Why does my Dog is Stands Over Me & My Baby?
Biggest Collection of Dog & Puppy Training Misconceptions!
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Dominance Over Dogs Alpha Method Misconception
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Clicker Training Dog Misconceptions
Dog Poop Misconceptions
Pavlov's Dogs Misconception
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Walking Dogs Misconceptions
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DOG AND PUPPY
OBEDIENCE & TRAINING MISCONCEPTIONS
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Over the past several decades, dog training, like most everything, has seen some major advances. These advances not only make the activity more fun, more efficient, and more fair, but they also make it more effective. That said, as popular culture and tradition have a way of slowing the spread of knowledge, certain unfortunate beliefs persist about dog training. With a little bit of luck, this post will help put some of those thoughts to rest. A puppy must be at least six months old to be trained. A puppy is learning from the moment he is in his environment. As a new puppy parent, you should take advantage of that opportunity for learning. With today's training methods based on positive reinforcement, there's no reason not to start working with your puppy as soon as he arrives to your home!
MYTH: Don't Play Tug With "Bully" Breeds
This Myth applies to all dogs, even bullies. It's okay to play tug with a pit bull or "bully" type dog, as long as the rules are followed.
MYTH: My Dog Is a Dumb Breed so He Can't Learn
There has been a lot of research lately on dog intelligence and not one of them has proven that a dog's particular breed determines a level of intelligence. Therefore, all dogs are intelligent and they can all learn. It's just a matter of figuring out how to develop a relationship and the right environment for your dog to be successful.
MYTH: Using Food to Train Is Bribery!
This myth came from a group of people that do not want to feed their dog to train them. However, expecting your dog to work for free insults their intelligence. Do you work for free? No. Even kids doing homework get rewarded for doing it - a good grade, a present from their parents, watching TV after it's done, getting to play with friends. We all get dessert for eating our dinner, right? Using food in training is a reward for your dog choosing to do the right thing.
MYTH: Crating is mean
In fact, the opposite is true - dogs are den animals and instinctively seek a safe, quiet place they can go when they are tired or stressed. The crate serves that purpose if introduced early and is also a great tool for house-training. Puppies and new dogs should be kept in a crate when not supervised. Be careful never to use the crate for punishment or you will undermine its usefulness as your dog's safe space. Dogs are not "people" of another species. They ARE another species. To train and care for them properly, to show them how to live in our complex world, requires first and foremost that we understand that.
We interpret our dog's actions from a human point of view and they interpret our actions from a canine point of view. While they can only ever react to us from their doggy viewpoint, we are capable of understanding why they do what they do and treat them accordingly. If you can learn and accept that your dog acts like a dog because he is a dog, you will have a much better idea of how to communicate with and how to motivate your dog. You will see that the relationship with your best friend need not be contentious and is certainly not a struggle for dominance. This understanding will make training with your dog infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding to you both. There is no evidence that dogs have the kind of complex emotional lives and value systems that we do. It's one reason why we love them so much, in fact. They are neither "good" nor "bad." They don't hold grudges, act in petty ways, or seek revenge. They read our moods but not our minds. If they did, we'd start loving them as we love other humans, which could mean a lot less than we love them now.
MYTH: My dog gets enough exercise from being left in my big backyard
Whether they have a smaller or larger backyard, dogs don't typically go off and "exercise themselves", but instead look forward with baited breath to be taken away from their every day yard and investigate the world they live in. Like us, dogs benefit greatly socially and physically from exposure to new and stimulating environments. It's great for their wellbeing and for the state of your backyard! Teaching good manners is one of our responsibilities as pet parents. But, with so much misinformation circulating in our digital world, it can be hard to separate myth from reality.
MYTH: You can't train an older dog
There's no such thing as a dog too old to be trained. In fact, dogs are learning their entire lives. With any dog, patience and consistency are keys to success. The biggest issue with an older dog may be that he has developed some unwanted behaviors that need to be "unlearned."
MYTH: If you train with food, your dog won't obey without it
Behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated, so when we regularly reward our dogs for a job well done, they will want to keep performing! It doesn't always have to be food. Find whatever motivates your dog - it might be praise or petting and use this to help them to become addicted to training.
MYTH: My dog knows he did something wrong, because he looks guilty
That so-called "guilty" look really is your dog's learned response to your angry or upset body language. Dogs learn to read our body language when "something is wrong" and they respond accordingly with body language intended to appease us. WE interpret it as guilt, but they have no idea they did something wrong.
MYTH: I don't want the training to break my dog's spirit
To me that's like saying "I don't want my children to learn, because I'm afraid they will become...too smart?? And if someone is insinuating that training equals abuse, they have it all wrong. All parents at some point have trained their children. They trained taught same thing, them how to use utensils, establish certain behavior at restaurants, respect for other people, set curfews, enforce homework habits and the list goes on. That doesn't break a child and training will not break your dog, A way to break a dog is through neglect, abuse and deprive it of companionship and love. Proper training allows you to establish a bond of trust and a necessary pecking order through training, which is what a dog craves so he can instinctively make sense of the world we have forced him to live in.
MYTH: A dog needs a yard to exercise
Nope. A yard, unless you have a huge amount of land, doesn't stimulate a dog and if I were you I'd look at is as one big doggy toilet. I've had tons of clients who had one, sometimes two dogs in a small apartment, but the catch is there was a dog park close by for the dogs to get proper exercise. And if your rational is that you have a dog that entertains itself by running in circles in the yard on its own, it's likely because your dog is losing its marbles since it is trying to amuse itself and burn off some steam and running with nowhere to go is how he deals with it. A dog can amuse itself from time to time, but he doesn't know how to do it efficiently and effectively. Unlike you, who on a slow day can browse your Ipad, drink a glass of wine while chatting on the phone or watch a movie during your workout on a treadmill, your dog relies on you for exercise and yes, even Apple hasn't figured out an app for that.
MYTH: I read this really good dog training book
Books often have useful information, but most times there are many variables that requires an exchange between an trainer and the client. The reason I don't post a link to an email on my site is because I have so many questions that an email becomes a long drawn out exchange of information. Sorry, score this one for old school.
MYTH: My dog doesn't listen and I tried everything
You tried everything within your spectrum of knowledge.
MYTH: You can't teach an old dog new tricks
This is definitely not true. Older dogs can learn new tricks, they just don't always want to. Like us, as dogs' age, they can be less interested in learning new activities and are less responsive to training. Remember also, some older dogs have decreased vision and hearing or joint issues which can make training a little more difficult. With time and patience, an older dog should be able to learn any trick a younger dog can, within the limitations of their physical ability.
MYTH: Dogs don't need housebroken, they naturally know where to go
Oh... if only this were true. You need to train your dog on where to go. This preferably happens when you start at a young age and give your dog positive encouragement for jobs well done.
MYTH: Obedience training is only for problem dogs
Yes, obedience training can help with some unacceptable behaviors, but wouldn't it be better if those behaviors never had a chance to develop? In addition, obedience training can strengthen the bond between you and your dog and help you enjoy each other's company even more so!
MYTH: Dogs do destructive things to get even with you
Don't project your emotions on your dog. Most behaviors that drive you crazy are normal for a dog and begin when he is bored, tired, sick or lonely.
MYTH: You need to use aversives in training in order to teach your dog coping skills
Are you conscious of what makes your dogs stress out? Have you been able to teach them to cope?
MYTH: Dogs want to please us
Dogs do what works for them. If they learn "sit" earns them a morsel of food, then they quickly sit, particularly if they are hungry. If they figure out they can do something that puts you in a good mood, then they will be sure to get pets, praise & cookies! If you want your dog to do what you want, you must find what motivates your dog to do that. Your dog needs a reason that makes sense to him.
MYTH: My dog poops on the floor - digs up the yard, rips up the couch, barks, chews my shoes, etc., when he is mad at me!
Dogs do these things out of boredom or anxiety. They are not human, and thus are incapable of plotting revenge. If you want to reduce bad habits, then you must prevent giving them opportunities to develop them. Give them something else to do instead - a stuffed Kong, a bully stick, play ball. If they are anxious, resolve their anxiety.
MYTH: My dog deliberately ignores me
Your dog simply finds something else more interesting. Unlike us, the floor always pays off with lovely smells, crumbs, and surprises; the park always pays off with squirrels, bikes, dogs, worms - you get the idea! You must find something that will make you more exciting and interesting to your dog when these other things are present.
MYTH: I was told to hold my dog down on his back and stare in his eyes until he submits to show him I am the alpha in the household
Bad advice based on a seriously flawed study done on wolves in the 1940's. This will not teach your dog anything other than to be afraid of you and perhaps defend himself from you. Potentially dangerous and definitely damaging to your relationship. True leaders don't need to use force. You are the natural "alpha" because you are dominant over everything your dog wants - food, toys, attention, water, walks, a place to sleep. You control all these things.
MYTH: My dog is stubborn
Your dog is merely choosing what she wants to do. Your dog is not stubborn. You just haven't yet found what will convince your dog to do what you want her to do.
MYTH: If I use food, won't my dog always expect food?
Your dog is always choosing between two things: good for him or bad for him. Once your dog becomes reliable in a behavior, you may not need to use food as often because his responses become automatic. But certainly you will want to use it enough to preserve his response to your requests. If you get a paycheck for doing what your boss expects, won't you always expect a paycheck?
MYTH: My dog is dumb, hard to train, stupid, bored, doesn't like to do that
Your dog doesn't understand what you want or isn't motivated to change. You just haven't yet communicated to your dog so that he understands what it is you would like. Giving feedback to your dog on his actions is critical. You also need to find what motivates your dog to do what you want. Ultimately, your dog's success or failure is up to you!
MYTH: Your dog should naturally want to work for you and when he doesn't, he should be corrected for it
Consider working without getting a paycheck. Would you do it? Well, neither will your dog. Whether it is through food rewards or toy rewards, the most motivated dogs are ones whose owners who have harnessed the "secret" of positive reinforcement and the power of rewards over punishment when teaching their dogs new behaviors. While the threat of punishment can push animals to work, the opportunity for earning much-desired rewards inspires them to work. It is evident when watching a dog that works to avoid punishment vs. a dog that works to earn a reward simply by looking at their body language. The dog avoiding punishment doesn't want to be there while the dog seeking a reward does.
MYTH: Let the kids pick their new pup
Allowing children to pick out a puppy is not ideal. They could choose a noisy, shy or dominating dog. Let the breeder guide you towards the right choice of dog for your family.
MYTH: The right pup will pick you
Do not pick the first puppy that comes to you. When choosing a dog, you should observe the dog's behaviour over a period of time, perhaps even come back on a couple of different occasions. You can then pick the pup that suits you best.
MYTH: Puppies are too young to train
Puppies can be trained from as early as 8 weeks old. Most dogs can be trained at any age though you should be aware of any health issues in older dogs that could impact training.
MYTH: After accidents rub their nose in it
Occasionally puppies will accidentally do their business indoors. Never scold or hit your dog over these mistakes, instead take your pup outside to their regular bathroom area.
MYTH: Use your knee to stop jumping
Dogs can be injured if you stop them jumping on you with a knee to the chest. The best approach is to decrease your pup's excitement by simply ignoring your dog for 5-10 minutes whenever you come home. After one week of consistent practice there should be a significant decrease in doggie jumping.
MYTH: Punish your dog for digging holes
Do not scold your dog for digging holes in the yard. It is better to use the holes to bury their excrement, which will ensure the dog does not frequent the same spot in a hurry. Never punish your dog or puppy! That's incorrect method.
MYTH: Always train with treats
Dogs can become overweight if over reliant on dog treats for good behaviour. Instead use a doggie toy, which is as good as a treat.
HOME & HOUSE TRAINING
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Relationships between people and their pups/dogs can suffer terribly when house training isn't going well. This information will shed light on - and dispel - the most commonly held misconceptions many folks have when it comes to the "how to's" of house training. If you need more help with house training your dog or puppy, see the link at the bottom of this article for more free resources.
Unless your dog is already fully house trained, we do not suggest training him to ring a bell on the door as a "signal" for you to let him out to potty. Let's say that the dog has rung the bell and no one hears it? He rings again and no one comes. Now he has an "accident" by the door. He is surely learning that ringing the bell to be let out isn't very reliable, but more importantly, the habit of eliminating right by the door has just begun. Also, unless the dog was trained to ring the bell to be let outside as he was experiencing the feeling of needing to eliminate, reinforced by your letting him out and the subsequent relief from eliminating, then he will not associate ringing the bell with getting outside specifically to eliminate! Many who have used this approach learned the hard way that all they have really done is trained him to ring the bell to get outside to chase the squirrels, bark at the neighbors and he is still not house trained!
MYTH: My dog knows that he shouldn't potty in the house because he looks guilty when I scold him
Believing this will really jeopardize your progress, not to mention the damaging effects it could have on your relationship with him because you believe that somehow he is doing this on purpose to upset you. Fearful body language like cowering or, as we humans like to call it, "looking guilty" has nothing to do with the dog - knowing that he is done something wrong. Such dog body language only communicates one thing - that your behavior is frightening to your dog. Continuing to scold him will not improve the house training problem, it will make it much worse and other fear-based behavior problems are likely to develop.
MYTH: Taking my dog to the mess and rubbing his nose in it while yelling at him will teach him not to go potty in the house AND If rubbing his nose in it doesn't work, then taking him over to it and spanking him will
Both of these common mistakes in thinking can be addressed at the same time. For starters, taking him "over to the mess" implies that the mess is already there, which means that he eliminated there at some point earlier. It's way too late to do anything about it and trying to do so really constitutes abuse, since there is no way for your dog to understand why you are acting the way you are toward him, much less what on Earth you are so upset about. Believing either of these serious misconceptions, is one of the best ways to train your dog to be afraid of you. And you will still have a dog who is eliminating in the house.
MYTH: Discipline - spanking or screaming at him, when I catch him in the act first, then putting him outside will teach him not to go in the house
One thing is for sure, this approach will teach your dog that it's definitely not a good idea to eliminate when you are anywhere nearby. By delivering such an intensely frightening experience while she was in the act of eliminating - no matter where it happened to be occurring, you will teach her something valuable indeed - that eliminating in your presence is not something she should do ever again. So, thanks to this approach, she's learned that when she feels the need to eliminate, it is safest for her to either wait until you are not around, or even more likely, to sneak off to a "safe" place free of you or humans in general, like a basement or another unoccupied room to do her business where nothing scary can happen as she relieves herself. This approach will do nothing to help her understand where you'd prefer her to eliminate, it will only teach her to hide or "sneak off" when she needs to pee or poo and it's almost guaranteed to create other serious fear-based behavior problems.
MYTH: I can't get her to just go potty outside, because she is spiteful and stubborn
When words like "spiteful" and "stubborn" are used to describe a dog's behavior, the translation must be, not trained properly, or effectively. There is no mystery here and nothing more or less to be discovered.
MYTH: Do not clean up the "accident" in front of the dog because they are getting your attention, which rewards the behavior of going in the house. They also see this as your "approval" to continue eliminating in the house
What does cleaning up pee or poop have to do with giving your dog attention? Dogs have no moral code when it comes to their behaviors - they simply repeat the ones that have been reinforced in the past. Cleaning up a potty mess in no way reinforces the behavior of going potty - in the house or anywhere else and I can assure you that doing so won't have any impact on your dogs' elimination habits! Thoroughly clean any mess with a good enzymatic cleaner, and remember, it's your responsibility to do a better job supervising and preventing accidents.
MYTH: My dog just refuses to "tell me" when he has to go out
Many people view this as a problem. It isn't really a problem at all if you remember that house training is the sole responsibility of the human. Blaming a dog's incomplete house training behavior on his not "telling" you when he has to go outside is a good way to set your dog and yourself up for a big failure and he still won't be house trained. Once you have done your part and you've consistently trained your dog where you want him to eliminate - presumably outside, and prevented him from eliminating anywhere else, he will begin to act in ways that signal his need for you to let him outside to relieve himself. Some signs may include just hanging around you more, going to the area near the exit point to the yard, whining, and or pacing. As your dog's ability to "hold it" improves, and the connection solidifies between feeling the need to eliminate and needing to get outside to do it, he will also begin to learn to "hold it" for longer periods.
MYTH: I have a small dog and she just can't be house trained. Books I have read and people I have talked to say that I will not be able to house train her because she is small
Small dogs are just as capable of becoming house trained as their larger counterparts. The principles of learning apply to a Maltese or Toy Poodle the same way that they apply to a Great Dane! A common reason that small/toy dog people report problems is that their small dog doesn't like to go out when it's cold or raining. It is understandable that we don't want our dogs to be uncomfortable, so here are some suggestions that can help:
1. Buy a doggy coat for extra comfort when it's chilly out.
2. Build a small sheltered area right outside the door and train your pup to use it.
3. If there is snow outside, shovel an area right outside the door to make it easier for him/her to do her business as comfortably and quickly as possible.
4. Install proper behavior early on, so that the dog will very quickly do her job so that she can come right back into the warm, dry house!
CLICKER DOG TRAINING
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Clicker training is an exciting complement to training and a useful tool for instilling good behaviors. It can be used alongside traditional positive reinforcement training methods. It can also be used to help shape or train complicated behaviors by helping guide your dog in the right direction. However, there are some misconceptions about how to use a clicker when training. Read on to learn more about this great tool, and some of the common myths surrounding it! Clicker training may seem complicated. It may even seem unneeded as owners can just use a praise word in place of a click. However, for those wanting to teach beyond the basics, a clicker is a great way to teach more complex behaviors without having to learn a new system of training. It is also a great way to keep your dog focused. It helps him learn he is doing the right thing with consistency.
What is Clicker Training?
Clicker training is the use of a clicker to denote when your dog or cat, or even chicken! - has done something correctly. The clicker takes the place of a praise word such as "good boy". It also denotes that a treat is about to come to reward the correct behavior. Clickers are great as they are consistent, easily recognized sounds that make training a breeze. Clicker training can also be used for "shaping" complex behaviors. This is done by encouraging your dog to do something similar to what you want, and then clicking when he is close to the right behavior for a few steps. You then encourage him to try more and click again when he is closer, sort of like a game of Hot and Cold. While it sounds complicated, seeing it in practice makes it easy to understand. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about clicker training and food-based training. While many of our new students are excited and eager to finally have a clicker training school that isn't a two hour drive away from Downtown Toronto, some come to us a bit unsure or a bit on the fence, so if you are on the fence, this article is for you.
MYTH: The Click Gives a Command
Clickers are used to let your dog know they have completed a command with success, but they are not what tells your dog to do it. You can't click to have your dog sit, stay, lay down, etc. Instead, you will give your dog a command as usual, and once they have completed it, click and then give a treat. Clickers let your dog anticipate the upcoming reward.
MYTH: I have to carry a clicker with me at all times or else the dog won't perform
Truth: Clickers are only used in the learning phase of a new behavior. After a behavior is nearly fluent, it is no longer needed.
MYTH: Clickers Can Be Used to Stop a Behavior
Clickers don't give commands, or rewards, and they can't stop a behavior either. However, shaping new behaviors through clicker training can help deter and stop bad behaviors by shaping them into wanted ones. For example, a barking dog may be trained to bark on command instead, and thus bark less when a reward isn't involved.
MYTH: The Click is Used in Place of a Treat
Clickers are also NOT the reward for the behavior, but the signal that a reward is coming. When starting out, owners and trainers will prime the clicker, by simply clicking it and giving a treat immediately after. This helps your dog associate the click with the upcoming reward, so when you use it for training he will understand he was successful.
MYTH: If I train with food, I will need to have food with me at all times, forever, or else the dog won't perform
Lure-reward food-based training will create food dependency. Lure-reward training is not the same as clicker training, even though some lure-reward trainers use clickers incorrectly. Clicker trainers do not use food as a lure, or if they do, they use them extremely sparingly. If you train properly, you will not need to show your dog a treat first before it performs, nor will you necessarily have to feed your dog every time it performs. In fact, the opposite is true, if you continue to feed your dog for every correct response for too long, the dog won't perform reliably. Clicker training actually requires you adopt what we call a variable schedule of reinforcement - in plain English, phasing out food.
MYTH: Dogs get fat being trained with food
Food rewards are prepared so small that they represent a relatively small percentage of total food intake per week. Also, in low-distraction environments or for easy behaviors, a dog's regular meal can be used for training. I have never met a clicker trained dog that was overweight - most are pretty svelte since they often compete in dog sports as their training progresses.
MYTH: If I train with food, the dog will beg for food
Feeding your dog at the dinner table teaches them to beg at the dinner table. Giving food out by hand for no reason will teach a dog to beg for food. Training with food teaches the dog that food is only given in exchange for work performed, and only when we request the work. Well trained dogs actually never beg for food because the circumstances in which they can earn food is so black and white, they understand when it's not available and when it's available and that is on our terms.
MYTH: Clicker Trainers are "New Age-y" and "Soft" on their dogs
False!!! The best clicker trainers are extremely hard on their dogs. We are hard on the criteria we require our dogs to perform to in order to earn reinforcement. We are stingy on keeping access to rewards and reinforcement contingent on performing behaviors. Since nobody wants to carry around food forever, myself included, I use everything else that the dog wants in life to reinforce training. If my dogs don't go into their crate and lay down, they don't eat. If they don't sit and stay while I open the door, the door never opens. If they don't keep the leash loose while we are walking towards the dog park, we never get to the dog park. What is true though is we will never use physical punishment in training because it is unnecessary - you can train reliable behaviors and proof them against distractions without having to inflict pain.
MYTH: The dog will hear clicks from other students in class and get confused
Dogs are experts at discriminating. Only clicks that come from the handler result in a food reward, so dogs quickly learn to ignore clicks that come from other directions.
MYTH: Clicker training is a fad and it will be gone soon
Clicker training comes from the work of B.F. Skinner and one of the earliest examples of clicker training was his graduate students, Marian and Keller Breland, clicker training pigeons to assist in aerial bombing in World War II. In the 1960s, Karen Pryor brought clicker training to dolphin training, and today it is now used to train practically every species of animal known to man. If it is good enough for the military and good enough for Sea World, isn't it good enough for your family pet?
DOMINANCE OVER DOG
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Dogs are not on a quest for world domination. They are not socialized wolves who are constantly striving to be "top dog" over us, and they are not hard-wired to try and control every situation. Contrary to what traditional training ideologies and much modern media would have you believe, most canine behavior problems stem from insecurity and or a desire to seek and maintain safety and comfort - not from a desire to establish higher rank and be the "alpha" over you. Therefore, teaching dogs "who's the boss" by forcing them into some mythical state called "calm submission" is precisely the opposite of what they actually need in order to learn effectively and overcome behavioral issues.
Much of this misunderstanding stems from the erroneous application of early studies of captive wolf packs to our understanding of the dynamics of our domestic dogs. Dogs and wolves are in fact quite different species Despite this, terms such as "alpha dog," "top dog," and "pack leader" have become part of our society's readily accepted and commonly understood lexicon. Interestingly, when used to describe human concepts of leadership and rank hierarchy, these terms can indeed be useful and usually pose no problem. But issues begin to arise when we ascribe these concepts to our domesticated dogs, assuming incorrectly that dogs place the same value as we do on the practice of identifying who is of higher rank in any given situation..
MYTH: Dogs don't need to be "Dominated"
When we are not ascribing human attributes to dogs, we are equating them with wolves. And though the modern-day mutt is a relative of wolves, it's a distant one. It's tricky! You can look at wolf behavior to try to get some insight into dog behavior sometimes. They share a common ancestor. They have only diverged very recently in evolutionary time. So you can look at them, but then also wolves have evolved independently of dogs for the last, whatever, 15,000 to 30,000 years, and so their behavior might not be the same as that ancestor that they share. There are a few instances where that divergent evolution points to obviously different results, for instance, the concept of dominance hierarchy, which encourages dog owners to establish dominance as a means of obedience. Since dogs no longer have a territory that they need to defend and food that they need to acquire, the hierarchy explanation or description no longer works for dogs. Even in the wild it's not the case - it looks like that's the case if you have a bunch of adolescent male wolves that are in a small enclosure and are captive, they form a dominance hierarchy. Like many other animals, wolves tend to form normal family units. There are ones who take the lead and those who follow, but it's not like this dominance hierarchy at all - that makes no sense to apply to dogs, yet it has been quite prevalent in some trainers' approach historically, over the last 50 years. So I totally discourage its use.
MYTH: My dog wants to go out of the doorway first or pull on the leash, because he is dominant
Nah, he probably just is like all dogs and for some reason excited about going out of doorways. You just never know when there will be a squirrel on the other side I guess. It's a good idea though to ask your dog to sit and wait to be released to go out of the doorway.
MYTH! Dominance is not a violence
Being "dominant" in the animal world means that force or violence is seldom used to maintain the status quo, so why do some trainers and dog owners still believe that using forceful and punitive techniques to establish themselves as the "alpha," "boss" or "pack leader" is the correct way to train dogs? This misapplication is where the danger lies with respect to our confusion over what the word actually means. People have allowed their human concept of dominance - based on accumulating power, establishing higher rank and exerting control in a forceful and sometimes violent way, to not only muddle their interpretation of canine relationships and social hierarchies but also to dictate how they attempt to manage and train dogs. Science has shown us that forced submission is not at all representative of how animals, including dogs, establish healthy functional relationships between themselves or us.
DOG & PUPPY
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Dr. Ian Dunbar
Trainers who do not use force and choose humane, reward-based methods for their dogs get the same arguments thrown at them over and over again. I think in most cases the people hurling the arguments are not apt to change their minds. I mean no insult by that. Science tells us more and more that changing one's ideas about something, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, is very difficult and practically goes against our very wiring. Positive reinforcement-based training is subject to a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
Many people genuinely don't understand how it works, and others seem to deliberately misrepresent it. The dog's supposed desire for domination offers a convenient excuse to psychologically and physically abuse the dog under the guise of training. These misconceptions prompt procedures in which people are recommended to physically dominate and/or intimidate the dog, rather than building the dog's confidence and teaching him that there is no need to feel threatened by people and therefore, no reason for biting them. For the general dog-owning public, the very concept of physical domination is as ridiculous as it is dangerous. Certainly, an experienced trainer might be able to flip the majority of dogs into supine restraint, but few novice dog owners would be silly enough to try, and no child and few adults could possibly succeed.
How can a dog possibly view a four year-old child as an alpha animal, and how can a child possibly physically dominate any dog. The very concept is preposterous pop-psychology. Sillier yet, is when adult humans try to impersonate dogs during training - trying to reprimand dogs with open-gape pins, scruff shakes and "alpha rollovers". Some of these misunderstandings and misrepresentations are very "sticky." Misunderstandings, straw men, myths-call them what you will, but they are out there and they are potent. Every one of these points is focused on punishment or aversive stimuli. Clearly that is a sticking point in people's understanding of positive reinforcement-based training. The claims also fit neatly into two categories. The first four misrepresent positive reinforcement-based training. They paint it in a ridiculous light and imply it is impossible or ineffective. The last two blur the lines between positive reinforcement-based training and training that involves deliberate use of aversives. In rhetorical terms, the first four are straw man arguments, and the latter two use the tu quoque fallacy in addition to the continuum fallacy.
Maximizing Positive Reinforcement
If you are still worried about a negative reinforcement component with training with food, it's easy to address. To minimize and possibly eliminate the presence of negative reinforcement effects, how about this: don't train your dog on an empty stomach. Meaning the dog's stomach, silly! But it'd probably be good if you have eaten something too. You want to be at your best when training! Use appropriate sized pieces of good treats and you can be fairly confident that you are training with virtually entirely positive reinforcement - if the behavior increases, of course. If calories are a concern, cut down the next meal. Also, recent research indicates that dogs, just like people, probably learn better when their stomachs are not empty. Makes me feel good that I have almost always given my dogs some of their meal ahead of time to take the edge off before training.
No Fun for Dogs?
No barking, urine marking, stealing food, jumping-up and mounting? But all these are signs of a perfectly normal, healthy dog. Excessive barking may be controlled by feeding the dog only from chewtoys and by teaching the dog to "Woof" and "Shush" on cue. In-house scent marking is the signal for some basic housetraining. Stealing is indicative of an ill-trained dog living with an owner who continues to leave tempting items within reach. Dogs jump-up as a natural greeting and friendly appeasement gesture that has been unintentionally reinforced since puppyhood. Train your dog to "Sit" when greeting people and maybe to "Give a Hug" on request, when and if appropriate. Not coming when called has absolutely nothing to do with dominance, rather it simply advertises insufficient training by an owner who continues to let the dog off-leash in distracting and potentially dangerous settings.
Mounting is the result of a misdirected sexual urgem but the dog is trying to "love us to death" not kill us. The dog wants to mount something and a cat, a cushion, or a great aunt's left leg, are sometimes the best options at hand. I wouldn't dream of allowing my dog to mount an unfamiliar dog, let alone a person. Mounting other dogs may lead to dog-dog fighting and owner-owner aggression. But the point is, we manage to control our equally vibrant, human sexual impulses in public and dogs can do likewise, if so educated. Simply request your dog to sit or lie down. Check out amorous Dolce, who is about to mount another dog until his owner requests him to sit. End of problem.
MYTH: "Purely Positive" is a LIE!
"Purely positive," or sometimes, "all positive," are terms most often used as epithets by force trainers to refer to trainers who avoid force and aversives. They are used as a straw men in arguments. A Straw Man is a misrepresentation of an opponent's argument that is usually laughably extreme and easy to disprove. That's its purpose. The person who creates the Straw Man can knock it down and play like they have disproved their opponent's actual argument. People generally construct Straw Men when they have a dearth of logical arguments. Once in a while they have an honest misunderstanding. If that happens, the person who built the Straw Man can be gently presented with one's real point of view and a discussion of its true merits and faults may ensue. But sometimes Straw Men are constructed by people who just want to win at all costs, the truth be damned, or are used consciously by people who know that what they are saying is untrue. When someone does that, it's generally the case that they are not going to listen to your true point of view or play by the rules of polite conduct in an argument. The reason that bringing up "purely positive" is a Straw Man is that virtually no one is claiming to be a 100% positive reinforcement trainer.
MYTH: The Kids...
Newsflash: it is not really such a bad idea at all to use external reinforcement for tasks that are not intrinsically meaningful or rewarding to children. There is, of course, a whole discipline of positive reinforcement training for humans using markers. Many people find the idea of using food treats, stickers, or tokens when teaching children shocking, even repellent. Like dogs, they are supposed to eagerly apply themselves to tasks that have no intrinsic value to them just because we want them to. In the world of cultural fog described by Susan Friedman, people tend to react to punishment as a perhaps unfortunate but inevitable part of bringing up children, but run screaming at the idea someone deliberately might use reinforcement to affect a child's behavior. Oh, the horror!
MYTH: The Dogs...
There is one particular difference between teaching tasks to children and behaviors to dogs. The important tasks we teach to children will eventually become socially or intrinsically reinforced. These reinforcers are often not even recognized as such by the critics of teaching with reinforcement. A smile or nod from a parent. A "thanks" from a stranger. Physical comfort. Control over one's environment. Encouragement from a teacher. Passing a test. Performing well in a job interview. We are social animals and sensitive to social success and acceptance. Folks who quote the "cookie" remark above generally do not recognize the reinforcement that is naturally available and going on all the time for us social humans. That includes negative reinforcement, of course. A child may choose to make his bed to get his parents to stop nagging him about it..
But the bigger point is that many things that are chores for children are naturally positively reinforcing when they get older. Dogs do not "grow up" to get the social reinforcement or the joy of fitting into our culture and society. However, Skinner's plan to switch to non-contrived reinforcers works for them, too. Teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead using positive reinforcement may take a lot of treats or even play at first, but a skilled teacher can show the dog that learning to walk nicely on a leash expands their world. The dogs can transition to the life rewards of going places, exploring, and sniffing new things. Doesn't that sound familiar? The un-doggy behaviors we want from our dogs would not initially have natural reinforcement without our intervention. Most would be acquired not at all. So we arrange reinforcement for them. But in many cases, just like for kids, some natural reinforcement will fall into place as well as our dogs enjoy their lives with us.
MYTH: Positive reinforcement-based training is permissive
What would one do with a cookie if the dog did something "bad"? What I didn't know was that positive reinforcement-based trainers not only reinforce desired behaviors, but also have several humane techniques for interfering with the reinforcement for unwanted behaviors so that they don't pay off for the animal. These include antecedent arrangement, reinforcement of alternative behaviors, and in some cases negative punishment. Positive reinforcement-based training, especially when applied to behavior problems, takes careful thought and planning. It is precise, deliberate, and the opposite of let's all hang out here in happy fairy rainbow land.
MYTH: Positive reinforcement-based trainers just ignore bad behavior
The one also brings a very bad image to mind: a doting pet owner letting her pet jump on grandma, countersurf, and go through the trash. But the truth is quite different. What we actually do about unwanted behavior is to
1) prevent it from happening in the first place,
2) teach the dog something acceptable to do instead and occasionally,
3) punish it using negative punishment.
We know that ignoring reinforced behaviors doesn't make them go away. But to make things a little more complicated, there are two situations where "ignoring" is used in training. One is when training new behaviors or associating a verbal cue with a new behavior. In these cases, if the dog makes an error, nothing happens. We do not treat. But in these situations we are not dealing with some habitual, harmful behavior that is getting reinforced some other way. It's just a wrong guess in a guessing game. The other situation where ignoring might be used as a part of a training approach is when the animal's behavior is being reinforced with attention. But even in that situation, we would not use ignoring by itself. I now have a whole post about the issues with ignoring: Does Ignoring Bad Behavior Really Work?
MYTH: Positive reinforcement trainers believe that nothing unpleasant should happen in the dog's life, ever, and they try to protect their dogs from all aversives
First, this is impossible. Mild to moderate aversive stimuli are around us at all times, and we and our animals perform loads of behaviors to avoid or lessen them. Perhaps the dog is too hot. That's aversive. Perhaps there is a fly buzzing around her head. That's aversive. Perhaps the dog has to get a shot at the vet. That's aversive! The truth is that we avoid training with aversives, even with mild ones. If a thunder-phobic dog escapes into the house when it storms, this is called natural or automatic negative reinforcement. The dog is reinforced for running into the house by gaining distance from the thunder noise. The thunder is an unavoidable aversive in life. But I would never put a loud noise into a training session and use a dog's fear of it to get a certain behavior out of her. And as for major aversives we do prepare the dog for them as best we can to make them less so. That's the opposite of using their aversive qualities.
MYTH: Positive reinforcement-based trainers will do things like let their dog run out in traffic so as to avoid jerking on his collar, or avoid any medical procedure that might "hurt"
This one is almost always a straw man. Probably, the people saying it and acting like they believe it really don't think we would stand by in an emergency and watch our dogs get hurt. In an emergency we will body block or grab or tackle or apply leash pressure to a dog who is about to do something dangerous, just like any other normal human being who cares about his or her dog. Yes, this is using an aversive. But it is not part of a teaching scenario. Different behaviors are expected and needed in difficult situations. For example, a friend might ask me to use a needle to remove a sliver that she can't reach. I would do this if asked, even if it might mean hurting her. But because I am willing to do that, it does not follow that I am fine with training her a new job skill by poking her with a needle every time she makes an error.
MYTH: Positive reinforcement-based trainers use punishment but just don't know it or just don't admit it
This is silly. We are generally the ones who are trying our best to leave mythology behind and learn the science behind good training. But again, the claim can come from someone who just doesn't understand what it is we are doing; someone who figures there just has to be punishment in there somewhere! Sometimes there is. And those of us who use negative punishment know when we are using it! But a common variant of this claim is, "When you train, you don't always give the dog the treat. You are withholding the reward and that's punishment, har har har." Actually it is not. As long as there is no consequence to the dog's wrong guess it is not punishment. It is extinction at work. Extinction by itself is no picnic for the dog either, but in general we don't use it by itself. Usually another behavior or multiple other behaviors are being reinforced, and we help the animal make the transition to performing one of those instead. We also know and freely admit that certain tools fall easily into aversive use. It's no news that a plain old collar can be used to hurt a dog. That's why when we start using any gear on a dog, we use counterconditioning to help the dog build pleasant associations, and we teach the dog behaviors so as to minimize the chance of discomfort. This is the opposite of using the aversive properties of a piece of gear.
MYTH: Positive reinforcement-based training is just as stressful on dogs as balanced or aversive-based training
Training with positive reinforcement can surely be stressful. But the stressors generally have to do with lack of skill - errors by the trainer, or an added aversive situation that wasn't planned. It is not sensible to argue that a method that consists of giving the dog food or playing with her when she performs a desirable behavior is as aversive as a method that depends on applying discomfort, pain, or intimidation.
MYTH: Misconceptions of the Mythical Alpha Dog
A number of dog training texts cite pilo-erection, prolonged barking and growling, snarling and snapping, food protection, and otherwise threatening people as examples of aggression and alpha-status. Usually though, these behaviors are indicative of insecurity and may be easily prevented or resolved by comprehensive socialization, desensitization and oodles of classical conditioning. Dogs feel the need to threaten people because they themselves feel threatened by people. In terms of dog-dog interactions, threatening, growling and fighting are characteristic of middle-ranking male dogs that lack confidence of their social standing. Top dogs seldom growl or threaten, they don't need to. Underdogs seldom growl or threaten, they would be silly to. In our study of dog social hierarchies, the two top male dogs were pretty cool customers, they seldom threatened and growled and hardly ever fought. Instead they were perfectly happy to share a bone with other dogs, whereas the middle-ranking males protected the bone with extreme machismo - a noisy and embarrassing advertisement of their lack of confidence.
Puppy biting is normal, natural and necessary. In fact, it is the puppy that doesn't mouth and bite that augurs ill for the future, since he has never had the opportunity to develop bite inhibition. Of course puppy biting has to be eliminated before adolescence, but via a specific 4 step process, whereby the pup first learns to inhibit the force of his biting before he is taught to stop biting now modified to gentle mouthing altogether. Similarly, if played correctly, games of tag, tug o' war and play-fighting all serve to maintain the dog's bite inhibition, to teach specific rules and to practice control at times when the dog is excited. If the owner does not play by the rules and is out of control, the dog will become out of control and overly excited. Since many people, especially men and children are going to play these games with the dog anyway, we should teach them how to play with the dog properly in a controlled fashion so that the games become both beneficial and enjoyable.
MYTH: Slot Machine is working
Many dog trainers suggest using a Jackpot method of training where once in a while the dog gets a pay out of treats. If the slot machine never gives even a small reward, would you keep playing?
MYTH: You are bribing the dog - simply, no
Studies are showing that the smell of food actually changes a dog's brain chemistry. The feel good hormone, serotonin, is produced when food is presented to the dog. By teaching a dog to do an action with a treat, they consistently get to feel good and want to do it even when food is not present because the action now produces the same feeling. It is the same as a slot machine, winning produces that feel good feeling; making you want to pull that level again and again because every time you do it you get a little kick of feeling good.
MYTH: Purely Positive training methods have no corrections
This seems to be a difficult point for many to understand mainly because it changes between trainers. Some trainers actually use NO methods of correction. Some trainers don't know that they are using correction methods. Finally some trainers simply mean that they are going to use methods that people will not see as harsh or abusive. I fall directly into the latter category. Take a look at the four categories of operant conditioning for more information on different types of reinforcement and punishment.
MYTH: Puppies cannot be trained before 6 months
No way, from day one you should be training! Where this comes from is that if you use compulsion methods, which rely heavily on leash corrections, you need them to be bigger or you may hurt or kill them. The only real difference between training a puppy and an older dog is puppies will have, what i affectionally refer to as, Puppy Brain. Puppies may only have a minute attention span, that means you cannot sit with them until they get a new command, you need to split it up into multiple training sessions. A wonderful example is Dug from the Pixar movie Up, he can be focused on minute and be focused on the squirrel the next.
MYTH: Positive training only works for happy, normal dogs and not large, tough or aggressive dog
No way! A simple way of thinking of this is would you use compulsion methods to train a Polar Bear? Never! Winnipeg Zoo uses positive training with all their polar bears. Elephants, killer whales and tigers are all now trained with positive methods. Dog training seems to be have left behind while the rest of the animal trainers realized the possibilities with positive training. Using compulsion methods on a scared or aggressive dog can likely lead to worst behaviours. I have personally seen a simple leash correction turn into a bite scenario in a split second.
MYTH: My dog generally irritating behaviour because he is dominant
No. Dogs are not out to dominate you, that is not their life goal. If you have not built a strong relationship with your dog, you will see many problem behaviours express themselves. Relationship activities, some times called leadership training, has nothing to do with dominating your dog into submission. The easiest way is to actively participate in obedience training on a daily basis. You are teaching your dog that you are to be listened to because you are the leader thought positive methods because your dog trusts and respects you. What dogs WILL do is take a leadership role if a leader has not positively presented themselves within the family - dogs don't enjoy this role many of them start exhibiting stress related behaviours.
MYTH: Never play tug with your dog as it will create aggression
This does not cause aggression. It causes a highly excited state where a dog will put his teeth on you. You need to teach your dog that teeth belong only on the rope during this game. The only time i would not suggest playing tug would be with a young duck dog, we want a soft mouth and this could create a hard mouth. However if you have a fully trained duck dog, go for it! Older dogs are wonderful at know the difference between play and work.
MYTH: If I start training with treats I will have to always use treats
Not if you properly phase out the treats for real world rewards like "good dog" or a pet on the head. When phased out properly I only suggest jackpot treating once in a blue moon. Generally if i am training a new behaviour I will start with a known behaviour and treat for obedience.
MYTH: Begging at the table is caused by using people food rewards
Dogs learn to beg because someone has feed them from the table, even just once. If you leave your treat bag on the table while training, you are training the same begging behaviour into your dog. This is very similar to begging for food in the kitchen.
PERSONAL PROTECTION WITH DOGS
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People have a lot of misconceptions and preconceived ideas about personal protection dog training (PPD). Some of it is based on fact but muddled by fiction or feelings. Additionally, there is an internet world packed with information, some of it is good and trustworthy and some is not.
MYTH: Protection Dogs are Attack Dogs
For a dog to be a real protection dog, he/she has to have some rather strong tendencies - professionally called "drives". Some will misinterpret these drives as aggression. We admit that some dogs used in protection work are truly aggressive but that need not be the case. A typical protection dog is friendly and trustworthy around family. They aren't child-killers. They aren't looking for someone to attack and bite. Rather, they are very balanced dogs which have what it takes to allow the toddler to use him as a pillow but then stand his ground to defend that child against an attacker. It's balance. Protection dogs, for the vast majority of needs, are balanced. Neither shy or aggressive. Neither looking to attack or bloodthirsty. 99% of the time they will be the perfect friend. In the event his services are needed, he still has that one percent that enables him to defend his human.
MYTH: An Untrained Dog will Protect Me
We have all heard stories of Fido defending the child from an attacker or barking like a madman when a stranger confronts his lady while jogging down the trail. However, that's the exception - not the rule. Most breeds of dogs that will used in protection work will be naturally protective. However, when an event takes place that merits canine intervention, the dog will not know what to do. He is motivated by love but hindered by ignorance. He will not know how to handle the stress of the moment. Some dogs have even been known to bite their own humans because they don't know what to do in that stressful situation.
Except in very rare instances, only trained protection dogs will know what to do when his/her human is assaulted or home broken into. If properly trained, they will have seen the scenario many times over. They will have been trained what to do and when and to whom. They will know how to handle the stress of an attacker waving a stick, or being kicked by the intruder. Why? They have seen it a hundred times before the "event" ever happens. They have worked under gunfire and other stressors. They have been finely tuned by a knowledgeable and professional trainer who tweaks the dog's strengths and strengthens his weaknesses. The dog can then respond with split second timing and brilliant accuracy.
MYTH: Any German Shepherd can be a Protection Dog
Wrong! The same goes for any other breed. There are good dogs and bad dogs in every breed, and mutts too. Some people mistakenly buy a low-quality pup thinking, "Well, he's a Malinois, Doberman, Rottweiler. He's a protection dog." Unfortunately we see many people who are disappointed when their dog doesn't meet their expectations. It takes a good, solid dog to be a protection dog. The breed isn't the main concern - even mixed breeds can be PPDs, as long as they meet the stringent criteria. You will need a dog from proven working lines to be a good PPD. Show lines just do not consistently produce dogs that are able to work. You may be tempted to buy a show-line dog because they are pretty. But if you are interested in true protection, you had better stick with a working dog. Pretty dogs with no brains strike out when it comes to work. Show dogs are bred for the show ring. Working dogs are bred to work. PPDs are working dogs.
MYTH: I can Raise my own Protection Dog from Puppyhood
Very few people can. There is a common misunderstanding that when my pup reaches a certain age, he can be thrown into the work and expect to excel. Wrong again. PPDs need a lot of preparation before they are old enough to begin formal protection training. They have drives to be developed, confidence that needs built, kindergarten bite-work that needs nurtured, muscles that need conditioned, and a TON of socialization in areas that most people don't even think of. All of this needs to be done before he is given the task of protection training. If you are to have a strong and dependable working dog, you will have to do ALOT of work with him/her before they are a year old. Most people lack that knowledge and commitment to get it done within the window of opportunity and get it done right without hindering the pup's education. Conifer Canine offers a puppy development class for pups aged 8 weeks to 12 months. See our Protection page for more information.
MYTH: Protection Dogs are too Expensive
Expensive, yes. Too expensive, not really. There is a lot of expense involved in the proper training of a PPD. A truckload of time is invested, expensive equipment must be used, and there are many behind-the-scenes needs & expenses that go into the making of a good PPD. Backyard training is cheap, but so are the results. A person who knows what he is doing in the training of a PPD will invest his time, skill, sweat, strength and sometimes his skin for the good of the dog and for the benefit of the person who purchases him. When your home is broken into, you will want to know in that moment that your trainer didn't skimp on your dog's training. And, you don't work for free, neither should your trainer.
COMFORTING A FEARFUL DOG
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What is Stress?
The question of stress is one that I have given some careful consideration to. Stress has many definitions, but here are a few pertinent ones: A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. The non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.Managing fear isn't simple. If you have a fearful dog and need help I suggest seeking out positive reinforcement trainers in your area. When it comes to helping a fearful dog it's important to keep your own behaviors in mind. While you won't reinforce fear by remaining calm & providing comfort you can make things worse by freaking out yourself. If you yourself panic when you meet a new dog your dog will start to pick up on that. If you are scooping your dog up every time they meet a new dog they may start to assume that hey there is something to be scared of, and they may begin to act more defensively when a new dog approaches. For long term solutions you are going to need to address the fear itself and come up with a way to help your dog through it. Dogs who are fearful, and therefore reactive or possibly aggressive.
Is Stress OK At All?
Clearly stress is a serious deal, but maybe not all bad. Prescott Breeden published a very nice post on Stress and Learning recently. His article deserves a careful read, in case you haven't read it already. Are you back now? Great! I won't synopsize the whole article, but the two relevant points are: a little stress can be beneficial to learning and the optimal amount of stress for learning varies inversely with the difficulty of the task. Some express their fear through barking and lunging, or even growling and snapping or worse. Others appear more typical for what people would expect out of a fearful dog: cowering, turning their head or body away, or trying to hide, for example.
The fear isn't going to get better by just ignoring it, and it can often get much worse. If you find yourself in a situation where both you & your dog are fearful the best solution may be to just walk away. If you can't control what's happening and you are unable to turn the situation into a positive experience sometimes leaving is the best solution. It's certainly not easy to do, and it can feel like a failure. But knowing when to say this isn't working can help get you out of a situation before it incites even more fear. As with managing fear in any aspect of life it's a judgment call, and there isn't always going to be a simple solution. A common way to help fearful dogs is by using counter conditioning. It's the process of changing a negative emotional response into a positive one, and it works well for many fears. It's not a quick process, but to truly help with fear you should be trying to think of ways to help your dog start to see those scary things as not so scary after all.
MYTH: We Each Define How we Provide Comfort Differently
So you asked a simple question on a dog forum: should I be comforting my fearful dog during a thunderstorm? You get a ton of answers from both sides, and you are probably feeling more confused and discouraged than you were to begin with. I mean it's a simple question after all, yet everyone answers it differently. The first problem with the question of comforting a fearful dog is the fact that we are not all on the same page when it comes to how we define comfort to begin with. The best way to address whether or not you should comfort your dog during X event is to think about what would help them out in the long run. Is this a one time situation that probably won't come up again? If that's the case sometimes the best way to provide comfort is to remove yourself from the situation.
If it's a scary situation that will come up again you should be thinking of ways to help make your dog comfortable with it in the long run. If it's thunderstorms perhaps giving your a treat when you hear the boom of thunder will help them start to associate it as not being such a bad thing. Managing fear isn't simple, and a stranger on the internet isn't likely to provide you with the best answer when it comes to your dog. It's about knowing your dog and what they find comforting, and knowing how to keep them from going over threshold and panicking. Comfort a dog whose nervous around strangers is a lot different than the way I'd comfort a dog panicking during fireworks. Levels of fear vary, and so do the levels of comfort we provide.
MYTH: Comforting Your Dog Will Not Reinforce Fear
The most common misconception when it comes to comforting a fearful dog is that it will just reinforce the fear. I certainly understand where this concern comes from, but it's important to note the distinction between fear & behavior. Fear is the unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous. Behavior is the way in which one acts in response to a situation. When we talk about fear we are only talking about the unpleasant feeling that we are in danger, not the behaviors associated with it. We often get stuck in the mindset of thinking that providing comfort to a fearful dog is just reinforcing the fear, and that it's just going to make the fear worse.
Think of it this way: if your dog is terrified of thunderstorms & you pet them during one it's not going to make their fear of storms worse. Petting during a storm is probably not going to be enough to help them be less fearful next time, but it can provide comfort in the meantime. As long as the comfort you are providing is actually comforting to your dog you are not going to be reinforcing their fear. Keep in mind that fear exists on a scale ranging from mild to severe. For dogs that are extremely fearful of a situation providing a little bit of comfort isn't likely to solve the underlying issue, but it's certainly not going to make it worse. In certain situations where our dogs get extremely fearful comforting them is the most humane thing to do, and if that's not possible by simply petting them sometimes removing yourself from the situation is the best choice. It's similar to the way we help our friends deal with scary stuff. If your friend is terrified of elevators you can try to help keep them calm by distracting them during the ride. Your comfort & support isn't making their fear of elevators worse, but it may help make it easier for them to deal with. Providing comfort to a fearful dog won't enforce their fear. When we choose not to provide our dogs with help & support in scary situations that fear can get much worse.
MYTH: Comforting Your Dog May Reinforce Behaviors
Another misconception I see regarding the idea of reinforcing fear by providing comfort is confusing fear with behaviors. We spoke about fear above - the emotional response of feeling like were in danger and how providing comfort won't make the fear itself worse. Now let's move onto behaviors. Fearful dogs can exhibit a variety of different behaviors when they are scared. They might exhibit the classical signs of fear such as pacing, shaking, whining and hiding. But scared dogs can also exhibit defensive behaviors such as growling or snapping. The best example of a fearful dog exhibiting defensive behaviors is resource guarding. It's when a dog gets defensive when you approach their stuff, most often their food. Laika had severe resource guarding years ago, and I'll be the first to admit I didn't see it as a fear based behavior at all to begin with. I thought she was just being a selfish jerk. After much research & with the help of a trainer we started to address Laika's resource guarding through counter conditioning & lots of patience. Dogs that guard their food aren't being territorial or dominant. They see you as a threat to their stuff and they are acting defensively out of fear. It's important to understand that behaviors such as resource guarding when your dog might be growling at your are actually fear based. In order to see long term results you need to address that fear and help them start to see you coming towards their food as no big deal.
Another example of how we can reinforce fearful behaviors is how we respond when our dog meets strangers. Let's say your dog is scared of having new visitors over, so when your friend comes over your dog starts to act defensively by growling. If you start comforting your dog & petting her telling her it's all OK during this meeting they may think "OK then I'll just keep growling." Your dog will still be scared of strangers because you haven't helped address their fear, and since you comforted them while growling they may start to think of that behavior as acceptable. In other words nothing will change, and your dog will still be scared & probably growl the next time it happens. To help address my dogs fearfulness of strangers I like to make Laika's associations with new people positive. I will give them treats to give her, or tell them to kneel down & let her come to them. Since she's only slightly nervous around new people it's pretty easy and after 30 seconds they are usually her new best friend. With dogs with more severe fears you are going to have to work on it. You are going to need to find a method that helps your dog address their fear in a way they can manage, and one that will help them start to see that scary thing as no big deal.
MYTH: If a dog is afraid - particularly of men, it must have been abused / beaten
Not necessarily! Since behaviour is determined as a result of a combination of a dog's genes, experiences and learning, and the current environment, this is not always the case. Dogs with shy, reserved temperaments, dogs that have had a lack of social interaction - particularly in their early development periods, and dogs suffering from boredom and stress are amongst those that can display similar behaviours to dogs that have been abused.
MYTH: You Should Wake Them Up If they appear to be having a nightmare
Whether the dog's dream is an ongoing question, but till now there is no definite answer, the evidence points strongly in the direction that they behave. Dogs show REM moves the eye rapidly sleep, which is the kind of sleep that we have when dreaming. Dreaming is also linked with the process of getting the memories back, which is something the dogs have proven the ability to do. So let's know about the nightmares of dogs? For starters, we can't say that the dogs are able to have nightmares, given that we don't know about the dog's dream at all. The owners who recognize their dogs twitching and whining in their sleep, there Is a lot of stress in leaving your dog alone when they feel uncomfortable. Many owners take it upon themselves to avoid the dog free of its supposed sleepy horrors. However, this could be more harmful and stressful to your dog's health. Like humans, dogs also need a certain amount of deep sleep to maintain good mental health and normal development. Canines tend to nap between 14-16 hours every day. But in this deep sleep is very little. When your dog appears to be dreaming, it is having vital deep sleep that it requires. Disturbing their sleep could be unhealthy for them.
MYTH: Dogs that cower or duck when you reach toward them have been abused
You might think so, but in most cases this is a myth about dogs that has no basis in fact. One thing you have to remember is that, like their cousins the wolves, dogs are social creatures and in many cases they are submissive to what they consider authority. Ever heard of that pretty doubtful "alpha dog" concept? Dogs tend to accept their place in the pack, and in most cases, they perceive humans as the leaders of the local pack. This isn't always the case, and size doesn't necessarily matter - anyone who's ever owned a Pomeranian can tell you they will usually try to be the alpha, no matter how small they are.
DOG PARKS & RESORTS
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MYTH: My dog enjoys other dogs
The dog park is the best place for him to play with his own kind. Different breeds and types of dogs play differently. Two Labrador Retrievers will play very differently than two Cocker Spaniels. Sometimes different breeds of dog play very well together and other times their play is incompatible. Bully breeds tend to enjoy body slamming; Poodles however, may take offense at that type of play. Some dogs enjoy back and forth chase games, others like to roughhouse. It can take only one bad experience to turn a social dog into a fearful dog. Conversely, rude behavior is quickly learned. Impolite dogs can be a bad influence on well-socialized dogs. You have no control over the "pack" that hangs out at the dog park, as they are not your dogs.
MYTH: The dog park will give my small dog confidence!
Small dogs, generally considered to be less than 20lbs, are not appropriate for dog parks unless there is an enclosed section especially for them. Unfortunately, because of their size, they may be intimidated, bullied, trampled and possibly seen as prey. Sadly, there are cases where dogs have become aroused in their play and attacked smaller dogs. If you have a small dog, consider how scary it must feel to have to stand up to a group of dogs that are overwhelmingly larger and stronger. Jack Russell Terriers are an exception to the small dog rule. They tend to have enough tenacity to hold their own at the dog park!
MYTH: The dog park will teach my adult dog to enjoy playing with other dogs.
Many adult dogs don't enjoy dog parks. In human terms, young children and adolescents tend to make friends quickly and easily. Mature adults are often more selective about who they spend time with and the activities they choose to take part in. For adult dogs, going to the dog park might be akin to a 45 year old person spending their free time at the elementary school playground!
MYTH: The dog park is a good place to work on my dog's behavioral issues.
A dog with special behavioral needs will not benefit from visits to the dog park. In fact, dog parks potentially make a behavior problem worse. The dog park is not the place to make your fearful dog more outgoing, your aggressive dog more friendly, or your reactive dog less reactive. A controlled environment is the place to deal with behavior issues and a dog park is usually anything but controlled.
MYTH: My dog won't come back to me when I call him. A fenced in dog park is a safe place to let him frolic and play.
Dogs who attend dog parks should have some basic manners training. A good recall is most important - to call your dog to you if unacceptable behavior breaks out and when it is time to leave the dog park. You should be able to gain control of your dog's behavior at any moment.
MYTH: The dog park is the best place to socialize my puppy.
Socializing your puppy is important. However, for many of the reasons already stated, dog parks are not the place to fulfill this need. Additionally, there is no way to be sure that other owners have vaccinated their dog so you could be unintentionally exposing your pup to illnesses and diseases at a time in your dog's life when he is most vulnerable.
WALKING DOGS MISCONCEPTIONS
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Don't let your dog's shoulders go past your leg when walking your dog, you need to be the leader of the pack; learn more tips on dog walking in this free pet obedience video. Dogs prefer to be outside rather than being cooped up in the house all day? - Not true! By nature, dogs are pack animals. They'd prefer to be with their pack. Since you are a part of that pack, that means that the'd rather be wherever you are. If you are outside, they will want to be outside. If you are inside, they will want to be inside. Of course, you can't have your dog with you all the time, such as when you are at work or at the grocery store. So why not have him outside while you are away?
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In truth, most dogs behave better when they are inside. When outside and on their own, many dogs are prone to barking, whining and digging. Your home is your dog's den and, further, it smells like you. It's often comforting for him in a way that being left outside can't be. In fact, your dog may believe he is being banished from the den if forced to stay outside. A dog needs its freedom on the walk? This might include taking them off the lead, or using a flexi lead. Although dogs probably enjoy running around and acting like the good balls we all know they are, they don't necessarily need this. A dog will be just as happy going for a long walk, all the while staying on a fairly short leash, trotting happily besides its owners. It is the walk itself that is important, not the lead or rather lack of one.
STIGMAS & MISCONCEPTIONS
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MYTH: Pinch collars are bad!!
If one collar could do the trick everyone would be using it. If only one training technique worked, we'd all be doing it. What needs to be determined is the emotional component of the dog, are they fearful or frustrated? Barking and lunging to some extent can actually help the process as that releases stress for the dog. A pinch collar in combination with the right technique is IMO the best training collar on the market. It is however also the most dangerous looking which has many people discriminating against it.
There are 2 reasons to use the collar:
1) your dog is physically insensitive, potential for injuring your dog with a regular collar is high since he doesn't feel anything until the trachea damage is done.
2)Your dog is stronger than you are - So why not use a haltie or a harness? Training collars should not be confused with "restraining devices" like halties or harnesses.
A training collar should do two things; correct the dog or get the dog's attention in a high distraction environment. When pulled, a pinch collar pinches the surface of the dog's skin the same way two human fingers would pinch skin. Important to remember the intensity of the pinch is determined by the owner. I get some people turn away from the pinch due to its appearance since it gives the impression the prongs penetrate directly in the dog's skin which is untrue. And if a dog is injured with the pinch it's due to improper use. Also, don't assume a psychologically sensitive dog means he will be physically sensitive. One has nothing to do with the other. The dog may bark once or twice, which is acceptable, but eventually the dog will learn that leaving the stimulus and disengaging is more reinforcing as we can always trump peripheral stimulus and event main event stimulus with high value food, scent and the contiguous sequences of proper counterconditioning.
MYTH: Feeding a dog when they are barking or fearful reinforces the fear
Absolutely not true. You can only cause more fear by implementing more fear or pain. Fear trumps food, so if the dog is taking the food, they are not that fearful. The food is not the focus of the on leash event - the impending, approaching or sudden stimulus is the focus. This is not like a food bowl that gets kicked repeatedly or a dog that is attacked by other dogs over food, and the dog starts to associate the food as a fearful part of the chain and stops eating. Could food be associated with fear with on leash counterconditioning, sure if the handler starts to scold the dog or cause the dog some form of fear and pain and then tries to pad the event with food, in that case it could. If the dog is already fearful of traffic, fearful or frustrated by dogs, humans or in general has stress on leash, the food will not have a negative association unless it's an extreme case and the humans is being abusive. Obviously the handler wants to pay the dog while the dog is under threshold upon the first orientation of the stimulus, but if the dog is paid after a bark or lunge the food is not reinforcing that emotion, and not necessarily that behavior or physical movement, the act of barking and lunging et. al. is the reinforcer at that stage.
The behavior of barking or lunging can be ameliorated by better distance; the food is acting as a "pad" and a stress gauge at the point when the dog is over threshold. Cognitively it is not fully possible to "reinforce fear" with legitimate reductions in the intensity of the fearful stimulus - working to reduce the intensity of the fear or frustrations each time, unless the dog is flooded repeatedly and there are no trials that result in the dog staying under threshold, but then that is not legitimate nor is it effective in reducing fear. No matter it is not the food causing a "reward" for fear. When counterconditioning dogs on leash, it is a series of fluid events that are ever shifting - not only in the moment but also each day is different. I work with many dogs on leash, and all dogs at some point, during some event, need counterconditioning, some dogs more than others, some very little, and it is a process that all humans that walk dogs would do well to become at the very least adequate at, and for the love of the dog, it would great if they became great at it even it was for just their own dog, as it can add so much to their lives in terms of stress reduction and expanding their social circle.
When we countercondition dogs to tolerate or even enjoy a once fearful stimulus such as a pair of clippers it can be executed the same way every time with extreme accuracy. On leash counterconditioning, no matter how great the humans become, and that is the crucial factor, how well we are executing the process. When the human is executing the protocols and then adjusting the criteria as success or not so much success occurs, that is a crucial variable, the humans and their adjustments of mechanics, timing and even where and when the dog is walked. On the subject of variables, just like in sports and in whether there are variables, nothing is stagnant for long, and sudden shifts occur, that is life when on leash and counterconditioning, so the varying degree of successes are filled with extreme variables in both salience, distances of stimulus and the amount of duration is never the same. The parameters are messy, but the execution of the training does not have to be. Stay aware and stay flexible.
As long as the humans are capable of physically executing what ever needs to be implemented, then they will have success, with just about any dog. Read that again, and really think about the work you do with bone fide reactive dogs and why you may or may not be having success, it's all mechanics and timing in the end. The trouble begins when the humans that walk the reactive dog are not capable or able to implement the proper protocols. Some people refuse to carry food, some people cannot or will not bend, twist, move, stop, look, grab a treat say the marker, some people a have dogs that are way too much for them to work on leash, they simply are out matched. Or they just will not "do the work", that does not mean the process is not working - it means the humans are not working.
Counterconditioning dogs on leash to have less stress and stay under threshold is an achievable goal. In no uncertain terms counterconditioning works, when it is applied properly. It takes work, especially for the extremely reactive dog that has lots of triggers. The question to ask if you are having leash reactive issues or set backs, is simple - what is the human doing or not doing? It's always a matter of reinforcement and distances those are predicated on human awareness and mechanics and timing. Once that gets sorted out the dog usually does much better.
MYTH: Mistaking fear for frustration
Far too many people observe a dog reacting at something and they automatically assume that the dog is fearful. The way to determine if it is fears or frustrations the dog is experiencing, take an accurate history with the stimulus and the environmental contingencies of distances, as there are usually a few varying degrees of distance and it's associations, and log the appearance duration of the exposure, that has to be factored in. How long does the stimuli hang around typically? If possible, find out what is the distance and duration upon first exposure that the dog will stay under threshold? That is a good gauge for determining how much time you have before you reinforce with food or add distance. Obviously a sudden appearance by a stimulus that startles the dog is causing the dog fear. However, what about a well socialized dog that reacts at other dogs when on leash, yet the dog has no bite history, years of off leash play without incidents, regular dog friends and dozens of leash greetings that go very well, yet the dog barks at other dogs when on leash when they cannot greet and even when they can greet, the dog barks. That dog would be considered frustrated not fearful, yet many people would label the dog fearful.
This misinterpretation of the dog's reactivity could eventually hamper the dogs socializing or the dog's humans may be persuaded to peruse harsh methods to stop the barking as many people think the "barking is the problem", when it's not. The problem is the dog's associative value to the stimuli and the event/context. That has to be a positive one, or at least we are working toward it to be, even if there's some stress for the dog. Humans that allow some leeway to the dog's barking do much better in terms of results and eventually reducing the dog's stress to acceptable levels. Fear is not an easy thing to spot for many people. Dog walks are intrinsically distracting for humans and canines. Many dogs "tough it out", then one day explode, as the whole time they were not barking, or maybe barked but were "shushed", they were still fearful. This is why I advise to pay for sub criteria and pad events as much as possible with either reassurances or food rewards.
MYTH: Do Enough Counterconditioning Then One Day The Dog Will Never Be Fearful or React On Leash
Not true. There can be major gains made, tremendous results achieved, Olympian reductions in fear, and one day when the conditions are all lined up to go against all the hard work, the dog may react at something or perhaps the stimulus you worked so diligently to countercondition a new response to will present in a new way or in a novel environment and that causes the dog to go over threshold. It is ok. Besides perfection is a lie. If you are doing the work properly and you achieve 95% reliability at some point, you and the dog are doing more than fine, and way above averages that most people have with their "reactive dog" that do not do any work or half ass it to reduce fear or frustrations for dogs when they are on leash. Think process not "results" and the results will come.
MYTH: You don't need to mark and pay just use cues
This is one of the main reasons why people fail to obtain results. They ask the dog for too much behavior too soon and are not prepared to reinforce with equal reward value for the "work". In the face of fearful stimuli especially, the dog needs to do the least amount of work, so drop criteria. This is why as soon as the dog see's or hears the stimulus and the handler marks "YES" and pays the dog a high value food reward the dog is simply reinforced for orienting. Catch enough of those "orientation moments" and the dog many times, distances in our favor of course, stays put, and waits for more reinforcement. Remember one of the F's the dog has on leash in spades is "freeze", now as "fight" does not always mean to the death "freeze" does not always connote fear to the point of freezing. Remember in the case of prey many dogs freeze and wait as part of their stalk sequences. With enough properly implemented counterconditioning many dogs will eventually "jump the marker", as the dog only to orient then get reinforcement. By marking and paying for simple orientations you are reinforcing a whole suite of subtle and overt behaviors that many times are exactly what we'd like more of, such as stopping, waiting, checking in.
One of the main ways people mess up counterconditioning, especially when it comes to dogs needing counterconditioning to other dogs, is they reactive dog sits and dogs pass by. This is usually some sort of "leadership" mumbo jumbo and lots of "hey aght" routines as they work to keep the dog from reacting, and it usually fails 99% of time. Thus, eventually if humans have a good awareness and proper distances and reward efficiently, with contiguous efficacy, the stimulus can then become the cue for disengagements as it predicts a new outcome from the counterconditioning. If you just use cues the dog may have too much to think through in the face of a sudden context change such as a barking dog or a loud truck. When you simply mark "YES" and pay the dog a high value food reward, the dog is learning that sudden changes equal high value food and or distances that help reduce stress, and that increases learning.
MYTH: The dog is fine, he is not reacting other then looking at stuff
Sadly many dogs are fearful, stressed or frustrated and displaying it in subtle ways until the environmental conditions or the history of feeling stressed has built up to cause reactivity behaviors such as barking or lunging, as the dog cannot deal with the stress any longer. Puppies and adolescent dogs are prone to this silent stress. Remember, dogs on leash are intrinsically stressed to some degree, as they cannot enlist the flight response, they really only have freeze and fight, i.e. react or stay put. Puppies and adolescent dogs are most prone to this misconception, as they are young, a bit fearful due to natural fear periods, making many puppies withdrawn and reticent in the face of new or novel stimuli due to the three fear periods that are intrinsically imbued into their development. This is an even more tangible reason to implement counterconditioning like a machine for anything that gets their attention, with puppies and adolescent dogs. When the dog is a bit older and either in the middle of adolescence or at the tail end of their "teen years" or around the start of social maturity roughly at ages 2 - 3, and the dog starts reacting at traffic, humans, other dogs, due to a history of not being reinforced for orienting to sudden and or not so sudden changes in the environment when they were stressed as a young dog it is tragic, as they could have been spared this stress had their humans simply been taught about proper counterconditioning, carried food and stayed aware.
Remember when the environment changes the dog is deciding if they are safe, unsafe or neural. The amygdala, which is the main region of the brain the processes fear, is one synapse away form the olfactory system, which is the strongest part of the dog's associative tool kit. Stimulus information does not have to travel too far to be considered fearful, the speed with which stimuli is associated as "unsafe" is in the category of "in the blink of an eye", and the likelihood is most sudden stimuli is going to initially have an apprehension associated with it, as animals are intrinsically concerned when changes occur, especially changes that occur quickly outdoors when they are trapped on leash. Remember all dogs will react at something if the conditions are right, by paying for low level orientations and asking for simple behavioral for disengagements the dog is learning that these stimulus occurrences equal reinforcing sequences.
MYTH: All that is needed is distance and allowing the dog to decide what to do
False. Dogs make poor decisions all the time. In the case of prey and young dogs or dogs that have had zero conditioning they will usually decide to lunge or attempt to chase before their prey stalk sequences have been fully developed. It the case of dogs reacting at other dogs the dog may decide that barking, even as greater distances are implemented is reinforcing, and that is where a leave it, touch chain can really help thus teaching the dog not to bark by conditioning an alternate behavior chain. In the case of dogs that need counterconditioning to other dogs, many times dogs will work to decrease distance due to the genetic predispositions to want to "check out" other dogs, and that "check out" may mean they want to approach that dog and that is not a good idea. Again, this is where a simple mark and pay routine can really make an impact on the dog. In that initial few seconds when the dog has not moved but oriented you are also marking and paying simultaneously paying for the dog staying and watching the other dog. Which may or may not be what is needed, that depends on which way the dog is approaching, towards to or away from you.
Then once you need or want disengagement you can ask for a "leave it - touch" combo and disengage the dog. Sure some dogs will decide to retreat, and those dogs can also have a food reward in the mix to increase that behavior. However when dogs are reacting towards stimuli or have a propensity to become stressed, obtain distances for the dog ahead of time buy way of sequential training, i.e. stay aware and get out of their, teach a retreat cue, and be ready to mark and pay the dog for anything that remotely has them orienting and not attending to gathering scents, This way the dog is being padded and paid for stimuli.
MYTH: The dog is not food motivated or the dog is a "picky eater"
All dogs are motivated by food; or else they die. The issue is; fear trumps food. Dogs do not have the cognitive ability to formulate a moral imperative to disobey or be spiteful or be a "picky eater", all those are human labels and have no real insight as to why a dog may not want food in the face of fear, frustrations, stress or excitement. It's the food value many times, not the dog. Food is akin to money, payment, and in the game of counterconditioning a dog that has stress may not go for the usual pay scale. In all cases where the dog was not so stressed or fearful that they were shutting down and wanting to escape, I have been able to find some food for the dog that has had a past of not wanting food on a leash walk when they are met with stimuli for counterconditioning. When dogs are stressed they stop eating and it is usually this reason that the dog is not taking the food when training leash reactive dogs. The great thing about food as a reward, a reinforcer, a motivator is that the humans can always have it with them, they can also make the food novel and the dog can be strategically fed so that they are a bit hungry when out on a walk. If the dog is not taking food it is either the dog's stress levels are too high or the food is not valuable enough for the dog's work on leash, remember on leash for dogs is always a bit stressful, so have a commiserate pay scale for the dog you are working on leash.
MYTH: The dog is only doing it for the food
This is half right - the dog is also doing it for the distance and or the stress relief from the human padding the event regularly in some capacity - jolly talk, food, distance, which is building a proper history -Safety. This new-found motivation, that food is a part of is helping the dog to form new associations, which is a sign the dog is learning and also a sign that the dog has a better capacity to process tress. Sometimes when the food is not taken as the reinforcer, it may not be due to fear or overly stressed conditions - scent took the precedent as the reinforcer. Even though the dog took the food in past trials, for whatever reason, the dog chose to disengage and gather scents, fine by me. I have worked with dogs that took the food but what really made the stress reduced was distance and scent gathering, whatever positive reinforcement works to increase the behaviors we want more of is a good thing. Yes of course there are dogs that are so food motivated that one peace of high value food after a perfectly marked event can look like "magic" or the "food is the reason" the dog stayed under threshold, maybe. When we peel back the event and look at the parameters of the context, the food may be doing the trick at close proximity, maybe not, but when the stimulus and depending on the type and saliency of that stimulus, may not really be all that stressful, due to intrinsic distances helping the process, and the scents available at the moment the dog may choose to gather scents instead of food.
The take home is - food is only one aspect of the reinforcement process. Reinforcement is a process not an event. The whole of the procedure that is counterconditioning is what eventually decreases fear or frustration for the dog on leash - it is not just the food, even if it appears that way. Food is a key component to the counterconditioning of dogs on leash that react by barking and lunging or that may be fearful. Anyone that has had training sessions where the food was not taken by the dog, the dog was too fearful, too close and frustrated, or the food was not valuable enough for the context, or the handler was too late in issuing the reinforcement to the dog, and that explains why some dogs do not work for the food, it's too much stress. If the process of counterconditioning is not working it's the humans that need to change their behavior. When it all works out and the dog does great, stays under threshold, adheres to cues, the humans have made better choices and in many cases had good luck. It is said of "luck" that it comes more frequently when people work harder. Focus on human behavior and the environment and the dog will do better each day. That is the real take home of this, it's not the "food" or the "dog" it is the humans that need to have their behaviors adjusted and their knowledge base increased in order to have the dog change their behavior.
DOG SHOCK E-COLLAR MISCONCEPTIONS
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No, electric/shock collars are not dangerous or inhumane when used properly. Electric dog collars shock collars have been scientifically tested by leading veterinary schools - such as the University of Pennsylvania, and found to have no adverse physiological effects on the dog. Depending on the correction level setting, the shock that your dog receives may be similar to the shock you get when stepping out of a car, running your feet across a carpeted floor, or touching a TV screen. The purpose of the stimulus is not to cause pain, but rather to gain and redirect the attention of the dog away from the undesired behavior like leaving the boundaries of your property. Leading Experts Agree that Shock Collars for Dogs Are Humane. Radio Systems Corporation found when testing its products that the output voltage a human would receive from a nylon carpet at 50% relative humidity is more than twice the output voltage that a dog would receive from any of its three types of electronic training devices set at low levels. At 20% relative humidity, the carpet would produce a sensation more than nine times stronger than a low-level electronic stimulation.
MYTH: E-Collars may damage your dog!
Electronic training aids that are improperly designed, maintained, fitted, adjusted or employed may also present risks, but their proper use in conjunction with reward-based obedience training has demonstrated benefits to many thousands of dogs and their owners.
DOG PRONG & PINCH
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As a certified professional dog trainer I do not use this tool nor do I recommend its use. There are some common myths and misconceptions when it comes to collars like these that I will be addressing below. If you are currently using one I highly suggest you switch to another tool mentioned below.
What is a prong collar?
A prong collar is a device that has metal fang-shaped prongs on it that is worn around a dog's neck. When it is pulled tight the prongs create a pinching effect, which causes pain or discomfort for the dog.
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The way a device like this works is via Positive Punishment, which is when the dog does an incorrect behavior, pulling the human then gives a collar correction, which causes the pain or discomfort and in theory will decrease the frequency of the pulling. It also can work via Negative Reinforcement. This is when the dog hits the end of the leash causing the prongs to tighten. The prongs stay tightened until the dog stops pulling. The dog learns that if it pulls, it gets pinched so it stops pulling.
What do you do if you have a strong, heavy, stubborn dog
I recommend using a harness that the leash attaches in the front of. This will give you more strength than any type of neck collar. This works because if the dog tries to pull, where the leash is hooked causes the front end of the dog's body to be turned back toward the human. This takes away most of the dog's leverage. I also recommend using Positive Reinforcement to teach the dog what you would like it to do.
MYTH: This works great because it mimics the mother's teeth grabbing her puppy's neck
This is false. There is no scientific data to back this up. Nor do you need to "bite your dog's neck" to teach it what it is supposed to do.
MYTH: They are the most humane of all the pinch collars
Everyone has a different definition of humane. I consider humane teaching without pain or fear. These devices work by pinching and poking the dog's neck to get it to comply. This is what is also referred to as avoidance training. The dog does the correct thing to avoid the pain or discomfort. Positive Reinforcement will yield quicker results that will work better in the short term and the long term.
MYTH: You just need to know how to use them correctly
There is no right way to hurt a dog. Using these the "right" way consists of using either Positive Punishment or Negative Reinforcement. Both of which do not work as quickly as Positive Reinforcement and both can have negative side effects unlike Positive Reinforcement.
MYTH: They don't hurt the dog if used properly
This is false. If they didn't cause pain or discomfort they wouldn't work. If that were the case they would work magically. The two quadrants used when training with a collar like this are Positive Punishment - the dog receiving something it dislikes after it does a behavior, and Negative Reinforcement - the pain & discomfort is removed when the dog is doing the correct thing. These two quadrants only work because of pain or discomfort and have been proven to be less effective than Positive Reinforcement.
MYTH: My dog never yelped or was injured
Just because your dog isn't showing that it is being hurt, it doesn't mean it isn't being hurt. Most dogs do not show that they are in pain unless it is on the extreme side.
MYTH: My dog gets excited when the collar comes out! Would he do that if it were cruel?
This is a common one. Your dog gets excited when he sees it because he associates it with going for a walk. He loves walks so that is why he gets excited.
MYTH: The reality is that all dogs can't be trained the same way, sometimes these tools are needed
False once again. If you have a strong dog, buy a harness that allows the leash to be clipped in the front, or a head halter if need be. Also, take a look at the videos below to see how to actually teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. If you base your training on communication, you will have more fun and get quicker results.
GUIDE, SERVICE & RESCUE
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MYTH: Service dogs are "certified" or "registered" after completing training
Staff cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrates its ability to perform the work or task. There is no such thing as a legitimate ID card or certificate in the United States that "proves" a dog is a trained service dog. There are, however, many scam sites that claim that their products are not only legitimate but required. They are nothing more than a scam, seeing as one cannot buy into the federal law, that's just not how it works. It is because of such scam sites that this misconception exists.
MYTH: Service dogs are only for the blind or deaf
This used to be the case several years ago, but since then, trainers have discovered an amazing variety of disabilities that service dogs can help with. Today, service dogs are used by people with mental illnesses, autism, seizures, diabetes and countless other conditions.
MYTH: Training only takes a few months
Technically speaking, training is never over. Service dogs must be able to learn new things and adapt to their handlers' needs as they may change over time. Additionally, it is not uncommon for "fully trained" dogs to need a little bit of touch-up work on things they have already learned how to do. From start to finish, it takes about 2 years to train a service dog. It is very expensive and time-consuming, but certainly worth it in the end!
MYTH: Service dogs work all the time and never get time to "just be a dog"
This couldn't be further from the truth! Being a working dog is arguably the best life a dog could have. They are able to be with their handlers almost all the time, no matter where they go. They have a job and a purpose, and most get a higher quality of care than human companions.
MYTH: Bully breeds can't be service dogs.
Actually, a dog of any breed, shape, size or color could be a service dog provided they had the right temperament and training. Businesses, services, and housing cannot legally deny a service dog solely based on breed. Many bully breeds make fantastic service dogs.
MYTH: People with service dogs are lucky because they get to bring their dog everywhere with them
At first glance, it's understandable why someone might think this. However, disabled people certainly do not see it that way. The dog is only there because the person has a disabling condition that impacts their major life functions. The purpose of the dog is so that the person can be more independent.
MYTH: Service dogs know if there are any drugs on you
One might be surprised by the number of people who are fearful of service dogs because they think they are there for narcotic detection. Technically, sure, the dog could probably smell it, but service dogs and detection dogs are completely different. The only person a service dog should be focused on is their handler anyways.
MYTH: It is okay to pet a service dog if the handler is not looking
In the service dog community, people who do this are called "drive by petters." They wait for the handler not to look, and they pet the dog as the walk by. Not only is this highly disrespectful, but it's distracting to they dog who needs to be focused on working. Not to mention that in some cases, distracting a service dog is a crime.
MYTH: People with service dogs always want to chat
Sometimes, I just want to get milk and go, it should not take 20 minutes just to get through the store. People who often have good intentions ask really rude and sometimes invasive questions just out of curiosity. Service dog handlers just want what other shoppers want, to get their things and go. Just because they have a dog doesn't mean they want to share their life story with nosey people.
MYTH: Emotional support dogs are the same as service dogs
There is a very clear legal difference between the two, and they should not be confused. An emotional support dog is legally defined as an untrained pet who emotionally supports their handler. With a doctors note, support dogs are allowed to fly in the cabin of an aircraft and live in no-pets housing free of charge. A service dog, however, is not legally defined as a pet - they are considered to be medical equipment, no different than a wheelchair or insulin pump. Service dogs must be specifically trained to do work or tasks relating to the mitigation of a person's disability. Emotional support, comfort or calming effect, do not count as work or tasks for a service dog.
MYTH: Businesses are never allowed to ask that a service dog be removed
Just like disabled people have rights, businesses do too. If a dog is out of control, acting aggressively, or not house broken, a business can and should ask that the dog be removed.
MYTH: Any dog can be a service dog with training
Most trainers agree that training is only half of what makes a good service dog. Genetics play a huge part in it as well. A service dog must be healthy and have a stable temperament to be able to do the work.
MYTH: Service dogs are a hassle
One might believe that service dogs can be a hassle in public or at home. The truth is quite the contrary. Each dog's temperament is tested at 7 weeks of age - only to guarantee you end up with the best, most obedient service dog for you or your loved one. Service dogs will use undisruptive signals to notify you in public. Dogs for autism and diabetes won't always bark when they detect change. In most public settings such as classrooms and stores, your dog will paw or motion to alert you something is wrong.
MYTH: Assistance dogs are only for people with "real" physical impairments
Assistance dogs have something to offer for people with all kinds of impairments, diseases and disabilities. As you know, autism, asperger's and diabetes are not always obvious diseases to the eye. People mistakenly assume service dogs are only available to help guide the deaf, blind, and physically impaired. In reality, they provide tremendous support not only to the blind and deaf, but also to those with asperger's, diabetes and autism.
MYTH: Service dogs are not pets
Though our service dogs are strictly professional in public, they become a part of your family at home. Kids and families will enjoy their dog as an undeniable part of their family. In many instances, families of become extremely attached to their loving and caring assistance dogs.
MYTH: Service dogs Are unaffordable
As a service dog provider, SDWR knows first hand how much a service dog can become an essential need in the homes of people with autism, aspergers, or diabetes. We also know you might not be able to afford the up-front costs associated with a service dog. Luckily, SDWR provides the option for families to pay via payment plans. Service dog fundraisers are also a great way to raise money. You can find creative ways to host service dog fundraisers in your community, at school, through your family, or online through dozens of non-profit and crowdfunding websites, such as www.gofundme.com.
MYTH: Service dogs are required to wear a vest
Similar to the registration, service dogs are not required to wear a vest while they are working. The only requirement is that they are harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless any of those devices prevents the dog from performing its task. It is important to note that handlers who choose to work their dog without a vest may have a very good reason for doing so. The vest could interfere with the dog's task, it might be too hot out for the dog to wear a vest, or the handler may have lost or forgotten the vest. Since it is the dog, and not the vest, that performs the task to mitigate the handler’s disability, the vest is simply considered a courtesy to inform the general public that a dog is a service dog. Therefore a business cannot ask a handler to leave because they have failed to mark their dog as a service dog. The two questions signify a verbal agreement between the business owner and the handler that the dog is, in fact, a service dog. Furthermore, if a dog is being disruptive and its handler makes little to no attempt to bring their dog under control, the ADA states that the business may ask that person to leave the facility.
MYTH: All service dogs are trained and sold by a specialized training program
Another common misconception about service dogs is that anyone with a service dog is training it for a program. The general public might arrive at this conclusion if a handler is not obviously disabled. When you see a service dog in public, even if the handler looks healthy, this does not necessarily mean the dog is being trained for a program. Many handlers prefer to mark dogs that are in training as such. If it is not obvious, don't assume that the dog is not assisting the handler. Remember that some disabilities are invisible!
MYTH: Service dogs never make mistakes
No amount of training can prevent an event like the time he vomited in a grocery store. Anyone who works with the general public will tell you that people have accidents. Dogs do as well. While we would like to always have control over our bodies, that isn't actually the case. Service dogs can have accidents for a number of reasons. The accident may involve a bodily function that is barely voluntary, such as diarrhea or vomiting, or it might appear as a lapse in training: a dog that barks once or twice while working, or tries to greet somebody that doesn't want to be greeted.
MYTH: A service dog is an invitation to ask about a person's disability
Having a service dog is NOT an invitation to ask a handler about their disability. Mention this one, and you are sure to hear the groan from service dog handlers around the world.
MYTH: Service dog handlers look sick
It's best to not assume you know a person's medical history simply by looking at them, and as I discussed in point number eight, asking about their medical problems is very rude. Accept that you aren't going to know what is wrong with them and move on.
ADOPTION & SHELTER
DOG & PUPPY MISCONCEPTIONS
This article is proudly presented by
Jaime Lynn Smith
Rescue dogs have a lot of opportunities to be adopted? So many dogs need homes in the U.S. - about 3.9 million dogs enter shelters each year, that no one should ever have to buy a pup - there are plenty of rescue dogs to go around. In most high-kill shelters, a dog has only seven days to be adopted. And all shelters operate with tight budgets, spaces, and staffs. The reality is they can't and don't, save every dog. But many people still avoid shelters and rescues when they are searching for a pet - maybe because they believe some of the widespread myths and misconceptions about shelter dogs. We enlisted the help of shelter staff to help us break down these stereotypes and expose the real truth about rescue dogs. Many rumors and misconceptions exist about shelter dogs. The truth is that adopting a shelter dog saves a life and helps make room for another life to be saved. Adopting a new pet is always a big commitment, one that shouldn't be taken lightly, but with the guidance of experienced shelter staff, every family has the chance to take home their perfect new family member.
MYTH: I won't find the dog I want
Many people think that breeders are your only option to find a breed you believe to be your best match, but that is simply not true. We see everything come through our doors from Persians to Goldendoodles. And it's worth noting that while you can expect certain traits from a purebred that doesn't mean they have an edge over their mixed breed counterparts. Studies have shown that mixed breeds tend to live longer and have fewer hereditary disorders.
MYTH: Adoption fees are too expensive
Compared to the cost of purchasing an animal from the pet store or through a breeder, which will charge upwards of $500-$1,000, it's surprisingly more cost-effective to adopt. The adoption fee - ranging anywhere from $50-$250, covers the medical care your pet received while staying at the shelter and licensing paperwork. Alternatively, you pay for these expenses out of pocket when you obtain an animal by other means.
MYTH: They are too old
Haven't you heard that age is just a number? Adult and senior animals can be just as cute and cuddly as their younger counterparts. A lot of people want a puppy or a kitten, but don't want all of the work that comes with it. They need training and supervision. Seniors are less maintenance. Not to mention, they are often already know a few basic commands, have fully developed personalities, and extra perk! come fully housetrained. Just ask anyone who's adopted a senior pet.
MYTH: They are too sickly
Reputable shelters provide medical care to ensure the health of their animals. That can include basic wellness exams, routine vaccinations, medicinal treatments, and more extensive surgery, as well as the rehabilitative care to get an animal back to normal health.
MYTH: They come with too much baggage
On the contrary, many animals are relinquished for reasons that have nothing to do with behavioral problems. According to the American Humane Society, people were more likely to give up ownership of their pets citing the following reasons: the pets were not allowed in their place of residence, death or divorce, allergies, or pet care expenses. And if you are still unsure, some shelters provide a foster-to-adopt option, which gives you more time to assess if you are a good match for each another. And that's something you won't get through a breeder or pet store
MYTH: Certain "types" will only give me trouble, Shelter dogs aren't as well-behaved
It's a sad reality that animals are passed by based on their breed, age, and coloring. Larger dogs, pitbulls and pitbull mixes, black cats, and senior-age animals face the biggest discrimination and, therefore, are often the last to find homes. This proves true even when black cats are avoided based on superstition, and in research conducted by the American Temperant Test Society, pitbulls are ranked as the most tolerant of all dogs, second only to Labrador Retriever. Judge an animal by its individual behavior, not its breed. A reputable shelter will not adopt out an animal that isn't ready. They deserve as much of a chance as any other animal.
MYTH: Adopting is too difficult
One of the biggest mistakes people make is rushing the process. People want the "instant gratification" of walking out the door with a new pet, Mara says, without going through the rigmarole of the application process. And that's understandable. But the initial application, home visit, and meet and greet that a shelter sometimes requires is meant to ensure that you and your potential pet are finding the right match. After all, it should be about what you can do for the dog, rather than looking for what the dog can do for you.
MYTH: Rescue dogs are 2nd rate to the dogs and puppies in pet stores
Dogs in pet stores generally come from puppy mills: large-scale commercial dog breeding operations that prioritize profit over animal welfare. Breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality, resulting in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects. What's more, the lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified. By adopting a dog, you challenge the cycle of cruelty embedded in the puppy mill industry. And that is a 1st rate thing to do.
MYTH: You never know what you are going to get at a shelter, Shelters aren't clean and shelter dogs aren't healthy
If you have any questions, reputable shelters will be forthcoming about any known behavioral or health issues. That includes bite history, how they are around other animals, the extent of their training, and whether they were pulled from a city shelter or if it was an owner surrender. Furthermore, when you adopt a shelter pet, you gain access to a wealth of carefully vetted resources including recommended veterinarians, professional walkers and, a network of trainers should you need them. Adopters frequently call their shelter for quick advice, which they happily provide.
MYTH: Rescue dogs need extra training
All dogs, regardless of age, breed, or life experience, require training to coexist with their humans. Many rescue dogs have gone through some training, whether in their previous home or a foster home, or with volunteers and professional trainers connected with their shelter or rescue group. They are also evaluated for temperament and activity level, among other things, in order to be matched with the best-possible home.
MYTH: A shelter pet won't bond with a new owner
Maybe at first. But this is expected. Your new dog or cat companion may be shy or scared. Give the animal space, provide a quiet nook, and over time, they will adapt to their new home and their new life with you. And if it turns out not to be the perfect match? You might fall in love with an animal and it doesn't work out. "That's okay. Be patient. There's always another animal that needs a home.
MYTH: They are all "damaged goods"
While some people believe all shelter dogs have experienced abuse or neglect, that's not always the case, Dowling explained. The most common reasons animals are brought into shelters involve lifestyle changes on the owner's part, as opposed to problems the dog has. Most dogs in shelters come from homes a lot like yours. Damaged goods? The majority of our animals are turned into the shelter because of human issues, not animal issues. Even when shelter dogs have experienced some tough times, it doesn't mean they wouldn't make great pets.
MYTH: Shelters will make me jump through "hoops" to take home a dog
It's true that shelters want to identify the best possible homes for the dogs in their care. But consider this: Shelters do this because the staff working with these animals come to know and love them, just like adopters come to know and love their pets. Shelters wants to place animals in homes. That's our goal - No hoops! If you are a good home, we will gladly adopt an animal to you. \ Shelter dogs are usually vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered before they are adopted - so most of the hoops have already been cleared by the shelter team. Also, remember different shelters and rescues have different screening processes. If you don't like how you are being treated, try a different shelter or rescue.
MYTH: In shelter I can't choose the breed/color/sex I want
Sometimes adopters can't find exactly what they think they want in a dog, but it turns out OK. It's especially joyful to watch dog owners who came in with very specific expectations, only to leave with a new four-legged friend who looks nothing like their "dream dog" but makes them feel ecstatic nonetheless. Mixed-breed dogs can offer a compromise. If you can't decide between two breeds, adopt a mixed-breed dog. You will get the best of both worlds. But if you have your heart set on a black pug or a male Irish setter, there are plenty of breed-specific rescues to check out.
MYTH: All shelter dogs are pit bulls
There are a lot of pit bulls in shelters. There are also a lot of other types of dogs. The only way to find out is to visit your local shelter or search online for adoptable dogs in your area. We do receive many "blockhead" breeds, which are bully breeds. About 30 % of the dogs at her shelter are "blockheads," which include pit bull and American Staffordshire terriers, but the other 70 % represent a wide variety of different breeds. If you do wind up falling in love with a pit bull and taking her home, way to go, because pitties are awesome.
MYTH: You don't know the kind of dog you will be adopting
Shelters will make sure that the dog you choose is a good fit for your needs, lifestyle and vice versa. Any dog would make a wonderful companion, but there are some dogs who will need more training and others who are fully housebroken. Some dogs will require an abundance of exercise and attention. Other furry pals are simply satisfied by cozying up on the couch and staring happily at your every movement around the house. Before they send you home with your new best friend, shelter workers will make sure to inquire about your lifestyle and the kind of dog you are looking for. It's all part of the wonderful process. They will help you find the perfect match! Another bullet to add to the pros of adopting is that your dog will come with a microchip and have had taken all their shots.
MYTH: All shelter dogs are old
This is not the case at all. According to The Dodo, the average age of dogs entering shelters is 18 months old. There are also plenty of accidental litters, which means there are countless of sweet, adorable puppies in need of a forever home. Most people want to adopt a puppy because they are so excited about starting a new blank slate with a bundle of furry cuteness. However, they often forget to take into account how much time, patience and dedication is required to train a puppy. Owning a fur baby can be as difficult as raising a child. It's a full-time commitment. Don't be so quick to pass up adopting an older dog because there are plenty of perks that come with age such as they may already be housebroken.
MYTH: There is always something wrong with a shelter dog
Many people have a pre-misconception that shelter dogs have many health issues. On the contrary to popular beliefs, most shelter dogs are healthier than purchased dogs. Purebred dogs come from inbreeding, which causes a genetic disposition that leads to a variety of physical health problems in the long run. Breeders will often breed dogs from the same family to create more dogs. On average, mixed breeds tend to live longer and healthier lives because there is no inbreeding going on.
MYTH: It is a long and tedious process to adopt a dog
All you need in life is love and a dog. Adopting a dog from the shelter is a very simple and easy process. You will have plenty of friendly, animal-loving shelter workers guide you in every step of the way. Even if it takes a little time, the wait is so minuscule compared to the grand scheme of adopting your new fur baby into the family.
MYTH: If the rescue process is a humane act, why is an adoption fee required?!
Dog rescue process:
1) Start by visiting the nearest pet shelter and get to see the various breeds of dogs available. During this time you will be asked various questions. Some of them include: Your housing situation, Number and ages of your children, Number and types of other pets you own, Name and contacts of your veterinarian.
2) Take time to pick a pet that is suitable for you and your family.
3) Fill out the application forms and pay the adoption fee.
4) Visit the animal shelter with your family in order to determine if you are suitable.
5) Wait for the application to be approved or rejected by the shelter.
6) Once approved, visit the shelter to pick your dog.
MYTH: All animal shelters are directly managed by larger organizations - ASPCA, HSUS
False. In fact, according to Ayse Dunlap, Director of Operations for the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL), which services about 16,000 animals a year. Most rescues and shelters run solely on grants and donations from the surrounding communities, unless they are government facilities like county rescues.
MYTH: Shelter personnel don't know enough about pets
Shelter's workers are generally quite knowledgeable and often the shelter's greatest resource. You can find people like veterinary technicians volunteering at shelters oftentimes, as well as actual veterinarians, behaviorists, and other animal specialists. They know the dogs' personality, temperament, likes, dislikes, even the food that the pet prefers. In fact, once you determine which pet you'd like to adopt it's best to ask what food he/she is currently being fed. Many shelters receive food donations by pet food companies and therefore are best left on the same food until you can consult a veterinarian.
MYTH: Animal shelters only have dogs and cats
Not truth! Many rescues, including Cleveland APL, have small mammal adoptions and offer rabbits, guinea pigs and other small four-leggers like gerbils. You can even rescue birds like parrots!
MYTH: The breed rescue people will take my old, dying dog and care for him/her in their final days or The rescue group will pay for my dog's spay/neuter, cancer surgery...
Breed rescue is not a free clinic for dogs. They barely get by as it is. Vet care is part of pet ownership, just as pediatric care is part of parenting. If your dog is old and suffering, please, end that suffering. Yes, it is hard to do, but you have to look at the quality of the dog's life. If s/he can no longer get around on their own, they are not enjoying their life.
MYTH: Breed rescue will give anyone a pair of intact dogs to start their own kennel, so they can breed puppies and sell them
The truth is, shelters aim to REDUCE the number of dogs who wind up in shelters, unloved and unwanted, not to help boost those numbers. No ethical rescue person will adopt out a dog who is intact, PERIOD. It totally defeats the purpose of rescue. Having a dog with AKC papers does not mean you should keep them intact and able to breed. WRONG! AKC papers only to show the lineage of your dog and for "show" people to gain championship titles in a CONFORMATION Ring. Your dog is most likely NOT a show dog and needs to be spay & neutered or its offspring will wind up in rescue also. You can use your AKC papers to enter agility, earthdog, rally, obedience, and your dog does not need to be intact unsprayed & unneutered.
MYTH: Breed rescue groups are against breeding altogether, and have nothing to do with those who breed dogs
Actually, many people involved with rescue are breeders themselves. What we are against is irresponsible breeders who don't know what they are doing. Breeding is not something to be taken lightly. It is not something one just "does", out of curiosity, to "teach the kids about nature" or to make some extra pocket money. When done correctly, breeding is not profitable, and is done ONLY to improve the overall quality of the breed. There are many people out there who breed simply to satiate the demands of the "pet" market, which ends up weakening the genetic pool of the given breed. This is what most rescuers are against, because we do not want to see anything happen that will diminish the quality of the dogs we love so much.
MYTH: In Shelter there are people who have dogs that sniff in rubble or avalanches to find bodies or trapped people or These are the people who train dogs to help the disabled
Nope, not them! The first is Search and Rescue, the second is Service Dogs. However, many of the dogs that are trained to work in both of the above groups are taken from shelters. So in that sense, I suppose they really are rescue dogs.
MYTH: Breed rescue groups scale fences in the dead of night to take dogs out of abusive homes, kick in doors and raid puppy mills
They do none of this generally. But this is what most people think of when they see & hear the word "rescue". When we say "rescue", it is generally in reference to "rescuing" the dog from a shelter, rather than see it be put to sleep when no one adopts or claims them. Some groups will not take owner turn ins at all, opting to take dogs out of shelters only. As for puppy mills, if there is a raid on a mill - organized by the police or USDA, who license the mills, they will sometimes contact the local rescue groups to aid in caring for the dogs that are seized.
MYTH: Shelter pets are usually quite dirty
Not true, they may come in looking like ragamuffins, but they shine with delight after they are cleaned up and given medications, shots, and spay & neuter surgery, if needed. Some animal rescues even make it a habit to have regular grooming sessions for the pets they have. Volunteers are tasked with brushing, clipping nails and bathing the animals at shelters. And let's keep in mind folks, these are animals - they naturally have a smell, so cut them a break. Cleveland APL, for instance, tries hard to groom most every dog that comes in - at least with a good bath and brushing!
MYTH: Animal shelters are sad places
This also depends on how you look at the situation. Some go into an animal shelter and see confused faces looking back at them. But imagine if these faces were out on the cold, harsh street with nothing to eat and no friends. With no one to care for them. With no one to talk to them. These animals are being saved, and hence, you should look at the glass as half-full in every animal shelter's case and in every animal's case. So why not save a precious life, and add a special love and joy to your own? Debunk these myths and adopt your next dog !!!
GUARD, MILITARY, K9 & POLICE
This article is proudly presented by
Mr. Rajesh Tavakari
The Mind of Police Dog
Several studies and tests have shown that drug-sniffing dogs, scent hounds, and even explosive-detecting dogs are not nearly as accurate as they have been portrayed in court. A recent Chicago Tribune survey of traffic stops by suburban police departments from 2007 to 2009, for example, found that searches turned up contraband in just 44 % of the cases where police dogs alerted to the presence of narcotics. An alert is a signal, such as barking or sitting, that dogs are trained to display when they detect the target scent. In stops involving Hispanic drivers, the dogs' success rate was just 27 %. The two largest departments the Tribune surveyed - the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police - said they don't even keep track of such information. But don't blame the dogs - their noses work fine.
In fact, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently conceded, after 12 years and millions of dollars of research, that the canine snout, fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution, is still far more sensitive and reliable than any technology man has been able to muster when it comes to detecting explosives in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem is our confusion about when dogs are picking up a scent and when they are responding to cues from their handlers. Dogs can be valuable investigative tools. They are great, for example, at following a scent in searches for suspects or sniffing out survivors after a disaster. The bomb-detecting dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan are successful because their handlers have no preconceptions about where bombs may lie. Indeed, they are putting their lives in the dogs' paws.
With no cues from their masters to cloud their judgment, the dogs are free to go about their task unbiased. But while Canis domesticus retains many of its wilder relative's sensory abilities, it is in many ways a man-made animal. When we don't take that reality into account, a dog can be worse than useless. But that's not the dog's fault. It's ours.
MYTH: You can hide contraband, like drugs, from a security dog by covering the contraband with another strong scent, like coffee or perfume?
False! Security dogs have this amazing ability that allows them to separate odours. For an average dog, more than 12% of the brain is devoted to processing smells, however in a human's brain, less than 1% is devoted to this process. With this in mind, it can be difficult to understand how dogs can distinguish between smells and not be tricked by contraband being covered by another scent. Imagine you are being served a stew, you can see the difference between the onion, the carrot, the potato, the meat, yes? However, as humans we can't distinguish between the smell of the carrots, the onions, the potatoes, etc. Dogs can. Whilst their sight is not as sophisticated as ours, they have this fantastic ability to separate mixed odours, and so this is why masking contraband with different odours simply does not work.
MYTH: Security dogs are only trained to find drugs and they won't be able to find anything else?
False! There is a great misconception that "sniffer dogs" can only detect the smell of drugs. However, this is far from true. Our canine friends have a remarkable sense of smell, as mentioned above. Security dogs can not only detect the smell of drugs, they can be trained to find explosives, concealed weapons, firearms, fire accelerants, blood, and more. Security dogs can even be trained to detect the smell of bank notes. Drug detection is only one of many things that security dogs can be trained to detect.
MYTH: German Shepherds are used because they are a naturally ferocious and savage breed
That's not truth! Many people fear German Shepherds because there is a great misconception surrounding the breed. Generally, people believe they are a popular breed for security dogs because they are an aggressive and hostile breed. This is not true. They are a popular choice for security dogs because they are a highly intelligent, extremely loyal, and courageous breed. The security dogs are trained to bark and growl when presented with a threat, or when they are commanded to by their handlers, German Shepherds are not a wild and ferocious breed by nature, despite the common misconception.
MYTH: Security dogs might just attack or bite people unprovoked because they are trained to be aggressive
Incorrect. A security guard dog will not attack or bite a person unprovoked. A security guard dog will alert the handler by barking or growling, but security dogs are extremely well trained and are never unaccompanied, they will always be in the presence of their well-trained handler. A security dog will not attack, or maul, or bite a person in an uncontrolled, frenzied fashion, like they are presented in many movies. Security dogs are obedient and disciplined - they are used for protection and prevention. Security dogs are trained to aid their handler for security purposes. They are not trained to be frenzied and violent beasts.
MYTH: Security dogs are just misbehaved and deviant guide dogs
False. Whilst it is true, that many security dogs begin their lives training to be guide dogs, there is a great misconception that security dogs are disobedient and undisciplined guide dogs. Handlers identify qualities and characteristics in the dog such as, a particular strong sense of smell, or a highly energised nature, that makes the handler realise that the dog would be better suited to a career in security rather than aiding the blind. It is a great misconception that it is because they are disobedient. For a dog to be in either profession, a high level of obedience and discipline is an absolute necessity and requirement.
MYTH: All police dogs are aggressive animals
Police dogs play an important role in the criminal justice system. They help law enforcement officials uncover drugs, find fugitives, and detect bombs in high stakes situations. While the idea of a police dog attacking on command strikes fear into many peoples' hearts, many misconceptions exist about what these working canines actually do. Police officers most commonly use dogs to find evidence including dead bodies, drugs, bombs, and electronics. They are carefully trained to protect police officers and detain suspects during a pursuit, and rarely attack in unprovoked situations. To remain safe, however, no suspect should try to flee or attack an officer if a police dog is around.
MYTH: Any dog can serve as a police dog
Police forces carefully choose the breed of dog they choose for certain tasks. German shepherds are popular choices for their strength and intelligence. Labrador retrievers may also help police forces. The trainers choose dogs based on their unique abilities to track, obey commands, and detain suspects.
MYTH: Police dogs know English commands like any other pet
Most police dogs learn commands in German or Dutch. The commands clarify communications between a dog and his or her handler. Also, many police dog training programs exist in Europe. When the dogs arrive in America, their handlers need to learn the commands the dogs understand. Many formal dog training programs rely on commands in a different language.
MYTH: Dogs want to find drugs, because they are addicted to them
Drug dogs undergo training to associate toys with the smell of drugs. In the field, the drug dogs find the scent of drugs, because they think they will find their favorite toys. A trained dog can smell very small amounts of drugs. They can analyze smells 40 times better than a human, making them ideal for finding trace amounts of substances during a search. If you don't want a dog to find something, you must remove all trace evidence.
MYTH: All police dogs are males
Police forces use male and female dogs for police work. The ability of the dog determines if an individual animal will work for a local police force, not its gender.
MYTH: Police dogs never get to have fun
Police dogs live very fulfilling lives. They live with their human partners and receive retirement benefits when they leave the field. Off the job, police dogs enjoy play time, walks, runs, and treats just like other pets. In many ways, their lives are more fulfilling than the average dog. Police dogs enjoy using their training and receiving rewards for their work.
MYTH: I can hide from a police dog
In addition to an amazing sense of smell, dogs also enjoy a more finely tuned ability to hear. A police dog can hear someone make small noises next to relatively loud equipment or machinery. To get out of range, you'd need to move really far away. While highly trained and loyal animals, police dogs can and do cross the line in some cases. K9 animal handlers must train regularly and never stop building a relationship of trust with their dogs. If a handler misuses a dog or a dog commits an act of aggression not in line with its training, the police department could face repercussions. In most cases, police dogs do exactly what they were trained to do. Our advice: Never flee from a K9 officer or try to attack him or her. Against a highly trained police dog, the dog will almost always win.
Guard dogs tend to place fear into the hearts of others. That's their job. They intimidate and protect by whatever means necessary. They are very possessive and protective of their masters and their homes, meaning that anyone toying with the idea of trespassing may want to think twice. They are highly trained, hopefully, and can tell the difference between an intruder and a friendly neighbor. That being said, guard dogs are very likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, and unfair stereotyping, regardless of their high levels of intelligence and obedience. Due to lack of training and poor breeding in the past, guard dog breeds have become synonymous with violence and aggression. With media emphasis being focused upon any negative guard dog reports, rather than on the benefits of having such pets, it is easy to understand why most have misconceptions about these animals.
MYTH: Guards Dogs Do Not Need Affection
How you treat your guard dog should depend upon your desire for his effectiveness. If it is your desire to build a guard dog that is completely unpredictable, who cannot control his aggressive urges, and who may even turn violent toward you, deprive him of your affection and care. If you would prefer to have a guard dog who is highly trainable, obedient, and loyal to you and your loved ones, go ahead and treat him in the same manner as you would any companion dog. Guard dogs are no different from companion dogs in their need for love and a relationship with their masters. In fact, they need a great deal of socialization to prevent overly aggressive behavior, and this exposure to others should begin while they are still very young - immediately, if possible. Dog owners tend to have the mistaken belief that they are responsible for somehow "hardening" their guard dogs, and that treating them in a loving manner will soften their temperament. In reality, a guard dog must be treated with affection in order to create in it a sense of loyalty.
MYTH: All Guard Dogs Are Natural Killers
Guards dogs tend to be treated as wild, untrained animals with an uncontrollable instinct to kill. This attitude is unfortunately seen in both owners and non-owners. These animals are judged as being vicious and dangerous, regardless of their temperaments, and are often treated as such. However, although there have definitely been legitimate reports of guard dog violence, this reputation is undeserved. The fact is, guard dogs that are this aggressive are usually poorly trained, and are in need of professional intervention. A guard dog that is properly trained from birth will exhibit loyalty, mild aggression, and self control. The well trained guard dog is obedient to his master, and is able to distinguish between visitors and intruders. He will also refrain from unnecessary attacks on other animals, as well as nuisance barking and other problems associated with untrained guard dogs. While some breeds are indeed naturally more aggressive than others, most can be trained to control their urges quite well. Indeed there is always a danger involved when approaching a guard dog, trained or not, however most will only size up incoming visitors or simply warn them of trying anything inappropriate.
MYTH: Guard Dogs Are the Only Protection a Home Needs
With criminal activity always on the rise, there is no limit to the amount of protection that one may find themselves desiring for the safety of their loved ones and homes. This is no secret to the home security industry. They are well aware of the increase in crime rates, as well as the increase in the average homeowner's desire to protect themselves. That is precisely why so many home protection devices are on the market today. From motion sensor lights and warning systems, to security plants and fake video cameras, there is little that the home security industry does not provide. Many guard dog owners purchase their pets in order to have a live protector in their homes at all times, as well as to avoid expensive security devices and false home security claims. While owning a guard dog is a great protective measure, it may not need to be your only line of defense.
Those expecting their guard dogs to be infallible creatures, unsusceptible to mistakes or failure, will be sorely disappointed. The appeal associated with owning a protective animal is simple. They represent aggression and immediate consequences for potential intruders, and they also work as an alarm for any sort of impending danger. Guard dogs are living, breathing alarms and crime deterrent systems, all in one impressively strong and intelligent body. For the protection of your home, family, and your protective companion, it may be wise to utilize at least one other protective measure for your home, such as an alarm system. It is unfair to use any animal in such a way that will leave him defenseless against dangerous individuals. While a predator may be willing to get past one deterrent, it is unlikely that he will be willing to overcome several, especially when an easier target will always be near by.
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The Myths: Human contact is bad for LGDs & LGDs can't be trained
Experienced LGD owners can easily come up with a list of myths, misconceptions, and misinformation about their dogs. A quick glance at various LGD forums, email lists, or Facebook pages will reveal that these misconceptions are not only widespread but they are also responsible for the majority of problems new LGD owners find themselves in. Most of these myths were rooted in the well intentioned but not fully knowledgeable advice given to the pioneering users of LGDs in the 1970s and 80s. Most of these breeds were uncommon to North America, and their use as true working livestock guardians was completely new to most folks. Ranchers and other folks were told that LGD pups should be left completely alone to bond with the stock and they should be handled as little as possible. Today we understand much better how these dogs worked in their native lands and, most importantly, how humans worked with them. Unfortunately, many of these misconceptions are still widely believed to be true.
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Dave And Deb
Dogs Love to Run!
People seem to not realize that sled dogs are made to run. they need open space and they want to go for as long as they can. Dogsledding Huskies have the best of both worlds. They get the attention and love that they need but also get the chance to run a lot. Once they were hooked up to the sleds, they were eager to run. You have to hold them back while they hook the entire team up or else they'd take off down the trail with out you. The closer they get to take off, the more excited and loud their barks get. You feed off their energy and become excited yourself. You know you are in for an amazing day on the trail. As the barks continue, you have to quickly get on the sled and ready to go because the dogs are chomping at the bit. They are pulling on the sled so hard that you have to hold on to the brakes, and keep the snow hook firmly in the ground or they will be dragging you behind. Once you let go of the brake, they instantly go quiet and start running.
It is so much fun watching them from behind. Their tails wag away as they sniff and posture for position. Sledding dogs are an animal so much in their each element... Whenever you hear dogsledders say "My dogs love to run" you have to believe them. If you put on the brake for some reason like you need to fix your hat or organize your camera, the dogs look back at you with a look of "What are you doing?" Don't you know we have got to keep running? And run they did. If you have the chance to try dogsledding, we highly recommend it. See for yourself how happy and excited the dogs are on the trail. Our skepticism melted away during our time with Winterdance. Make sure to choose your dogsledding company wisely though. Be a responsible tourist and do your research, not all companies are created equally.
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When you get your new pup home immediately begin the bonding process. Play with your dog, become his best friend, his leader, protector and become the person he always wants to be with. And when you begin training, keep that in mind, that you always want to be the person he wants to be with. You need to become and stay the most important and interesting thing in his whole life.
MYTH: How long will the training take?
The rest of the dogs life. Yes, the rest of the dogs life. Training will be very specific in the early stages but like everything in life, you need to keep them good at what you have taught them, or just like us when we don't do something for a long time, they forget. The rules should never change. If "sit" means sit now, then in 2 days or 2 years, "sit" should still mean sit.
MYTH: I want to send my dog for 2 weeks training so I can take him out and know he wont chase
While your dog may be taught not to chase during the 2 weeks they are here, that by no way means he will never chase. You should never look at training as a short term fix because you will never get what you are looking for. Training is a long term way of life. While your dog may have residential training for 2 weeks or 6 months, unless you continue his training by insisting certain behaviours for the rest of your dogs life, he will not continue with the trained behaviours he was taught in residential training. If you wait and wait and wait until you have several problems, or issues that you aren't happy about then you are only creating a situation of teaching a dog over and over again to do the very things you don't want him to do.
Train with the best of your ability from the start, if you need help, ask for help, but do your best at teaching your dog the right things from day one and don't keep teaching the things you don't want them to do and any residential training you send your dog for, will be of much more benefit to the dog. If you follow the mindset that short term training will change the dog for the rest of his life you will be very disappointed. You have to look at training as a long term continuation, it should not only be dedicated "training sessions" with your dog, it should be a daily way of life in everything you do with your dog. Every single time you allow your dog to do something you know he shouldn't or don't want him to do you are teaching him that 1) you are happy for him to do it 2) he is actually allowed to do it. And if there is never a consequence of a behaviour that he shouldn't have done, well, what do you think you are teaching your dog?
Every dog is different and so should their training be, but the basic rules are there for every dogs training, they just need to be jigged a bit depending on the dogs age, temperament, past history, etc. If you don't stick to the rules, how on earth can you expect your dog to. Yes, we want you to train your dog with love and a bond but that doesn't mean not insisting he follows a command and that both you and he must be consistent, you in what you ask and him in the desired response. At home, if you don't insist on "basic manners", e.g waiting to get out of the car until told, not barging out the back door at home as soon as you open it, letting them charge off as soon as the lead is removed, etc., you will never have a trained gundog or trained pet, no matter how much residential training you send him for or how many lessons you have. Always aim for the best your dog is capable of - no matter how small the task and you will have so many more rewards, as will he.
MYTH: My dog doesn't work to the gun but he's from working stock so I train him and work him when I take him out e.g he hunts
When you take your dog out and send him off out in front of you - whether he's a Springer, Pointer and let him free hunt as far away as he wants, or then give him a recall command and he doesn't recall, or you give him a stop command and he doesn't stop, he is not working/hunting as a trained dog, he is behaving as the untrained dog that he is.
MYTH: My dog only works at the shoot 5 or 6 times a year and he's a pet the rest of the year
And your point is?? No matter how many times I hear this I will never get my head around it. In other words you are saying, because your dog is a pet for 360 days a year and works 5 days a year he doesn't need to be trained very well? Yep, still don't get it! Why would you think that? Don't you want a happy, well balanced dog that can have a great day at the shoot when he's there, meaning you can have a great day, and the rest of the year, you have a dog you can be proud of and don't need to worry about running off, etc? If your dog is a pet or going to be a working gundog once trained, and he finds something he finds interesting while he is out e.g. a rams head and he picks it up, does he come to you without you asking him to and come and show you what he has found and offer it to you, OR, does he run around with it in his mouth and enjoys a game of chase with you as you try to retrieve it from him? I know what all of my dogs would do, which is the former. Sadly, for many people who come for lessons, the latter is the case and this can be very frustrating and disheartening, as well as potentially dangerous for your dog.
MYTH: I just want a well behaved pet and want to use gundog training because he's from working stock
This is a great choice, BUT, many people have a complete misunderstanding about what gundog training is exactly. AND you can always tell the people who have originally gone down the road of "obedience training" and have realised that it hasn't worked for their dog from working stock so now they decide that gundog training is the right road - they would have been better off going straight down the gundog training road from the start, for many reasons, too many to list here. There are so many areas that go well above and beyond obedience training when you go down the gundog route. You will be expected to teach your dog how to retrieve at great distances from you. You will be expected to teach your dog to hunt a pattern, correctly. You will be expected to teach your dog to sit/stay for more than 5 yards away from you and for longer than a minute. You will be expected to teach your dog not to chase moving game, unless you are at the teaching "the runner" stage.
And you will be expected to do all of these things and more and get your dog to a level where he does it correctly every time, not once out of every 10. Even if your dog is just going to be that "well behaved pet" from working stock, it is a great choice to take him down the gundog training road and to take him as far down as he can go, missing out the cold and then warm game section. He will get so much from it, probably a lot more than you will ever realise. BUT, yes, another but, if you decide to go down the gundog road, then please don't question why you are being taught to teach your dog to hunt a pattern or to teach your dog to retrieve further than 4 or 5 yards, or teaching him directional work, the reason should be blatantly obvious, because your dog is going down the gundog training road!
MYTH: I am coming to collect my dog from his 4 weeks Residential Training so he is now a trained dog?
While your dog has been in Residential Training he will have learned the things he came here to learn but he is by no way fully trained, he's got an awful lot of months yet before he is fully trained. The main thing to remember is that he is only going to continue doing the things he's been trained to do if you give him the correct commands and follow through, in other words, you need to do the things we taught you to do. If you don't, your dog will end up back where he started. If you are really looking at residential training as a serious training option, depending on the training to be undertaken, your dog will be with us for an absolute minimum of 8 weeks but it could be several months. Real training takes time.
MYTH: My dog is 12 months old and I've let my pup be a pup but now I want to start gundog training with him?
Gundog training starts from the day you bring your pup home. From day 1 you start his training with a certain mindset of what you want to achieve and where you want him to go with his training. This means you wont be playing ball games with him up to the age of 12 months. It means you wont be playing tug of war games with him as a pup. it means you wont let him go running off chasing anything he wants. It means you teach him from day 1 that all his stimulation and fun comes from being with you. It means all sorts of things and to get the best out of your dog, you start his "puppy" gundog training from the day you bring him home. People stop training far too early. They don't realise how far the dogs training could actually go and how much more they could do with their dog so only ever end up giving the dog tasks which are no way challenging enough for the dog.
MYTH: This is my Assessment Lesson, when I come for my next lesson, will I be doing more of the same?
That depends on what level you and your dog are currently at. If you think you are well on the way to having a fully trained gundog and I think you are a good long way off and are still at the tip of the gundog training iceberg, then yes, probably, you don't move on until your dog truly understands the current level. Do not be under any illusion that because your dog can do basic sit and stay and retrieve a thrown dummy that you have nowhere left to go with his training.
The main thing...
THE MAIN THING TO REMEMBER HERE IS THAT DOGS CHASE, UNLESS TRAINED NOT TO. GUNDOGS CHASE UNLESS TRAINED NOT TO. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A GUNDOG? IT CAN TAKE 2 YEARS TO PROPERLY TRAIN A GUNDOG SO NOT IN A MILLION YEARS ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO SEND YOUR DOG TO ANY TRAINER FOR 2 WEEKS TO TEACH HIM NOT TO CHASE, UNLESS THEY USE THE ELECTRIC COLLAR - WHICH WE DON'T AND EVEN THEN IT IS CONTINUAL TRAINING THAT IS IMPORTANT OR IT WILL HAPPEN OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Start the training off properly from that 8 week old pup and save both yourself and your dog from a lot of problems later on. Don't wait until the problems appear before undertaking dog training, start bonding, playing, sit and come straight away.
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Pavlov never trained a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell! That unexplored world was the mechanics of the human brain. Pavlov had noticed, in his research on the digestive system of dogs, that they drooled as soon as they saw the white lab coats of the people who fed them. They didn't need to see, let alone taste, the food in order to react physically. Dogs naturally drooled when fed: that was, in Pavlov's terms, an "unconditional" reflex. When they drooled in response to a sight or sound that was associated with food by mere happenstance, a "conditional reflex" to a "conditional stimulus" had been created.
Pavlov had formulated a basic psychological principle - one that also applied to human beings and discovered an objective way to measure how it worked. Pavlov is perhaps best known for introducing the idea of the conditioned reflex, although Todes notes that he never used that term. It was a bad translation of the Russian uslovnyi, or "conditional," reflex. For Pavlov, the emphasis fell on the contingent, provisional nature of the association, which enlisted other reflexes he believed to be natural and unvarying. Drawing upon the brain science of the day, Pavlov understood conditional reflexes to involve a connection between a point in the brain's subcortex, which supported instincts, and a point in its cortex, where associations were built. Such conjectures about brain circuitry were anathema to the behaviorists, who were inclined to view the mind as a black box.
Nothing mattered, in their view, that could not be observed and measured. Pavlov never subscribed to that theory, or shared their disregard for subjective experience. He considered human psychology to be one of the last secrets of life and hoped that rigorous scientific inquiry could illuminate the mechanism and vital meaning of that which most occupied Man - our consciousness and its torments. Of course, the inquiry had to start somewhere. Pavlov believed that it started with data, and he found that data in the saliva of dogs. Pavlov's research originally had little to do with psychology - it focussed on the ways in which eating excited salivary, gastric, and pancreatic secretions. To do that, he developed a system of "sham" feeding. Pavlov would remove a dog's esophagus and create an opening, a fistula, in the animal's throat, so that, no matter how much the dog ate, the food would fall out and never make it to the stomach. By creating additional fistulas along the digestive system and collecting the various secretions, he could measure their quantity and chemical properties in great detail. That research won him the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. But a dog's drool turned out to be even more meaningful than he had first imagined: it pointed to a new way to study the mind, learning, and human behavior.
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