unfortunately, not all but some of the people selling dogs, breeders, shelters/rescues, pet shops, set us up to think the dogs they want us to go home with is “perfect” because they know if we think otherwise, they may lose a sale. Selling a dog is not unlike most other things for sale. We typically want the best we can get. In some cases, those selling the dog even go so far as to use puppy temperament tests and shelter behavior assessments to convince us this is the right dog for us. Unfortunately, these tests may be misrepresented and presented to us as a predictor of future behavior. If we interpret that as a guarantee, they may or may not try to dissuade us from that impression. Temperament and shelter assessment tests are nothing more than a snapshot of a dog’s behavior in a specific scenario at a single moment in time. They are not predictive of nor are they a guarantee of future “perfect” behavior.

In some cases, our expectations of a “perfect” are the result of memories of dogs popularized through the mass media like Lassie or Air Bud. As endearing as those stories are, they are fictional accounts of dogs. Assumptions about certain breeds, usually based on an opinion that may not be supported by data, such as “Schnockelfensters are ALWAYS great with children!” can also bias our opinion inappropriately. I cannot tell you how many different individual dogs and breeds I have met over the past 25 years, but I do know I have seen extremes in behavior in all breeds.

If we look at the list of the characteristics many want in a “perfect” dog, most of those characteristics focus on a dog’s behavior, what it will or will not do.  I also want to point out that people often also use lots of absolutes with words like; ‘NEVER,’ ‘ALWAYS,’ and ‘ALL.’ The problem with using absolutes when discussing the behavior of a dog, or any animal, even human behavior, is that behavior can change and often does change and, like most of life, is seldom absolute. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/AnimalWelfare-Behavior ]

Many things can affect behavior. Genetics play a major role in future behavior. If either parent had certain genetic traits such as shyness, the puppies will probably also be shy.

We have many different breeds of dogs because they were selectively bred for certain traits. Dogs come preprogrammed with certain species-specific behavior motor patterns based on what they were bred to do. The dog is a predator, and as such has a motor pattern sequence to ORIENT > EYE > STALK > CHASE > GRAB-BITE > KILL-BITE > DISSECT > CONSUME prey.  That does not mean every dog will be an efficient predator, but they may still have a strong instinct to go through all or part of this sequence. This pattern of behaviors is what makes retrievers retrieve and what allows herding breeds to move livestock successfully. Unfortunately, a working herding dog with strong instincts to stalk, chase, and grab-bite is probably not a desirable trait for a dog that will be living with children. Something we need to consider when searching for the “perfect” dog for our family today and what it will look like throughout the dog’s expected life. A herding breed may be a perfect companion for a young couple that likes to hike, but may not be the best choice if two years later they have twin infants. [ FMI –  http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter ]

What happens during a puppy’s critical developmental period from birth to 16 weeks of age also has a great influence on behavior. If a puppy is a singleton, that puppy not have an opportunity to experience social interactions with littermates unless it is placed in another litter where it can gain the social skills it will need to interact with other dogs successfully. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy ]

Next month I will discuss other factors that can influence our dog’s behavior.

Recommended Resources

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

Brambell’s Five Freedoms – Helping Your Dog Thrivehttp://bit.ly/Brambells-1-5

Understanding Behavior; Why It Matters – http://bit.ly/AnimalWelfare-Behavior

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Parts 1, 2 & 3http://bit.ly/DoesDogBreedMatter

Puppy Socialization and Habituationhttp://bit.ly/SocializationPuppy

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Familyhttp://bit.ly/FindingTheRightDogForYou

Adopting A Pet – We’re Getting A New Puppy (or Dog)!http://bit.ly/GettingNewPuppyDog

________________________________________________________________________
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.

©01FEB20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Remedial Socialization – Bring the Junkyard Home

OBJECTIVE: To help a neo-phobic dog habituate to novel objects in their environment.

Dog/handler teams are appropriate for this exercise when:

  • The dog is well bonded with and trusting of the handler.
  • The handler is very sure that this exercise will work. If there is any doubt, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) that is experienced in working with fearful and reactive dogs before proceeding.

The handler will need:

  • To read the recommended resources at the end of this document.
  • A hungry dog with a properly fitting harness or collar, one that they cannot remove or slip off. Shock, choke, or prong collars should NEVER be used.
  • A standard, 6-foot leash.
  • High value treats such as freeze-dried liver, meat, or cheese.
  • A yard and/or room large enough that the dog has space to feel secure in the presence of a novel object.
  • A variety of novel objects that they can place in their home or yard.

When to Start:

  • During a quiet time when your dog is not overly stimulated or excited.
  • Enter the room/yard so that the dog is as far away from the novel object as possible.
  • As the dog notices the object, give treats to the dog as long as they are not fearful or reactive.
  • The goal is for the dog to see something in the distance and anticipate a yummy treat.
  • Graduate to walking around the object.
  • With success move closer to the object in future sessions.

Training Sessions:

  • Are short and very fun – quit before the dog is sated, typically within five minutes.
  • Happen frequently and are repeated in the same location until successful (don’t introduce a second object or a new location until you can be with the dog, giving treats, within 10 feet of the object without your dog becoming fearful or reactive.
  • Are at the beginning level of difficulty until the dog sees something new and promptly looks toward its handler for the yummy treat.
  • Are only gradually increased in difficulty as the dog is successful.

The goal is to be able to:

  • Sit in a room/yard with different types of novel objects without your dog becoming anxious or reactive.

 

Recommended Resources

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

 

Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – WWM – APR2017 – http://bit.ly/HelpDogAggx

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful? – http://bit.ly/DogsSignsofFear

Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://bit.ly/BhxManagement

Remedial Socialization – People – The Watch the World Game – http://bit.ly/RemedialSocializationPeople

Reward Based Training versus Aversiveshttp://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

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

What Is A Pet Behavior Consultant? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting

What Should I Do When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?http://bit.ly/StealGuardGrowlSnap

What Should I Do When My Dog Growls?http://bit.ly/DogGrowls

 

©11SEP18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Dog Training – Reward Based Training versus Aversives

 

< Updated 5FEB19 >

< A short link to this page – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive >

Dog training has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. While the use of aversive techniques such as choke and prong collar corrections, shock collars, alpha wolf rollovers, dominance downs, and other methods based on positive punishment and negative reinforcement were the predominant form of dog training many years ago, these methods are now considered to be both unnecessary but also counter-productive and detrimental. Many consider them to be inhumane. Dog training should be fun and that means it is pain-free, force-free, and fear-free. Dog training should be fun for both you and your dog.

Aversives and the use of force cause fear and pain, which can be physical or emotional in nature. That in turn, impairs our dog’s ability to learn, damages the bond and trust between our dog and us, and has been found to cause behavioral problems such as aggression, anxiety, and extreme stress.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) recommend that aversives NEVER be used.

In their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines the AAHA said this about 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.” [Emphasis added]

FMI – AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttps://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/behavior_management_guidelines.aspx

For more on this topic, and for links to the actual position statements and references, check out the Recommended Resources section below.

Recommended Resources

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

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

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/

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/

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/

Pet Behavior and Wellness – 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/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet-Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1http://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/

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – A Veterinary Perspective – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/30/selecting-a-pet-care-provider-yes-a-trend-towards-kinder-and-gentler-professional-pet-care-a-veterinary-perspective-part-3/

Shared Blog Post – The Double Advantage of Reward-Based Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/08/05/shared-blog-post-the-double-advantage-of-reward-based-training/

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

<Click on the title to listen to the show>

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet-Friendly” Philosophy

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – The Pet Professional Guild and Force-Free Pet Care with Niki Tudge

Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Fear-Free Veterinary Visits with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

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

Other Articles and Blogs

Choke Collar Pathology – an excellent blog post from dog trainer Daniel Antolec on the dangers of using a choke collar on a dog. – http://ppgworldservices.com/2017/06/13/choke-collar-pathology/

Web Sites

Position Statements on Animal Behavior, Training, and Care

2015 American Animal Hospital Association Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelineshttps://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/behavior_management_guidelines.aspx

The Guiding Principles of the Pet Professional Guildhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Deviceshttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Equipment-Used-for-the-Management-Training-and-Care-of-Pets

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Choke and Prong Collarshttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/chokeandprongcollarpositionstatement/

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock In Animal Traininghttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/shockcollars/

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Traininghttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/DominanceTheoryPositionStatement/

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on Puppy Socializationhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/PuppySocializationPositionStatement/

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals – https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on Puppy Socialization https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Puppy_Socialization_Position_Statement_Download_-_10-3-14.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on Positive Veterinary Carehttps://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Positive-Veterinary-Care-Position-Statement-download.pdf

 

Professional Pet Care Associations

The Pet Professional Guildhttp://www.petprofessionalguild.com/

The Pet Professional Accreditation Boardhttp://www.credentialingboard.com/

 

©5FEB19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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