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This week, the first national monument to military working dogs was dedicated at Lackland AFB, here in San Antonio. It is quite fitting the monument be constructed at Lackland, as it is home to the world’s largest training center for military, security canines, and their handlers. The Lackland facility has trained dogs for all of our military since 1958. This project was eight years in the making, and was financed by private donations.
The four breeds used most often by our U.S. troops are featured in the monument: malinois, doberman pinscher, German shepherd, and labrador retriever. Each of the dog statues is about five feet tall. Along with the dogs, there is a nine-foot-tall statue of a uniformed canine handler. My favorite part of the monument, however, is the water feature showing a handler using his helmet to offer water to his canine partner.
Our local ABC affiliate, KSAT, covered the dedication in this story with a video showing the water feature: National monument for military working dogs unveiled.
U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Faske
Nov 01, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior
Hello to All,
We have had an opossum problem this summer. We noticed it for the first time, when our motion-detector light in the back yard came on about four a.m. one morning. Rick was awakened by a tap, tap, tap on the doggie door and noticed the light was on. He got up and saw a possum with its little paws up on the doggie door either licking or wiping its face on the doggie door.
Of course, I thought Rick was crazy, until a couple of nights later, I heard the tap, tap, tap on the doggie door, saw the light was on, got up and observed the possum doing the same thing.
We asked our veterinarian, Dr. Maria Williams, who used to be a wildlife vet, about this behavior. She said the possum was most likely marking its territory.
Rick, being the thrifty type, did not want to purchase a trap for a one-time use. So, he consulted YouTube, and constructed a trap out of our old puppy carrier. He baited it with peanut butter, and sure enough, the next morning we had our possum. We named it George, in honor the late country singer George Jones (nickname “The Possum”) who had recently passed on.
We released George into nearby McAllister Park and thought that was that.
A while later, we noticed Gypsy obsessively sniffing the deck. First she would focus on one particular spot, then move to the next, etc. She would not leave it alone. We didn’t think too much of it, until we saw another possum running across the deck one evening. So, Rick set up the trap once again, and the possum was captured in the trap the next morning. We named this one G2.
We learned to take Gypsy’s cues for G3, G4, G5, and finally, G6.
Gypsy is no longer obsessing about the deck, and has taken up her normal hunting duties in the rest of the back yard. For her efforts, we have nicknamed her our GPS, for Gypsy’s Possum Surveillance.
Gypsy with G6 in the trap
G6 in the trap
G6 set free at McAllister Park
Until next time, the best to you and your dogs,
Sep 16, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior
I am passing along this wonderful illustration by Lili Chin of examples of fearful dog behavior. I’ve seen a lot of these from Roxie and Gypsy, and they most often use the avoiding eye contact and lip licks. One behavior I’ve observed, especially from Gypsy, that is NOT on this chart is “whale eye” where the eyes get large and you can see the whites all around the pupil.
If we see these behaviors from either Roxie or Gypsy, we do our best to remove them from whatever is causing their distress, as we don’t want them escalating to a more dangerous behavior.
To see other examples of Lili Chin’s work: Doggie Drawings by Lili Chin
Until next time,
Aug 29, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior
Thank you for indulging me in celebrating our Roxie’s 14th birthday!
Roxie is doing quite well for a senior girl, although she has slowed down, and is losing her hearing. She still likes to play and is still our fetchaholic who barks at us every day at five p.m. to throw the ball!
Here is our little princess in her birthday tiara:
And donning a party hat:
And Gypsy getting in on the action:
Here is my post from May about Roxie’s hearing loss: Deaf Pet Awareness.
My best to you and your dogs,
Aug 15, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior
Hello to Everyone on this extremely hot day in San Antonio.
Following is an article I wrote on which I would love to get your feedback:
Is your pet D.O.A? By Jean McKinney
Three root causes of all disease in humans can be traced back to the following conditions:
As our animals are subjected to the same living situations, environmental toxins, and questionable water, they, too, fall victim to the above conditions.
Unfortunately, just like us humans, our pets are suffering from degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc. in record numbers. Veterinarians are seeing more cases of these heartbreaking situations each year.
Humans, in general, are clinically dehydrated. Even dedicated water drinkers are not getting complete utilization of the water they drink, and they are unknowingly drinking water that is oxidizing, acidic, or even toxic.
As opposed to 70-75% of water that comprises the human body, most of our pets are made up of about 60% water. They, too, need to drink plenty of water to replace their lost fluids during the day, especially those that are outside during the summer or are working animals. Our pets do not sweat, which makes it much more difficult for them to cool down as effectively as we do.
An immediate trip to the veterinarian is called for if you see any of the following signs of serious dehydration in your pet:
– eyes that may be sunken into the head
– less energy than usual
– dry gums in the mouth
– excessive elasticity of the skin
Much of our municipal water supplies are necessarily treated with chemicals such as chlorine to remove bacteria and other contaminants. The chlorine, unfortunately, makes the water smell bad and taste worse. Our pets have a much more refined sense of smell than we do, so they are reluctant to drink bad-smelling and bad-tasting water unless they are really thirsty.
Oxidation is a chemical process occurring in our cells simply as a result of being. Oxidation can be thought of as rusting, aging, or rotting, none of which is desirable if we are interested in living healthier, living longer, or just looking younger. Unfortunately, we are subjected to more toxins, pollutants, and stress than ever before, all of which accelerate oxidation.
Just about everyone has heard that antioxidants are good for us, as they reverse the oxidative process. Antioxidants make up the bulk of supplements we consume, and many of us are making a point of upping our antioxidants by eating more raw fruits and vegetables, or drinking such things as green tea.
Our pets are subjected to the same oxidative stresses as we are, so they can benefit from antioxidants. But, how many of us think about providing supplements for our animals? We are lucky to remember to take our own!
Acidosis is a condition whereby the pH of our cells is excessively acidic. This is virtually a universal occurrence with today’s lifestyles of too much stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, taking prescription medications, consumption of drinks like sodas and energy drinks, environmental toxins, and on and on.
In the 1920’s Nobel Peace prize winner Dr. Otto Warburg discovered that disease thrives in an acidic environment, and does NOT thrive in an alkaline environment. Our acidic lifestyles are one reason why we are seeing epidemic rises in degenerative diseases in our culture.
Our pets experience the same health issues as we humans do, so it is not just important for us to strive for a more alkaline cellular pH, but for our pets as well. Of course, this is easier said than done as we can’t wave a magic wand and eliminate all the stresses and toxins from our lives or our pets’ lives. Nor is it a simple matter or even advisable to change our diets, or our pets’ diets, to consume strictly alkaline-based foods.
Alkaline, Antioxidant, Restructured Water
Drinking the proper water can be a simple solution to overcoming the negative effects of dehydration, oxidation, and acidosis. The key word is proper, as drinking tap water, the vast majority of bottled waters, or reverse osmosis water, is not going to successfully address the issues of dehydration, oxidation, or acidosis.
Ideally, the water would:
– be micro-clustered (restructured) to address dehydration
– have a strong antioxidant value to address oxidation
– have an alkaline pH to address acidosis
Micro-clustering means the water molecules are smaller than those in regular water, so the water is much more easily absorbed, and you benefit from more efficient utilization of the water you consume.
There are naturally occurring sources of water that have an alkaline pH, are high in antioxidants, and are micro-clustered, such as Tlacote, Mexico, or Lourdes, France. Unfortunately, most of us have neither the time nor the resources to travel to such places to get this water.
What we do have is Kangen Water®, produced by a technology from the Enagic Corporation in Japan. This technology has been available in Japan for about four decades and is used and endorsed by multiple Japanese hospitals, clinics, and medical professionals.
From personal experience I have seen the tremendous positive effects this water has given not only the humans in our family, but our pets as well.
For information about Kangen Water® and the technology behind it, please visit our website www.OrangeBadPurpleGood.com, or call Rick or myself at 210.545.2059.
About me: I am neither a pet expert nor a medical expert. What I am is a devoted pet parent to two 13-year-old mixed breed female dogs, Roxie and Gypsy, and an enthusiastic drinker of Kangen Water®.
I wish only the best for you and your pets,
Aug 06, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior, Home Health Care for Dogs
Happy 4th of July everyone,
Here is some excellent information from Amber Keiper of www.barfworld.com:
A Pet Parent’s Worst Nightmare: What To Do If Your Pet Goes Missing
By Amber Keiper
For those of us who treat our pets like our own kids, we simply can’t imagine the thought of losing them. So when a cherished pet goes missing, our entire life stops.
The 4th of July is tomorrow, and that means fireworks explosions, and many scared and lost pets. Intelligent pet parents need to know what proper steps to take in order to be successfully reunited with their pet as quickly as possible.
The first step is prevention. If your pet is allowed outdoors make sure to keep an eye on him and use a leash. Proper dog training is especially important so that you have control of your dogs in case they get startled or distracted while out and about. If you have a backyard for your pet to play in, make sure to check the perimeter of your fence or enclosure regularly for any places where your pet can get out.
Keep current identification tags on your pet’s collar at all times. Some pet parents prefer to have their pet microchipped. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with microchipping your pet. (Check out our article on microchipping your dog here: http://www.barfworld.com/html/IPEzine/TIP_082011.html – DogsTalk).
The First 24 Hours
If you discover your pet has gone missing, don’t delay! Time is of the essence. Start by looking around the nearby area, searching areas that are familiar to your pet. Don’t hesitate to ask your neighbors or people in the area if they’ve seen your pet.
Call a few good friends to come and join you in your search. Make sure you have plenty of high-value treats and a leash on hand to help lure your pet out from hiding. A flashlight may also come in handy during your search to help look under cars, in dark corners, or for evening searches.
Does your furry friend have a favorite squeaky toy? Bring it along while you’re canvassing the neighborhood. Call out your pet’s name and squeak their toy to try and get their attention.
Day 2 Of Your Search
Make up some lost pet posters and put them up around your neighborhood and the area where your pet was last seen. Make sure to include:
A current picture of your pet
Color and markings
Any medical issues
Where they were last seen
A contact phone number in case they’re found
If you plan on offering a reward, make sure not to be too specific about how much you are offering or you may attract scammers who may try to swindle you for the reward. If someone who claims to have found your pet contacts you, make sure to meet them in a public place and don’t go alone.
Contact your local animal shelters, animal control facility, police department, and veterinary hospitals in case they may have your pet. Leave a copy of your lost pet poster with them in case someone ends up turning your pet in to them. There are even some online lost pet resources you can use such as:
You can also try social media resources such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about your lost dog or cat. Actually, some pets have been found because of the use of social media, so don’t rule this method out. If you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, you can sign up free…or ask a friend or family member to do it for you.
Day 3 And Beyond
Check your local newspaper’s lost and found section daily. Visit your local animal shelter every few days in case your pet shows up. Finally, don’t give up! 93% of dogs and 75% of cats that are reported lost are safely returned back to their owners so stay positive and keep searching.
Amber Keiper is the Marketing Assistant and Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc.. She and her husband have two former rescue animals that are now healthy and proud “BARF brats” – a terrier mix named Chewbacca (“Chewy”) and a tabby mix named Chiquita (“Chiqui”). For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet monthly e-zine at www.barfworld.com.
The best to you and your pets,
Jul 04, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior, Stray Dog
Hello Everyone on this Memorial Day 2013,
Here is another wonderful episode from the Dogfiles and is apropos for Memorial Day:
A Few Good Dogs
Meet Helo, Bubba and Oscar, three incredible military working dogs based at Fort Meade, Maryland. Together, with their Army Handlers, they protect the men & women of the United States Armed Forces both here and overseas.
Wow, what can I say? This, our most ambitious episode of the Dog Files, was years in the making and I truly believe, one of our best yet. I couldn’t be prouder of final outcome. My hope is that by watching the video, people will gain an understanding of what dogs are capable of and what they do for us.
I’d like to thank the United States Army, SGT Ted Perry, SSG Anthony Moll & Helo, SGT Timothy Roye & Bubba and SSG Arthur Jones & Oscar. Thank you so much for welcoming the Dog Files into your life and opening up your world in a heartfelt and truthful way to us. And THANK YOU for your service! We are safe because of you.
I’d also like to thank Tyler Ginter, who made the entire episode possible. And good friends and colleagues, Khalid Mohtaseb and Kevin Griffin for spending two days with me filming this at Forte Meade.
P.S. Make sure to watch past the credits to see the crew putting on the bite suit and finding out what it’s like to be on the hazardous side of a military working dog.
To all of our servicemen, servicewomen, and military working dogs who have made the ultimate sacrifice, you have our eternal gratitude.
May 27, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior
Hello to All,
Our 13 1/2 year old sheltie/schnauzer cross Roxie is losing her hearing. We started noticing this about 6-8 months ago when it became more difficult to wake her up, and she would not respond to us when we called her. This visual caught my eye, and since we are dealing with this in our household it was quite timely for us. We have always used hand signals in conjunction with verbal commands, so that part has been a fairly easy transition. And, we have asked Gypsy to help, as I wrote about in my post from January 23rd Gypsy Has a New Job.
One good thing that has come of this: Roxie has always been extremely thunder-phobic. She would pant, drool, pace, and cling to us whenever there was thunder in the area. Now, she is nowhere near as bothered by thunder, and she only gets anxious if it very close or extremely loud.
Love to you and your dogs,
May 09, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior, Home Health Care for Dogs
This is a great visual from the American Red Cross about how to do cpr on your pet. Hopefully, you will never need to use it!
Best of everything to you and your dogs,
Apr 30, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior, Home Health Care for Dogs
Happy Easter Weekend Everybody,
This article comes from the Whole Dog Journal, and I thought it was a really good one about dog behavior.
Analyzing Dog Behavior and Puppy Behavior by Pat Miller, CPDT
A positive dog trainer and canine behavior expert dispels common and pervasive myths about dogs and their behavior.
Hang with dog folks long enough and you’re sure to hear some pretty interesting theories about dog behavior. Some are, of course, useful and accurate, but the dog training world is littered with myths, many of which are at least several generations old. Some of them are just silly; some have the potential for causing serious damage to the dog-human relationship; and still others are downright dangerous. It’s time to get past the myths.
It’s critical that puppies be socialized to other people and other dogs, in safe public settings and well-run puppy classes. Far more dogs are euthanized due to behavior problems than illness from infectious disease.
Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug of Sugar Land, Texas, recently compiled a comprehensive list of dog behavior myths. With her blessing, we’re sharing 10 of our “favorites” from her list, and explaining why these “busted” myths should not be used as the justification for a training or behavior modification technique. I am always exhorting my interns, apprentices, and clients to be critical thinkers. When someone offers you an alleged nugget of canine wisdom, regardless of who the someone is, you’re wise to run it through your own rigorous filters before accepting it as real wisdom or adopting it as the basis for a training technique. These should include:
• A scientific filter. Does it make sense scientifically? If someone assures you that shock collar training is actually positive reinforcement training because the shock is no different than someone tapping you on the shoulder to get you to stop a behavior, does that concur with your understanding of positive reinforcement? (That a dog’s behavior makes a good thing happen, so the behavior increases.) Don’t be fooled by the euphemisms “e-collar” and “tingle,” “tap,” or “stim” for the word “shock.”
• A philosophical filter. Is it congruent with your own philosophies about dog training and relationships? Positive punishment (dog’s behavior makes a bad thing happen; behavior decreases) makes sense from a scientific standpoint. That doesn’t mean you want to – or have to – use it with your dog, and risk the damage it can do to your relationship. Trainers with a positive training philosophy generally try to avoid the use of positive punishment, or any methods that work through the use of fear, pain, aversives, and avoidance.
• An “acid test” filter. It may seem sound scientifically, and it may feel okay philosophically, but does it work? If you’re comfortable trying it out and you don’t like the results, feel free to continue on and explore why it’s not working or simply toss it out. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it has to work for you.
Now, keeping these filters in mind, let’s see how some of the most common and harmful myths about canine behavior create a flawed foundation for training.
Myth #1: “Puppies should not go to puppy classes/the mall/friends’ houses until they have had all their vaccinations at 16 weeks/6 months of age.” (Fails all three tests.)
This one lands squarely at the top of the “dangerous myth” category. It’s generally perceived as credible by new puppy owners because it’s often offered by the pup’s veterinarian.
While it appears scientifically sound on its face (an unvaccinated puppy is at risk for contracting deadly diseases!), puppies who aren’t properly socialized are at a much greater risk for developing behavior problems, including aggression, that are likely to shorten their lives.
The vet is right on one hand; the best way to ensure that your pup isn’t exposed to dog germs is to avoid other dogs. It’s certainly true that you want to prevent your pup’s exposure to unknown and/or possibly unhealthy dogs (and their waste). But it’s also critically important that your pup get lots of exposure to the rest of the world, including healthy puppies in a controlled environment, before the critical socialization period ends at 12 to 16 weeks. If he doesn’t, he’ll be at risk of developing serious, sometimes deadly, behavior problems. (See “Shoot for Early Admission,” Whole Dog Journal September 2007, for more information on early education for puppies.)
In addition, during the period leading up to the age of four to six months, your pup has protection from his mother’s immunities, and should receive “puppy shots” to cover that period of time when his mother’s protection starts to decrease. Not only is it “okay” to take your pup places while exercising reasonable caution, you have an obligation to provide him with extensive socialization in order to maximize his chances of leading a long and happy life.
Myth #2: “Dogs pull on leash, jump up on people, (add your own) because they are dominant.” (Fails scientific and philosophical tests.)
Like the first myth discussed, this one can be dangerous, because those who believe this myth are likely to believe that they need to use forceful methods to assert their status over their “dominant” dogs.
No one disputes that dogs living in a group understand and respond to the concepts and dictates of a social hierarchy. The fact that canine social structures share elements with human social structures is probably one of the reasons that dogs make such wonderful companions for us. However, most experts in animal behavior today believe that canine social hierarchies are much more based on deference than dominance, and that most canine behavior that many misguided humans attribute to dominance . . . isn’t!
A dog’s goal in life is to make good stuff happen. Behaviors often labeled “dominant” because they are perceived as pushy and assertive – like pulling on leash and jumping up – simply persist because the dog has learned that the behaviors are reinforced; they make good stuff happen. Pulling on leash gets her where she wants to go. Jumping up gets attention. Behaviors that are reinforced continue, and even increase – but they have nothing to do with social status.
If you remove all reinforcement for the unwelcome behaviors (pulling makes us stop; jumping up makes attention go away) and reinforce more appropriate behaviors in their place, the dog will change her behavior.
Myth #3: “If you let your dog sleep on the bed/eat first/go through doors first/win at tug-o-war, he will become the alpha.” (Fails all three tests.)
This one is mostly just silly. Some sources even suggest that the entire family must gather in the kitchen and take turns buttering and eating a cracker before the dog can be fed. Seriously!
See Myth #2 for the mythbusting response to this one. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, that’s your lifestyle choice, but you don’t need to defend it with the alpha-garbage argument. I feed my dogs before I eat so I don’t have to feel guilty about them being hungry while I fill my own belly. I teach my dogs to sit and wait for permission to go through the door (“say please!”) because it’s a polite, safe behavior and reinforces deference, but not because I’m terrified that they’ll take over the house. And I like to win tug-o-war a lot because it reinforces polite behavior. You can quit worrying about your dog becoming alpha just because you don’t rule with an iron first.
If you are concerned that your dog is too pushy you can implement a “Say Please” program, where your dog asks politely for all good things by sitting – a nice, polite, deference behavior (see “Be a Benevolent Leader, Whole Dog Journal August, 2003). If you think your dog is potentially aggressive, it’s even more important to avoid conflict; your attempts to physically dominate him are likely to escalate his aggression rather than resolve it. (See “Biscuits, Not Rolls,” July 2006.) If aggression is a real concern, we recommend you consult with a qualified, positive behavior professional who can help you modify your dog’s behavior without the use of force.
Myth #4: “Dogs can’t learn from positive reinforcement. You have to punish them so they know when they are wrong.” (Fails scientific and philosophical tests; fails acid test unless punisher is very skilled.)
This myth has good potential for causing serious harm to the canine-human relationship. Research confirms what positive trainers hold dear: that positive reinforcement training is more effective and has far fewer risks than positive reinforcement training combined with positive punishment.
One study, conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK and the University of Life Sciences in Norway, evaluated whether punishment was a contributor to behavior problems, and examined the effects of reward, punishment, and rule structure (permissiveness/strictness and consistency) on training and behavior problems. Information was collected via questionnaires from 217 dog guardians. Those who used strong and/or frequent punishment had a significantly higher level of training problems and lower obedience in their dogs. A similar study, conducted at Britain’s University of Bristol, also found that dogs trained only with positive reinforcement exhibited fewer problem behaviors.
For most humans, this makes sense. Do you learn better if someone acknowledges (and rewards) you when you do it right, or slaps you upside the head when you do it wrong? Even if you get rewarded for doing it right, if you also get slapped for doing it wrong, your fear of getting slapped will likely impede your learning and make you more reluctant to try things.
Of course, a good positive training program makes use of management to avoid giving the dog opportunities to be reinforced for unwanted behaviors, and will also make judicious use of negative punishment (dog’s behavior makes a good thing go away) to let him know he made an unrewarding behavior choice.
For more information on why training programs that utilize positive reinforcement are most effective, see “We’re Positive,” January 2007.
Myth #5: “If you use treats to train, you will always need them.” (Fails all three tests.)
This just isn’t true. A good positive training program will quickly “fade” the use of food as a constant reinforcer while moving to a schedule of intermittent reinforcement and expanding the repertoire of reinforcers to include things like toys, play, petting, praise, and the opportunity to perform some other highly reinforcing behavior.
Treats can be a very high-value reinforcer and quite useful in training a wide variety of behaviors, so it’s plain silly to turn your back on them. Just be sure to fade food lures quickly in a training program, move to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement when your dog will perform a behavior on cue 8 out of 10 times, and incorporate a variety of reinforcers so you’re never dependent on any one particular reward choice. (For more information about how some people might fail when applying positive training techniques the wrong way, see “Positive Mistakes,” May 2007.)
Myth #6: “A dog who urinates inside/destroys the house/barks when he is left alone does so because he is spiteful.” (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)
This myth definitely causes harm to the dog-human relationship. Dogs don’t do things out of spite, and to think so gives owners a negative perspective on their relationship with their canine family member. Dogs do things because they feel good, they work to make good stuff happen (or to make bad stuff go away), or because they are reacting to events that occur in their environment. While our dogs share much the same range of emotions as we humans, they don’t seem to indulge in all the same motives. Spite requires a certain amount of premeditation and cognitive thinking that science doesn’t support as being evident in the canine behavior repertoire.
Dogs beg if they have been rewarded for it, whether itfs with human food or dog food.
There are two rational explanations for the behaviors described in this myth. The first is that the dog isn’t fully housetrained and hasn’t yet learned house manners. In the absence of direct supervision, the dog urinates when he has a full bladder (an empty bladder feels good) and becomes destructive because playing with/chewing sofa cushions, shoes, ripping down curtains, tipping over the garbage, and barking are fun and rewarding activities.
The other explanation is that the dog suffers from some degree of isolation distress. These behaviors are often a manifestation of stress and the dog’s attempt to relieve his anxiety over being left alone. If your dog regularly urinates (or worse) in the house or destroys things when he is left alone, he may be suffering from a moderate degree of isolation distress, or more severe separation anxiety. This condition can worsen without appropriate management. For more information, see “Relieving Anxiety,” August 2001 – and consider a consultation with an animal behavior specialist.
Myth #7: “If you feed a dog human food, he will learn to beg at the table.” (Fails all three tests.)
This is silly! One dog owner’s “begging” is another’s “attention” behavior, eagerly sought-after and highly valued. Behaviors that are reinforced continue and/or increase. If you fed your dog his own dog food from the table, he would learn to beg at the table. It has nothing to do with what type of food he’s being fed! If you don’t want your dog to beg at the table, don’t feed your dog from the table.
Whole Dog Journal readers know full well that human-grade food is better for dogs than much of the junk that’s in many brands of dog food. Whether it’s fed in a form that we recognize as something we might consume, or it’s been transformed into something that more resembles our mental concept of “dog food,” it all still comes from the same basic food ingredients.
Myth #8: “He knows he was bad/did wrong because he looks guilty.” (Fails all three tests.)
This myth is damaging to the relationship, as it leads owners to hold dogs to a moral standard that they aren’t capable of possessing. When a dog looks “guilty,” he is most likely responding to a human’s tense or angry body language with appeasement behaviors. He’s probably thinking something like, “I don’t know why, but my human looks upset. I’d better offer some appeasement behaviors so her anger isn’t directed at me!” Even when the “guilty” expression is a direct and immediate result of your dog’s behavior because your punishment was timely – “Hey! Get out of the garbage!” –your dog’s turned head, lowered body posture, averted eyes – are simply an acknowledgement of your anger and his attempt to reconcile with you.
A trainer friend of mine once did an experiment to convince a client that her dearly held “guilty look” belief was a myth. He had the client hold her dog in the living room while he went into the kitchen and dumped the garbage can on the floor, strewing its contents nicely around the room. Then he had the client bring the dog into the kitchen. Sure enough, the dog “acted guilty” even though he had nothing to do with the garbage on the floor. He just knew from past experience that “garbage on floor” turned his owner into an angry human, and he was already offering appeasement behavior in anticipation of her anger, and to divert her ire from his dog-self. (For more information about canine body language, see “I Submit,” April 2006.)
Finally, most owners who have punished a dog for something that was done in their absence can attest to the fact that the punishment generally does not prevent the dog from repeating the behavior another time. What does work is simple management. Put the garbage somewhere that the dog can’t get to it; under a sink with a safety latch on it, for example. Keep counters clear of anything edible. Leave the dog in a part of the house that is comfortable but not easily destroyed. Hire a dog walker to come by in the middle of your dog’s longest days home alone to let him out, give him some stress-relieving exercise, and leave him with a food-filled chew toy. These actions will result in an intact home – and a dog who is not afraid to greet you when you return.
Myth #9: The prong collar works by mimicking a mother dog’s teeth and her corrections. (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)
It’s a little discouraging to think that people actually believe this myth. It would be silly if it weren’t so potentially damaging to the relationship and potentially dangerous as well.
Prong collars work because the prongs pressing into the dog’s neck are uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. Because dogs will work to avoid pain and discomfort, the prong collar does work to stop a dog from pulling on the leash, and can shut down other undesirable behaviors as well, at least temporarily. However, like all training tools and techniques that are based on pain and intimidation, there is a significant risk of unintended consequences.
In the case of the prong collar, the primary risk is that the dog will associate the pain with something in his environment at the time he feels it, and this can lead to aggression toward the mistakenly identified cause. A dog’s unmannerly, “I want to greet you” lunge toward another dog or person can turn into, “I want to eat you,” if he decides that the object of his attention is hurting him.
If you have used or are considering the use of a prong collar to control your dog, please consult with a qualified positive behavior consultant to learn about more effective and less potentially harmful methods.
Myth #10: “Aggressive/hand-shy/fearful dogs must have been abused at some point in their lives.” (Fails the scientific test.)
This is a very widespread myth; I hear it so often it makes my brain hurt. Fortunately, while the behaviors described in this myth are problematic, the myth itself may be the most benign of our top 10.
There are many reasons a dog may be aggressive, hand-shy, or fearful. Lack of proper socialization tops the list, especially for fearfulness. If a pup doesn’t get a wide variety of positive social exposures and experiences during the first 12 to 14 weeks of his life, he’s likely to be neophobic – afraid of new things – for the rest of his life (see Myth #1). This neophobia manifests as fear, and for some dogs, as fear-related aggression.
Widely accepted categories of aggression include:
• Defensive (fear-related) aggression
• Possession aggression (resource-guarding)
• Maternal aggression
• Territorial aggression
• Status-related aggression
• Pain-related aggression
• Protection aggression
• Predatory aggression
• Play aggression
• Idiopathic (we don’t know what causes it) aggression
Note that there’s no category for “abuse-related” aggression. Abuse can be one of several causes of fear-related/defensive aggression, but is much less common than the fear-related aggression that results from undersocialization.
Regardless of the cause of a dog’s fearful or aggressive behavior, a myth-corollary to our Myth #10 is that love alone will be enough to “fix” the problem. While love is a vital ingredient for the most successful dog-human relationships, it takes far more than that to help a fearful dog become confident, or an aggressive one become friendly. For more about rehabilitating a chronically fearful dog, see “Fear Itself,” April 2007.
Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journals’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also the author of The Power of Positive Dog Training and Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog.
I hope you all have a wonderful Easter and are able to spend it with those you love,
Mar 30, 2013 | | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior