What Is Your Dog Saying? A Key to Canine Body Language

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Keys to Understanding Canine Body Language

Every dog, whether Akita, bichon, or beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other’s signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don’t know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.

If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.

Signals Dogs Use to Communicate

Although a dog can’t speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he’s feeling and reacting to the world around him.

Face. Although the dog’s facial muscles are not as refined as a human’s, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.

Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it’s particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.

Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.

Ears. The dog’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signaling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.

Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.

Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.

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Dog Posture Speaks Volumes – What Your Dog is Saying

When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren’t tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other’s neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.

 

Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their litter-mates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.

Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.

Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a “play bow.” His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.

Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.

Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.

Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.

Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avoid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn’t afraid, he’ll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.

 

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Defining The Term PACK

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  • Here is where there is a huge divide between Dog Trainers.
  • Those that adhere to the The Pack Theory and those that do not.
  • But which Pack Theory?
  • The old or new
  • Alpha or Alpha-Beta-Omega structure

Pack – Alpha

  • This Pack Dominance theory came from studying forced Packs. Wolves in captivity.
  • We now know that Natural Forming packs follow a Alpha-Beta-Omega structure
  • Domestic dogs, like their wild wolf counterparts, also interact in complex hierarchical ways.

Dog or Wolf

  • Dog behavior refers to the collection of behaviors by the domestic dog, and is believed to be influenced by genetic, social, situational and environmental causes.
  • The domestic dog is a subspecies of the grey wolf, and shares many of its behavioral characteristics.

Although there are important and distinct differences between dogs and wolves.

 

Wolf – V – Dog

  • Research of packs formed in the wild indicates that wolves form a family group, including a breeding pair and their offspring.
  • In these familial packs, the terms “dominance,” and “submission” are less useful than “parent,” and “offspring,” and bring with them a number of misconceptions.
  • While the majority of research to date indicates that domestic dogs conform to a hierarchy around an Alpha-Beta-Omega structure, like their wild wolf counterparts.

Pack – v – Family

  • Packs are family units, and the “alpha” of a pack does not change through struggles for dominance. Rather, it argues that the family unit serves to raise the young, which then disperse to pair up with other dispersed wolves to form a breeding pair, and a pack of their own. This model undermines the popular conception of dominance in wolf social behavior.

My Terms

  • I use the word Pack and the term Pack Leader.
  • I could say Family and Dad or Mum or Mum & Dad or The Boss
  • I use the term Leadership
  • I do not mean Dominance when I say that, I mean Leadership
  • What leadership means in relation to our interaction with our dogs is to provide direction, to show and teach them what they are allowed to do, guide them towards what they can and may do instead of engaging in nuisance-type behaviours such as jumping up, biting on hands, pulling on the lead, barking, or barging through doorways.
  • And ‘do’ is an important word here – it’s not enough to say ‘I want my dog to stop barking’ or ‘I want my dog to not jump up’ or ‘not pull on the lead’ – leadership is about teaching them what we want them to do instead, not what we want them not to do.
  • Leadership requires concerted and constructive effort on our part, and involves us prompting and coordinating friendly social interaction, activities and behaviours that bring beneficial results both to us as leaders and to our dogs as followers. It’s about quality of life and enriching the bond that we have with our dogs.

    Leadership requires us to communicate clearly and compassionately with our dogs, to be patient and tolerant while our dogs are learning to follow and trust our direction, and above all, to remember that we are on the same team as our dogs – always.

Canine Behaviour

  • Every species is unique in their behavior. That is how we tell them apart even if their anatomy is closely related.
  • As such, humans and chimps are clearly different species, with a common ancestor, but only some common, primate behaviors.
  • The same is true for dogs and wolves. There are some common behaviours.

Evolution of the Dog

  • Behavioral variations happen when animals adjust to different environmental demands.
  • Adapting to one’s environment, is evolutionary success.
  • The big divergence regarding wolves and dogs is that dogs live on human waste, and non-captive wolves hunt and kill prey.

The Human Bond

  • Food seeking is a primal drive, and that makes that difference a profound one, because it means that wolves depend on one another for survival, and dogs don’t.
  • They depend on humans.
  • They evolved from Wolves into the Dog.
  • A mutually beneficial result for both Dog and Human

Pack Leader/Mum or Dad

  • Why does it matter to us if dogs are natural pack animals or not? Because it impacts their behavior and our life with them, that’s why.
  • Does that mean that our canine companion needs a pack leader? Well, she certainly needs someone who explains how her world works; how she can belong, stay safe and access resources. How she can thrive through cooperation. And that someone has to be the human. The onus is on you, but an existing canine co-dweller who knows the ropes can certainly function as a great helper.

Potty/Crate Training

i meant to behaveA lot of dog owners feel that crate training puppies is cruel. This thinking is wrong and it prevents them from taking advantage of the best house training tool – a crate.

If you can avoid some common crate training mistakes, your puppy will enjoy the time he spends in his crate.

You see, just like wolves, dogs are den animals. A crate provides them with the same sense of security that a den would have provided them in the wild.

The tricky part about crate training puppies lies in the fact that unless you use a crate correctly, you will not achieve the desired result.

What follows are some tips and suggestions you can use right away. Further down, there is a page where I talk more about crate training your puppy.

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So, without wasting any more time, let’s review some…

  • The first step in crate training puppies is to decide where to place the crate. Because puppies are social animals, it’s best to keep the crate in an area where your family spends a lot of time, but avoid placing it next to air vents or in direct sunlight.
  • Put a soft blanket inside the crate. To make your puppy feel more secure, put the crate next to a wall and cover the sides with a towel. Or get a Crate wear Pet Dreams 3-Piece Complete Crate Bed Set that includes a mattress, padded bumpers and a crate cover.
  • Though buckle collars are generally safe, it’s not a good idea to use them when crate training puppies. Why? Because even a flat collar can get stuck between metal bars and injure your puppy.
  • The best time for crate training is when your puppy is hungry, bored, or… both.
  • Never force your pet to enter the crate. If he needs some encouragement, put some of his favourite toys or food inside the crate (from my experience, food works better than toys).

    Initially, leave them near the door and leave the crate door open. As your pet becomes more comfortable, you may move the toys further inside his crate.

  • If the above doesn’t work, try another approach…

    Some puppies get anxious when encouraged to enter the crate but will venture inside on their own if there is an incentive.

  • One of the most difficult parts of crate training puppies is locking your pet in his crate for the first (and second, and third, and… times). Here is a trick I learned a long time ago.

    With my dog inside the crate and eating, I lock the door, but only for the duration of his meal. Even if he notices that I locked the door, most likely, he will be too busy eating to express his displeasure. As soon as he finishes eating, I open the door. As you repeat this exercise, keep the door locked a little longer each time.

  • Always praise your puppy for doing things right. Did he just enter his crate for the first time? Or maybe he didn’t cry when you locked the door? I am sure you’ll agree these milestones deserve some praise and a treat or two!
  • Don’t try to accomplish too much too soon. As you begin crate training your puppy, keep the sessions short and gradually increase the training time when your puppy is ready.
  • A crate is the most valuable tool for training puppies. But to get the most benefits out of crate training, your puppy can’t associate his crate with anything negative. So, never use it for punishment.

Housebreaking your new puppy is going to take patience. You should begin to housebreak as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Puppies need to relieve themselves approximately six times a day. A puppy should be taken out immediately after each meal since a full stomach puts pressure on the colon and bladder.

A puppy is not physically able to control the muscle that allows him to “hold it” until he is about 12 weeks of age. Before this time, good housebreaking routines should be practiced to avoid having your puppy urinate and defecate all over your house. Watch for signs of urination or defecation, such as turning in circles. Take your puppy out often. Using a crate or confining your puppy to a small part of the house that has easy clean up floors are some ways to ensure your puppy does not urinate all over your house. It is much harder to housebreak a puppy if he smells is urine in places you do not wish him to relief himself.

There are many different methods in which you can housebreak your pet, however I find Crate training the most effective. Whichever way you choose, it is important to understand your puppy. Dogs want to please; the trick is to make them understand what it is you want from them.

Dogs do not think the way humans do. When you are unhappy with your dog, it assumes that whatever it is doing at the exact moment you show disapproval – is the thing that is upsetting you.

For example:

If your puppy relieves himself on your floor and you show your disapproval five minutes after he has committed the act, the puppy will think that the mess on the floor is bad. He will not relate to the fact that it was the act of relieving himself on your floor that you disapprove of. The dog will eliminate, see the mess and get worried; you are now going to be unhappy. This is the reason so many dogs will relieve themselves in inappropriate places and look really guilty about it, yet they continue to do it. Dogs want to please, right?

Some owners start to think that their dog is being sneaky when really it does not fully understand what it is doing wrong. It knows the mess upsets you but does not understand that it should stop “making” the mess. To your dog, these two things: “the mess” and “the act” are unrelated.

The trick is to catch your dog in the act and make him understand. You do not need to hit your dog. The tone of your voice is enough to make the dog see you are unhappy.

A firm “Eh! Or other correction sound.  You are not allowed to go in the house. “Eh!” or other correction sound is all that is needed.

Immediately take your dog outside to the appropriate place. Wait for your dog to go again and when and if he does, praise him. Important: Always praise your dog after he eliminates in the appropriate place.

Crate Training Caution:

Before you crate train, please be aware: a dog that is left in a crate all day long, gets let out in the evening after work for a few hours and put back in the crate for the night can become neurotic, destructive, unhappy and noisy.

If you work all day, it is recommended that you find someone who can take your dog out for a long walk in the afternoon. If this is not possible only use the crate at night.

If you must leave your dog all day long every day and you have nobody to let the dog out during the day, you should find a room without a rug, put down Pooch Pads Reusable Housebreaking Pads, food, water and toys.

You should set up the room so that the bed and food are at one end and the pee pads at the other. Spread the toys in the center of the room. Dogs are not fish. They need to find something to occupy their mind, so give your dog plenty of toys. It is said that dogs are den animals and like the crate, but even a den animal would go crazy if it was lock up all day long.

You must be willing to invest time and energy for just a few short weeks in housetraining. The effort you put in now will last for the rest of your pet’s life.

The crate training method is as follows. Buy a crate and for the first 3 to 4 weeks keep your puppy in it when you are not with him. Make sure the crate is not too big. It should be large enough for the puppy’s bed, but no larger. Dogs do not want to soil their bed and the use of a crate teaches them to control their urge to eliminate.

You must maintain an eagle eye at all times. As soon as you see him pacing, sniffing around, and turning in circles, immediately take him outside. He is telling you “I am going to go pee pee somewhere, and this carpet looks like as good a place as any.” NO, you do not have time to put on your shoes, just go.

Be patient and do not rush the little guy. He may have to go several times in one “pit stop.” Give him about 10 minutes before taking him back inside. Do not play with him while you are on this mission. Let him know this is a business trip.

Make sure you take him out after every meal and play session BEFORE you put him back in his crate. Be consistent and establish a schedule. Pay attention to your puppy’s behaviour so you can develop a schedule that works for you and the pup. When does your puppy naturally defecate? In the morning? 10 minutes after eating? Around bedtime? You may have to make some compromises.

Be fair to your puppy. He cannot be expected to stay alone in his crate for endless hours and not relieve himself. During your work days, you will need to have someone go to your home at least once (lunch time is good) to let the puppy out. Take him for a long walk. Your dog is not a fish and he needs something to occupy his mind.

Make sure everyone who is involved in the housebreaking process is using the same spot in the yard and the same word. Everyone should agree on the place they will take the puppy. The odour from the previous visits will cause the puppy to want to go in that spot.

Use a simple word like “Potty/Weewees” when taking your puppy to the chosen spot. Use this word consistently and later this word will help build communication between the family and the dog. When you notice him going toward the door and you say “Potty” he can say “Yup, that’s where I need to go,” or, “Forget it. I am getting back up on the couch for some shut eye.”

Until your puppy is about 5 months old you will need to take him out frequently and keep that eagle eye on him. But before you know it, you are going to be able to trust and communicate with your new pet. And he will learn that when he pleases you by going out to do his business, he gets more freedom in the house.

The Dog Nanny Website

 

 

 

 

Potty/Crate Training

A lot of dog owners feel that crate training puppies is cruel. This thinking is wrong and it prevents them from taking advantage of the best house training tool – a crate.

If you can avoid some common crate training mistakes, your puppy will enjoy the time he spends in his crate.

You see, just like wolves, dogs are den animals. A crate provides them with the same sense of security that a den would have provided them in the wild.

The tricky part about crate training puppies lies in the fact that unless you use a crate correctly, you will not achieve the desired result.

What follows are some tips and suggestions you can use right away. Further down, there is a page where I talk more about crate training your puppy.

So, without wasting any more time, let’s review some…

  • The first step in crate training puppies is to decide where to place the crate. Because puppies are social animals, it’s best to keep the crate in an area where your family spends a lot of time, but avoid placing it next to air vents or in direct sunlight.
  • Put a soft blanket inside the crate. To make your puppy feel more secure, put the crate next to a wall and cover the sides with a towel. Or get a Crate wear Pet Dreams 3-Piece Complete Crate Bed Set that includes a mattress, padded bumpers and a crate cover.
  • Though buckle collars are generally safe, it’s not a good idea to use them when crate training puppies. Why? Because even a flat collar can get stuck between metal bars and injure your puppy.
  • The best time for crate training is when your puppy is hungry, bored, or… both.
  • Never force your pet to enter the crate. If he needs some encouragement, put some of his favourite toys or food inside the crate (from my experience, food works better than toys).

    Initially, leave them near the door and leave the crate door open. As your pet becomes more comfortable, you may move the toys further inside his crate.

  • If the above doesn’t work, try another approach…

    Some puppies get anxious when encouraged to enter the crate but will venture inside on their own if there is an incentive.

  • One of the most difficult parts of crate training puppies is locking your pet in his crate for the first (and second, and third, and… times). Here is a trick I learned a long time ago.

    With my dog inside the crate and eating, I lock the door, but only for the duration of his meal. Even if he notices that I locked the door, most likely, he will be too busy eating to express his displeasure. As soon as he finishes eating, I open the door. As you repeat this exercise, keep the door locked a little longer each time.

  • Always praise your puppy for doing things right. Did he just enter his crate for the first time? Or maybe he didn’t cry when you locked the door? I am sure you’ll agree these milestones deserve some praise and a treat or two!
  • Don’t try to accomplish too much too soon. As you begin crate training your puppy, keep the sessions short and gradually increase the training time when your puppy is ready.
  • A crate is the most valuable tool for training puppies. But to get the most benefits out of crate training, your puppy can’t associate his crate with anything negative. So, never use it for punishment.

Housebreaking your new puppy is going to take patience. You should begin to housebreak as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Puppies need to relieve themselves approximately six times a day. A puppy should be taken out immediately after each meal since a full stomach puts pressure on the colon and bladder.

A puppy is not physically able to control the muscle that allows him to “hold it” until he is about 12 weeks of age. Before this time, good housebreaking routines should be practiced to avoid having your puppy urinate and defecate all over your house. Watch for signs of urination or defecation, such as turning in circles. Take your puppy out often. Using a crate or confining your puppy to a small part of the house that has easy clean up floors are some ways to ensure your puppy does not urinate all over your house. It is much harder to housebreak a puppy if he smells is urine in places you do not wish him to relief himself.

There are many different methods in which you can housebreak your pet, however I find Crate training the most effective. Whichever way you choose, it is important to understand your puppy. Dogs want to please; the trick is to make them understand what it is you want from them.

Dogs do not think the way humans do. When you are unhappy with your dog, it assumes that whatever it is doing at the exact moment you show disapproval – is the thing that is upsetting you.

For example:

If your puppy relieves himself on your floor and you show your disapproval five minutes after he has committed the act, the puppy will think that the mess on the floor is bad. He will not relate to the fact that it was the act of relieving himself on your floor that you disapprove of. The dog will eliminate, see the mess and get worried; you are now going to be unhappy. This is the reason so many dogs will relieve themselves in inappropriate places and look really guilty about it, yet they continue to do it. Dogs want to please, right?

Some owners start to think that their dog is being sneaky when really it does not fully understand what it is doing wrong. It knows the mess upsets you but does not understand that it should stop “making” the mess. To your dog, these two things: “the mess” and “the act” are unrelated.

The trick is to catch your dog in the act and make him understand. You do not need to hit your dog. The tone of your voice is enough to make the dog see you are unhappy.

A firm “Eh! Or other correction sound.  You are not allowed to go in the house. “Eh!” or other correction sound is all that is needed.

Immediately take your dog outside to the appropriate place. Wait for your dog to go again and when and if he does, praise him. Important: Always praise your dog after he eliminates in the appropriate place.

Crate Training Caution:

Before you crate train, please be aware: a dog that is left in a crate all day long, gets let out in the evening after work for a few hours and put back in the crate for the night can become neurotic, destructive, unhappy and noisy.

If you work all day, it is recommended that you find someone who can take your dog out for a long walk in the afternoon. If this is not possible only use the crate at night.

If you must leave your dog all day long every day and you have nobody to let the dog out during the day, you should find a room without a rug, put down Pooch Pads Reusable Housebreaking Pads, food, water and toys.

You should set up the room so that the bed and food are at one end and the pee pads at the other. Spread the toys in the center of the room. Dogs are not fish. They need to find something to occupy their mind, so give your dog plenty of toys. It is said that dogs are den animals and like the crate, but even a den animal would go crazy if it was lock up all day long.

You must be willing to invest time and energy for just a few short weeks in housetraining. The effort you put in now will last for the rest of your pet’s life.

The crate training method is as follows. Buy a crate and for the first 3 to 4 weeks keep your puppy in it when you are not with him. Make sure the crate is not too big. It should be large enough for the puppy’s bed, but no larger. Dogs do not want to soil their bed and the use of a crate teaches them to control their urge to eliminate.

You must maintain an eagle eye at all times. As soon as you see him pacing, sniffing around, and turning in circles, immediately take him outside. He is telling you “I am going to go pee pee somewhere, and this carpet looks like as good a place as any.” NO, you do not have time to put on your shoes, just go.

Be patient and do not rush the little guy. He may have to go several times in one “pit stop.” Give him about 10 minutes before taking him back inside. Do not play with him while you are on this mission. Let him know this is a business trip.

Make sure you take him out after every meal and play session BEFORE you put him back in his crate. Be consistent and establish a schedule. Pay attention to your puppy’s behaviour so you can develop a schedule that works for you and the pup. When does your puppy naturally defecate? In the morning? 10 minutes after eating? Around bedtime? You may have to make some compromises.

Be fair to your puppy. He cannot be expected to stay alone in his crate for endless hours and not relieve himself. During your work days, you will need to have someone go to your home at least once (lunch time is good) to let the puppy out. Take him for a long walk. Your dog is not a fish and he needs something to occupy his mind.

Make sure everyone who is involved in the housebreaking process is using the same spot in the yard and the same word. Everyone should agree on the place they will take the puppy. The odour from the previous visits will cause the puppy to want to go in that spot.

Use a simple word like “Potty/Weewees” when taking your puppy to the chosen spot. Use this word consistently and later this word will help build communication between the family and the dog. When you notice him going toward the door and you say “Potty” he can say “Yup, that’s where I need to go,” or, “Forget it. I am getting back up on the couch for some shut eye.”

Until your puppy is about 5 months old you will need to take him out frequently and keep that eagle eye on him. But before you know it, you are going to be able to trust and communicate with your new pet. And he will learn that when he pleases you by going out to do his business, he gets more freedom in the house.

UNDERSTANDING DOGS BY MARCIA MURRAY-STOOF B.SC. CANINE BEHAVIOURIST

Copyright 2000,
Dogs (Canines) communicate by Scent, Body Language and Sound. Learning, how we as Humans sometimes give mixed messages due to our way of using Body Language & Sound, is the key to a successful relationship with our Dogs.

First let’s talk about Scent:-

For years people have said dogs can smell Fear and “Whatever you are feeling goes down the leash to your dog”. Well science has now confirmed that our Pheromones (Scent), does change dependent our mood. So yes your dog can by smell figure out your mood. Thus why a Calm Scent is most beneficial. Your BUDDA ZONE, as I call it.

Dogs learn to put your individual scents into emotional boxes, which they divide up into multiple levels of the basic emotions. Anger, Fear, Happy & Calm. To help them determine which box each scent goes into they look at your body language and listen to the tone of your voice. And here is where we get confusing to them.

Body Language:-

To a Dog (Canine), large, up-right, tall, big body language means large and in charge, calm and confident. Making yourself look smaller, means you are unsure, nervous or afraid.
Therefore, bending over is not a good body position for us. There are two other messages bending over can convey, and that is Dominance (if over the top of your dog’s body) or Invitation to Play (our human equivalent of a Play Bow).

How important is body language, well it’s one, we can control and need to think about. The amazing fact is dog’s have learned a lot about Human Body Language, by watching us (but the basics remain). Dog’s do realize we are not able to move our ears as they do and that we do not have tails and that we do not move around on all fours. Did you know science has confirmed that dogs are the only animal on the planet that has figured out if Humans close their eyes they cannot SEE. Even the Great Apes our closest genetic cousins have not figured that one out. SO DOGS HAVE LEARNED TO WATCH EVEN OUR SMALLEST MOVEMENTS.
So Body Posture becomes very important.

Sound:-

To a Dog (Canine), a high squeaky tone, means Excitement and Play.
A Low, Deep, bark or growl is a Warning or Correction Tone.
Think of the tone of that “Oh My God, Throw the Ball” Bark, compared to that “I don’t Like that” Bark. Some of you with vocal dogs, and/or Large Breeds, will surely have noticed the difference, and may even to able to recognize, a third and fourth level of tone, for other communications.

So, how do we use tone and what do we need to know about Human Tones. Well, did you know when you raise your voice, you actually go up an octave or two or more, from your normal tone.

So the scenario is this:-
You get angry with your dog for chewing let’s say your brand new Shoes, Couch, Rug or any other object. So you “Address” the Dog (Bend forward), Start Shouting and/or raise you voice. You may even Wag a Finger or Shake your Fist at the dog (rapid irregular movement is an Invitation To Play).

What does your DOG read from this:-
1) Your Scent says your angry
2) Your Body Language says you are Unsure/Nervous/Afraid – Inviting to Play – Dominating
3) Your Tone says you are Happy/Excited
Well, you’re making perfect sense are you not ? being every emotion in the book all at once, and the look you get is not one of GUILT, but of APPEASEMENT. Basically, you are having a mental breakdown, right in front of your dog.

If you remember how Dogs (Canines) Communicate, you will give a clear message.
1) Scent Angry/Upset/Annoyed
2) Body Language Tall and Straight -Large and in Charge
3) Tone Low and Deep, Warning or Correction.

I use the phrase “Sargent Major, Buddha Zone”

Sargent Majors stand very up-right, issue orders and do not make requests, Buddha Zone reminds you to remain Calm not matter what. Good Leaders are Calm and Consistent.

When I say Sargent Majors issue orders and do not make requests, it’s because as Humans, when we start repeating a Cue/Command to our dogs, we naturally, start bending, rapid fire words and start to get frustrated. We stop making sense. Also, we start teaching our dogs they do not have to listen to us UNTIL………… and that’s just not going to work in the long run. If, we do not have to SIT UNTIL……… Then why do we have to listen to COME straight away, and that could become a major safety issue one day.

Marcia Murray-Stoof
Canine Behaviourist B.Sc.
Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor
Authorized Mentor Trainer-Animal Behavior College Inc.
Professional Dog Trainer-Canadian Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Director of Evaluators-Therapeutic Paws Of Canada
Canine Good Neighbour Evaluator-Canadian Kennel Club

If you’ve owned a dog, one of these phrases has probably slipped past your lips. Here’s why it matters.

When it comes to dogs, owners sometimes have tunnel vision, seeing the world only from the perspective of their own dog or their own dog-training experience. This often leads to owners tossing out sentences that, in an ideal world, would never be uttered. Yet these words are clues to a bigger issue, or a situation that’s about to become an issue, including not fully understanding dog behavior, social cues, body language, or simply good manners toward other dogs and dog owners.
Training yourself is the the most productive strategy for improving the behavior of your dog — as well as other dogs that your dog socializes with — because you are such a big influencer of behavior, even when you don’t realize you’re influencing your dog’s actions.
Dr. Patricia McConnell writes in her book “The Other End of the Leash-Why we do What we do around dogs”, “Focusing on the behavior at our end of the leash isn’t a new concept in dog training. Most professional dog trainers actually spend very little time working with other people’s dogs; most of our time is spent training humans. Take it from me, we’re not the easiest species on the block to train.”
But it doesn’t have to feel daunting. Training yourself can become easier if you’re truly seeing your thought process about your own dog and dogs you pass on the street. Once you recognize how you think about them, you can more easily influence what you think about them. And once you do that, better interactions will follow.
All dog owners have been guilty of saying at least one, if not several of the phrases below. Of course none of us are perfect, and “should never” is basically an impossible aspiration. But if you catch yourself saying one of the phrases below, it might be time to ask yourself why you’re saying it and use it as a training opportunity to fine-tune how you’re really viewing your dog and his behaviors. Here are 11 examples of things dog owners often say that should spark wariness about what’s really going on.
“It’s okay, my dog is friendly.”
This is often said by an owner whose dog is approaching (or charging up to) another dog or person. The owner is perhaps trying to calm potential fears that their dog has negative intentions, because maybe that other owner or dog looks nervous. Even worse, the owner uttering this phrase may not have any control whatsoever over how their dog is approaching others and is just hoping that everything goes well.  If you need to say this phrase, then it’s possible you’re letting your dog get away with some bad, potentially dangerous manners.
This is also a common response from an owner whose dog is approaching another dog/human pair that is actually asking to maintain some distance. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if your dog is friendly or not — if someone asks for space, it’s for a good reason. Their dog might be fearful, reactive, injured, in training, or simply not want anything to do with your dog.
Just because your dog is “friendly” doesn’t mean he automatically has permission to approach another dog or a person, nor should his unlikeliness to bite or pick a fight be an excuse for poor manners. If you find yourself assuring people that your dog is friendly, then it may be a good opportunity to look at the bigger picture about what exactly is happening and if your dog is being, well, far too friendly.
“Oh, my dog would never bite.”
Famous last words — and words every UPS delivery person hates to hear because they are filled with naive confidence. Your dog might be the world’s most goofy, loving dog but to quote a favorite song, “Never say never.” (The irony of saying this in light of the title of this article isn’t lost on me.) In fact, saying your dog would never do something is a red flag signaling misunderstanding, or worse, denial, about what your dog thinks or feels about the world and how that might change with age, illness, new family members or other experiences. But assuming your dog would never bite is perhaps the most dangerous assumption to make, since it makes you lax about monitoring interactions that could have serious consequences.
If your dog has a mouth and any sense of what is going on in the world around her, she can and just might bite if pushed. It’s better to know this fact and respect your dog’s capabilities, comfort zones and boundaries just in case, than act as if the scenario could never pop up.
“It’s not my dog’s fault.”
Maybe it isn’t, but maybe it is. On the one hand, there are a lot of dogs that get the blame for reacting to the instigation of another dog. The biggest of the dogs, or the loudest, or the one of a certain breed, or the one that ends up on the winning end often gets blamed. However, there is a large portion of the dog-owning population who say, “It wasn’t my dog’s fault” and they are totally, completely, and utterly wrong. Not only wrong, but as much at fault as their dog who indeed started the altercation.
This phrase is uttered too often by people who have little experience reading dog body language, and aren’t interpreting, or simply aren’t paying attention to, the signals their dog is sending out into the world. Small dog owners are an easy example; because the dog is small, many owners think it’s acceptable — or worse, cute — when their dog stares at, postures at, growls at, or lunges at other nearby dogs. Their dog is small and can’t do a whole lot of damage (or is easy to drag by the leash or pick up off the ground) when they act out. Sadly, though, it is indeed this dog’s fault when something happens, even though they might be the smallest of the suspects.
So if your dog tends to be in the middle of problems, start paying attention. It might be your dog that is drawing in the trouble.
“Let them work it out themselves.”
This is one of the worst things you can hear (or do) in a social situation with dogs, especially at a dog park. There is an over-reliance on the notion that dogs have a built-in pack savvy that they’ll revert to when they’re among other dogs, so humans don’t need to or shouldn’t step in to manage social interactions. But many expert dog trainers and behaviorists will point out that a group of new dogs meeting at a dog park isn’t a pack in the true sense of the word. Further, individual dogs might not know how to give or receive cues from each other to keep a situation from escalating. So as the social tension builds, the humans simply standing by creates a recipe for a fight or psychological trauma.
Some dogs are bullies, some are fearful, some aren’t so great at picking up the cut-it-out cues from others or just ignore them, some have overactive play or prey drives, some are resource-protective. Putting dogs with varying personalities together and letting them “work it out” is like taking the teacher out of a third-grade classroom and letting the kids figure it out among themselves. It’s probably going to get chaotic, and someone is going to get hurt.
Letting dogs figure things out among themselves is important, but to an extent. Professional dog trainer Marcia Murray-Stoof points out, “Socialization is the process of a dog teaching another dog about proper behavior. So yes, a little education here and there about bite inhibition or being too bossy is a critical part of canine socialization. But any escalation beyond that, where you let dogs sort it out, teaches your dog two things. First is, ‘I can’t rely on my human to protect me or standup for me.’ And second is one of these two lessons: ‘Fighting works (so I’ll do it again and again),’ or ‘I hate other dogs, they are scary.’ Any of those messages are the exact opposite of why you wanted your dog to socialize with other dogs in the first place.”
Leaving aside the possibility of a serious fight, when a situation escalates and an owner doesn’t step in, there is an erosion of the trust and confidence the dog has in his owner which can lead to other behavior problems. Responsible dog owners don’t let dogs “work it out themselves” — rather, they help their dogs have positive social interactions by managing the play situation, making sure all is calm and not letting things escalate. And if things do escalate, they step in to stop it.
“There was no warning.”
There’s always warning. You just didn’t see it.
“Communication is a critical ingredient in any relationship, yet as our human interactions show, even between two members of the same species speaking the same language, this is not necessarily an easy matter,” writes Suzanne Clothier writes in “bones Would Rain from The Sky”: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs“. She explains, “The language of Dog is not unlike our own human language. It is filled with nuance and subtleties, the sum of which — examined within a given context — provide a total communication. Like our dogs, we can communicate volumes without uttering a word, though doing so with great clarity requires awareness of our own bodies and the subtle meanings behind gestures.”
Dogs have an intricate though sometimes subtle body language through which they tell you and other dogs everything they’re thinking or feeling. Sometimes dogs give warning after warning after warning before finally lashing out, and the human just didn’t know what the dog was saying or that the dog was communicating at all.
When someone’s dog is attacked at a dog park by another dog and says, “There was no warning,” what that person is really saying is, “I wasn’t paying enough attention or didn’t know enough to see the signals my dog and the other dog were sending each other and step in before things escalated.” Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t see it. Dog body language can be hard to read and “conversations” can happen lightning fast. But don’t say there was no warning. Instead, ask how you missed the warning and how you might catch it next time.
“He just wants to play.”
This might be the case if your dog is play bowing to another dog, enticing another dog into a game of chase with a toy or fake-bolting. But it could also be a lot more complicated than that. This phrase is often said by owners whose dogs are being overly exuberant, being a bully, or are otherwise pushing the boundaries of acceptable social behavior. And often, the person saying this doesn’t know enough about dog body language and social cues to understand when another dog is getting fed up with their own dog’s antics or, equally as problematic, their dog is not being playful at all.
Perhaps the dog who “wants to play” is showing nervousness about the pecking order and is being overly submissive by face licking another dog and rolling over in a submissive posture. Perhaps the dog who “wants to play” is being a bully by nipping, barking at, or standing on another dog when their “play” partner is showing signs of frustration or fear.
Saying that a dog just wants to play too often gives an excuse for bad or potentially dangerous social behavior. If an owner is constantly pawning off their dog’s annoying, mean or awkward behavior as trying to be playful then it might be time to study up on canine body language and find out what’s really going on.
“Dogs love me.”
Cue the eyeroll from every person who owns a dog that doesn’t like other humans.
Most dogs might love you, but not all dogs do. It’s just a statistical reality. Even if most dogs seem to think you’re made of tennis balls and treats, some dogs won’t love you. Not even if you really were made of tennis balls and treats. So, if someone asks you to keep your distance from their dog, please, for the love of DINOS, don’t respond with this phrase. (A DINOS is a dog in need of space, and an owner knows best when their dog will be uncomfortable with you, no matter how convinced you are of your lovability.)
By assuming that a dog will appreciate your approach, you’re opening yourself up to real danger for a bite. And even if a dog doesn’t bite you, you may be causing psychological distress to a dog that doesn’t want you so close — distress that could potentially lead to a bite later on down the road when the dog feels it needs to protect itself from people who come charging up saying, “Dogs love me.”
“My dog is great with kids.”
All kids? All the time? Or kids of a certain age or behavior? Kids act differently at different ages, and your dog who might be amazing with an infant may be less confident or patient with a bumbling, tumbling toddler with erratic, unpredictable movements. Or your dog who is tolerant of slower toddlers might have an over-stimulated prey drive when 7- or 8-year-olds are yelling, running around and jumping over furniture. Or your dog who is a saint with your kids and even the neighborhood kids might not be great when a new child comes along and joins the group; you just don’t know until the situation pops up.
Yes, your dog might be great with kids. And if that’s the case, then wonderful and three cheers for your dog! We all want to have Lassies and Old Yellers and Good Dog Carls. But a dog who is great with all kids, all the time is rare. What family dogs are good at is having a high tolerance for most children, which is quite different from being a perfect playmate or nanny. It leaves the possibility open of your dog being pushed past their patience limits or comfort zones. So think carefully on the various boundaries you may need to put on this statement before you say this.
“He’s a rescue so [insert excuse for behavior here].”
Some rescued dogs come from horrific pasts. They may have been saved from serious neglect or abuse, or have spent time as a stray on the street. Because of this, sometimes their past experiences are the reason why they have certain behavior issues. But as one of my high school teachers used to say, there is always a reason but seldom an excuse. Not all adopted dogs come with dark pasts, and not all adopted dogs have behaviors that can be waved away or excused because of previous experiences.
Personality traits like shyness, timidity and mistrust are sometimes just that: personality traits. And behavior issues like poor manners with other dogs, reactivity, or barking at strangers can’t always be attributed to the mysterious past of your dog. Sometimes they’re simply learned behaviors that need training to improve. If you’ve adopted a rescued dog, then you earn a big high-five! But only if you aren’t dramatizing the dog’s status as adopted and letting poor behavior sneak by.
“He’s doing that to try and be dominant.”
The whole “dominant dog” thing has frankly gotten out of control. The word is flung around as a way to explain practically any misbehavior from jumping on a person to digging through the trash to urinating on the bedspread. If your dog jumps on you or crawls on you when you’re sitting on the floor, it’s more likely that it’s out of overexuberance and lack of solid training than because he’s trying to show you who is boss. Even resource protection isn’t necessarily a “dominance” issue — a dog just doesn’t want to lose what he considers valuable, like a certain toy or a bowl of food. The fear and anxiety about that loss is as much a possible cause for a growl as a drive to be the leader of the pack. Assertiveness, confidence, a lack of confidence, pain or illness, excitement, exuberance, fear, mistrust, a lack of training … there are far more accurate ways of interpreting a dog’s actions than the tired old line of “trying to be dominant.”
McConnell writes, “Understanding social status is particularly important because misunderstanding what ‘dominance’ means has led to appallingly abusive behavior. So much old-fashioned obedience training could be summarized as, ‘Do it because I told you to, and if you don’t, I’ll hurt you.’ The assumption seemed to be that dogs should do what we say because we told them to; after all, we’re the humans and they’re the dogs, and surely humans have more social status than dogs.” However, as McConnell goes on to point out, social status isn’t all about dominance; it is a far more complex concept than one member of the family “pack” being the leader.
Whittling everything down to a dominance problem means losing sight of the complexity of social dynamics and creates blind spots for understanding behaviors. Don’t let the real reason for behaviors, and therefore appropriate and effective solutions for training, get ignored because the word “dominance” springs to mind ahead of anything else.
“He knows better than that.”
Does he? Or does your dog know a certain way to behave only in a certain context? Dogs can have a hard time translating behaviors learned in one place, like your living room, to another place, like inside a pet store or a dog park where smells, sights, people and energy levels are completely different. A dog that has been taught to sit politely at your front door before exiting probably won’t translate that to sitting politely in front of any door before exiting, unless you’ve gone through that exercise at tons of different doors and been consistent about it. It even goes for a different side of your own body; if you’ve taught a dog to sit on your left side but never practiced on your right side, then getting that dog to sit on your right side will take a little more time.
To get a certain behavior from a dog consistently despite where you are or the specifics of what you’re asking takes training the dog for that behavior in a wide variety of settings, under a wide variety of conditions, so your dog knows that “sit” doesn’t just mean “that movement I do right before I’m about to get a leash put on” but rather means “put my rump on the ground no matter where I am or what is happening and keep it there until told otherwise.” So before you get upset with your dog because “he knows better” or “he knows how to do that,” take a look at the training history and ask, does he really?

Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?

Most people can read emotions in their dog quite easily. For example, you come home and your dog dances around wagging her tail, and you think to yourself, “Lady is happy to see me,” or “Lady really loves me.” Or perhaps you’re out on a walk and, at the approach of another canine, your dog freezes in place, his hackles raised, and gives a low throaty growl. We interpret this as “Rex does not like that dog. Seeing him makes Rex angry.” In such situations the emotional state of our dogs seems quite obvious. For this reason it is difficult for many people to understand that the existence of emotions in dogs was—and in some places still is—a point of scientific controversy.

In the dim, distant past it was presumed that dogs had very rich mental lives, with feelings much like those of humans and even the ability to understand human language almost as well as people. However, with the rise of science things began to change. Mankind was now beginning to understand enough about the principles of physics and mechanics that we could build complex machines. In addition, we were learning that living things were also governed by systems that followed mechanical rules and chemical processes. In the face of such discoveries, religions stepped in to suggest that there must be more to human beings than simply mechanical and chemical events. Church scholars insisted that people have souls, and the evidence they gave for this was the fact that humans have consciousness and feelings; animals might have the same mechanical systems, they argued, but they did not have a divine spark and, therefore, did not have the ability to experience “true” feelings.

Since much of the science of the time was sponsored by church-related schools and universities, it is not surprising to find that the researchers would not assert the existence of higher levels of mental functioning such as emotions in animals. To do so might have caused the church authorities to feel that the scientists were suggesting that an animal such as a dog might have a soul and consciousness, and flying in the face of church doctrine could lead to a lot of problems.

The most prominent person to adopt this line was the French philosopher and scientist René Descartes. In a highly influential set of analyses, Descartes suggested that animals like dogs were simply some kind of machine. He would thus describe my Beagle, Darby, as simply being a dog-shaped chassis, filled with the biological equivalent of gears and pulleys. This machine doesn’t think, but it can be programmed to do certain things. Nicholas de Malebranche, who extended Descartes’ ideas, summed up the idea when he claimed that animals “eat without pleasure, cry without pain, act without knowing it: they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing.”

You might argue against this by noting that if you challenge a dog it clearly becomes angry, and this is proven by the fact that it snarls or snaps. Alternatively, it might become afraid, and this is proven by the fact that it whimpers and runs away. Those classical scientists and their successors would say that the dog is simply acting, not feeling. It is programmed to snap at things that threaten it, or if the threat is too great, it is programmed to run away. You might point out that if you kicked a dog it would yelp in pain and fear. These researchers might respond that if you kicked a toaster it would make a sound. Is this a yelp of pain indicating that the toaster is afraid? Their argument would be that dogs simply act and do not feel.

Science has clearly progressed a long, long way beyond the thinking of Descartes and Malebranche. We have now come to understand that dogs possess all of the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans. Dogs have the same hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states. Dogs even have the hormone oxytocin, which, in humans, is involved with feeling love and affection for others. With the same neurology and chemistry that people have, it seems reasonable to suggest that dogs also have emotions that are similar to ours. However, it is important to not go overboard and immediately assume that the emotional ranges of dogs and humans are the same.
To understand what dogs feel, we must turn to research done to explore the emotions of humans. It is the case that not all people have the full range of all possible emotions, and, in fact, at some points in your life you did not have the full complement of emotions that you feel and express today. There is much research to demonstrate that infants and very young children have a more limited range of emotions. It is over time that the infant’s emotions begin to differentiate and develop and, by the time they’ve reached adulthood, their range of emotional experiences is quite broad.

Why is such data important to understanding emotional lives of our dogs? Researchers have now come to believe that the mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to that of a human who is two to two-and-a-half years old. This conclusion holds for most mental abilities as well as emotions. Thus, we can look to the human research to see what we might expect of our dogs. Just like a two-year-old child, our dogs clearly have emotions, but many fewer kinds of emotions than found in adult humans.

At birth, a human infant only has an emotion that we might call excitement. This indicates how excited he is, ranging from very calm up to a state of frenzy. Within the first weeks of life the excitement state comes to take on a varying positive or a negative flavour, so we can now detect the general emotions of contentment and distress. In the next couple of months, disgust, fear, and anger become detectable in the infant. Joy often does not appear until the infant is nearly six months of age and it is followed by the emergence of shyness or suspicion. True affection, the sort that it makes sense to use the label “love” for, does not fully emerge until nine or ten months of age.
The complex social emotions—those which have elements that must be learned—don’t appear until much later. Shame and pride take nearly three years to appear, while guilt appears around six months after that. A child is nearly four years of age before she feels contempt.

This developmental sequence is the golden key to understanding the emotions of dogs. Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans do and have all of the emotional range that they will ever achieve by the time they are four to six months of age (depending on the rate of maturation in their breed). The important fact is that we know that the assortment of emotions available to the dog will not exceed that which is available to a human who is two to two-and-a-half years old. This means that a dog will have all of the basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and, yes, love, but the dog does not experience the more complex emotions like guilt, pride, and shame.

Many would argue that they have seen evidence indicating their dog is capable of experiencing guilt. The usual situation recounted is one in which you’ve come home and your dog starts slinking around showing discomfort, and you then find that he has left a smelly brown deposit on your kitchen floor. It is natural to conclude that the dog was acting in a way that shows that he is feeling guilty about his transgression. Despite appearances, this is not guilt, but simply a display of the more basic emotion of fear. Your dog has learned that when you appear and his droppings are visible on the floor, bad things happen to him. What you see is his fear of punishment; he will never feel guilt because he is not capable of experiencing it.

So what does this mean for those of us who live with and interact with dogs? The good news is that you can feel free to dress your dog in that silly costume for a party. He will not feel shame, regardless of how ridiculous he looks. He will also not feel pride at taking home the top prize in a dog show or an obedience competition. But your dog can indisputably feel love for you and derive contentment from your company, and that’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Like the Beatles sang, “all you need is love.” Thank goodness our dogs provide it in spades.

Do Some Dogs Need a Heavier Hand?

It never fails—someone always says it. In a recent online discussion about a trainer known for using less-than-gentle methods, someone made a comment that sounded a lot like this: “Positive Training is fine for smaller dogs and puppies, and maybe even some adults, but there are some dogs that need a heavier hand.”

Really? Because that sounds an awful lot like justification for, yanking, hitting, shocking, and other things done to dogs in the name of training.

I’ve heard the excuse for heavy-handedness put like this: “They’re RED zone dogs”. The term is meant to indicate dogs that are severely aggressive, and often the trainer has been brought in as last-ditch effort before the dog is euthanized.

In my years of working in canine training and behaviour, I’ve worked with many of what would be termed “red zone” dogs. Lest you think I don’t fully comprehend the extreme aggression the term is meant to denote, one example from my own clientele is the 140-pound Mastiff who had put a hole through his owner’s hand. His owner, a 6-foot-240 pound man, had adopted the dog as an adult. The first week, the man went to grab a toy on the carpet at the same time as the dog did, which resulted in the hole in the palm through which daylight was clearly visible. The dog was also very aggressive toward strangers, and had severe barrier frustration aggression. I’m happy to report that with a course of kind, gentle training and behaviour modification, and some beautiful follow-through on the part of the clients, all lived carefully but happily ever after. I could go on about successful outcomes with dogs, who have delivered multiple puncture-wounds to multiple people, and how gentle methods were successful…but you get the idea. And plenty of other trainers could share similar stories.

Whenever I hear the argument for certain dogs needing a heavier hand, I think about the wolves I’ve worked with over the years. Wolves are incredibly intelligent, and they learn very quickly. They do not, however, respond to things in the same way dogs do. An attempt to physically overpower them would not go well for the human—so how could anyone possibly work with them? Gently and with respect. It’s the method use with all Canids and other large animals.

It’s true that some dogs are naturally softer than others as far as temperament, and they’re more tractable when it comes to training and behaviour modification. There are also some very pushy, obnoxious dogs out there (have you met my dog Saphira?), and yes, even aggressive and severely aggressive dogs. But when we put those dogs in a box and slap a label on it (Red Zone! Beware!), we do them a disservice. That label implies, at least to some, that desperate situations call for desperate measures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Attempting to establish dominance over the dog is the first thing many trainers attempt when working with these high-risk types. I suppose the theory is that the dog will then be biddable; after all, how can you work with a dog that might go after you? But this theory misses the point. It’s not about force to begin with—it’s about gaining the dog’s trust. Think about it: Why is the dog behaving aggressively? In the vast majority of cases, it’s because he or she does not feel comfortable, and is taking the offence to keep the big, scary thing at bay. Sure, there are also dogs who are flat-out territorial or otherwise aggressive without it being fear-based, but even then, gaining trust in a non-confrontational way goes so much further than simply establishing dominance. And let’s say the trainer can “dominate” the dog. Where does that leave the family members who have to live with the dog every day? I’ve seen way too many clients who were advised to use harsh, punitive methods on aggressive dogs, and it backfired. One of my clients had been advised by a previous trainer to put her American Bulldog on his back and sit on him whenever he became aggressive. The woman had been bitten in the face, and as a result, was seeking a better way.

I don’t care if a dog is 150 pounds or 10 pounds, and whether the issue is leash manners or biting visitors. There are no dogs that need a heavier hand—there are only trainers who need more knowledge and a lighter touch.

Is Your Dog a “Bully”? – Why (and how) you should intervene if your dog picks on others.

You can find them everywhere – at dog parks and doggie daycare centers, in dog training classes, in your neighbor’s yards … perhaps even in your own home. “They” are canine bullies – dogs who overwhelm their potential playmates with overly assertive and inappropriate behaviors, like the out-of-control human bully on the school playground.

Four shots of the same playground bully, taken over a 20-minute period at a dog park. In the first photo, the Boxer-mix bully has blindsided a dog who just entered the park. In the next three, she focuses her attention on the same victim, a young Lab-mix. She clearly enjoys holding him down as a variety of other dogs come over to investigate.

Sam was a 10-week-old Golden Retriever puppy, well bred, purchased from a responsible breeder by knowledgeable dog owners who immediately enrolled him in Puppy Good Manners classes to get him started on the right paw. Sam unexpectedly also turned out to be a challenge at his first end-of-class puppy play session.

These two dogs had considerably different backgrounds, but when it came time to play, both dogs exhibited bullying behaviors: Jasper because he never had a chance to learn how to interact appropriately with other dogs; Sam because – well – who knows? Genetics, maybe? Early experiences in his litter, maybe? Regardless of the reasons, both dogs required special handling if they were ever to have a normal canine social life.

Bullying Defined
In her excellent book, Fight!, dog trainer and author Jean Donaldson defines bullying dogs as those dogs for whom “roughness and harassment of non-consenting dogs is quite obviously reinforcing.” Like the human playground bully, the bully dog seems to get a kick out of tormenting less-assertive members of his playgroup. Donaldson says, “They engage at it full tilt, with escalating frequency, and almost always direct it at designated target dogs.”

When released with permission to “go play,” the poorly socialized Labradoodle, Jasper, immediately pounced on the back of Mesa, an easy-going and confident Rottweiler who was playing nicely with Bo, a submissive but exuberant Golden Retriever. Jasper barked insistently, nipping at Mesa’s back as she tried to ignore his social ineptness. Finally, fed up with his boorish behavior, she flashed her teeth at him one time, at which point he decided Bo was a better target for his attentions. Indeed, Bo found him overwhelming, a response that emboldened Jasper to pursue him even more energetically.

We intervened in his play with Mesa several times by picking up Jasper’s dragging leash and giving him a time-out when his behavior was completely unacceptable, then releasing him to “Go play!” when he settled a bit. Each time we released him he promptly re-escalated to an unacceptable level of bullying, until Mesa herself told him to “Back off, Bud!” with a quick flash of her teeth.

Human-controlled time-outs, however, made no impression on Jasper. The canine corrections were more effective, but didn’t stop the behavior; they only redirected it to a less-capable victim. Because Bo wasn’t assertive enough to back Jasper off, we ended the play as soon as Jasper turned his attentions to the softer dog.

Bully #2
Like Jasper’s preferred victim, Sam’s favorite bullying target was also a Rottweiler – not a breed you’d expect to find wearing an invisible “bite me!” sign. Max was a pup about Sam’s own age, who outweighed Sam considerably but was no match for the smaller pup’s intensity.

Sam had given us no indication during class that he had a play problem. In fact, he was a star performer for his clicks and treats. However, when playtime arrived his demeanor changed from an attentive “What can I do to get you to click the clicker?” pupil to an “I’m tough and you just try to stop me!” bully.

Several seconds after the two pups began frolicking together, Sam suddenly pinned Max to the ground with a ferocious snarl, then released him briefly, just to pin him again in short order. Needless to say, we also intervened quickly in that relationship!

Appropriate Play
Owners often have difficulty distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate play. Some may think that perfectly acceptable play behavior is bullying because it involves growling, biting, and apparently pinning the playmate to the ground. Appropriate play can, in fact, look and sound quite ferocious.

The difference is in the response of the playmate. If both dogs appear to be having a good time and no one’s getting hurt, it’s usually fine to allow the play to continue. Thwarting your dog’s need to play by stopping him every time he engages another dog, even if it’s rough play, can lead to other behavior problems.

With a bully, the playmate clearly does not enjoy the interaction. The softer dog may offer multiple appeasement and deference signals that are largely or totally ignored by the canine bully. The harassment continues, or escalates.

Any time one play partner is obviously not having a good time, it’s wise to intervene. A traumatic play experience can damage the softer dog’s confidence and potentially induce a life-long fear-aggression or “Reactive Rover” response – definitely not a good thing!

Some bullies seem to spring from the box full-blown. While Sam had, no doubt, already been reinforced for his bullying by the response of his softer littermates, he must have been born with a strong, assertive personality in order for the behavior to be as pronounced as it was by the tender age of 10 weeks. Jasper, on the other hand, may have been a perfectly normal puppy, but months of social deprivation combined with a strong desire to be social turned him into an inadvertent bully.

There can certainly be a learned component of any bullying behavior. As Jean Donaldson reminds us, the act of harassing a “non-consenting dog” is in and of itself reinforcing for bullies.

By definition, a behavior that’s reinforced continues or increases – hence the importance of intervening with a bully at the earliest possible moment, rather than letting the behavior become more and more ingrained through reinforcement. As with most behavior modification, prognosis is brightest if the dog is young, if he hasn’t had much chance to practice the unwanted behavior, and if he has not been repeatedly successful at it.

Oops!
Successful modification of bullying behavior requires attention to several elements: • Skilled application of intervention tools and techniques: Leashes and long lines, no-reward markers (NRMs), and time-outs. • Excellent timing of intervention: Application of NRMs and time-outs. • Reinforcement for appropriate behavior: Play continues or resumes when dog is calm or playing nicely. • Selection of appropriate play partners: Dogs who are not intimidated or traumatized by bullying behavior.

The most appropriate human intervention is the use of “negative punishment,” in which the dog’s behavior makes a good thing go away. In this case, the most appropriate negative punishment is a time-out. Used in conjunction with a “no-reward marker” (NRM) or “punishment” marker, this works best for bullying behavior.

While working to decrease or extinguish your dog’s bullying, you might have to let him drag a short leash, or keep him on a long line while playing. This enables you to stop his bullying the moment it starts. Keep him on a “time out” until he is calm.

The opposite of the clicker (or other reward marker, such as the word, “Yes!”), the NRM says, “That behavior made the good stuff go away.” With bullying, the good stuff is the opportunity to play with other dogs. Just as the clicker always means a treat is coming, the NRM always means the behavior stops immediately or good stuff goes away; it’s not to be used repeatedly as a threat or warning.

My preferred NRM, the one I teach and use if/when necessary, is the word “Oops!” rather than the word “No!” which is deliberately used to shut down behavior – and as such is usually delivered firmly or harshly and unfortunately often followed by physical punishment. “Oops!” simply means, “Make another behavior choice or there will be an immediate loss of good stuff.” An NRM is to be delivered in a non-punitive tone of voice; it’s almost impossible to say “Oops!” harshly.

Timing is just as important with your NRM as it is with your reward marker. It says, “Whatever you were doing the exact instant you heard the ‘Oops!’ is what earned your time-out.” You’ll use it the instant your dog’s bully behavior appears, and if the bullying continues for more than a second or two more, grasp his leash or drag-line (a long, light line attached to his collar) and remove him from play. Don’t repeat the NRM. Give him at least 20 seconds to calm down, more if he needs it, then release him to go play again. If several time-outs don’t dampen the behavior even slightly, make them longer and make sure he’s calm prior to returning to play.

If a half-dozen time-outs have absolutely no effect, end the play session for the day. If the NRM does stop the bullying, thank your dog for responding, and allow him to continue playing under direct supervision as his reward.

Another sometimes-effective approach to bully modification requires access to an appropriate “neutral dog” – a dog like Mesa who is confident enough to withstand the bully’s assault without being traumatized or responding with inappropriate aggression in return. A flash of the pearly whites as a warning is fine. A full-out dogfight is not.

It’s important to watch closely during interactions with the bully. Any sign the neutral dog is becoming unduly stressed by the encounters should bring the session to an immediate halt. A neutral dog may be able to modify your bully’s behavior, and have it transfer to other dogs – or not. If not, you may be able to find one or two sturdy, neutral dogs who can be your dog’s play companions, and leave the softer dogs to gentler playpals. Not all dogs get along with all other dogs.

Outcomes
Sam’s owners were exceptionally committed to helping their pup overcome his inappropriate play behaviors. We continued to allow him to play with one or two other sturdy, resilient puppies, using an NRM and his leash to calmly but firmly remove him every time his play intensity increased. We moved him away from the other pups until he was calm, then allowed him to resume his play. By the end of his first six-week class he was playing appropriately most of the time with one or two other pups, under direct supervision. After two more six-week sessions he played well with a stable group of four other dogs, under general supervision, without needing NRMs or time-outs.

The last time I saw Sam was an incidental encounter, at Pooch Pool Plunge event. Every year when the city closes its community pool for the winter, they open it up on one Saturday for people to bring their dogs for a pooch pool party. Sam, now a full-grown adult dog, attended the Plunge at the end of Summer 2005, with more than 100 dogs in attendance. His behavior was flawless.

Jasper may have a longer road, but I’m optimistic that he’ll come around as well. We plan to continue having him play with Mesa, as long as she’s handling him as well as she did in last week’s class. Between Mesa’s canine corrections and our time-outs, we’re hopeful that he’ll learn appropriate social skills and be able to expand his social circle to other appropriate dogs. Is there a Pool Plunge in Jasper’s future? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Aggression & Some Reasons Behind It

Whether we like it or not, we need to recognize that the wide range of Behaviours labeled as aggression are communications from the dog to us. Dogs do not snap, snarl, growl, or bite without reason, and those reasons can range from feeling afraid to being confidently challenging. If you are able to recognize early signs of dog feeling uneasy or pressured in some way (whether you intended that response or not!), you can avoid pushing dog into feeling the need for more dramatic or more dangerous aggressive Behaviour. Many of the dogs presented to me as aggressive are often quite fair about offering warning signs, but sadly, people have not been able to accurately read the signals the dog is sending. How frustrating that must be for the dog, who may then feel the need to escalate his own Behaviour in order to make his message clear!

Here are some typical clues that a dog is feeling pressured, and shifting from relaxed to another state of mind:

Shifts in breathing – Typically, a dog who is feeling uncertain or threatened or is annoyed exhibits changes in the way he breathes. The breathing slows, becomes very shallow or is actually held (no breaths!). Watch rib cage or flank area ? a normal relaxed dog is visibly breathing! A dog who closes his mouth, even briefly, may be offering a warning. Breathing may be monitored by visual observation, by hearing the shifts, and also by noting changes in the dog’s breathing through your hands (helpful when you are handling a dog up close and may not be able to easily visually observe such changes).

Changes in whiskers – Learn to recognize what’s normal for your dog in terms of how he holds his whiskers when relaxed. A stressed dog (fearful, confused, overwhelmed) often folds the whiskers back against the muzzle. A dog who is angry or challenging may have whiskers brought forward.

Changes in head & eye movements – A relaxed, comfortable dog has slow, easy movements of the head and eyes. The more rapid the movements you observe in eyes and head, the more panicky or fearful the dog is becoming, though this may rapidly escalate to a complete freeze of all movements but with the head and eyes turned slightly or markedly away from what concerns the dog. On the other end of the scale, the dog who becomes very still and stares at something with ears up and fixed (think “locked on target”) is heading up the scale towards possible aggression or predatory Behaviour, with the whole body held quite still but oriented towards the target. Less dramatic but important shifts in head & eyes: dog looks away or turns head away from person or other dog; this dog is actively avoiding confrontation.

Freezing – An overwhelmed dog may literally freeze – no movement, all body posture pulled back and down and/or away from threat. The danger here is that dogs in freeze may explode into fight or flight if pushed further. Do not mistake a frozen dog for one who is gladly accepting whatever is happening – a common mistake that leads to “he just exploded with no warning.” A dog who is accepting of whatever is happening continues to have normal movement of the body, head & eyes; a dog who is simply enduring an unwelcome or unpleasant event often freezes when he cannot escape, and thus the internal pressure continues to build as evidenced by the freeze. Should that internal pressure reach an intolerable level, the dog may explode in some dramatic Behaviours.

Changes in shape and expression of eyes – On the fearful/anxious end of the spectrum, the dog will look away from or glance sideways at the source of his problems, and the pupils may dilate considerably if the dog is really stressed. This change is due to shifts internally that result from the cascade of stress hormones (the ones that prepare a dog for flight/fight). Dogs are incredibly expressive in their eyes and facial muscles – attention to subtle changes here will pay off for anyone trying to understand the dog.

Changes in lips – Get a feel for how the dog normally looks when relaxed, particularly how he holds his mouth and lips. Are the lips held tightly? drawn back? panting? drawn forward? Tension around the lips and muzzle indicate a problem. The more fearful/anxious the dog is, the more drawn back the lips become. When a dog is becoming annoyed or angry, the lips may tighten and the corners are drawn forward; you may even see an “rumpling” of the whisker bed, giving the dog’s muzzle a “lumpy” look which precedes an actual snarl.

Increase in muscular tension – As the dog’s emotional state shifts, so will the overall tension in his body. Do not mistake stillness for “okay”! Sometimes, a dramatic shift can be seen in the dog’s feet – look for clenching of toes, a sign I often see as the dog’s fear/anxiety increases. Dogs who are confident & challenging and getting very annoyed or angry move “up” on their toes, whereas fearful dogs often clench or spread their toes preparatory to moving away (if they can). Of course, pay close attention to the degree of muscular tension throughout the dog’s body.

Overall shifts in body posture – Consider the overall “geometry” of the dog’s body posture. Calm and relaxed results in the dog being balanced, neither looking drawn forward nor drawn down and away. Fear/anxiety based response: dog backs up, turns obliquely away from the problem, may even curve his body dramatically away while holding still. This dog is trying to avoid confrontation or hoping to escape from the situation. Aroused/confident/challenging: dog comes forward, shifts to sit from down or stand from sit, all body posture aimed at person or other dog. Friendly gesture – the dog may approach with decided curves in his body, neck and tail, even a lot of wiggles, and may offer his side, often accompanied by a lot of curves through the body, neck and tail.

 

DETERMINING THE CAUSE

There are many different causes for the range of Behaviours we may label as aggressive: barking, growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, biting. However, all these Behaviours are not the same, and depending on the cause, need to be handled in specific ways. Simply labeling a dog’s Behaviour as aggressive is not informative, nor does it help you understand what may be going on in the dog’s mind.

When assessing any dog, be very specific about the Behaviours you observe, as well as the precise body posture and the situation in which the Behaviour was presented. Precisely how, when, where and in what context the dog offers these Behaviours needs to be examined in order to understand the dog.

As a rule, do not use corrections or punishment to handle Behaviour you consider aggressive. In most cases, treating any Behaviour you consider aggressive may result in the dog becoming more aggressive and possibly pushing him to escalating his own Behaviour and perhaps even biting. Remember – the dog has a reason for acting as he does, whether you understand it or not. Best rule of thumb: “Do not treat aggression with aggression of your own.”

When in doubt, ask others what they observed in the dog. Build a careful picture: When this was happening, the handler did X, and then the dog did Y. Don’t make assumptions or use non-specific language like “he freaked out”. Be specific. For example, does “freaked out” mean the dog bolted away, crashed into the wall and only then lunged forward with loud barks? Or that the dog’s pupils dilated dramatically, with ears laid back tight and then he lunged forward with a snap?

If you are unsure as to what caused the dog’s response, give the dog the benefit of the doubt and assume that the technique, equipment or handler created the problem. Above all, don’t take aggression personally! but do take it seriously as an important communication from the dog.

Here’s some typical causes for Behaviour that may be labeled as aggressive:

Pain Induced Response Typical symptoms: dog comes up lead when corrected using the lead or collar; may just snarl or growl or actually snap/bite handler. May also just yelp or scream. Possible causes: tonsillitis (common in young dogs; suggest vet check up ASAP; correction too harsh (have owner moderate signal if corrections must be used, and do consider there are many ways to train that do NOT require corrections!); collar too much physical stimulus for dog (try milder collar such as martingale type or buckle); may have damage to or soreness in neck (switch to no-pull harness)

Pain in Specific Area Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist or growl when handler tries to force/correct or even gently model dog into position. May be seen if handler asks for quicker sit, tries to roll dog over on one hip for long down, etc. Typically seen when dog is sore in back, through hips, has panosteitis (will especially resent having long bones of the legs grabbed/handled), joint pain.

Watch dog moving and specifically check how the dog sits – in a dog who is comfortable in his body, the sit should be quick, clean with no careful “adjusting” prior to or during the sit, and feet should be neatly tucked under dog and square. ANY deviation from this points to possible problem that may be causing dog discomfort.

Suggest all dogs have x-rays of hips & knees if they are exhibiting signs of physical
discomfort. Check also for tick borne diseases, which can leave dogs with very ouchy joints. May also suggest veterinary chiropractic. Know common breed problems and be alert to them (hip/elbow dysplasia, OCD, patella problems, etc).

Redirected Aggression Typical symptoms: Redirected aggression is seen in situations where dog is fixated on another dog/animal, object or person, highly aroused and frustrated because they can’t get to them. Any interference by handler (including attempts to attract dog’s attention but especially leash corrections or hands-on corrections such as collar grabs, scruff shakes, muzzle grabs or slaps) may result in the dog re-directing his frustration onto handler. The dog may also redirect the aggression onto any other dog, person or animal in his immediate vicinity. Ideally, prevent situation which triggers this! The dog may be quite violent in redirected aggression. Damage control – gain dog’s voluntary cooperation in any way possible; do not use force to remove dog.

Rudeness by Other Dogs Typical symptoms: dog noisily warns or actually bites other dog who has gotten into his space. Key point: Dog was minding his own business and under control at owner’s side or where left, did NOT leave handler or place left to attack other dog. Watch for invasion of space by another dog, even one that is friendly; retrievers & other “non-aggressive” breeds often at fault due to their handler’s view of their dog as friendly and harmless. Most likely to trigger response in dogs with bigger personal space (working breeds, terriers).

Instruct all handlers on rude/polite dog Behaviour which includes not allowing eye contact even across the room. Keep dog who caused the incident on long line and under instructor supervision when working on recalls or long distance stays. Keep the dog who responded to the rudeness well protected by barriers or people between him and the rude dog. All handlers have an obligation to protect other dogs from their own dog’s “friendliness!” Instruct handlers of both dogs involved how to avoid problems in the future. If necessary, assign “red bandanas” to dogs needing extra space – this serves as a warning to other handlers that the Red Bandana dog should be given room and to not let their dog, however friendly, interact without specific initiation by the Red Bandana dog’s handler.

Lack of handler leadership Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist being forced or even gently modeled into position by handler (i.e. tucked into sit or down) by growling, snapping, biting, or by wrestling, pushing handler away with feet, mouthing handler’s arms & hands. The dog is saying that handler has not earned
the right to handle him in such ways. Do NOT force the issue but find reasonable
compromise in class situation, and if at home, back off and find a way to gain voluntary submission (use of lure?) to avoid conflicts. Emphasize work on controlling resources at home to gain leadership & respect.

Overstimulation Typical symptoms: The excessive stimulation may come from the collar or lead, the handler, corrections, the overall environment, other dogs or animals. Solution: Remove dog to a “cool down zone” that offers a visual barrier and/or much more distance from other dogs/animals; reduce sensory input to the dog with quieter handling, less or no corrections, switch equipment to something milder, or change between equipment as necessary in any given situation (i.e., may need prong collar or slip when in motion but work better on slip or buckle in quieter exercises)

Many mouthy dogs respond to overstimulation by grabbing at the handler’s arms, hands, legs, feet, clothing, lead, etc. This is often not aggression but a
response to too much stimuli; attempts to use force or corrections only pour fuel on
the fire. Work quietly and reward good Behaviour – careful not to use physical praise,
big/fast hand movements or excited voice.

Fear basedTypical symptoms: Usually seen when approached by other dogs or people. May be afraid of handler; if so, watch handler’s technique – may be too harsh. Watch for grabbing of joints, pushing down on hips or back instead of tucking, holding onto legs, pulling, pushing, etc. (This could end up with the dog both afraid and in pain.) Encourage & show handler how to use softer approach. May need to switch to lure/reward only.

If afraid of other dogs, respect this, put red bandana on to remind other students. See if you can find well behaved, well socialized dog who will lay quietly in a down and
allow fearful dog to approach and sniff from behind. If afraid of people, use Dunbar’s
Treat/Retreat with all students participating to build confidence (can practice while
instructor holds each student’s dog; doubles as practice for CGC.)

PREVENTION HELPS!

Learn to identify potential problems which may result in aggressive Behaviour:
Watch for dogs with no appropriate sense of personal space & handlers who allow their dogs to invade others’ space
Watch dogs who need extra room & space (may look unsure, frightened of other dogs approaching or get stiff, bark, growl) ? offer them a red bandana to buy them the space they need
Eye contact to or from other dogs – usually accompanied by body postures (head up, tail up, stillness). This may also be true in dogs who react to eye contact from people, though they may also exhibit fearful, avoiding Behaviours.

RESISTANCE

Sometimes, aggression follows close on the heels of resistance, especially when handlers ignore the importance of resistance as meaningful information. Resistance or refusal to cooperate are important communications from dog which say he is:
Confused or doesn’t understand – back up to previous level, re-evaluate technique
Feeling afraid or anxious or simply unsure – work to alleviate fear & build confidence
Is bored (often seen with repetition of exercise dog does not find enjoyable) – STOP
Isn’t motivated (examine level of motivation) – find suitable motivation (paycheck)
Is not physically able to do as asked – evaluate dog as athlete, work with the individual dog’s limitations, do not ask for more!
Does not respect the handler sufficiently to do what he’s being asked to do in that particular situation

Possible causes for resistance:
Handler induced – watch the handler for changes in breathing, muscular tension, facial expression, movement. The dog will notice and respond to all of these!
Equipment – may be giving signals to dog that are not clear or are too clear & over stimulating or simply too harsh
Method – any technique which uses application of force may elicit reflexive resistance
from the dog. Particularly true with pull or jerk on collar – if you must use equipment to send information, try a pulsed (give & take) signal, ‘asking’ not demanding

Find a way to address the resistance, and avoid the dog feeling the need to underline how he’s feeling by escalating to more dramatic Behaviours.