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Look for upcoming post on dog language and dog body postures.
Great talk about why we struggle to allow into our world, new information when, “we know what we know”.
Takes about 15 minutes to watch this video about how we and creatures map reality.
Applies to pet owners because many problem behaviors that happen in the average home are based on the principles revealed in this TED talk. Basically, our prior learning results in ideas and remembered brain images, about a subject within our world. These image-ideas can interfere with seeing what is really happening. Our brains are constantly editing out information that is in the environment, so that we only pay attention to what is judged important. This is a brain based shortcut for daily living. Obviously, we don’t take as long to do activities of daily life compared to when we first learned them. This is the result of editing out any information that is not important to the task. How does this interfere with learning as life goes on? We create a very detailed map of the world as we acquire experiences. This map is brought out of our memory as we go through our day. Visual maps, hearing maps, feeling and movement maps and even thinking and emotional maps. There is even an area of the brain dedicated to making us feel certain about our maps. Even though we know that maps are only a guide, as we gain repeated experiences we begin to feel certain that our personal map is the same as reality. This is how phobias are formed and knowing that repeating experiences creates a new map is also how phobias are treated effectively.
Hopefully by now, someone has taken a photo or video of you that demonstrates that what you remember can be very wrong. Yet we are stuck with feelings of certainty about how we see the reality around us. Luckily neuroscience is pointing out that each persons and each species only perceives a small portion of the world.
Let me explain how this applies to animal training. First, the experience of eye sight, hearing, feeling sensations, smells and second how this information is identified by the brain is very different between us and our animal companions. Many of the difficulties, that happen within human-animal households, can be traced to these facts. We do not see, feel, smell, hear, experience the same World. Modern pet training differs from, the older, so called “Leader of the Pack” beliefs, by applying what has been learned through 200 years scientific study of how animals really experience their world. More importantly, modern science applies the two principles: one – what can be measured can be improved and two – what we know today is just a map of reality so learning never ends.
It is essential to document training ideas, methods and results in ways that can be objectively measured. Renowned Innovators and Entrepreneurs know that accepted thinking gets in the way of discovery. They also know the importance of measuring results. So as you train your animals I suggest that we all; test ideas, document objectively, retest, retest and have someone else look over your methods and results.
Once one realizes that accepted ideas can get in the way of seeing reality this is the best we can do, for now…..
In case you are looking for books, DVD’s and other educational material on dogs ad behavior, this is Patricia McConnell’s website.
Make Note: Patrica McConnell is now a full time writer, speaker and educator. She no longer sees any individual appointments. She has sold her dog training business to Aimee Moore, an experienced dog trainer and behaviorist in her own right.
The training company called “Dog’s Best Friend” is under her steerage. Classes and individual appointments are available. Their website is
Well, DR Ian Dunbar recently discusses this whole issue. His approach to dog training has been to study popular methods and based on scientific testing find out what actually works better, faster and results in a more reliable dog. In the end as he tells us that neither method is the best way. Well, listen to the video for what what I like to think of as the third way of dog training.
Fun and informative site to help you pick the right breed of dog for you.
It is buyer be aware when it comes to buying puppies or kittens. I highly recommend this website http://pupquest.org/index.php, that can answer all your questions and more.
Buying a puppy or Kitten that will become a member of the family for 10 up to 18 years is a big commitment of your energy, money and most important love and personal time. Many pets are purchased on a whim or as a present for someone else. Two to four months after Christmas is when animal shelters and humane societies begin to fill up with pet adoptions that fail.
The wise and loving approach to choosing a pet begins with becoming informed about the pros and cons of pet ownership and the breeds you are looking at to adopt. Survey’s show that most pets are chosen by how they look alone, with little consideration of how they act, how much time, attention, and exercise they need, and personality. When successful, the family pet develops a wonderful relationship with the family members which can enrich our lives. I recommend reading the pupquest website chapters and the ebook “before you get your puppy” by Dr. Ian Dunbar before you select “the one” for this important relationship.
Happy dog training
This is an excellent article about the complexity of the “Human – Dog interaction”. Good information for advanced trainers and owners a-like. When you have the feeling that the dog has “taken over” the training, is “mind reading”, or “Tried & True Methods” stop working with a particular dog. The Dog may not be stubborn, or status seeking, or many other labels we assign when the Dog does not respond as we expect. Follow the link below to read more.
What do you do if you are given out cues unintentionally that the dog has learned to read and follow.
1. Return to the present moment.
A. Stop and Breath- usually it takes a full 6 relaxing breaths for are attention to return to the present.
B. Think about what you are doing in the moment with the dog. People are notorious planners & multi-taskers, which can confuse a dog that is reading your subtle cues. We will unconsciously begin to change our attention, body position general mental and eye attention, as soon as we think about the next move, often before we have finished with the last move. Dogs are experts at reading these subtle changes. It is what makes them good hunters of prey, reading where or how the prey will travel before it moves.
Often dog training is repetitive, while at the same time, needs intense focus on the Dog the entire training episode. I noticed my 6 year old neighbor had trained my 6 month old puppy not to jump on her in a few seconds, and then on to more behaviors. She was completely focused on the dog and the dog on her. In reality most of us get bored, repeating the sit command and waiting for the dog to comply for the 20th time, our minds wander. The dog will pick up our loss of focus and look around to find out what we are attending to0, instead of them. When this happens in training the events unfold as; the dog was doing well, following, executing and focused on you. Without a reason the dog begins to look away and not pay attention to your cues and fail at the task.. Well, a dog that is able to read your cues is looking for where the trainer’s focus has gone. Just redirect yourself and the dog, shorten your training sessions. In the home with puppies, I prefer 2-5 minute mini-sessions, with 10 -15 minutes breaks for the dog to play or to practice waiting. When doing longer training make the sessions fun for the dog and you so it is easier to stay focused.
C. Take a break for you and the dog.
D. Access whether to continue or to stop the training session. If the dog is tired, upset, bored, or ill stop.
E. If you want to continue with the dog it is OK to have unstructured time together. The dog is learning through this interaction as well. How to hang out with their humans.
2. Another common reason the dog looks away happens when the trainer becomes frustrated, and focuses at the dog with emotion-charged dominant postures and staring at the dog. The “look away” by the dog is behavior language that “they acknowledge you as dominant” plus signal their “submission” by first “looking away”, then a “head turn away” and finally “whole body turned side-ways” to the trainer. When this happens stop training, give the dog something easy to do and end the session on a positive note.
For More on this subject go to: Do Dogs Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves? | Psychology Today.
3. Follow up when training gets off track:
A good practice that excellent Dog trainers, as well as leaders of people, employ when something is not going well is a quick self assessment. They will note the details of what they were doing and what caused your reactions. I.e. The time of day, length of the session, something else is on your mind, even simply distracting body pain or fatigue. Good trainers develop a habit of self assessment, without self judgement so that all elements of a training session can be adjusted to the situation and the dog. I believe that this skill is one of those that contribute to the “art” of the Science and Art of Modern dog training.
I will be posting videos on behavior that I think can be helpful for owners. I have several goals in mind as I think about what is useful for every pet owner to know about behavior.
1. How to understand the real meaning behind what your dog does.
2. How to prevent problems before they start.
3. How to solve behavior related problems quickly.
4. Do you really need an expert behaviorist or trainer? Can you solve behavior problems yourself?
5. How to create a more fun, more confident dog who wants to do what you ask.
6. Learn the language of the dog. And how to use it to: develop the long lasting, strong bond that make you and your dog happy.
Of course I won’t accomplish this in one posting. But I am beginning to build a library so my readers can have the best information on how to “do it yourself”. Have fun training your dog. Methods that work almost all of the time. _____________________________________________________________________________________________
This video illustrates how quickly and dog can re-actively bite at the dog park. Warning signs of stress prior to attack
Even though the attacker gave warning signs of stress, she also should signs of indecision (ear position). This can confuse the greeting dog. Younger dogs < 3 years, puppies and dog who missed out on enough social learning are less experienced and will make mistakes in dog to dog communication. They may not notice or ignore warnings from stranger dogs. Be aware that the dog park is both exciting for your dog and high risk for attacks by the mere usage design. From the Dog’s point of view the park is a gathering place of allot of stranger. Some strangers may want to play and some may attack. Because dog’s are uncertain who is friendly when meeting strangers they will often be on edge. Dog’s have complex greeting rituals that allow each party a chance to slowly size each other up and decide if further interaction is OK with each dog. But often many factors speed up the greetings and cut short the ritual and some dogs will react fearfully to rushed greetings.
How will your know this is coming.
1. Your dog is geeked up in the car on the way to the park. Whining, jumping and can hardly wait to get in. Rushes over to ever dog or person, runs wildly in many directions and forgot that you exist. We have all either seen this dog, own it or have been run over by the happy greeting. Being mugged and knocked flat is just a disorienting, frightening for dogs and possibly painful whether meant as friendly or malicious.
So, the dog who is out of control when approaching the park needs to be taught to calm itself down BEFORE being allowed into the fenced area.See in links: dogstardaily.com and go to onlinetraining- >adolescent dogs. I will write more about impulse control later.
2. A dog who freezes in it tracks, or walks stiffly with straight legs, staring directly at an approaching dog. When ears freeze in position stress is going up. I find it more helpful when watching dogs interact to think about whether they are stressed by each other or OK with happy faces when interacting.
3. Trying to decide who is dominant in order to prevent a fight can get in the way. Dominance/submission can be flexible roles that switch around within dog to dog relationships and is hard to determine at a dog park with strangers. Better to observe the dogs with the question, who is showing signs of stress v.s. happy relaxed play. Dog’s can bring stress with them just like people do and then have a bad day at the dogs at the Park.
4. Puppies and adolescent dogs- As mentioned, just don’t know manners yet. The solution is to attend either puppy socialization classes and adolescent dog training. These get the dogs used to the sight of other dogs so they are less fearful or over excited. AND teaches the basics of manners and set the stage for developing impulse control that will be needed in adult life. Dog will often give young puppies a pass on bad behavior, but this tolerance goes away after the pup is 3 to 4 months of age and especially with strangers. Remember, puppies and young dogs learn from encounters are the dog park. Supervise and remove your dog if playing with another dog teaches you pet dangerous habits, even if they seem to be getting along playing roughly. I see this allot where adolescent become rough play buddies and then try to get every dog to play as roughly which gets them attacked by adults. It is our job as owners to expose the growing dog to situations where they can learn and practice self control. Puppies know to bite and play, generally one speed (full on for their age) as puppies. They spend the rest of their lives learning what is acceptable play and bite behavior to get along in dog and human society.
My one great tip is: Interrupt these playing puppy & adolescent dogs to; sit and down before they are running full speed wildly through the park. You will teach them, later, when this “full on” play behavior is allowed. But they must earn it as well.
Warning signs of stress about social interactions.
-Hard staring at a dog or person. Often the white of the eye can show a little around the rim of the iris.
-Slow walking, with stiff legs and tail barely moving, just the tip 1/3rd of the tail.
-Dogs who are doing their own thing and get surprised by the approach of another dog. They stop what they are doing, freeze, go in slow motion, stare, lick their lips. Close their mouth, all or part of the way.
-Low volume growling, show the front teeth and canines (but no more), I call this framing the weapons, while holding still or moving stiffly.
compare to Happy relaxed dog:
Mouth fully open, all the teeth are showing with loose lips and tongue.
Tail in normal relaxed position, with relaxed, full swing, wagging.
Deferentially looks away or head to side when other dogs looks. Both dogs ideally trade off, looking away and then quiet little looks at each other.
Legs have slight bend at the joints with natural, easy, movement, plus will lift one front foot when approaching or visa versa.
My rule of thumb for meeting dogs on the street or dog parks is: expect fearfulness that can lead to aggression unless there are numerous signs of friendliness and invitations to play. Train your dog to look at you when in sight of another dog. Train your dog to sit quietly at your side. Train your dog to follow you calmly, with zero pulling on the leash. These are all protective behaviors. Each send a signal to the approaching stranger dog, that your dog is not interested in a challenge. These skills done by your dog, will avoid most dog attacks.
Dog Park Body Language Check list from APDT
If you decide to visit a dog park, it is important to be able to read the body language of your dog and the other dogs present. The ideal body language is playful, but dogs will exhibit a variety of behaviors as they contact new dogs and spend more time at the park. Overall you are looking for balanced play between dogs – sometimes one is on top and next time he’s on the bottom. Sometimes he’s the chaser, and next he will be the chased.
It’s always wise to leave the park if your pet shows signs of tiredness, stress or fear or if there are dogs present who seem threatening.
Playful actions to watch for:
- Back and forth play – dogs change position – role reversals
- Bouncy, exaggerated gestures
- Wiggly bodies
- Open relaxed mouth
- Twisted leaps or jumps
- Pawing the air
Obvious Signs of Anxiety/Higher Stress:
- Fast wagging low tail
- Whining or whimpering
- Ears may be back
- Hiding behind objects or people
Signs of Fear:
- Dog will try to look small
- Tail tucked
- Hunched over, head down
- May urinate submissively
Red Flags that Require Intervention:
- Excessive mounting
- Pinning (holding another dog down and standing stiffly over them)
- Shadowing another dog (following) incessantly
- Bullying: repeatedly bothering another dog that does not want to interact
- Fast non-stop running with a group – high arousal situation
- Full-speed body slams
- Putting head repeatedly onto another dog’s neck or back
- Staring with a fixed gaze directly at another dog
- Snarling or raised lips
- Showing teeth
- Hackles up at the shoulders
Signs of Potential Illness – While not necessarily related to behavior, you will want to remove your dog from a park where dogs are showing the following symptoms:
- Coughing or gagging
In theory, dog parks are a wonderful way for dogs to socialize with other friendly dogs. It is important that owners who frequent dog parks know the limitations of their pets and act accordingly to keep playgroups interacting in a safe and responsible manner