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.

 

Advertisements

What to Do When Your Dog Hates His Crate

Properly used, the crate is a marvelous training and management tool. Improperly used, it can be a disaster. Overcrating, traumatic, or stimulating experiences while crated, improper introduction to the crate, and isolation or separation anxieties are the primary causes of crating disasters.

If, for whatever reason, your dog is not a fan of the artificial den you’ve provided for him, and assuming he can’t be trusted home alone uncrated, here are some things you can do:

 

 

1.)     Find other confinement alternatives. Every time your crate-hating dog has a bad experience in a crate, it increases his stress and anxiety and makes it harder to modify his crate aversion. Your dog may tolerate an exercise pen, a chain-link kennel set up in your garage, or even a room of his own. A recent client whose dog was injuring herself in the crate due to isolation anxiety found her dog did just fine when confined to the bedroom when she had to be left alone.

 

2.)     Utilize daycare alternatives. Many dogs who don’t crate well are delighted to spend the day at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative who is home when you are not, or at a good doggie daycare facility – assuming your dog does well in the company of other dogs.

This is not a good option for dogs with true separation anxiety, as they will be no happier with someone else when they are separated from you than they are in a crate.

 

3.)     Teach him to love his crate. Utilize a combination of counter-conditioning (changing his association with the crate from negative to positive) and operant conditioning/shaping (positively reinforcing him for gradually moving closer to, and eventually into, the crate) to convince him to go into his crate voluntarily. Then, very gradually, work your way up to closing the door with your dog inside, and eventually moving longer and longer distances away from your crated dog for longer and longer periods of time.

Note: If your dog has a separation/anxiety issue, you must address and modify that behavior before crate-training will work.

 

4.)     Identify and remove aversives. Figure out why the crate is aversive to your dog. If he was crate-trained at one time and then decided he didn’t like it, what changed? Perhaps you were overcrating, and he was forced to soil his den, and that was very stressful for him.
 
Maybe there are environmental aversives; is it too warm or too cold in his crate? Is there a draft blowing on him? Is it set near something that might expose him to an aversive sound, like the washing machine, buzzer on a clothes dryer, or an alarm of some kind? Perhaps his crate is near the door, and he becomes overstimulated when someone knocks, or rings the doorbell, or when mail and packages are delivered. Is someone threatening him when he’s crated – another dog, perhaps? Or a child who bangs on the top, front, or sides of the crate? Maybe he’s been angrily punished by someone who throws him into the crate and yells at him – or worse. All the remedial crate training in the world won’t help if the aversive thing is still happening. You have to make the bad stuff stop.

 

If he’s a victim of generalized anxiety or separation anxiety and the crate aversion is part of a larger syndrome, or his stress about crating is extreme, you may want to explore the use of behavior modification drugs with your behavior knowledgeable Dog Training professional or a veterinary behaviorist, to help reduce stress enough that he can learn to love his crate.

5.) Take him with you. Of course you can’t take him with you all the time, but whenever you can, it decreases the number of times you have to use another alternative. Some workplaces allow employees to bring their dogs to work with them; you don’t know until you ask. Of course you will never take him somewhere that he’d be left in a car, unattended, for an extended period of time, or at all, if the weather is even close to being dangerous. A surprising number of businesses allow well-behaved dogs to accompany their owners; if it doesn’t say “No Dogs” on the door, give it a try! Your dog will thank you.

The 10 most common Myths about Dog Training & Behaviour

The 10 most common Myths about Dog Training & Behaviour

Hang with dog folks long enough and you’re sure to hear some pretty interesting theories about dog behavior. Some are, of course, useful and accurate, but the dog training world is littered with myths, many of which are at least several generations old. Some of them are just silly; some have the potential for causing serious damage to the dog-human relationship; and still others are downright dangerous. It’s time to get past the myths.

Below I will explain why these 10 popular myths should not be used as the justification for a training or behavior modification technique. I am always exhorting my interns, apprentices, and clients to be critical thinkers. When someone offers you an alleged nugget of canine wisdom, regardless of who the someone is, you’re wise to run it through your own rigorous filters before accepting it as real wisdom or adopting it as the basis for a training technique. These should include:

• A scientific filter. Does it make sense scientifically? If someone assures you that shock collar training is actually positive reinforcement training because the shock is no different than someone tapping you on the shoulder to get you to stop a behavior, does that concur with your understanding of positive reinforcement? (That a dog’s behavior makes a good thing happen, so the behavior increases.) Don’t be fooled by the euphemisms “e-collar” and “tingle,” “tap,” or “stim” for the word “shock.”

A philosophical filter. Is it congruent with your own philosophies about dog training and relationships? Positive punishment (dog’s behavior makes a bad thing happen; behavior decreases) makes sense from a scientific standpoint. That doesn’t mean you want to – or have to – use it with your dog, and risk the damage it can do to your relationship. Trainers with a positive training philosophy generally try to avoid the use of positive punishment, or any methods that work through the use of fear, pain, aversives, and avoidance.

An “acid test” filter. It may seem sound scientifically, and it may feel okay philosophically, but does it work? If you’re comfortable trying it out and you don’t like the results, feel free to continue on and explore why it’s not working or simply toss it out. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it has to work for you.

Now, keeping these filters in mind, let’s see how some of the most common and harmful myths about canine behavior create a flawed foundation for training.

Myth #1: “Puppies should not go to puppy classes/the mall/friends’ houses until they have had all their vaccinations at 16 weeks/6 months of age.” (Fails all three tests.)

This one lands squarely at the top of the “dangerous myth” category. It’s generally perceived as credible by new puppy owners because it’s often offered by the pup’s veterinarian.

While it appears scientifically sound on its face (an unvaccinated puppy is at risk for contracting deadly diseases!), puppies who aren’t properly socialized are at a much greater risk for developing behavior problems, including aggression, that are likely to shorten their lives.

The vet is right on one hand; the best way to ensure that your pup isn’t exposed to dog germs is to avoid other dogs. It’s certainly true that you want to prevent your pup’s exposure to unknown and/or possibly unhealthy dogs (and their waste). But it’s also critically important that your pup get lots of exposure to the rest of the world, including healthy puppies in a controlled environment, before the critical socialization period ends at 12 to 16 weeks. If he doesn’t, he’ll be at risk of developing serious, sometimes deadly, behavior problems. (See “Shoot for Early Admission,” Whole Dog Journal September 2007, for more information on early education for puppies.)

In addition, during the period leading up to the age of four to six months, your pup has protection from his mother’s immunities, and should receive “puppy shots” to cover that period of time when his mother’s protection starts to decrease. Not only is it “okay” to take your pup places while exercising reasonable caution, you have an obligation to provide him with extensive socialization in order to maximize his chances of leading a long and happy life.

Myth #2: “Dogs pull on leash, jump up on people, (add your own) because they are dominant.” (Fails scientific and philosophical tests.)

Like the first myth discussed, this one can be dangerous, because those who believe this myth are likely to believe that they need to use forceful methods to assert their status over their “dominant” dogs.

No one disputes that dogs living in a group understand and respond to the concepts and dictates of a social hierarchy. The fact that canine social structures share elements with human social structures is probably one of the reasons that dogs make such wonderful companions for us. However, most experts in animal behavior today believe that canine social hierarchies are much more based on deference than dominance, and that most canine behavior that many misguided humans attribute to dominance . . . isn’t!

A dog’s goal in life is to make good stuff happen. Behaviors often labeled “dominant” because they are perceived as pushy and assertive – like pulling on leash and jumping up – simply persist because the dog has learned that the behaviors are reinforced; they make good stuff happen. Pulling on leash gets her where she wants to go. Jumping up gets attention. Behaviors that are reinforced continue, and even increase – but they have nothing to do with social status.

If you remove all reinforcement for the unwelcome behaviors (pulling makes us stop; jumping up makes attention go away) and reinforce more appropriate behaviors in their place, the dog will change her behavior.

Myth #3: “If you let your dog sleep on the bed /go through doors first/win at tug-o-war, he will become the alpha.” (Fails all three tests.)

This one is mostly just silly.

See Myth #2 for the mythbusting response to this one. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, that’s your lifestyle choice, but you don’t need to defend it with the dominent alpha-garbage argument.  I teach my dogs to sit and wait for permission to go through the door (“say please!”) because it’s a polite, safe behavior and reinforces deference, but not because I’m terrified that they’ll take over the house. And I like to win tug-o-war a lot because it reinforces polite behavior. You can quit worrying about your dog becoming alpha just because you don’t rule with an iron bar.

If you are concerned that your dog is too pushy you can implement a “Say Please” program, where your dog asks politely for all good things by sitting – a nice, polite, deference behavior (see “Be a Benevolent Leader, Whole Dog Journal August, 2003). If you think your dog is potentially aggressive, it’s even more important to avoid conflict; your attempts to physically dominate him are likely to escalate his aggression rather than resolve it. (See “Biscuits, Not Rolls,” July 2006.) If aggression is a real concern, we recommend you consult with a qualified, positive behavior professional who can help you modify your dog’s behavior without the use of force.

Myth #4: “Dogs can’t learn from positive reinforcement. You have to punish them so they know when they are wrong.” (Fails scientific and philosophical tests; fails acid test unless punisher is very skilled.)

This myth has good potential for causing serious harm to the canine-human relationship. Research confirms what positive trainers hold dear: that positive reinforcement training is more effective and has far fewer risks than positive reinforcement training combined with positive punishment.

One study, conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK and the University of Life Sciences in Norway, evaluated whether punishment was a contributor to behavior problems, and examined the effects of reward, punishment, and rule structure (permissiveness/strictness and consistency) on training and behavior problems. Information was collected via questionnaires from 217 dog guardians. Those who used strong and/or frequent punishment had a significantly higher level of training problems and lower obedience in their dogs. A similar study, conducted at Britain’s University of Bristol, also found that dogs trained only with positive reinforcement exhibited fewer problem behaviors.

For most humans, this makes sense. Do you learn better if someone acknowledges (and rewards) you when you do it right, or slaps you upside the head when you do it wrong? Even if you get rewarded for doing it right, if you also get slapped for doing it wrong, your fear of getting slapped will likely impede your learning and make you more reluctant to try things.

Of course, a good positive training program makes use of management to avoid giving the dog opportunities to be reinforced for unwanted behaviors, and will also make judicious use of negative punishment (dog’s behavior makes a good thing go away) to let him know he made an unrewarding behavior choice.

For more information on why training programs that utilize positive reinforcement are most effective, see “We’re Positive,” January 2007.

Myth #5: “If you use treats to train, you will always need them.” (Fails all three tests.)

This just isn’t true. A good positive training program will quickly “fade” the use of food as a constant reinforcer while moving to a schedule of intermittent reinforcement and expanding the repertoire of reinforcers to include things like toys, play, petting, praise, and the opportunity to perform some other highly reinforcing behavior.

Treats can be a very high-value reinforcer and quite useful in training a wide variety of behaviors, so it’s plain silly to turn your back on them. Just be sure to fade food lures quickly in a training program, move to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement when your dog will perform a behavior on cue 8 out of 10 times, and incorporate a variety of reinforcers so you’re never dependent on any one particular reward choice. (For more information about how some people might fail when applying positive training techniques the wrong way, see “Positive Mistakes,” May 2007.)

Myth #6: “A dog who urinates inside/destroys the house/barks when he is left alone does so because he is spiteful.” (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)

This myth definitely causes harm to the dog-human relationship. Dogs don’t do things out of spite, and to think so gives owners a negative perspective on their relationship with their canine family member. Dogs do things because they feel good, they work to make good stuff happen (or to make bad stuff go away), or because they are reacting to events that occur in their environment. While our dogs share much the same range of emotions as we humans, they don’t seem to indulge in all the same motives. Spite requires a certain amount of premeditation and cognitive thinking that science doesn’t support as being evident in the canine behavior repertoire.

There are two rational explanations for the behaviors described in this myth. The first is that the dog isn’t fully housetrained and hasn’t yet learned house manners. In the absence of direct supervision, the dog urinates when he has a full bladder (an empty bladder feels good) and becomes destructive because playing with/chewing sofa cushions, shoes, ripping down curtains, tipping over the garbage, and barking are fun and rewarding activities.

The other explanation is that the dog suffers from some degree of isolation distress. These behaviors are often a manifestation of stress and the dog’s attempt to relieve his anxiety over being left alone. If your dog regularly urinates (or worse) in the house or destroys things when he is left alone, he may be suffering from a moderate degree of isolation distress, or more severe separation anxiety. This condition can worsen without appropriate management. For more information, see “Relieving Anxiety,” August 2001 – and consider a consultation with an animal behavior specialist.

Myth #7: “If you feed a dog human food, he will learn to beg at the table.” (Fails all three tests.)

This is silly! One dog owner’s “begging” is another’s “attention” behavior, eagerly sought-after and highly valued. Behaviors that are reinforced continue and/or increase. If you fed your dog his own dog food from the table, he would learn to beg at the table. It has nothing to do with what type of food he’s being fed! If you don’t want your dog to beg at the table, don’t feed your dog from the table.

Whole Dog Journal readers know full well that human-grade food is better for dogs than much of the junk that’s in many brands of dog food. Whether it’s fed in a form that we recognize as something we might consume, or it’s been transformed into something that more resembles our mental concept of “dog food,” it all still comes from the same basic food ingredients.

Myth #8: “He knows he was bad/did wrong because he looks guilty.” (Fails all three tests.)

This myth is damaging to the relationship, as it leads owners to hold dogs to a moral standard that they aren’t capable of possessing. When a dog looks “guilty,” he is most likely responding to a human’s tense or angry body language with appeasement behaviors. He’s probably thinking something like, “I don’t know why, but my human looks upset. I’d better offer some appeasement behaviors so her anger isn’t directed at me!” Even when the “guilty” expression is a direct and immediate result of your dog’s behavior because your punishment was timely – “Hey! Get out of the garbage!” –your dog’s turned head, lowered body posture, averted eyes – are simply an acknowledgement of your anger and his attempt to reconcile with you.

A trainer friend of mine once did an experiment to convince a client that her dearly held “guilty look” belief was a myth. He had the client hold her dog in the living room while he went into the kitchen and dumped the garbage can on the floor, strewing its contents nicely around the room. Then he had the client bring the dog into the kitchen. Sure enough, the dog “acted guilty” even though he had nothing to do with the garbage on the floor. He just knew from past experience that “garbage on floor” turned his owner into an angry human, and he was already offering appeasement behavior in anticipation of her anger, and to divert her ire from his dog-self. (For more information about canine body language, see “I Submit,” April 2006.)

Finally, most owners who have punished a dog for something that was done in their absence can attest to the fact that the punishment generally does not prevent the dog from repeating the behavior another time. What does work is simple management. Put the garbage somewhere that the dog can’t get to it; under a sink with a safety latch on it, for example. Keep counters clear of anything edible. Leave the dog in a part of the house that is comfortable but not easily destroyed. Hire a dog walker to come by in the middle of your dog’s longest days home alone to let him out, give him some stress-relieving exercise, and leave him with a food-filled chew toy. These actions will result in an intact home – and a dog who is not afraid to greet you when you return.

Myth #9: The prong collar works by mimicking a mother dog’s teeth and her corrections. (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)

It’s a little discouraging to think that people actually believe this myth. It would be silly if it weren’t so potentially damaging to the relationship and potentially dangerous as well.

Prong collars work because the prongs pressing into the dog’s neck are uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. Because dogs will work to avoid pain and discomfort, the prong collar does work to stop a dog from pulling on the leash, and can shut down other undesirable behaviors as well, at least temporarily. However, like all training tools and techniques that are based on pain and intimidation, there is a significant risk of unintended consequences.

In the case of the prong collar, the primary risk is that the dog will associate the pain with something in his environment at the time he feels it, and this can lead to aggression toward the mistakenly identified cause. A dog’s unmannerly, “I want to greet you” lunge toward another dog or person can turn into, “I want to eat you,” if he decides that the object of his attention is hurting him.

If you have used or are considering the use of a prong collar to control your dog, please consult with a qualified positive behavior consultant to learn about more effective and less potentially harmful methods.

Myth #10: “Aggressive/hand-shy/fearful dogs must have been abused at some point in their lives.” (Fails the scientific test.)

This is a very widespread myth; I hear it so often it makes my brain hurt. Fortunately, while the behaviors described in this myth are problematic, the myth itself may be the most benign of our top 10.

There are many reasons a dog may be aggressive, hand-shy, or fearful. Lack of proper socialization tops the list, especially for fearfulness. If a pup doesn’t get a wide variety of positive social exposures and experiences during the first 12 to 14 weeks of his life, he’s likely to be neophobic – afraid of new things – for the rest of his life (see Myth #1). This neophobia manifests as fear, and for some dogs, as fear-related aggression.

Widely accepted categories of aggression include:

• Defensive (fear-related) aggression
• Possession aggression (resource-guarding)
• Maternal aggression
• Territorial aggression
• Status-related aggression
• Pain-related aggression
• Protection aggression
• Predatory aggression
• Play aggression
• Idiopathic (we don’t know what causes it) aggression

Note that there’s no category for “abuse-related” aggression. Abuse can be one of several causes of fear-related/defensive aggression, but is much less common than the fear-related aggression that results from undersocialization.

Regardless of the cause of a dog’s fearful or aggressive behavior, a myth-corollary to our Myth #10 is that love alone will be enough to “fix” the problem. While love is a vital ingredient for the most successful dog-human relationships, it takes far more than that to help a fearful dog become confident, or an aggressive one become friendly. For more about rehabilitating a chronically fearful dog,

Dogs & Kids

THE DOG NANNY

 

Guidelines For Safe Encounters Between Children and Dogs

 

With school out for the summer, chances are family dogs will be spending more time with the kids and their friends. While kids and dogs can be good for each other, some guidelines should be followed so that both are safe in each other other’s company.

 

First, it is not a good idea to leave young children and dogs alone together, even for a brief time. Things can happen quickly that can put the dog, the child or both at risk of injury.

 

A toddler can reach for the dog’s toy instead of her own, or grab the dog’s tail, either of which could result in a snap or bite. An easily excitable dog may jump on a small child and knock him down. Even when a child and dog seem to be getting along well, their interactions should be supervised to ensure that the behavior of neither one gets out of hand.

 

Second, children should be taught how to behave around dogs. This includes not only treating them with respect by not teasing them, throwing things at them or purposely harming them in other ways, but to also be aware of other behaviors that dogs may be uncomfortable with.

 

Quick hand movements toward the dog, yelling, running around and rough-housing can cause a variety of problem reactions from dogs. They may want to join in the fun by jumping and nipping, become frightened and snap to keep the children at a distance, or may also bite because they think a child needs protecting.

 

Third, dogs should be taught how to behave around children. Dogs should have pleasant experiences with children beginning in puppyhood so that they enjoy being around them. Dogs should also be taught to obey basic commands such as come, sit, and down. When positive reinforcement is used, such as a special tidbit, most dogs will respond to even young children.

 

Fourth, don’t assume that just because a dog is good with the children in the family, that she will automatically be accepting of visiting children. Visiting children should be introduced to the family dog gradually, using lots of tidbits and toys, and should always be supervised.

 

Lastly, children need to understand the importance of closing gates and doors to prevent the dog from getting out. While dogs should be taught not to door dash, it is not realistic to expect all dogs to resist the temptation to leave the yard when a gate is left open. For some families, a lock on the gate may be appropriate.

 

Summer can be a time for children and dogs to have lots of fun in each other’s company, but some preparations and precautions are also in order to prevent problems from occurring.Image

Scenting Games

The Scent Work Games presented below are suitable for any breed at any age from 6 weeks on, but I recommend strongly that these games be a regular part of your puppy’s development. All of these games stress reliance on his nose, not his eyesight.

To avoid confusing your dog, I recommend you choose one word which indicates food or dog toys (I use “SEEK”), and a completely different word for objects with human scent or people themselves (I use “FIND IT”). In this fashion, the dog is always clear about WHAT he’s looking for with his nose and will not confuse food scents with human scent. One of the most common problems with using food to teach scent discrimination or tracking is that you must ultimately teach the dog that the food is not what you really meant at all!

WHICH HAND? This is the simplest of all games. With food or a toy in only one hand, present both closed hands to the dog. Ask him, “Which one?” You may improve upon this game by insisting he touch with a paw or scratch lightly at the correct hand before receiving his treat, or simply have his nose bump your hand. If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand but DO NOT give the treat! Just try again. Add lots of dramatic flair to this – dogs love a good show.

 

HIDE & SEEK This is a doggy favorite best played at night or in a darkened house initially. Partially open closets are great (closed closets may not allow sufficient scent to escape), as are shower stalls/tubs with the curtain drawn, standing behind an open door, crouching behind a bush, standing very still near a tree (dogs, like all predators, distinguish movement much better than stationary objects) or sitting on a picnic table or laying across your car’s trunk, or wherever!

To add to the dog’s eagerness (or in the event that you are unable to sneak away or can’t leave the dog), have someone hold the dog. They should be verbally exciting to the dog, asking, “Where did she go? What is she gets lost? Can you FIND her?” and release the dog with a FIND IT command.

Give the dog a chance to work it out, but if he passes you more than twice, give him a “clue” by making a noise AFTER he’s passed you the third time. A good clue is a distinctive but brief sound, such as clearing your throat or a short whistle that does not allow the dog to find you by using his hearing, but helps him target the general area you are in for further investigation with his nose. However the dog finds you, tons of praise is to be heaped upon his head, and of course a treat or two never hurts. Toy motivated dogs will delight in a game of fetch or tugging as a reward.

As the dog gets more skilled at HIDE & SEEK, you can increase the difficulty of the game by throwing a blanket or tarp over yourself, not moving until the dog actually touches you, or even hiding in an area that the dog can smell you, see you (or part of you) but cannot get to you. This is useful for teaching a scratch or bark alert if desired (commonly used in drug work/search and rescue training). ALWAYS praise the dog generously for his brilliance.

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.

 

 

 

 

Nipping & Chewing

Marcia Murray-Stoof

Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor & Certified Canine Behaviourist

http://www.dognanny.ca

 

Nipping & Chewing

Puppy Nipping and Chewing: How to Stop the Biting That Hurts

Love that new puppy, but don’t love what she is doing to your sofa, sneakers, or fingers? Then it’s time to intervene. While nipping and chewing are natural behaviours that occur when a puppy is between two and six months of age, they can be stopped!

Puppies will teethe, just like human infants. Chewing and nipping is investigative behaviour. It is how they learn about their world…and it is completely normal. But it is important, to direct the puppy to chewing appropriate items.

Look for specially designed pet toys. Rubber toys that have an opening for food, such as Kong®, can keep a puppy happily occupied for a long time.

Dog Nanny Special Tip – Take any leftover Bones and place them in your crock pot with plain water, simmer over night, to get all that nice flavour out.  Soak a plain rope toy, in the now flavoured water, then put in a Ziploc bag and FREEZE.  Now you have a cold and crunchy toy your puppy will love to chew instead of you or your furniture.

Beware of items that may hide a choking danger. Don’t offer your pup anything with a squeaker that can be ripped out and swallowed.

Examine toys regularly for tears, breakage, or stuffing leaks.

Rotate toys. Puppies love novelty. Different items will help make playtime special.

As you would with a baby, supervise your puppy at all times.  If you can’t be with your dog, protect her in an exercise pen or crate. Puppy-proof your home.”

Put away items that you don’t want chewed or that could be harmful.

Install a safety lock on the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

Keep human snacks and candy out of reach. Remember: Chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Use Bitter Apple / Bitter Yuck / Fooey (brand names), sprays on objects you cannot put away.  Remember these sprays must be applied Daily, so that the object ALWAYS tastes bad.

 

When it’s more than play

Puppy biting and chewing are generally not aggressive. However, it is important to be aware that some puppies can be aggressive. If you have a puppy that seems deadly serious or is snarly or if you are afraid of the puppy, it is important to learn the reason. Videotape that behaviour or have The Dog Nanny make a personal house call to view & investigate the behaviour and it’s cause. If you are concerned about it, there may be a reason to be concerned.”

Puppies should remain with their litter until seven or eight weeks of age to learn how to communicate with other dogs. When they rough and tumble, they learn that they will have fun if they bite gently.

Reinforce positive play

To teach the puppy appropriate play behaviour, “hard biting should elicit a painful shriek from a human companion, sending the message that this behaviour is unacceptable. Stop interacting with the puppy for a few seconds. You have removed the rewards (you and playing), and you are teaching bite inhibition.” This is best done between two and four months of age. “Only ever allow teeth touching only pressure of a bite you permit and add a cue before yelping to teach a signal to the dog.

“The only biting you should allow is soft biting on bare hands or clothed body parts.

Other biting, such as the lure of a pants leg or shoelace, can be handled by distractions such as throwing a toy or a simple clap. “Don’t engage the dog verbally. IT reinforces the negative behaviour.” “Reinforce only the positive behaviour.” OR simply ignore the behaviour, no re-action from you is not fun and puppy will learn to get your attention a different way.

It is important to remember that as much fun as a new puppy may be, children and puppies should NEVER be left together unsupervised. Work with children to teach them how to teach the dog to play correctly. Hide-and-seek is a terrific beginning. It introduces the concepts of the “come” command. Teach children not to roughhouse or wrestle. Like a human baby, puppies get overtired and over stimulated. They need time to rest and calm down.   Always provide you puppy/dog with a safe zone, such as his/her crate, where they can get away from bothersome children.  Ensure all children know when the dog goes to their safe zone, they are off limits.

“Control the game, control the dog.”

 

 

 

 

Communicating with Dogs

Marcia Murray-Stoof

Certified Canine Behaviourist & Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor 

(705) 436-4158             thedognanny@bell.net          www.dognanny.ca

Communicating with Dogs

How do dogs communicate?

Dogs communicate by Scent, Body Language and Sound in that order.  We Humans communicate by Sound, Body Language and well as for scent, we know Mum’s cooking Beef Stew, our dogs know that it’s a pot of Beef, Water, salt, garlic, potatoes, carrots, onions etc.  Their scenting abilities far out ways ours, but we need to know and understand that scent is their first and foremost method of communication.

For example dog trainers and professional handlers have known for years that whatever you are feeling goes down the leash to your dog. Well now science has now confirmed that, in that our pheromones Scent changes dependant on our moods.  Science can not yet tell the level of that mood but agrees that our dogs can smell the slightest change in the level of our moods.  For example your dog knows from across the room if that lottery ticket you are looking at is for $50, $500, or $5,000 or if you just hit the jackpot and won millions, without a sound or movement, you dog will realise that your level of joy has increased, just by the change in your pheromones i.e. scent.

So scent is an important part in working with dogs.  Thus the use of treats for training, the scent of the treat gains your dogs attention, the more they like the scent, the more focused they will be on what you are trying to get them to do.  For example a small piece of Rollover, gets their attention, but something else around them is happening and the scent of the Rollover is not enough to focus them on you, so you bring out their next level of favourite treat let’s say it’s cheese, now that distraction is not strong enough to distract them from you as you now have cheese a scent they know and like more than Rollover.

A dog barks furiously at the window, no amount of shouting seems to get through to him, yet you wave a piece of cheese in front of his nose and he immediately turns towards you.  So scent is a major component of working with dogs.

Your scent is crucial, i.e. your mood.  If you are anxious, nervous, angry your dog may not know why, but knows something is wrong at that moment and reacts to that.  A classic example of that is a dog that reacts at the sight of another dog on the walk.  Your dog would have smelt that dogs approach before you saw him, but he’s reacting at the sight of it, because you just saw it and thought “Oh No he’s going to act up again here comes another dog”, your scent changed, your dog reacted.  OR You’ve entered a dog competition, Agility, Confirmation etc, you felt fine happy confident until it’s your turn in the ring, you get nervous or anxious and your previously calm contented dog starts to act-up, because your scent just changed.

Now some dogs use their nose more, because of breed traits or are just proficient using their nose, some dogs do loose this main ability, but they all had it working full out when born, because that’s the only way for them to find their mother’s teat and feed.  All dogs are born Blind and Deaf, their ears and eyes do not start to open until about 3 weeks.  So their first view of their new world is by scent.  We humans are born with full hearing and our eyes though open, do not focus well as yet.  So here lies the main difference in how we as Humans and Dogs communicate.

What’s Body Language

Body language includes how we stand, use of hand signals, footwork and facial expressions.

Too be effective you need to know about dog’s body language, what those different stances mean, how the ears are positioned, what the tail is doing.  A common misconception is a dog that is wagging his tail is happy, this is not always so.  Dogs move their tails in different patterns, often hard for us as humans to see, but other dogs of the same breed easily recognise these differences.  Dogs of other breeds notice common threads, but may confuse a tail signal, as it’s not familiar to them.  I.E. Dogs with cropped tails, dogs with long fur on their tails etc, can affect the viewing of the message the tail is giving.  The same goes for ears, so dogs that are well socialized with different breeds as puppies learn that tail and ear signals can give mixed messages, and thus would rely on Scent and the rest of the body stance and even the use of sound to fully interpret the message being given.

With so many different breeds, thus so many different tail and ear shapes and sizes, dogs will rely on what the rest of the body is doing, to confirm what the body language means.

So what are the basics that dogs use that we can interpret?

Standing tall and square, making the body appear as big as it can be, is a way of declaring you are Large and In Charge, very confident, self assured.

Making yourself as small as possible, means you are unsure, afraid, and not confident.

Our dogs see us moving around all day, and thus know that confident stance and that unsure stance, our scent at these times confirms their interoperation of these positions.

What about hand signals and footwork

Well, this is part and parcel or an adjustment to the reading of ears and tails and also comes down to the selective breeding we did down from the original wolves to the many breeds we have today.  We selectively breed those that watched us all of us, not just our overall body language but all those other appendages we have.  A recent study also proved that Dogs are the only species to recognise how we use our eyes, even our closest genetic cousin the great apes cannot make the association that if our eyes are closed we cannot see, but dogs can and do, notice and connect this.

The other part that ties in with hand signals and foot work is to do with sound, as our sound can be inconsistent and the moving of a hand/arm/foot/leg is more consistent.

So what is sound all about?

First and foremost is for you to acknowledge that dogs do not learn to speak or understand any human language what so ever.  They are not sitting because you said did, they are sitting because when you made that sound and they put their bum on the floor you rewarded the behaviour.  This statement also lets you know why your dog sometimes does not sit on command, he/she has yet to learn that the sound you just made also means Sit, and here is where hand signals come into play, they recognise the hand signal but not the sound, and therefore rely on the body language (hand signal) to interoperate the sound.  A reason why, dogs respond to hand signals and footwork, better than voice commands.  As your voice, sound, tone may change when saying Sit, your hand signal remains the same.

So here are the basics on sound; dogs have sounds that indicate a mood or need.  The Bark, The Growl, The Whine.

So we need to understand that our sound i.e. tone needs to match what we are communicating by scent and body language. 

The Growl when issued by a dog is a warning or correction sound tone it is Low, Deep and quiet, so when you want your dog to know you do not approve and or unhappy or angry your tone needs to be Low, Deep and quiet from your normal everyday tone.

The Deep Bark a warning or alerting tone.

The High Pitched Bark means excitement or an invitation to play and/or overall happiness.

I am sure you have all noticed these different types of sounds coming from dogs, even the smallest dog can issue a low deep tone of warning for his/her size.  In larger breeds is it more distinct change in tone between happy let’s play bark or back away warning bark.

So we as humans need to match our tone to our message.  A very common mistake we make and one that is natural for us as humans to do, is raise our voices when angry, shout or yell, what you need to understand in this case that as Humans when we do this we actually go up an octave from our normal speaking tone and our dogs excellent hearing picks this up. 

A classic example is – You find your dog shredding the couch – You get angry (scent), you bend towards the dog (unsure, or even play invitation), You way a finger or shake a fist (rapid irregular movement invitation to play), you shout or yell (you go up an octave from normal tone – Praise or Play tone).

Now if you communicated by scent, body language and sound, what you would smell is anger, what you see and here is lets play, confusing isn’t it.  And that’s the look your dogs gives you, not one of guilt but one of appeasement, Calm down your not making sense are you mad or do you want to play.

When you match your sound and body language to your scent, your dog can understand what you are trying to communicate with him/her.