Category Archives: Dog body language

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Sage showing appeasement behaviors, photo courtesy of Emily Fisher of Scratch and Sniff Canine Services (

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


Emotions Are Part of the Learning Process

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.Photo: Aino Mutka

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I Want My Dog to Just “Get Along” with Everyone

This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs December 2014 Newsletter:

When we send out questionnaires to clients who sign up for behaviour modification training because their dog is reactive toward dogs or people, we always ask the question: “What are your expectations from the training sessions?” The title of this article is the most common answer that I have seen, and every time I see it confuses me: what does “getting along” mean?
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The biggest killer for a reactive dog is…unpredictability.

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.

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A Battle of Wills: To Leash or Not to Leash

 This article was also published in Speaking of Dogs February 2014 Newsletter:
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