Monday, August 07, 2023

Should You Spay Or Neuter Your Dog?

The effects of spaying and neutering dogs are variable. But are the outcomes acceptable from a health, behavior and welfare standpoint? What does the current research say? Earlier studies were used to justify surgical interventions, but those studies had methodological shortcomings and inadequate sample sizes. Politics have also confounded the public’s understanding since there has been a long standing dispute with the animal rights community over private ownership of domesticated animals of any type, and thus we have been told fantastical stories to justify the potential elimination of pets and livestock. Many studies have been hampered by very small sample sizes, and are often the results of surveys which can lack objectivity. The latest studies have been better constructed to help guide owners and veterinarians. Let’s take a glance at the current thinking. 

You’re Turning Your Dog Into A Robot

Years ago, I was working with a new student. A few days prior, we had completed a first lesson with her puppy. We were using treats and using luring to establish beginning word associations for Sit, Down, Come and Heel. Pretty standard stuff. She was at a quiet park, as I recommended, doing her homework. Along came some woman in a car who pulled over, went over to my student, and made a big scene, saying “You’re turning your dog into a robot!” My student contacted me afterwards quite upset and almost in tears. I had to reassure her she wasn’t doing anything wrong, and this busybody was out of line and goofy. Over time, we finished the training of her dog, and everything turned out well.

Purely Positive Dog Training?

What is my main complaint about PP (Purely Positive dog) training theory? Of all the famous trainers I have followed, they don’t truly have trained dogs. They are just tolerating, managing, or blocking undesired behaviors. That means they can’t train your dogs to live in their Promised Land: your dog will not be under verbal control, off leash, at a distance, around strong distractions. Would you consider a finished dog out of their program (and everyone has a different label for it: basic, intermediate, advanced, titled, certified) to have the essential abilities? 

What’s The Truth About Using Aversive Methods In Dog Training?

No normal person wants to harm a dog. Let’s get that out of the way up front. This article is not about how to harm any dog. If you are someone who would take your anger out on a dog, or get pleasure from harming a dog, then you should stay about a million miles away from any dog. The question we are going to examine: is there a role for making a dog uncomfortable, stressed or afraid in training? Scientists have determined there are fear systems in the brain. When those systems are stimulated, animals and people display behaviors that are associated with fear. Fear has a necessary survival function. Without fear, animals would not survive. One of my promises to all my students is that whatever I do will be done intelligently. So, let’s use our intelligence here and not succumb to maudlin tales of woe from those in the dog community who don’t know what they are saying or are being dishonest about what they do themselves. I’m not here to give you permission to start yelling and abusing your dog. If you do that, it’s on you. That isn’t good dog ownership or good dog training. This article is about straightening out concepts, so we do what is right

What Is Owner Absent Misbehavior?

Some dogs soil the home when the owner is gone, destroy things when you are not around, bark or howl, dig, or cause trouble for other members or pets in the family. This is “Owner Absent Misbehavior”.

How Is Your Relationship With Your Dog?

If your dog Comes happily, allows grooming, accepts a leash and collar, likes playing with you, likes being petted by you, listens to your commands, can be left home alone without distress or destruction, and doesn’t have to be left in the yard while you are gone, then you have a good relationship with your dog. How does your dog stack up?

Rescues, Shelters And Breeders Need To Focus On The Puppies

What would make the biggest impact on reducing the number of dogs in animal shelters, and consequently, the number of dogs put to death every year? Rescues, shelters and breeders need to start focusing on puppy socialization and training. Get the puppies right and you are much less likely to get them back. 

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Companion Dogs

My specialty is working with companion dogs. My students get dogs to be companions. They are treated well and treated as family members. Most people get dogs to be companions, however, that’s not how it works out for many dogs.

Pavlov Wasn’t A Dog Trainer:

Have you ever engaged in a dog training conversation when someone said, “well, the science says”? I’ve seen a lot of that stuff over the years. I confess, I have said stuff like this, as well. However, when discussing dog training methods, we first must ask what is the quality of the evidence?

What Does Your Presence Predict To Your Dog?

How’s your relationship with your dog? For most people, the relationship with their dog needs improvement.

Sadness And Depression From The Loss Or Death Of A Dog

The mourning from losing a pet, whether through abandonment, escape, rehoming, or death is usually difficult and painful. It is also concerning when the mourning results in pathological defensive coping responses, especially when it involves children.

Why Socialize Dogs?

What is the purpose of socializing dogs? Why is it important for a puppy to meet many friendly strangers, other friendly dogs, go in a wide variety of places and be exposed to a wide variety of environmental stimuli?

Healing Dog And Human Relationships

Living organisms have built-in mechanisms to repair damages and restore health. Healing is usually referred to as a biological process that results in recovery from a disease or other injury. Healing also refers to other biological processes that result in recovery from psychological injury. When dogs or humans are physically injured, we usually assist the body to make repairs over time. When dogs or humans are psychologically injured, we should also assist the body’s psychological mechanisms to make psychological repairs over time. When either of these processes go awry insufficient healing can cause chronic disturbances. In this article, we are going to focus on psychological health and healing regarding relationships with and between dogs. 

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Why Are Private Dog Training Lessons Best?

Dog training programs typically fall into one of the following categories: group classes; board and train; and private lessons. There are two significant obstacles which prevent making significant changes in a dog’s behavior, and these are best overcome through a private lesson program.

Separation Anxiety And Destructive Behavior In Dogs

Dogs are often destructive chewers when suffering from Separation Anxiety. Owners, and many dog trainers, tend to use a variety of punishments to attempt to stop the chewing. But these punishments never work. That’s because they misunderstand what is going on.

Rotten Wood Cannot Be Carved

 I love ancient proverbs, and it is good idea to know many. They can give us answers at just the right moment. One excellent proverb is: “Rotten wood cannot be carved.” There are others I have found useful, too. What does that mean in the dog training world?

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Environmental Enrichment For Dogs

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? — “Maria” lyrics from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music.

Dogs are inspiring moonbeams, with special qualities and needs that require special answers. Dogs are not problems, we are the problem. Let's talk about Environmental Enrichment For Dogs... 

Monday, June 26, 2023

A New Consideration Why Dogs Bite Kids

It is well established that young children are at the greatest risk of serious injury from being bitten by a dog. It is also well established that young children, when deprived of their mother’s care, can experience significant disturbed emotional responses from protest, to despair, to detachment, and sometimes aggression. 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Are You Being Kind To Your Dog?

Every dog training era has ended up this way: dog training is abnormally mechanical and formulaic as a result of new fads that are now considered “the way”. It’s kind of like how a family makes the same recipes their parents and grandparents made, and even when some aspect of the recipe is found to be unhealthy, it’s hard to get everyone to change.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Dog Training Method Cookbooks

We are a long way from completely understanding how the brain works and how to fully explain, interpret and modify behavior. Yet, we have developed some good tools and insights, and it is worthwhile to invest time into the study of the latest avenues of scientific inquiry and how we got here. In the meantime, I suggest finding out how to read how your dog will help you throw away the dog training method cookbooks.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Severe Emotional Shock Created By Animal Shelters

I was recently asked what to say to dog owners who have adopted dogs which have experienced severe emotional shocks in an animal shelter. Here is my first response: emotional shocks, which may have been physical or psychological, cause lasting disturbances in behavior which can only now be fixed by your dedicated effort.

There is a wide chasm between what animal welfare people preach and what is happening. Go to any major animal welfare website, listen to their donors, and talk with their vocal supporters: they preach positive, fear free, 5-Freedoms care and training. Yet, the animal shelters they support deploy a wide range of accidental, purposeful and sometimes methodical aversive, shocks and insults directed at the dogs in their care. You don’t have to hit a dog to abuse it. Shame on the big donors who don’t see, or decide to look the other way, when their dollars are being used to damage thousands of dogs every year. I don’t care about your sponsored adoption events, spay/ neuter clinics, microchip and vaccination drives, self-congratulating postings on various social media, or sad TV public service announcements. Those in the trenches see it every day, but their requests for help from you are like shooting arrows at a brass sky. They don’t reach those who have the influence and resources to demand fundamental changes.

On the flip side, there is so much ignorance regarding what to do with traumatized dogs at home, in foster care, or in a boarding kennel. Let’s get this one out of the way up front: the troublesome behaviors you see and don’t like aren’t the dog getting back at you, being dominant, being stubborn. The dog has been traumatized. What that dog needs, right away, is 1.) a safe home… which also means to get them out of that kennel; 2.) a warm attachment to a person they live with; 4.) concerted wise efforts to deal with any fears and abnormal behaviors; 5.) sufficient medical care; and 6.) proper nutrition to get back to a normal weight.

A lot of people misread rescued dogs. The dog doesn’t eat, must not be food motivated. Wrong. The dog doesn’t obey, the dog must be dominant and stubborn. Wrong. The dog growls at this or that I do with the dog, must be punished somehow. Wrong. The dog lunges at strangers or strange dogs, I’m so mad I’m going to ignore the dog all night. Wrong. I saw this to do with dogs on TV, it’s going to work. Wrong. 

Traumatized dogs will appear to refuse to perform anything correctly. They will resist a lot of things, or violently try to escape, such as being put into a crate or being left alone. They will emit a range of distress vocalizations, from whining to barking. Some will sleep too much; others will be hyperactive. Some also show physical signs, such as the house training isn’t working, the dog pants a lot, elevated heart rate, temperature runs hot, digestive upset, runny stools. Other signs can be outright refusals to accept a collar or leash; humping someone or the other dog; jumping up on people; hiding under the bed; guarding a food bowl, bone, toy, or location; air biting; excessive licking; difficulty accepting other pets or other people in the home; jumpy and barking at the smallest noises or movements; inability to get to know friends, guests or new animals; and difficulty with bathing and grooming. This is just a partial list, but you get the idea. This isn’t a dog that needs to be dominated, bullied, emotionally punished, and subjected to all manner of aversive methods. Instead, this is a dog that is in trouble and needs your help to get out that mess. 

Dogs like this don’t fix themselves. Harshly stressed dogs have an uncertain future unless you figure out what is going on and get the diagnosis and treatment right early on. Stressed dogs die young, either from early “natural” death, a disease, or because the dog eventually hurts another animal or person, and the vet is instructed to put a needle in their forearms and end it all. Lazy, or neurotic, owners need not apply.

I realize none of this is fun to talk about, but this all must stop. We must do a better job of socializing, training, medically treating, feeding, containing, and managing all dogs so they either don’t end up in shelters or are better adapted to a short term stay in a shelter and have a better ability to integrate into a new family. Normal people take good care of dogs all the time, so that isn’t an impossible expectation. We also need to start holding animal shelters to higher standards, at least best practices standards, or refuse to support them and send our efforts, votes, and money elsewhere. Municipal shelters don’t fix themselves very often, and even the ones that do tend to fall back into bureaucratic systems of harsh animal adversity. You can’t count on the politicians, media, or big donors to help. New laws won’t help, be enacted, or enforced. The public, concerned employees, and volunteers need to walk away if the situations aren’t humane. Choose the red pill to opt out of the Matrix, start your own rescue and run it right. Hang with the good people, those who do it right, educate the public and be a good example, and let the rest die on the vine. Implement the above solutions and do real animal welfare work. Please save these dogs from the system.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Does Your Dog Play?

Play is governed by an essential emotional circuit in the mammalian brain. Play circuits may also exist in other animal classes, such as birds and reptiles, but that is still yet to be proven. The impulse to play is inborn and has many theoretical purposes for survival. What does that have to do with your dog? Read on.

Confinement And Restraint Of Dogs

Animals of all species are spontaneously active because of intrinsic brain operating systems which generate adaptive innate and learned behaviors. When human brain systems are not operating properly, we call them psychiatric disorders, and in animals we call them behavioral disturbances. Fortunately, these operating systems are equipped with varying degrees of plasticity. Some behavioral outcomes are rigid and are difficult to modify, and others can be changed through stimulus activation, inactivation, or non-activation of various intrinsic functions. Animals that are trapped have innate reactions to escape. Entrapment is opposed to this natural tendency to spontaneity. Improper confinement and restraint can cause behavioral disturbances.