You come home from work, open the front door, and see that the garbage has been knocked over and someone has had an all-you-can-eat buffet, or you find the remote control on the couch chewed to hundreds of pieces along with the pair of shoes you just bought. Then your dog comes to greet you, slinking back, cowering, and avoiding eye contact, with his ears pinned back and his tail tucked under. The only plausible explanation for his behaviour seems to be that he is feeling guilty for doing things he is not supposed to do – and you can’t help but feel he should!
We humans base this behavioural assumption on our own behaviour: we behave in a particular way when we feel guilty, therefore because the dog behaves in a similar way in equivalent circumstances, we assume that the behavior we see in the dog is also accompanied by feelings of guilt. This is anthropomorphism: an attribution of human characteristics or behaviours to an animal. Continue reading
This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs Newsletter January 2017.
This is a statement I commonly hear from dog owners and to which I usually reply “Have you done any stay training with your dog?” In the majority of cases, the answer is “When I feed my dog I tell him to stay and then release him to the food bowl.”
Well, that hardly constitutes stay training in any context other than dinnertime!
Blog post also published in Speaking of Dogs May 2016 Newsletter.
As humans we have all experienced how emotions affect our ability to learn. For example, think back to when you were learning a new language at school: if you were feeling happy and your teacher was encouraging and supportive, you put time and effort into mastering the skill so you could put it to good use. And even now, when you speak that particular language it may bring back good memories and feelings.
This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs June 2014 Newsletter:
We had long winter months where most people preferred to stay indoors, the parks were empty, and you could have long walks with your dog in the city and barely see anyone. The warm weather arrived pretty suddenly and has now caught some of us dog owners by surprise. All of a sudden skateboarders are passing us left and right, mountain bikers dive out of the bush right in front of our dogs’ noses, joggers have multiplied by the hundreds, and just as you are about to put that poop bag in the garbage, a cyclist passes you and your dog at the speed of light and at a distance of an inch.
The foundation of training a reactive dog is management to keep the dog’s stress level down and to prevent them from practicing the unwanted behaviors. We talk about this constantly in our Cranky Canine classes. I have always understood that management is difficult in a city of over 5 million people and certainly have experienced it myself, too. Nevertheless, I always wondered, why on earth do people find it so difficult. Well, this summer I certainly discovered that for me it was impossible.
Here is a movie of Fenton, a Labrador who became a Youtube sensation after he decided to chase some deer at Richmond Park in UK. I’m sure most of us find this movie kind of funny but have also been in a similar situation with our own dogs when it becomes somewhat less funny.
Most dogs quickly develop an emotional response to the leash being clipped on. At home it is usually a happy emotion as it predicts a walk, but outside it can turn into a different story.
Your dog has just had a nice off-leash time running around in the park, and it is time to go home. You are approaching the spot where you usually leash up your dog or you are trying to catch him from play. Continue reading