Good Dog: Behavior & Training
What puts your dog’s tail in motion?
When I taught training classes, we often had contests on the last day of a session. Dogs (and their guardians) could win prizes for the most charming trick, the best stay, the slowest heel and other categories. My favorite contest was always the most enthusiastic tail wag. I would tell my students to do whatever they would do to get their dog to wag his tail if someone told them that they could won a million dollars for the best tail wag. (In reality, the prize was a dog toy, a package of dog treats or perhaps a gift certificate to a local pet store.)
Over the years, I saw a range of ways to prompt tail wags. People would praise their dogs, “Who’s my good girl? You’re my good girl!” play with them, show them a ball, or pull out the leash and say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” People told their dogs that dinner was ready or said, “Daddy’s home!” In one memorable instance, a guy left for a minute and then came back so his dog could give him a welcome home greeting. (He won by a wide margin!) Other students fed their dogs handfuls of treats, said, “Do you want to go for a ride?” or headed out the door saying, “You get to go!”
If you were in this contest, what would you do to get your dog to show off his best tail wag?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A dog picks up on health problems within a Scottish family.
Five year old Mark Cannon and his family's Dogue de Bordeaux, Alfie, have been inseparable since birth. And early on, Alfie has always insisted on walking on Mark's right side. Eventually the family had Mark's eyes checked and found that Alfie knew something was wrong all along. A school optometrist diagnosed Mark with astigmatism in his right eye. It turns out that Mark was almost blind in that eye and his parents think that Alfie stood by Mark's right side to act as a guide. The doctors say that Mark could've gone completely blind in both eyes if they didn't catch the condition when they did. Astigmatism can often be corrected when it's caught before the age of seven.
Since then Mark has been wearing an eye patch on his left eye to help strengthen the right one. His vision is getting stronger, but Alfie still walks on Mark's right side. Even if you try to walk Alfie on the other side, he'll push until he can get to his "spot."
Amazingly, this isn't the only time that Alfie helped with a diagnosis. Last August the family noticed that Alfie would sniff and lick the back legs of their other dog, Cass. When they brought her to the veterinarian, Cass was diagnosed with a tumor in her back leg, exactly where Alfie had been sniffing and licking.
Dogs can be quite perceptive, not getting swept up in the hectic rituals of every day life. We just need to make sure to listen to them! Has your pup ever alerted you to a problem?
Prompting Investigation for Animal Cruelty
Our colleague, Mark Derr’s “Dog’s Best Friend” blog looks at an alarming program from Cesar 911 (National Geographic Wild). Seems as if the controversy surrounding Cesar Millan lives on, but this time his total disregard of how his misguided and irresponsible “beliefs” about animal behavior and dog training have resulted in other animals being harmed. It is truly unconscionable that National Geographic, that purports to be a family oriented network, would allow this animal abuse to happen and then to actually televise it. Trying to get a dog to be a “friend” to pet pigs by leashing them together and then the dog running amuck injuring the pigs certainly should not be considered to be suitable or entertaining programming. As for Millan, as dog lovers should be aware of by now, just about every animal behaviorist and veterinarians worldwide have denounced his methods and teachings. National Geographic needs to hear from us about this latest abusive behavior. There is a Change petition that is being circulated.
LATEST NEWS: Cesar Millan is now being investigated for possible animal abuse on this matter.
Here is Mark Derr's post:
[Note: The video clip of the Cesar 911 episode to which this posting refers appears to have been removed from public viewing on YouTube. A partial clip and commentary can be found here(link is external).]
On March 7, staff writer Christian Cotroneo reported for The Dodo, the website devoted to “the love of animals” on Cesar Millan’s “worst dog-training idea, ever,” that is, a particularly demented plan to reform a pig-killing French bulldog by giving him a “positivememory” with pigs upon which he can build a less lethal relationship with all other life forms. Millan, the self-proclaimed dog whisperer who has attained cult status by showing hapless dog owners how to become “pack leaders” by giving their animals “discipline” before “affection,” has raised the hackles of serious animal behaviorists and dog trainers even before his program first aired on the National Geographic channel in 2003. Since then he has become a one-man conglomerate, with spin-off television programs, a magazine, best-selling books, and a hugely successful website.
But all along, he has had his critics, including me, as most readers of this blog know. In 2006, I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times criticizing Millan’s approach to training and his antiquated view of dominance hierarchies. Other critiques have followed, including a number of essays by my fellow Psychology Today blogger Marc Bekoff and protests from the leading animal behaviorists in the country. Criticism of Millan routinely draws vitriolic, sometimes threatening, responses from his followers.
The current controversy surrounding Milllan focuses on an episode from his new program Cesar 911, in which he addresses problem cases. The clip was posted on You Tube on February 25 and has raised a ruckus in social media said Cotroneo in his response to the show. (A noted above, the clips have largely been removed from public view.) In the episode, Millan puts a pig-killing French bulldog into a fenced training area stocked with pigs with the intent that he will learn not to attack but to love pigs. While on a long line—an extended lead—held by Millan, the dog seems fine, but when his human companion unlooses him on Millan’s order, Simon turns demonic. He rips one pig’s ear. He escapes Millan’s desperate lunges—“I’ve got it,” the dog whisperer says at one point. At another, as Millan tumbles to the ground gasping for air, he mutters, “This is teaching.”
But what is taught and what is learned? Certainly the best learning outcome would be for National Geographic to take a stand for dogs, pigs, and other animals and remove Cesar Millan from the air until he reforms his act.
Used with permission of Mark Derr.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Make yourself happy and take a look
Christopher Cline’s photographs of his Goldendoodle Juji are beautiful and funny, and celebrate the emotions of life. These are not amateur photographs that happen to work out. Cline is a trained artist and professional graphic designer. The technical professionalism of his work is obvious, and certainly part of the appeal.
Yet, I think the reason people adore his work goes so much deeper. I love his images because when I see them, I think, “That’s how I feel, too.” He has captured the whimsy, joy and love that dogs bring to our lives. And of course, it’s impossible to ignore the metaphorical point for those of us who love dogs truly, deeply and passionately. Only in Cline’s photos do they appear visually as we experience them viscerally—as larger than life.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Happy 1st Birthday!
Malachi just turned a year old. I didn’t want a hairy wild wolfdog, least of all a feral one. I’ve seen so many wolfdogs on my job as an Animal Control Officer. Wolfdogs that people run out and buy as puppies thinking it would be cool and then fast realize are way too strong, escape prone, destructive or whatever. Although I think he’s beautiful, and I love him, Malachi is not a dog I would have gone out and chosen even if he wasn’t feral, but sometimes we end up with the one who needs us most.
Born in what has been described as a wolfdog puppy mill, Malachi was born with some genetic wildness and then likely received little or no human contact for his first critical months of life. He was basically feral when he was purchased at 3 months of age by a person who was completely unprepared and unable to handle him. Within a few months he escaped from his home and ran wild in the rural countryside for some time. The owner moved away without ever being able to touch him again. I heard about him through our animal control department but was working a different area and he was too wild and too intelligent to be trapped or cornered.
We continued to get reports of Malachi running loose on busy roads and near livestock where he could be shot. Worried for his safety, I finally went on my day off and using every trick at my disposal and with the help of neighbors and my sweet flirty female dog, was able to capture him. I took him home with the idea that we would find a suitable wolfdog rescue or sanctuary for him. We found a fabulous wolfdog-experienced home to take him but he was returned within days and no rescues or sanctuaries had room for him. Of the 500 or so dogs and puppies we have fostered over the last 30 years, he’s the most challenging. He flees from any human approach and the slightest stress has him voiding his bladder and bowels.
We used targeting and positive reinforcement to help shape Malachi’s behavior while we continued to look for a place for him. Sadly there are many wolfdogs in need and very few rescues with the resources to handle them and we’ve been unable to find a home for him. Malachi has made progress in his months here but it is still impossible to walk up and touch him. He allows, and at times enjoys, some limited contact but it is strictly on his terms.
Our other dogs have been instrumental in helping Malachi learn the ropes. He watches them and imitates some of their behavior but he often acts like a wild animal and his fear of humans is still very strong in many situations. Overall he’s finally become happy and playful with us. He bounces into the house with the other dogs and is comfortable hanging out as long as we don’t initiate contact and with occasional exceptions he avoids human touch. We had him neutered, vaccinated, wormed, microchipped, heartworm tested and treated for fleas but even that involved extensive planning and sedation to ensure that all went smoothly.
We love Malachi and want him to be happy but we run a small non-profit rescue with the goal of rescuing and rehoming dogs in need. We fix them up and find them wonderful homes and that makes room for the next one. We have to be careful how much we take on, with time, space and finances being limiting factors. We do keep a small number of sanctuary animals here. Animals that due to age, health or temperament, are not considered adoptable and who can live out their lives here. Taking on a large, feral wolfdog who has the potential to live 10-15 years or more and cannot be handled like a normal dog is a huge commitment and expense and not to be taken lightly. But after much thought and discussion and with very few other options, we have decided Malachi will stay here with us. We continue to learn from each other and work hard to give him the best life we can.
Readers can follow his progress on Facebook at The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.
Happy Birthday Malachi. You’ve been given the one thing you need the most. A home.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New sport encourages people and their pups to jump, run, and crawl.
In recent years we've had a surge in new dog sports, such as rally obedience and nosework. It's great to have so many different ways to spend quality time with your pup. Now there's another activity to try!
You may have seen videos online of people doing parkour, a sport typically practiced in urban areas that involves negotiating a complex environment as efficiently as possible. Originally developed as obstacle course training for the French military, parkour includes running, climbing, vaulting, jumping, and rolling.
When Ohio dog trainer Karin Coyne and veterinarian Abigail Curtis picked up parkour as a hobby in 2011, they realized their dogs would love doing this too! Soon they started training their pups to leap onto surfaces, run around obstacles, and crawl under spaces, and eventually began teaching classes. The duo had a diverse mix of students showing that anyone could participate from puppies to older pups. Many fearful dogs even gained confidence through canine parkour.
People from around the world started contacting Karin and Abigail asking about canine parkour, So they founded the International Dog Parkour Association to build the sport. The organization allows people and their pups to earn titles to commemorate new skills no matter where they live. It's up to individuals to teach the behaviors, practice, and then take a video of their dog confidently and safely navigating the obstacles. For example, at the novice level, dogs have to perform three different skills on a given obstacle.
What's cool about canine parkour is that it encourages people and their dogs to interact with the environment. You can practice and build skill almost anywhere!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Does it reflect something about you?
Though few dogs wear actual clothes or costumes, a great many of them wear collars, and they are often chosen with great care. The individuality of a dog’s collar is likely to express something about the guardian. It may reflect a particular hobby or interest or may simply be a style choice. The majority of collars mean something to the people who choose them.
What it means may be very simple. For example, my favorite color is red, and I gravitate towards red collars. One of my best friends uses green collars for the same reason. Many people put far more thought into the collars with which they adorn their pets. Practical choices for collars include ones with the dog’s name and guardian’s phone number embroidered on them or ones that are reflective for extra safety at night.
I have a client whose dog’s collar is by Harley Davidson, which means that the dog matches most of the client’s clothes. Other dogs may wear collars that express support for a professional sports team or a college program. I’ve seen collars that express support for political candidates, breast cancer awareness or say, “Happy Birthday!”
If style is the major consideration, there are plenty of options. Collars can be pink with sparkly gemstones, made of black leather with spikes, or anything in between. There are patriotic collars with flags on them, tartan plaid styles, and those that have flowers or ladybugs on them. Some people change their dog’s collars seasonally with Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring, Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving collars making up an extensive wardrobe.
If your dog has a decorative collar, what made you choose the one he wears?
Capturing the Essence of Shelter Dogs in Pictures
Lisa Prince Fishler is an artist who has always connected deeply with animals. A professional photographer who lives in the Hudson Valley, N.Y., Lisa was inspired to volunteer her services by her rescue dog Iggy whom she calls her “soul dog.” Iggy introduced Lisa to the plight of medium and large shelter dogs, especially those labeled “Pit Bull,” who are sometimes overlooked or passed by due to tragic amounts of misinformation and mythology.
One of the first organizations Lisa volunteered with was the Animal Farm Foundation, a group dedicated to securing equal opportunity for Pit Bull dogs in New York. Lisa was tasked with photographing dogs up for adoption—capturing their personalities, their individualism and endearing qualities in a single portrait. The challenge was to catch the eye (and heart) of potential adopters as they clicked through online galleries or caught sight of adoptable dogs in flyers or ads. Few shelters have the time, resources or talent pool to capture their animals to best effect.
It was through this work that Lisa discovered a clear way to combine her passions—animals, art and activism—to offer a solution. A natural collaborator, she wanted to cultivate a united community of artists who could shine a light on pets in need and be a voice for animals all over the world. Lisa soon discovered many people with the same passion, and thus, HeARTs Speak was born.
Today, HeARTs Speak is home to nearly 600 professional artist members in 47 states and 19 countries, all providing their services pro bono to animal welfare organizations. In addition, HeARTs Speak is expanding the reach of its network to more shelters around the country via the Perfect Exposure Project, a comprehensive, 2-day photography and marketing workshop. The project equips shelter staff and volunteers with fresh marketing knowledge and creative inspiration, covering everything from photography techniques to bio writing and social media.
HeARTs Speak’s mission is to harness the power of creativity and collaboration in order to increase the number of animals saved through adoption. Lisa and her fellow artists are working hard to capture homeless animals in the best possible light and show the world the beauty, loyalty and unconditional love that exists in shelters across the globe.
For some tips on taking good shelter dog photographs, click here.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Short and sweet if given the choice
I recently attended one of my favorite annual events—the Interdisciplinary Forum on Applied Animal Behavior (IFAAB) conference. This is a small gathering of 30 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Veterinary Behaviorists, Academics and Trainers who get together each year for a discussion of all kinds of topics related to Applied Animal Behavior. Every attendee gives a talk, and we discuss everything with enthusiasm from the first talk to the concluding remarks.
This year, fittingly, the first talk was about greetings. Camille Ward, PhD, CAAB, started things off with a talk called “What’s Up? Dog-to-Dog Greetings.” Greetings are a fascinating area of behavior because so much can happen in such a short time, and there are so many possible functions of greetings. Greeting between members of the same species serve a variety of functions from reducing uncertainty, fear and arousal to gathering information. Greetings can involve the signaling of status, increasing tolerance for being close to one another and may play a role in conflict management and reconciliation, which are important areas of behavior in social species though they have been primarily studied in primates.
Ward videotaped greetings between pairs of dogs at a local dog park in Ann Arbor, Michigan and analyzed the behavior that she observed. When she watched the behavior in the greetings, she collected data on a large number of behavioral details. (Videotaping is a common tool in behavioral research that allows scientists to gather more data than is possible when doing it live, and also takes so much time that it prevents scientists from taking over the world or even having a life because it keeps them too busy for such undertakings.)
In this study, 52 dogs were recorded, in 26 greetings. Each dog was only observed in a single greeting. Ward recorded whatever greetings happened to occur at the dog park, although she specifically avoided greetings when a dog first entered the park. She was interested in pairs of dogs greeting and when a dog first arrives, he is often mobbed by other dogs. Pairs of interacting animals are called “dyads” in the animal behavior literature, and the dyad was the unit of study in this project.
For each dyad, Ward noted which dog initiated the greeting or if it was a mutual approach. She noted the relative sizes of the dogs and whether play or aggression followed the greeting. Other data included whether each dog’s overall body posture was high, neutral or low both at the beginning and the end of the greeting, and if both dogs participated in the greeting by sniffing the other dog.
One of the most interesting and practical results from this study was how short the greetings were. When dogs are off leash and free to choose, they don’t hang around interacting for a long time. The greetings Ward observed were typically in the six to eight second range, which is very brief. It’s certainly a lot less time than we spend talking with our human friends when we run into them on dog walks. When that happens and our dogs also greet, they are forced to be in close proximity to the other dog when that is not what would happen if they were doing things their own way. Greetings are naturally short—far shorter than just about all of us experts at this conference would have predicted! We should keep this in mind if we have dogs greet on leash and not allow the interaction to extend beyond that time frame unless the dogs progress into play.
Based on Ward’s study, play is not a highly likely outcome of many greetings. Only six of the 52 greetings (twelve percent) she recorded resulted in play. Perhaps we should consider that many dogs want to meet and greet one another, but don’t want to engage in play as often as many of us expect. None resulted in aggression, which is encouraging, but that rate might be higher in a population of dogs that are not at the dog park as some people wisely choose not to take dogs prone to aggression to the dog park.
Greeting were either reciprocated or unreciprocated. In a reciprocated greeting, both dogs were involved in the interaction and showed similar behavior—e.g., both dogs sniffed each other. With an unreciprocated greeting, only one of the dogs sniffed or investigated. The other dog ignored or showed little attention to the greeter.
Large weight differences usually involved the heavier dog initiating the greeting. When weights were closer between the two dogs, involvement by both dogs was more common. Over 80 percent of the greetings were initiated by only one of the dogs. This pattern suggests that dogs are using greetings as a way to assess other dogs.
If you have observed your own dog greeting other dogs, does his behavior match up with what Camille Ward documented in her study?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vets are seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth.
My dogs love antler chews. When my Border Collie, Scuttle, was a puppy, it was the only way I could get her to chill while I got chores done around the house (besides using her crate). But recently a friend's pup fractured a tooth on an antler, prompting me to do a little research on these beloved treats. According to United Kingdom based DentalVets, veterinarians have been seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth from hard chews, some resulting in surgical extraction or root canal therapy. While fractured teeth aren't uncommon, damage to the carnassial teeth at the back of the mouth is.
This shift has caused some shops to stop stocking hard chews, like antlers and bull horns. Three years ago a group of concerned veterinarians and nurses wrote to the Veterinary Times to spread the word about the potential danger. This sparked a multi-year study on the effect of various types of chews on dog teeth, research that has recently concluded and will be submitted for publication soon.
While many dogs use these chews without problems, if you do give your pups these products, it's important to monitor your dogs' teeth and take them to the veterinarian for their annual checkups. Most pets with tooth fractures don't show any signs of pain, so we have to pay close attention to how our pups use these chews. The American Animal Hospital Association has a helpful article on canine tooth fractures.
According to oral veterinary surgeon, Rachel Perry, many people assume bones and antlers are beneficial because dogs in the wild eat these chews. But we shouldn't assume what animals do in the wild is necessarily safe. Rachel cites a study that looked at the skulls of Wild African Dogs. The scientists found that 41 percent had periodontal disease and 48 percent had broken teeth. So we may not want to follow exactly what these pups are doing!
Rachel recommends two simple tests to determine if a chew is too hard. If you can dig your fingernail in it and make an impression, it's safe. If you can whack your knee with it, and it doesn't hurt, it's okay.
If your dog has suffered dental injury from a chew, DentalVets advocates getting a vet report and reporting the damage to the pet store that you bought the product from. This will create greater awareness
Do your pups like antlers and other hard chews?
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