Category Archives: Dog Psychology

Things Dogs Hate About Humans

5 THINGS HUMANS DO THAT DOGS HATE

1. Hugging

It’s quite normal for us human beings to hug in a bid to express affection. However, dogs did not evolve like us, and hence may not enjoy being hugged. A dog placing its paw or leg on the back of another one is usually seen as a sign of dominance.

Your dog is unable to translate your intentions when you hug him and thus may assume that you are exerting your dominance. A number of them can tolerate your hugs, but some will feel fearful, threatened and even become hostile instantly.

2. Prolonged Stares

It’s natural to think that staring at a strange dog without breaking contact as you approach them is an excellent way to warm up for them and create a stronger bond. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that since most dogs read it as an act of either aggression or dominance.

Some dogs might start wiggling, looking away or start moving backwards. Instead, you can look to the side and observe how the dog responds so that you discern their comfort level. This trick helps you to build their trust quickly.

3. Words Over Body Language

Dogs are capable of understanding a variety of common words we use every day, but they can never fathom the human language. Dogs are uniquely made, in the sense that they read the human body language effortlessly.

They can figure out what you thinking before you even do it. If you, therefore, pay too much attention to whatever you say compared to what your body is communicating, you end up sending mixed signals, which is annoying to your dog.

4. Not Giving Your Dog A Chance To Explore

The same way we humans use the sense of vision to interpret our surroundings, dogs use their sense of smell. Denying your dog the opportunity to explore his world for a few moments on a daily basis is just wrong.

If your primary goal is going for a daily walk for the purpose of potty breaks or exercising with your dog, it is imperative that you allow him to sniff around.

5. Head Patting

Some people might think that their dog enjoys being patted on the face or even head. Dogs feel threatened the same way you would if a stranger came up to you and touched your head.

Most of those that tolerate being patted on the head or face know and trust the person patting them although they still dislike it. It’s also not a surprise to see a dog leaning away when the owner tries to pat him on the face. Instead, give them a rear or chest rub.

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Do Dogs Feel Emotions? Can Dogs Sense Emotions?

Can Dogs Sense Emotions in Humans?

All dog owners like to think that their pet can sense their mood and emotions. Although researchers now accept that dogs, and other non-human animals, can experience primary emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger, they still do not accept that “animals” have a sense of self and are capable of sophisticated secondary emotions. Instead, the scientists believe that non-human animals are incapable of understanding the feelings of others around them. Without a sense of self, they say, secondary emotions, like jealousy (he’s enjoying that … but I would enjoy more) or empathy (what a terrible situation that person/other dog is in) are impossible.

This is a complicated argument, and we don’t have to review the details here, but suffice to say, not everyone agrees with the scientists. As sympathetic as I am to the difficulties of scientifically proving animal self-awareness and secondary emotions, I prefer to give animals the benefit of the doubt. I assume that higher animals, like dogs, are sensitive creatures with feelings and emotions that can and do project beyond the blatantly obvious.

Examples of Dogs Sensing our Emotions

  • Almost every dog owner has found out that when they are really sad, their dog acts differently toward them. A dog may approach its disturbed owner with a concerned look and, quite out of character, hunker down next to them as if to provide some emotional support. It is as if they are saying, I know there’s something wrong, I don’t know what it is but I’m here for you, anyway. Are there other explanations? Of course, there are, but none make as much sense. You could argue that the dog observes your posture and appearance as submissive and, almost reflexively, approaches to investigate or respond to the new situation. Perhaps, seeing you in a submissive posture, the dog feels it has to grovel to remain below you in rank. Yeah, right.
  • Fear-aggressive dogs are more often aggressive to people who fear them. They garner from a person’s demeanor that the person is uncomfortable around them and capitalize on their perceived weakness. Perhaps it is because the person has a pained expression; perhaps it is because the person is a little tenuous; or perhaps the dog reads fear in the person’s eyes. Whatever is the mechanism, under-confident dogs “know” when a person is afraid of them and will move forward on them, perhaps to attack.
  • Top trainer William (Bill) Campbell is famous for his “jolly routine” approach to treating fear in dogs. Most people think that this involves being jolly with your dog, but actually that’s not the case. The real “jolly routine” implies that all the people in the household should behave in a happy, jolly manner toward each other. The dog, sensing their level of relaxation, figures out that nothing bad is going to happen and relaxes himself. The fact that the technique works is testimony to the fact that dogs are influenced by our emotions and behavior. When we’re “up,” they’re “up” (and vice versa).
  • Many dogs slink away and hide or sulk when their human “parents” argue. A major league fight between adults really seems to take its toll on some dogs. It appears from the dog’s behavior that he understands discord and does not want to be around it. Of course, it can be argued that raised voices might drive the dog away but I have heard of dogs that sulk even when their owners purposely keep their voices low. It’s almost as if you can’t hide anything from a dog.
  • If an owner comes home and finds their home trashed by their dog, the guilty party will often be found hiding, perhaps with a hangdog look. Owners believe their dog is feeling guilty about what he has done. If you accept the guilt explanation, you must also accept that the dog is able to project about your feelings of disappointment or anger. Hard line behaviorists (naturally) disagree with this interpretation, preferring to believe that the dog simply associates his owner, the damage, and his own presence with past punishment and acts submissively. This is all fair and well, but I know dogs that have never been punished and who still act in this way. Sure, their owners may have been disappointed and disheartened by the damage, but that’s about it. The dogs must have “read” their owner’s disappointment from their expression, because they sure weren’t responding to any form of punishment.
  • Some naughty dogs do not appreciate their owners hugging or kissing each other. They seem to know that the people concerned are experiencing some pleasure and they want to be part of it. So, they try to leverage themselves into the situation by shoving, pushing, pawing, and jumping. This behavior sure looks like jealousy but many mainstream behaviorists disagree, preferring explanations like possessiveness or conflict-induced behavior, because dogs (surely?) cannot understand how we feel.

Conclusion About Can Dogs Sense Emotions in Humans?

Examples of dogs seemingly picking up on our emotions are endless but still the scientific proof is not there. I suppose it would be very difficult for some folks to accept that dogs, or any animals, might have minds that work in ways similar to our own. I suppose the believers still have a long way to go to convince the skeptics.

The case against animals being able to pick up on our mood and mindset is based on lack of confirmatory evidence as opposed to conclusive evidence to the contrary. But the times they are a changin.’ In one primate experiment, Harvard researchers trained a monkey to lower a basket of fruit down from a pulley in the ceiling. When the researchers stopped putting fruit in the basket, the monkey stopped lowering the basket. When another monkey was suspended in the basket and screamed blue murder, the trained monkey lowered him to the ground. The action appears to reflect empathy though the researchers are still working on other possible explanations.

From an evolutionary point of view, it would be very strange if dogs did not have the ability to sense mood. It would also be an almost incredible fluke if self-consciousness suddenly occurred for the first and only time in the human animal. It doesn’t make sense to have a pack animal like a dog unequipped to realize when he was getting into trouble with another dog or when his behavior was having the desired effect. If dogs feel what we feel, they should be happy when we’re happy, sad when we’re sad, and on the lookout (or hiding) when we’re angry. All of the above do occur, on an almost daily basis, in our homes.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Aggression in Dogs

 Different Kinds of Aggression in Dogs

 

Understanding the Types of Canine Aggression

If you have ever been bitten by a dog, you are certainly not alone. More than 2 percent of people in the United States are bitten each year – that’s more than 4.3 million people! But what causes aggression and how should an owner handle it in dogs?

What Is Aggression in Dogs?

Aggression in dogs is defined as a threatening or harmful behavior directed toward another living creature. This includes snarling, growling, snapping, nipping, biting and lunging. Dogs that show such behavior are not abnormal; they are merely exhibiting normal species-typical behavior that is incompatible with human lifestyle (and safety). There are many reasons why a dog will act aggressively toward strangers or even his owner.

The first step, when attempting to find out why your dog is being aggressive, is to take him to your veterinarian. Some veterinarians will visit you at your home – but dogs tend to be more aggressive on “their” territory. If there’s no medical cause for the aggression, your veterinarian may refer you to a behaviorist, who will then obtain a full behavioral history and recommend therapy.

Even if treatment appears to be successful, you should always be on guard. The frequency and severity of aggression may be reduced but, in most cases, aggression cannot be eliminated completely. You must weigh the risks of keeping an aggressive dog against the benefits. Remember, safety for yourself and people around you is the primary concern!

Diagnosis of Aggression in Dogs

In the course of a veterinary examination, your veterinarian will determine if there is a medical reason underlying your dog’s aggressiveness. For instance, a dog with neck pain may show aggression when pulled by the collar.

Once medical causes have been ruled out, your veterinarian will refer you to a behaviorist. At the behaviorist’s, you’ll be asked to answer many detailed questions regarding your dog’s behavior. The session may last a couple of hours. An accurate description of your dog’s behavior is necessary. Keeping a journal is helpful. You should note:

  • What elicits the aggression
  • How often it occurs
  • To whom it is directed
  • The specific behaviors
  • The dog’s postures at the time.  Videotaping your dog’s behavior is helpful for the behaviorist, but don’t get hurt while making the video. Answers to the many questions asked can lead the behaviorist to establish the cause of the aggression, and then outline an individualized approach to its treatment. The behaviorist will also provide a professional opinion of the risk involved.Aggression is influenced by several factors, including: genetic predisposition, early experience, maturation, sex, age, size, hormonal status, physiological state and external stimuli. Behaviorists use a classification system based on patterns of behavior and the circumstances in which they occur. This is done to determine the dog’s motivation and the cause of the behavior. The classification is as follows:
  • Dominance-related aggression is one of the most common types of canine aggression that behaviorists treat. The aggressive acts are directed toward one or several family members or other household pets. Dogs are pack animals, and they relate to humans as members of their own species and pack members.
  • Territorial aggression is directed toward approaching animals or people outside of the pack in defense of a dog’s area (home, room or yard), owner or fellow pack member.
  • Inter-male aggression between adult males usually involves territorial or dominance disputes. Inter-female aggression occurs most frequently between adult females living in the same household.
  • Predatory aggression is directed toward anything that the dog considers prey, usually other species, but sometimes any quick-moving stimulus, like a car or bike.
  • Pain-induced aggression is caused by a person or animal that causes pain. It often occurs when a person attempts to touch a painful area or when injections are given.
  • Fear-induced aggression occurs when people or animals approach a fearful dog. This is common when the dog cannot escape, and is sometimes seen when an owner uses severe punishment. Active, unpredictable children may also stimulate this type of aggression.
  • Maternal aggression is directed toward anyone that approaches a bitch with puppies or in false pregnancy.
  • Redirected aggression occurs when a dog that is aggressively motivated redirects the aggression from the source to another. For example, a dog that is barking at the door may redirect his aggression onto an owner that is pulling him back. Dominant dogs often redirect onto subordinates.

Treatment for Dog Aggression

Treating aggressive behavior may involve a combination of behavior modification techniques (habituation, counterconditioning and desensitization), drug therapy, surgery (such as neutering/spaying), avoidance and management (such as leash or head halter). Each case is unique, and the success of treatment varies depending on the diagnosis and in accord with your capability, motivation and schedule.

Even with successful treatment, however, there is no guarantee that the aggressive behavior won’t return. In most cases, the frequency and severity of aggressive behavior can be reduced but the aggressive behavior cannot be eliminated completely. The best that may be hoped for is to reduce the probability of aggression. You must weigh the risks of keeping an aggressive dog against the benefits.

Home Care for Aggressive Dogs

If your dog is unpredictable, consider using a comfortable basket-style muzzle until you can get professional help. Until you receive professional help, avoid all interactions that trigger your dog’s aggression. Do not attempt physical punishment. This can increase the intensity of your dog’s aggression and may result in serious injury. Avoiding problems may involve:

  • Keeping your dog confined in a separate room when visitors or children are present
  • Housing or feeding your dogs separately if they are fighting with each other
  • Removing objects like bones or rawhides that your dog may be guarding.  Do not allow children to have unsupervised access to your dog. Children should be taught to avoid interacting with dogs that are eating, chewing on a bone, or resting. They should not be allowed to tease or hurt dogs.Keep your dog on a leash at all times. In the home, you may want to attach a thin nylon leash on a buckle collar, which your dog can drag comfortably. This will give you safer control over him. Indoor leashes can be attached to head collars for even greater control. If your dogs are fighting, do not get in the middle. Interrupt the aggression using water, a loud noise, blanket or spray.    Dr. J. Michelle Posage and Dr. Amy Marder

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Dog Psychology: 15 Things that Bug Dogs

There isn’t much out there that bugs a dog. But there are times when things can get under the skin of even the “coolest” dogs. Here are some of their top pet peeves in dogs … from the mouths of dogs themselves.

1. Leaving the toilet bowl lid down. Humans just don’t understand that the water is cold, fresh and always tastes better there. For the little dogs that have never been able to “reach” this delightful experience – you don’t know what you are missing.

2. Not sharing in the fruits of your labor. I don’t mean “fruit” actually. I mean that beautiful, 1 ½ -inch steak you cooked to such aromatic perfection. We’re all part of the pack, right? Why am I not getting my share?

3. Not understanding my behavior. Okay, so I like to greet strangers by leaping on them. I like to chase my tail by that lead crystal vase you call an heirloom. I’m not misbehaving; I’m a dog for crying out loud. It’s all good, and like shadow chasing, helps build eye-to-paw coordination.

4. Bathing. What is with the daily bath “thing” that humans do? And why do they inflict that obscenity upon me on occasion? Just when I think I am smelling fine, they bathe me. I really don’t understand. I’m only going to go out and roll in “something” again. They just don’t appreciate the effort it takes to get that perfect doggie odor.

5. Rushing me to potty. Don’t they know that there is a true art to finding the right spot? Just because they did not get up in time, they are running late, they want me to “Hurry up and potty.” Have a little respect. This is my chance to shine.

6. Being away. I love attention and being around people, noise and excitement. When you are away, at work, or running errands … this is time away from me. Don’t you know? It is ALL about me. Your life should revolve around me AND I can make you regret leaving me behind….

7. Nail trims. They are my nails – I spend lots of time growing them and here they come again touching my feet. I hate that!

8. Not letting me chase the squirrel. They torment me by placing a “glass wall” between me and lots of critters outside. How annoying. All I want to do is “play” with them. The other thing they do is restrain me with this thing called the leash. I want to run forward and I am pulled back. If they can’t keep up, they should just let me go. What is a dog to do?

9. Catnip. Now this is one peeve that really annoys me. I see the cat roll and play and even cry out in joy in response to catnip. I smell it, eat it, lick it and … nothing happens. Nothing. I don’t get it.

10. Not letting me at the mailman. This is so unfair. I wait all day for the mailman and finally he comes. The anticipation is great. Then, they hold me back. Tell me to be quiet. Very annoying. They don’t appreciate the fact that the mailman comes everyday and I single handedly scare him away. My bravery and courage are unappreciated.

11. When my owner is playing with the other dog or cat. This really hurts my feelings. Seeing MY owner play with someone else. It is all about me… They really don’t understand.

12. Won’t let me at the litter box. I think of it as an opportunity for a tootsie rollsnack. My owners get all grossed out, run around and then actually deny me access to what I desire the most. I am actually helping to clean up. What’s the problem?

13. Expecting me to be at their beck and call. For a treat – I have to do some little humiliating trick and pretend I like it. What about independence, freedom and respect?

14. Sharing the bed. I don’t understand why I have to sleep on the floor. Why can’t I have the bed and they sleep on the floor? I work hard all day and night. I protect my owners, guard the house and scare away invaders of my castle such as the mailman, cats, squirrels, and a multitude of other creatures. I should be pampered.

15. Rolling up the windows. I feel such joy from the little words, “wanna go bye bye.” This gives me thoughts of having the window down with cool wind blowing through my hair, looking just dynamite as other dogs stare from the curbs in envy and awe. And just when I am really getting into it – head out, ear flapping, they roll up the window. Then I am forced to stare at other dogs going by with their heads out the window. Mega bummer.

…and one more for good measure:

16. Cats. What really makes me angry is the agility and grace of cats. They have the gifted ability to jump up on things and escape under things with such ease. I really wish I could do that. When I try to do that, I inevitably break or knock something over.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Dog Psychology: Can Dogs Sense Our Emotions?

Can Dogs Sense Our Emotions?

All dog owners like to think that their pet can sense their mood and emotions. Although researchers now accept that dogs, and other non-human animals, can experience primary emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger, they still do not accept that “animals” have a sense of self and are capable of sophisticated secondary emotions. Instead, the scientists believe that non-human animals are incapable of understanding the feelings of others around them. Without a sense of self, they say, secondary emotions, like jealousy (he’s enjoying that … but I would enjoy more) or empathy (what a terrible situation that person/other dog is in) are impossible.

This is a complicated argument, and we don’t have to review the details here, but suffice to say, not everyone agrees with the scientists. As sympathetic as I am to the difficulties of scientifically proving animal self-awareness and secondary emotions, I prefer to give animals the benefit of the doubt. I assume that higher animals, like dogs, are sensitive creatures with feelings and emotions that can and do project beyond the blatantly obvious.

Examples of Dogs Sensing our Emotions

  • Almost every dog owner has found out that when they are really sad, their dog acts differently toward them. A dog may approach its disturbed owner with a concerned look and, quite out of character, hunker down next to them as if to provide some emotional support. It is as if they are saying, I know there’s something wrong, I don’t know what it is but I’m here for you, anyway. Are there other explanations? Of course, there are, but none make as much sense. You could argue that the dog observes your posture and appearance as submissive and, almost reflexively, approaches to investigate or respond to the new situation. Perhaps, seeing you in a submissive posture, the dog feels it has to grovel to remain below you in rank. Yeah, right.
  • Fear-aggressive dogs are more often aggressive to people who fear them. They garner from a person’s demeanor that the person is uncomfortable around them and capitalize on their perceived weakness. Perhaps it is because the person has a pained expression; perhaps it is because the person is a little tenuous; or perhaps the dog reads fear in the person’s eyes. Whatever is the mechanism, under-confident dogs “know” when a person is afraid of them and will move forward on them, perhaps to attack.
  • Top trainer William (Bill) Campbell is famous for his “jolly routine” approach to treating fear in dogs. Most people think that this involves being jolly with your dog, but actually that’s not the case. The real “jolly routine” implies that all the people in the household should behave in a happy, jolly manner toward each other. The dog, sensing their level of relaxation, figures out that nothing bad is going to happen and relaxes himself. The fact that the technique works is testimony to the fact that dogs are influenced by our emotions and behavior. When we’re “up,” they’re “up” (and vice versa).
  • Many dogs slink away and hide or sulk when their human “parents” argue. A major league fight between adults really seems to take its toll on some dogs. It appears from the dog’s behavior that he understands discord and does not want to be around it. Of course, it can be argued that raised voices might drive the dog away but I have heard of dogs that sulk even when their owners purposely keep their voices low. It’s almost as if you can’t hide anything from a dog.
  • If an owner comes home and finds their home trashed by their dog, the guilty party will often be found hiding, perhaps with a hangdog look. Owners believe their dog is feeling guilty about what he has done. If you accept the guilt explanation, you must also accept that the dog is able to project about your feelings of disappointment or anger. Hard line behaviorists (naturally) disagree with this interpretation, preferring to believe that the dog simply associates his owner, the damage, and his own presence with past punishment and acts submissively. This is all fair and well, but I know dogs that have never been punished and who still act in this way. Sure, their owners may have been disappointed and disheartened by the damage, but that’s about it. The dogs must have “read” their owner’s disappointment from their expression, because they sure weren’t responding to any form of punishment.
  • Some naughty dogs do not appreciate their owners hugging or kissing each other. They seem to know that the people concerned are experiencing some pleasure and they want to be part of it. So, they try to leverage themselves into the situation by shoving, pushing, pawing, and jumping. This behavior sure looks like jealousy but many mainstream behaviorists disagree, preferring explanations like possessiveness or conflict-induced behavior, because dogs (surely?) cannot understand how we feel.

Conclusion About Can Dogs Sense Our Emotions?

Examples of dogs seemingly picking up on our emotions are endless but still the scientific proof is not there. I suppose it would be very difficult for some folks to accept that dogs, or any animals, might have minds that work in ways similar to our own. I suppose the believers still have a long way to go to convince the skeptics.

The case against animals being able to pick up on our mood and mindset is based on lack of confirmatory evidence as opposed to conclusive evidence to the contrary. But the times they are a changin.’ In one primate experiment, Harvard researchers trained a monkey to lower a basket of fruit down from a pulley in the ceiling. When the researchers stopped putting fruit in the basket, the monkey stopped lowering the basket. When another monkey was suspended in the basket and screamed blue murder, the trained monkey lowered him to the ground. The action appears to reflect empathy though the researchers are still working on other possible explanations.

From an evolutionary point of view, it would be very strange if dogs did not have the ability to sense mood. It would also be an almost incredible fluke if self-consciousness suddenly occurred for the first and only time in the human animal. It doesn’t make sense to have a pack animal like a dog unequipped to realize when he was getting into trouble with another dog or when his behavior was having the desired effect. If dogs feel what we feel, they should be happy when we’re happy, sad when we’re sad, and on the lookout (or hiding) when we’re angry. All of the above do occur, on an almost daily basis, in our homes.

 

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

No, It is Not Your Fault

This week, I saw a post on Facebook that bugged me. The person posted, “Train the owner, not the dog.” This is a commonly used phrase in dog training circles. While I agree that this can be the case with dogs who are unruly — that the owner is a lot of the problem — it most often is NOT the case with puppies and dogs who have serious behavior problems.

In my experience, where serious behavior problems are involved, it is the dog who has the problem, not the owner. Think about it. Most people who come to see me have had dogs before, some all of their adult lives. Yet, their dog is aggressive or has separation anxiety. They haven’t raised this dog any differently than they have raised any of their dogs. Why is this dog so different than the dogs that they have had? If the owner was the problem, wouldn’t the pattern just repeat itself with every dog? Wouldn’t the other dogs in their history or currently in their homes have similar problems, or at least some problem? It doesn’t make sense to blame the owner.

I find myself explaining this to owners almost on a daily basis. Someone has told them when discussing their dog’s behavior that it was their fault. They were too anxious … lenient … fearful … soft … etc. They feel guilty for being such horrible pet parents when really, it is not about them. It is about the conflict, fear, and anxiety within the dog.

For some dogs, they are simply born that way. For some, they have endured some deep trauma from which it is hard to recover. For some, they were not exposed to life — that ever important socialization — when they were still open to receiving it. Some are in pain or have metabolic illnesses which affect their behavior.

So, what is the owner’s part anyway? Well, many owners have done things that make their dog’s behavior worse or at least haven’t helped. I have seen many a fearful dog turn into an aggressive dog through the use of ill-timed shock collar corrections, for example. Again, the owners may have made it worse, but they didn’t cause it.

What can owners do? There is a saying in veterinary medicine: “Recognize and refer.” It means be able to recognize what is normal and what is abnormal, treat what you can within the scope of what you know, and then refer out when you are over your head. This is what I would recommend to owners as well.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my dog’s behavior different than any other dog I have owned?
  2. Is my dog hurting himself because of his behavioral illness?
  3. Is my dog unhappy?
  4. Has this dog failed to respond to the typical training methods that I have used with my other dogs?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your dog may have abnormal behavior. That is when you need to be referred out to an expert. First, speak to your veterinarian about whether or not your dog’s behavior is normal for his age, sex, and breed. If your pet’s behavior is unruly, your veterinarian can refer you to a positive reinforcement dog trainer.

It is probably not your fault.

Feeling guilty doesn’t help your dog.

You are not the problem, but you can be a big part of the solution!

Reach out and get the proper expert help for your dog so that you can both be happier!

Dr. Lisa Radosta

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

Dog Behavioral Problems – Dealing with Barking

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. Sometimes barking is a welcoming signal, other times not. Sometimes dogs bark briefly, and other times they just won’t quit. And therein lies a problem.

By nature, some breeds tend to bark more than others. Beagles and Shetland sheepdogs, for instance, tend to be very vocal. Greyhounds and basenjis, by contrast, rarely bark.

Barking is a form of communication. When people or other dogs are around, barking can be a statement intended specifically for them. When a sound is used as a means of communication from one creature to another, the rudiments of language exist. Language after all is just a complicated arrangement of verbal/vocal cues. We can communicate with dogs by means of our language, but we are often rather poor at understanding their requests. Phrases such as “come here,” “leave it,” “stop it,” inform the trained dog what must be done, but their barking often leaves us stymied.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

 Barking serves different purposes. Sometimes it is used to repel and sometimes to attract. Some barking tones indicate, “stay away,” whereas others (particularly in the appropriate context) can be interpreted to mean, “I’m over here, where the heck are you?” Even the most inexperienced of dog watchers will notice that dogs have a variety of different types of barking ranging from the muted “woof” of appreciation or alarm to loud angry series of barks indicating aggression.

Barking often serves as an alarm call. Many owners appreciate such alarm barking and some domestic dog breeds have been selected for an enhanced warning system of this nature. When the barking produces the desired result, the “language” is reinforced and perpetuated. But not all of this “language” is wanted or appreciated by friends or family (let alone the neighbors). The key to dealing with barking is to be able to turn it off.

When Barking Is a Problem

In order to deal with a barking problem, you first need to know why your dog is barking.

Barking To Get Attention  Most people get a little irritated when the family dog barks and gets whatever he wants. These dogs are pushy individuals who insist on getting their own way, demanding attention and the limelight. This is the kind of dog that will not allow you to sit peacefully and relax. Instead, he will bark in your face demanding to have a ball thrown, to be allowed on someone’s lap, to be given food from the table, etc.  So what allows a dog to become like this? In a word, conditioning. Although we sometimes don’t realize it, we are training our dogs all the time through our actions. No dog will persist in a strategy that doesn’t work, whether that strategy is barking, whining, or crying. Whatever produces the goods is what is reinforced. A dog that barks to get attention will have been trained to do so by random intermittent reinforcement for barking. Barking for attention, if ignored, will intensify before it dissipates, because the dog will try even harder, at first, to make his point. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with an attention-seeking barker.

Attention withdrawal. Ignore the “bad” behavior and only respond with attention when the dog is quiet. You should not make direct eye contact with the dog, speak to him, or touch him, when he is barking. To the attention-seeking dog, any attention is better than no attention – even if it’s in the form of scolding.

Bridging stimulus. If the attention withdrawal becomes tedious, a bridging stimulus can be employed to hasten progress. A bridging stimulus is a neutral sound, such as a duck call, or even a click, that is made as soon as the dog begins a tirade. It signals that you’re about to withhold attention. This strategy can produce a speedier resolution of attention-seeking barking than simply ignoring the dog’s barking because it focuses the dog’s attention on the consequences of its actions.

Punishment. Audible punishment can be a deterrent. This can be done by issuing a command, such as “No Bark!” and punishing the dog by shaking a “shake can” (a can with a stone inside of it) or by blasting an air horn/fog horn if he does not respond to the command immediately. The technique sometimes works, but audible punishments are only really effective for more sensitive types of dog.

Counterconditioning. Counterconditioning involves training the dog to do something that is incompatible with his previously conditioned behavior, in this case barking. For example, you can train your dog to go to his bed, where he will receive praise from you and perhaps a long-lasting food treat, whenever the stimulus that previously caused barking occurs, such as mealtime or talking with someone on the telephone. The new behavior (eating and lying quietly) replaces and is incompatible with barking for attention.

Separation Anxiety Barking Then there’s barking caused by separation anxiety, which often takes place as you prepare to leave or when you’re not around. There are two types of separation anxiety barking:

The acute, hysterical type of barking that occurs within minutes of the owner’s departure, representing panic – a cry for help.

The more chronic variety of more monotonous barking expressed by dogs that have all but given up on their ability to do anything about their predicament.

The two types of barking have similar causation yet sound different and represent different stages of the same condition. The acute variety a distress barking takes the form of intermittent bouts of “expectant” barking, perhaps interspersed with bursts of whining, designed to attract the attention of the owner (or, in some cases, anyone) to the dog’s miserable plight. The treatment for this problem is the same as the treatment of separation anxiety because separation distress is at the root of the problem. Too many owners fail to recognize their dog’s suffering when irate neighbors complain of being disturbed by the dog’s incessant barking. Instead of viewing the problem as a problem for their dog, they only see it as a problem for them. Punishment of such behavior is an all-too-frequent and misguided solution. Physical punishment at any time, especially after the fact, is not only pointless but is counter-productive and inhumane.

More chronic “stereotypic” barking, with its monotone and seemingly mindless motivation, also derives from separation anxiety. It occurs once the purpose of the dog’s barking has altered to become a simple release for anxious energy – a displacement behavior. Stereotypic barking indicates that a dog has been left alone for extended periods for years and has all but lost faith in its ability to summon anyone’s attention to its plight. In this respect, chronic displacement barking is a barometer of long-term suffering. The humane solution for these dogs is to give them their due by making arrangements to prevent them from having to experience such isolation and futility in the future. Training them not to bark misses the point and will often not work, anyway. Punishment is inhumane. For such characters, much more fundamental issues have to be addressed to bring about resolution of the problem in hand.

Territorial Barking One of a dog’s main duties around the home is to bark and warn off any strangers and alert fellow pack members that an intruder is approaching. This function is very much appreciated by many owners and has prevented many a burglary. Having a dog in the house is as good, if not better, than having an electronic surveillance system. But problems arise when overly enthusiastic dogs continue to bark longer than is necessary to alert its owners of approaching persons.

The trick is to train the dog to stop barking once the warning has been acknowledged. For most dogs this is usually not too much of a problem. A “good dog” or “thank you” is sometimes all that is needed to acknowledge the dog’s warning of a stranger’s approach. It’s good manners, too, to thank your dog for performing his duty. If barking persists following your acknowledgement and thanks, however, a “cease” command, like “stop it!” or “enough!” should be used afterwards to call an end to it.

Training the dog to the “stop it!” command should be performed using positive reinforcement. The reinforcement is provided when the dog has stopped barking for at least 3 seconds. You may have to wait for a while at first, but the dog will eventually get the message if the reward is sufficiently potent. Because you can’t have visitors standing outside the door for 30–minutes, waiting to be let in, you should orchestrate training sessions using a volunteer visitor who has the time and patience to see you through the session.

Typical Sequence of Dog Barking

Stranger approaches and rings the doorbell. Dog barks. Owner says, “Good dog, thank you.”

Dog continues to bark. Owner says “Enough!” Dog continues to bark. Owner remains motionless. Stranger waits.

Dog eventually stops. (They all do, eventually). Owner says, “Good boy!” and the dog is given a delicious food treat as a reward for stopping barking.

Stranger rings the bell again. This sequence is repeated until the dog is responding more quickly.

Training session should always finish on a good note with the dog being rewarded for quiet behavior. The stranger then withdraws. This exercise should be repeated daily for several days until the dog stops barking quickly (less than 3 seconds) on command and remains quiet as the visitor enters the home.

If all else fails, you may need to resort to a slightly more direct method. The preferred technique is using the Gentle Leader® head halter.

First train the dog to wear the head halter without struggling. Fit the device and a 10-foot long training lead before a planned visit from a friend. Your dog will bark as the stranger approaches. Praise the dog for barking, and then issue the command “enough.” If the dog continues to bark, apply gentle, steady upward traction to the training lead, which will cause the dog’s nose to be elevated and will transmit pressure to the dog’s muzzle and nape via the nose-band and neck strap, respectively. Maintain the tension until the dog relaxes and is quiet. Then release the tension and praise the dog for quiet behavior (even though you made it happen!).

If you consistently silence the dog in this way by applying tension to the muzzle (via the head halter) and nape (via the neck strap), the dog will learn that it is hopeless to disobey the “enough” command. It learns that you inevitably intercede and take control of the situation using this powerful, yet gentle, training tool.

Another technique, with or without the assistance of a head halter, involves counterconditioning your dog. As mentioned before, this means training him to do something incompatible with the behavior in question; in this case barking at the door or in the yard, after you have conceded that there actually is someone out there. You could, for example, train your dog to go to an out-of-the-way part of the house and relax whenever strangers appear and reward him (extremely well) for this behavior.

Caveat: One problem most owners face when trying to train their dog not to bark at the door is that they try to manage too many things at once; controlling the dog, opening the door, greeting the stranger, and ushering in the stranger, all at the same time. For optimum success, you need to set up trial approaches from volunteer strangers and apply your concentration to handling your dog.

Finally, the territorial dog that is motivated by fear is a slightly different situation. Although some of the above measures might help with such a dog, the chances of success are more limited. These dogs are actually anxious/fearful around strangers and may never settle down, even after the stranger has been welcomed. Such dogs need to be enrolled in a “total package” program in which they are not only controlled at the door but are also systematically desensitized to strangers, perhaps starting such an exercise on neutral territory at first.

   Reactive Dog Barking

Some dogs don’t just bark at approaching strangers – they bark at anything that moves or alters their environment: a passing car, a falling leaf, an icicle breaking off, and so on. Such dogs are the antithesis of the lazy old coonhound that takes everything in his stride: They are constantly on “red alert” for anything that might happen. This type of dog can be difficult to cohabit with, especially if you don’t need that degree of protection. Highly reactive dogs take their self-defensive and family-guarding responsibilities way too far. Perhaps by nature, perhaps by nurture, these dogs trust no one and regard every environmental change as a threat.

So, how do we persuade these dogs that their mission is pointless when each environmental disturbance eventually stops, thus reinforcing the behavior? The answer is that we can’t. All you can do, with your veterinarian’s help, is to address any medical contributions to such hyper-reactivity, provide adequate exercise, ensure an appropriate diet, and attempt to exercise the best physical control possible. This type of treatment is not too far removed from the program to control territorial barking; only its application may need to be even more intense.

If medical problems like hypothyroidism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) underlie the problem, the fix may be a quick one. If not, then you have your work cut out. Above all, it is important to enrich the lives of such reactive barkers so that they understand what is, and what is not, worth barking about. The innate drive for dogs to bark plus our own mismanagement can produce a dog whose behavior is so ingrained that it takes medication (in addition to behavior modification therapy) to effect even a marginal improvement. It’s far better to act early to prevent such a progression.

Written by: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Inter-Dog Territorial Aggression

Although some owners appreciate their dog’s warning barks and guarding behavior, territorial aggression can be embarrassing for an owner and potentially dangerous to human and/or canine visitors to the property. When dogs show excessive aggression to other dogs on their home turf but do not respond aggressively to unfamiliar dogs on neutral territory, territorial aggression is the likely diagnosis. There are two different motivations for territorial behavior: dominance or fear/anxiety.

Territorial Dominance Aggression in Dogs True territorial aggression is like dominance aggression, except on a larger scale. While dominance aggression expresses itself between individuals pack members, and serves a “cohesive” function in the pack, territorial aggression is outwardly directed and its function is “dispersive.” With territorial aggression, the resources guarded are those within certain physical boundaries – the territory – and the objects of the aggression are unwelcome visitors to that territory. The shelter and food that the territory provides and the incumbent society, the pack, must be defended against infiltrators and usurpers. In the wild, responsibility for this function rests squarely with more dominant members of the pack. It is their duty to alert the others and repel interlopers, as the need arises.

Similar behavior occurs in domestic dogs of a dominant disposition, though the circumstances are somewhat different. First of all, the pack comprises members of their human family as well as other dogs. Secondly, the territory that they protect includes the house and yard plus areas like sidewalks that the dogs regularly patrol and vehicles in which they ride. Finally, these dogs do not just defend the territory against canine invaders: They also guard against unwelcome human visitors. See Territorial Aggression toward People.

As one Border collie herding trainer once said, “Dogs are territorial animals. If you allow them to live in your home but fail to make it absolutely clear that you are the leader, they will take over the territory, protecting it against all comers, and will condescend to let you live there because you supply their food.” Although an extreme view, it makes the point. Dogs that are overly dominant, both in absolute terms or with respect to their human family members, can provide a serious obstacle for canine and human visitors to their territory.

Treatment for dominance-related territorial aggression toward other dogs is best accomplished through strong leadership on the part of the owner (e.g. the owner should engage a leadership program) and they should employ effective physical methods of control.

Territorial/Fear Aggression in Dogs Not all dogs that display apparent territorial aggression toward other dogs have a dominant disposition; at least, dominance may not be the driving force behind their aggressive displays. Instead, the dogs may be anxious by nature or have been undersocialized and poorly trained as youngsters. Their aggression is designed to isolate them from another dog’s approach. Although they may not be particularly comfortable around other dogs when away from their territory, once home they have enough confidence to openly express their dislikes. Thus, they only act aggressively toward other dogs in the familiar surroundings because that’s where they have more assurance. We refer to this type of aggression as territorial/fear aggression.

Consider these observations on territorial/fear aggression:

Naturally highly-strung breeds such as German shepherds, Australian shepherds, and Shelties are prone to displaying this type of behavior.

A dog that, as a pup, was nervous around other dogs, and barked at them or hid, is one that, later in life, may well display territorial/fear aggression toward dogs approaching the home or owner’s car.

The posturing during displays of aggression can help distinguish this more anxious type of aggression from the territorial displays of a more confident dog.

Territorial/fear aggressive dogs frequently show ambivalent body language the same as fear aggressive dogs, including approach-avoidance behavior, tucked or semi-tucked tail, slinking gait, averted eyes, and an indirect approach. Territorial/fear aggressive dogs do not resolve their differences by means of a simple dominance-deference routine with the other dog and often will not settle down in the presence of a canine visitor.

The only distinguishing characteristic between territorial/fear aggression and overt fear aggression is the level of confidence that the dog possesses. Fear aggressive dogs have enough confidence to be aggressive to other dogs on or off their own territory, i.e. they display a higher level of dominance. Territorial fear aggressive dogs have a low level of dominance, permitting the expression of fear aggression only on the home turf or from within the safety of the owner’s vehicle

Facts Concerning Territorial Aggression and Dogs

Territorial behavior begins when a dog is young and “amplified” by learning.

Dominance-based territorial aggression is easier to manage than fear-based territorial aggression.

Both forms of territorial aggression may be controlled reasonably well by taking appropriate managemental measures.

Treatment for Dogs with Territorial Aggression

The treatment program includes general management adjustments (plenty of aerobic exercise, a low protein diet, regular obedience training, use of a head halter for control, appropriate application of muzzles) plus specific behavior modification techniques (Nothing in Life is Free, Counter conditioning, Systematic Desensitization).

Owners of territorially aggressive dogs should keep doors secured to ensure that no dog can enter the property without warning. Territorial dogs should never be left outside unsupervised and unrestrained.

Electronic fences pose a particular problem for dogs with territorial aggression. The dog knows where HIS territorial boundaries are but other dogs do not, and may unwittingly cross the boundary. In general, territorial dogs are more aggressive when they are behind a fence of any kind – because a fence allows them to know exactly where the boundary of their territory lies. They will thus patrol and protect what is now well-defined turf. It best to install a solid fence. Solid fences insure that no passing dogs fall foul of territorial zealots and provide owners peace of mind … and freedom from lawsuits.

Written by: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Study Proves Dogs Can Feel Jealousy

Does your dog ever behave in what appears to be a jealous manner when you interact with a friend’s canine companion? How about his behaviors around toys or food? Does your dog suddenly become more interested in his playthings or meals in the presence of another pooch?

I have certainly seen my own dog, Cardiff, exhibit such above behaviors. When another dog comes over to our home, he becomes more interested in interacting with me in a manner that limits the guest pooch’s access to my attention. Cardiff also strives to prevent that dog’s access to his toys and may growl or posture in an intimidating manner toward our canine guest. I’ve actually welcomed the presence of other dogs to motivate Cardiff to eat during bouts of chemotherapy-induced inappetence. Thank you, Lucia and Olivia.

I’ve always taken the veterinary behavior perspective on the situation and characterized Cardiff’s actions as resource guarding (see Dr. Karen Overall’s DVM360 article Resource-guarding: Are veterinarians lost in interspecies translation?), as I didn’t feel comfortable assigning a human emotion like jealousy to his covetous tendencies.

But perhaps Cardiff was just being jealous, as a recent study proved that dogs can exhibit behaviors consistent with jealousy;  it’s dog psychology.

The CNN article Study: Dogs can feel jealous, too shares the findings of a University of California, San Diego study which evaluated the behaviors dogs display when their owners interacted with an animatronic canine-version that vocalized (barked and whined) and wagged its tail.

How Was the Dog Jealousy Study Performed?

Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost performed the study, Jealousy in Dogs, which was published in the peer-reviewed online scientific journal PLOS One. Small dogs were chosen to be part of the study to permit the researchers to more easily control undesirable behaviors. Thirt-six dogs weighing less than 35 pounds or shorter than 15 inches were studied. The breeds included:

Belgian Malinois (1 dog)

Boston Terrier (1)

Chihuahua (2)

Dachshund (1)

Havanese (1)

Maltese (3)

Miniature Pinscher (2)

Pomeranian (2)

Pug (2)

Shetland Sheepdog (1)

Shih Tzu (2)

Welsh Corgi (1)

Yorkshire Terrier (3)

Mixed breeds (14)

All of the dogs were individually evaluated in the familiar settings of their own homes while their owners interacted with the animatronic dog, a children’s book, and a plastic jack-o’-lantern, and ignored their pooches.

How Did the Study Determine the Dogs Were Exhibiting Jealousy?

Reportedly, the real dogs showed behaviors consistent with jealousy by preventing the animatronic dog’s access to their owners and barking and biting at the robotic canine.

The owners’ pleasant praise and gentle petting of the robot dog invoked more of a jealous response by the canine subjects as compared to their responses to the owners’ comparable attentiveness to the book (which played music and featured pop-up pages) and jack-o’-lantern.

The study finds that social interaction is one of the key stimuli for canine jealousy, as the moving and vocalizing object caused the canine subjects to show jealous behaviors more so than the inanimate objects. I find it quite intriguing that 86 percent of the participating dogs approached the behind of the animatronic version to sniff around the anus, as they would do when interacting with real dogs (or cats).

The findings are comparable to human studies, where infants as young as six months showed jealous behaviors when their mothers attended to a realistic-appearing doll, but did not show jealousy when the attention was instead placed on a book.

What Does the Study Determine About the Biological Basis of Jealous Behavior?

Evidently, we humans aren’t the only species capable of jealousy. Yet, are human and canine responses learned or do they have some sort of inherent biological basis? Harris and Prouvost’s study finds that ”these results lend support to the hypothesis that jealousy has some ‘primordial’ form that exists in human infants and in at least one other social species besides humans” (i.e., dogs).

I look forward to hearing about other studies showing how animal behaviors correlate with human emotions.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Dog Bites: 15 Tips for Dog Bite Prevention

The most recent study conducted by the Center For Disease and Control (CDC), says there were roughly 4.5 million dog bite victims in America per year. That is an alarming number, but luckily there are careful tips that can be implemented to change that statistic. Here are our 15 tips to help prevent dog bites.

#1 – Don’t Approach Strange Dogs

A loose dog may be scared, sick, injured or just not friendly. If you do not have experience with that type of dog, it is best to call your local rescue group and tell them where you spotted the dog, rather than trying to catch him yourself.

#2 – Ask Before Petting

Never pet someone else’s dog without asking first. And if they say no, respect their answer and leave it at that.

#3 – Even After You Ask, Use Judgement

If the owner tells you it’s fine, but the dog looks scared, nervous or is showing signs it does not want you to pet it, don’t.

Image source: Dr. Sophia Yin

#4 – Don’t Take Anything Away From a Dog

This a valuable lesson to teach children. Don’t try to take a toy, treat, food bowl, shoe, etc., from a dog. It can easily end in a bite. Instead, teach the dog to drop or just leave him alone until he has dropped it himself.

#5 – Don’t Leave Children Unsupervised With a Dog

It doesn’t matter how safe and trusted the dog is – things happen. The child might get too rough with the dog, or accidentally hurt him (stepping on a tail, for example) and the dog might bite.

#6 – Learn About Dog Body Language

There are over 86 million dogs in homes across America – you and your children are going to encounter them, even if you don’t have a dog yourself. Learning how to read dog body language can prevent a lot of bites. Dr. Sopia Yin’s poster is a great educational tool.

#7 – Never Pet a Dog on the Head

A lot of dogs don’t like this and it’s putting your hand in prime biting position.

#8 – Don’t Put Your Face Near the Dog’s Face

Like petting the head, kneeling or bending down right in the dog’s face can lead to a nasty bite. If you are going to get down near the dog, stay to the side and keep your face away from theirs. Remember, dog’s can jump and bite out of excitement, not just fear or aggression.

#9 – Don’t Stare into a Dog’s Eyes

Staring is a threat in the dog world – staring into some dog’s eyes can make them uncomfortable to the point where they will lunge and bite. It’s best to just not do it.

#10 – Train Your Dog

If you own a dog – he is your responsibility. Teaching him bite inhibition, sit to greet, and cue likes leave it and drop so that you can safely get items away from him will help prevent bites.

#11 – Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Eating Dogs Eat

These are two situations that frequently result in bites – someone startles a dog awake and they bite out of instinct, or the dog is a resource guarder and bites when the person interrupts their eating. Children especially should be told not to bother a dog during these times.

#12 – Carry Spray Shield

Spray Shield is a humane way of stopping a loose dog or a dog that become aggressive and is coming toward you. It’s a handy thing to keep around the house to take on walks with you.

#13 – Don’t Hug a Dog

Most humans love hugs, but not all of them. Dogs are the same way – some dogs tolerate a hug, some don’t. It’s best to not hug a dog, which puts your face right by theirs and possibly in danger if they aren’t in the mood to be hugged.

#14 – If You Fall, Curl Up

This is good advice for adults and children. If you find yourself on the ground with an aggressive dog, curl up into a ball with your knees in your stomach and your fingers laced over your neck and ears. (www.aspca.org).

#15 – Let the Dog Approach You At Their Pace

This is the best thing you can do when greeting a new dog. Let him come to you, at this one pace. Don’t stick your fingers in front of his face for him to smell, he may bite them. Besides, the dog can smell you just fine without your hand in his face.
Read more at http://iheartdogs.com/15-tips-to-prevent-dog-bites-from-happening/#whb6lbVhK1uyPAoE.99