Archive for the ‘Behaviour’ Category

How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 1

Alan | July 16th, 2008
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Your dog has the ability to tell you exactly how he feels whether he is happy, sad, bored, excited, disgusted, puzzled, confident, uneasy or frightened.

The inconspicuous and almost continuous movements of his eyes, ears, body and tail are his emotional body language and his primary means of communication. Researchers are finding that, rather than being limited in their means of expression, animals are attuned to an extremely subtle and refined system of communication.

The wild dogs of Africa studied by Jane Goodall and wolves observed by Dr. Michael W. Fox, recognized authority on canine body language, communicated to each other a wide range of attitudes, including anger, dominance, submission, joy, interest, disgust, dismay, affection and fear using only the slightest body movements.

Though domesticated dogs have lost some sensitivity to this language in their dealings with humans, they still use most of these instinctive, inherited forms of communication. With practice, a sensitive observer with a keen eye can learn to read his dog’s body language.

As he becomes more skilled at identifying subtle changes of mood in his pet, his communication and companionship with him will grow deeper and more pleasurable.

Veterinarians with long experience often read canine body language well, noticing the smallest nuances. Dr. Theodore Stanton, a veterinarian who has practiced now for more than forty years, has become an expert at it. He frequently acts as interpreter for his patients when their owners bring them in for treatment and ask him why their dog is doing certain peculiar things.

Among Dogs, as among most animals, a hierarchy exists in every group, says Dr. Stanton.

He goes on to say, From the most dominant ‘top dog’ to the lowest ‘under dog,’ each dog works out with each other in the group which of them will be dominant and which will be submissive. Much of a dog’s body language is used in the context of establishing these dominant-submissive relationships with other dogs and also with people.

A dog uses every part of his body in some way to express his feelings and intentions. The appendage he uses most conspicuously and expressively is his tail.

You can tell everything by a dog’s tail, explains Mr. Stanton, He holds it up when he is alert and expecting something. If he has met a strange dog or heard an unusual sound, it quivers a little. He is saying, ‘I’m ready for danger; I’m ready for anything!

The Doctor finishes with, A tail held very high almost vertically or arched over his back says he feels aggressive and dominant, and intends to do something about it if necessary. The dog with his tail tucked tightly between his hind legs is saying, ‘I’m scared, and I’m getting out of here!’

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Dog Psychology: Do Dogs & Other Animals Have Emotions?

Janet | July 15th, 2008
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Animal behaviorists have always been fascinated about studying whether or not dogs and other animals have emotions. While some researchers conduct ongoing studies to find scientific evidence, regular folks like you and I could answer that question immediately with a resounding Yes!

Having been around dogs and other animals all of my life I can tell you that these lovable companions have emotions just like you and I. All you have to do is look at them, watch them, and listen. Watch their faces change expression and their tail and body showing signs of communication in connection with people and other animals. Common sense can clearly show that what a dog displays on the outside tells an enormous amount of information of what’s going on inside.

Most animal behaviorists start their research with the thought of what it would be like to be a dog. Skepticism is the initial drive which these men and women spark their research with. They wonder if dogs and other animals actually feel anything inside. As you can probably guess, since you cannot place an emotion under a microscope, most scientists dismiss the idea.

However, as time goes on, more and more people are becoming less skeptical about the idea of dogs and other animals having emotions. For example, there are scientific journals that are considered prestigious publications who have reported such findings as rats experiencing joy, mice that have empathy, and elephants which feel grief. Now with this information is clearly founded that yes, your dog and mine, has emotions.

Now the big question is, why? Why have emotions evolved in certain species as adaptation tools to their environment? The answer could be in the possibility that these emotions have evolved to become somewhat of a social sticky which glues the bond between animals and each other for a variety of social reasons.

Interesting Examples

We know that emotions allow animals to be flexible and adaptable to there behavior through a variety of venues. An interesting study has reported that mice are empathetic, yet they’re also fun loving. Other reports show that iguanas seek pleasure, baboons become angry, and elephants – surprisingly enough – have flashbacks and post traumatic stress disorder. That’s not all, we have reports that fish are sentient and that otters show affection as well as grief.

Many researchers also concluded that animals which are living as companions to humans, especially dogs, can develop specific emotions due to our relationship with them. There are quite a few common emotional traits that are shared by both dogs and people alike.

Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 3

Samantha | July 12th, 2008
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Do you have the ability to understand what it is your dog is saying? Learning how these animals communicate is not only beneficial to proper training, it also helps tighten the bond between man’s best friend and his owner.

In addition to using his barking, tail wagging, and body movements, dogs can also relay messages by the language of ear positions. The frightened dog tells of his submissive attitude to man by flattening his ears as well as lowering himself on haunches.

Also, in the last step in the sequence of aggression just before attack, the dog folds his ears close to his head and bares his teeth. But in the first step of aggressive movement, the dog picks up his ears to a vertical position.

Even the dog with hanging ears will pull the base of his ears forward, which makes the rest of his ears stand forward and outward. This upright position tells his human handler that there is every reason to be alert or on guard.

During World War II, the marines of M Company of the Second Raider Battalion laid their lives on the line in their dependence on the ability of their dogs to communicate to them what was ahead. While he was in the thick of battle, a Doberman named Andy had advanced from the shore to the jungle on Bougainville Island.

Andy liked to work off his leash. The dog was about ten yards ahead of the men when he froze and alerted his ears. The soldiers knew that those stiffened ears meant that there was a Japanese sniper just ahead. The scout leader sent two riflemen ahead, and they sprayed a mangrove tree with bullets. The sniper fell out. That same day Andy silently alerted his handler to snipers on two other occasions.

Now you might not have your own dog trained to such an elite degree, but you don’t have to in order to know how well your dog supplements his silent body language with his vocal communication. The vocal vocabulary has numerous and varied forms your dog whimpers, whines, signs, grunts, hums, coons, howls, squeals, growls, and barks.

Your dog can vary his barking enough to communicate with you. Almost subconsciously, you have no doubt learned to understand the nuances of your pet’s barking. These minute differences may be in the tone, the frequency, the rhythm and the level of loudness. Your pet may bark to show his excitement, his pleasure, his sense of fear, and the need for your attention.

And your dog, by his tail-wagging, his licking, nosing, barking, howling and his many clever individual expressions, talks to you. Your pet tells you how much he wants to be your protector, your companion and your best friend. Like dogs throughout the ages, your dog has become your friend by his uncanny ability to communicate.

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Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 2

Samantha | July 10th, 2008
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When you verbally ask someone a question you expect an answer, right? A well-mannered, thought-out response is always appreciated and humans talk with their mouths and voice boxes to respond. This is how we interact, mostly with words to let others know how we feel.

Dogs, on the other hand, communicate in a very different way. Yes they bark and use their vocal cords to cry about something, but the number one way to read how a dog is feeling or what he wants you to know is by looking at his tail.

As your dog wags his tail in happiness, he may also exercise the rest of his body to tell you that you are a welcome sight. He may greet you by jumping, dancing around, and attempting to lick your face.

As one dog trainer, Chris, tells of his German short-haired pointer, named Tiger, your dog can let you know when he is approaching a place which associates with comfort and happiness.

When Chris, who spent many hours out of the house to play golf and hunt, would come home from his long day and driving hours to get home, his wife would comment on how Tiger’s ears would perk up and the dog would show ripples of excitement up and down his back in awaiting Chris’s return.

What is amazing is that these signs of excitement to greet his owner at the door, Tiger would start to become anxious and happy when Chris was still more than an hour away driving home.

In addition to their expression of elation, dogs many times warns their owners of danger. You have probably heard many emotional stories of dogs scratching at the bedroom door to warn the family that the house was on fire. It happens all of the time.

One woman was suffering a heart attack while her dog literally broke through the backyard screen door to get to the husband, barking fiercely in the attempt to get the husband’s attention of what was happening inside the house. It worked the woman survived.

Dogs also communicate with people by using their head and nose as part of the body actions. My three-year-old Dachshund nosed a message to me one afternoon. Sandy had learned that the covered candy dish on the coffee table was a good place to satisfy her sweet tooth.

This particular day, I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper, and I wasn’t paying attention to Sandy. She jumped up on the couch and nudged me with her nose. When I looked at her, she gave her head a jerk, pointing her nose straight at the candy dish.

After sensing that I knew what she wanted, she began to jump up and down as if to say, Please, please, please! Just one little piece! I had understood very well what my dog was saying with her nonverbal head and nose language.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3

Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 1

Samantha | July 7th, 2008
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You’ve just gotten home after a brutal day at work. The headache from your busy schedule would love nothing more than to be relieved by a warm welcome from your family.

As soon as you open the door you hear the high-pitched voice of your wife as she is scolding your ten-year-old son, while his little sister is sobbing because he broke one of her new dolls.

The television is loud and your Mother-in-law is chatting on the phone…

So who is the loving one that meets you at the door?

Sammy does, your three-year-old mongrel dog.

He’s wagging and wiggling from his head to the tip of his tail. He dances and jumps into your waiting arms, and, if you allow him, he licks you on the face. He’s glad to see you. Your dog has expressed himself in the language that he knows you understand.

Your dog, like pet dogs all over the world, use body language and a variety of vocal sounds to communicate with his owner. The dog possesses an incredible ability to communicate with his owner: a universal language, telling man of danger, desire, loyalty and love.

Your dog talks to tell you how sad he is when he’s scolded. He shouts loud and clear his distress when a stranger or something unusual approaches, and he talks to you about how happy he is to be near you and share your companionship.

Your dog talks best with his tail. When you accidentally step on your pet or upbraid him, he will tuck his tail between his legs and cower down, showing his submission. By tucking the tail, the dog is hiding his scent and thus hiding himself. This language seems to go back to the ancient wild dog when submissiveness and dominance existed in the pack.

Your pet’s ancestors signaled his subservience to the dominant dog by dropping that tail. Today, the domesticated dog is saying, I feel terrible about what happened.

In contrast to the submissive tail movement, there is that happy, excited tail-wagging that states how much your dog wants to please you. The following story is such an example of this need to please:

Max, a Collie, did his doggiest best to please his young owner while she was preparing for her wedding. Max had watched Angelica opening her wedding gifts the week before the ceremony. One afternoon, the Collie proceeded to provide a gift for Angelica…

He yanked a brocade pillow from a neighbor’s clothesline and brought it home. After placing the pillow at Angelica’s feet, he wagged his tail in sheer joy that he was pleasing his owner and sharing her prenuptial pleasures.

As you can see from this wonderfully heartwarming example of this Collie’s desire to communicate pleasure, dogs are also much more intelligent than we give them credit for, especially in the communication department.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3

How To Help A Dog With An Abusive History

Sarah | July 2nd, 2008
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Last year, Angela, a single mother of three teenage boys, had been in contact with the Greyhound Pets of America (a rescue group that finds homes for retired racing greyhounds). She asked the group if they had an adult dog that would get along well with cats, as Angela also loved cats and had several of them.

A lovely greyhound named Bronze fit the bill. Just several days later Bronze was welcomed with loving arms in his new home.

Bronze didn’t know a lot of small things right away, such as how to climb up steps or comprehend a see-through glass door and windows, etc. He did not know how to play and was very weary of people, particularly very tall, thin males. And something also peculiar he was literally afraid of his own shadow!

Any of these things caused fear in Bronze, and the resulting behavior was aggression, snarling and growling. Angelica was worried that his behavior would go beyond this reaction, leading into biting or attacking.

Soon Bronze showed fear towards another specific occurrence: Anytime Angela’s brother would come to visit, and wearing his usual leather jacket and ball cap, Bronze would again start his aggressive stance and snarling. The same thing happened when Angela’s sons would come home with their noisy friends.

The Cause Of Bronze’s Fear

As you know, Bronze was an ex-race dog, so once Angela was able to contact a canine psychologist, the doctor was able to identify the problem right away. He had asked Angela to obtain a picture of the dog’s ex-trainer, which turned out to be a very tall, skinny man that wore a long black coat, along with a specific hat that resembled a baseball cap.

Add to this evidence the obvious experiences of the dog having raced at the track: lots of noisy people, confinement, guns firing, running, more confinement, lots of harsh training commands from his trainer it was no wonder why Bronze reacted the way he did when he was adopted.

Managing these issues was not going to be an easy task. It required Angela to have constant vigilance. The doctor instructed her to remove the noisy teenagers from his presence, teaching Angela to be cautious of how she gave commands to Bronze, as well as have her brother remove his black leather jacket and ball cap when visiting.

In time, Bronze was able to calm down and within 12 months was less afraid of noise and the appearance of any man that resembled his past trainer became less of a threat. Bronze lived to be thirteen years old and because of his new owner’s love and care to learn to communicate, he was a lucky dog one that enjoyed the right that every canine has to be loved and included in a real family.

What You Can Learn From This Story

If you are also considering bringing home an adult dog that has had a history of competing in sports, such as a racing dog, for example, then prepare yourself by taking lessons from the above story. It will not only teach you how to communicate with your problem dog, but could also save him or her from being sentenced to a lonely life inside of the pound.

Why A Lab May Not Be The Right Dog For You

Kate | June 26th, 2008
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Labrador Retrievers are extraordinarily people-oriented. This means that they have to be in tune with their owners in order to follow specific instructions. The key to understanding this is to look deeper at what Labs were bred to do, and that is to hunt and retrieve.

Look at it this way, these dogs must be in perfect harmony with their hunter/owner in order to follow specific directions to track and fine birds that have fallen to the ground and out of sight. This need for the dog to have hand-held direction carries over to all aspects of a Labrador’s life, especially at home.

This is great for people who enjoy and need constant canine companionship. However, it is bad for dog owners who have a Labrador Retriever but expect the animal to entertain itself with little interaction from the owner.

There are some hunting dogs that were bred to be independent hunters with little interaction and instruction from humans. Examples of these types of dogs are Terriers and Hounds, which lead the way by use of their senses (by smell and sight) with the human hunter striving to keep up with the dog’s pace.

This is not how the Labrador is built. Labs are designed to retrieve, and in doing so they must have a connected attention link directly to the hunter. If a retriever ignores the hunter’s commands then they may hit the water and swim far past where the bird has fallen, and possibly keep swimming out and away.

Well trained retrievers do not make these types of mistakes because they have the innate ability to attend to and follow detailed directions from the hunter. This skill is absolutely critical to being a trustworthy retriever and is one of the reasons that these dogs make excellent service animals and obedience trainees.

This Is Also The Reason Why Many Labs Do Not Do Well With Some Families

You can probably understand by now just how connected and dependent a Labrador Retriever becomes to its owners. It constantly looks to people for leadership and must have human interaction.

Every dog breed is sociable to some extent, some more than others, but Labs require much more attention than most dogs. They do not cope very well when left alone for long periods of time, whether indoors or outdoors. Many families who are away all day and come home to find out that their Lab has destroyed a side door or window trying to escape does not understand why this is happening.

These people are understandably upset and then punish their Labs. A properly educated Lab owner will not react in this way because they know the truth. And the truth is that what causes a Lab to try to escape like this is simply wanting to search out and find its owners. They consider their pack missing and make an attempt to find them outside.

The biggest lesson to take away from this information, especially if you have not yet decided on what type of dog to own and are considering a Labrador Retriever, is to make sure that you have plenty of time to devote to your Lab, day and night. If not, then consider a more independent dog breed. Otherwise, your lovable Lab may soon become increasingly unhappy and will end up a very destructive house pet, or worse, a runaway.

Does Your Labrador Retriever Have An Oral Fixation?

Kate | June 14th, 2008
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Labrador Retriever dogs were bred to be excellent hunting dogs with the power, stamina, and motivation to chase down fallen game and swim as far needed to bring back the prey to its hunter.

Even today, these dogs have an innate inner drive to retrieve. With utmost focus and determination, Labs take their retrieving jobs seriously. And even though most of these dogs are house pets today and do not hunt, they are just as driven when chasing a tennis ball or fetching a stick.

Labradors were created and developed to use the power of their jaws just like a strong hand. During practically every waking moment they feel the need to put something in their mouths, and without the presence of a bird or other small animal, they will grab onto anything they can. This is fantastic for people who love playing fetch with their dog but it’s not so good for those dog owners that hate when their pets are constantly putting items in its mouth.

Labs Have An Oral Fixation

Many families run out and buy a puppy without doing an ounce of research as to what type of dog they are getting involved in and how the animal will behave based on its genetic make-up. Labrador Retrievers, for example, literally have an oral fixation due to hundreds of years of breeding specifically for grabbing fallen birds into their mouths when hunting. This behavior most definitely carries over into their daily lives.

An educated Lab owner understands that any object within their dog’s reach is considered fair game and they would never dream of scolding the dog for such behavior (except for biting of course). Bad Lab owners consider this behavior destructive and will scold or even hit the animal in an attempt to get the dog to stop grabbing stuff in its mouth.

Of course there is a fine line between letting your Lab express its inner retrieving needs, and letting the animal absolutely destroy anything in the house it can eat. This is where specific training and obedience lessons come in. These dogs are natural chewers and you must take provisions for their tendency to chew by using a crate and dog proofing your house.

Constant supervision and creating daily playtime sessions with your Lab is a requirement for both you and your dog to be healthy. If you choose not to participate in the proper upbringing and training that a Lab requires, more than likely you are going to be frustrated and unhappy while your dog becomes increasingly bored and destructive.

Connecting Hunting Abilities To A Labrador Retriever’s Behavior

Kate | June 10th, 2008
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Labrador Retrievers are many things to many people. Because of their loving nature and obedient temperament, these dogs have not only made great companions and helpers, but they are most often used as service dogs for the blind and handicapped.

How many dogs are adaptive enough to live with all of those different roles, yet still have the personality to enjoy swimming, hunting, and play fetching games? Labs are truly universal pets which is why they are my favorite dog to own.

What Makes The Lab Tick?

Labrador Retrievers are the product of long generations of breeders who used stringent selection for an animal that is intensely motivated to retrieve and plunge themselves into icy waters, swim against the hardest current, and swim back carrying a heavy waterfowl back to its hunter.

Having such a genetic ability to accomplish this job takes strength, endurance, determination, and the mental toughness to ignore any pain along the way. Sometimes the prey may still be alive and trying to fight its way out of the dog’s mouth.

The Strong-Willed Psyche Of The Labrador Retriever

The pressures of performing their hunting abilities, as described above, not only sharpens and strengthens a Labrador’s physical body, it also shapes the dog’s psyche. Motivation and determination is something that can only cause a dog to be so driven that they can make the fall (find the position) of a fallen bird, search for it regardless of the terrain, retrieve its prey under any circumstances, and then bring it back successfully to the hunter.

You Can Learn From This Hunting Behavior

This determination that Labs have when out in the hunting fields is a great way to understand the its behavior in the home. Some of you may be wondering why it is important to know just how incredible your Labrador retriever can function outside when hunting game, even if you do not take your dog out for such activities. The key is to understand just how fiercely intent a Labrador Retriever’s vision is as a hunter and then use that information to help you train and understand your dog when he becomes stubborn at home.

All too many Labrador owners experience frustration when their dog refuses to obey commands in the home. The reason is because these dogs act in a certain way and respond to certain behaviors that all links back to their hunting genetics.

They may react and make decisions that are only natural and good for their hunting skills, but not good for whatever training purposes you are intending at the moment. For the truly committed Labrador owners, it would behoove of you to learn and study its genetic hunting abilities and better understand this dog’s mental psyche when making decisions. Your training will be an easier and much more pleasant experience.

Does Using A Bark Collar Work At Quieting Your Dog?

Gemma | July 22nd, 2006
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Training your dog to stop barking excessively, whether in or out of your absence, is a fairly simple process. With a little creativity, a squirt gun, and approximately 7 days of devotion, you can have your dog quiet in no time, giving both you and your neighbors a break from all of the noise.

Most dog owners who have followed the simple step-by-step dog training procedures discussed in our articles on ridding excessive barking have done just fine. Other owners, however, I’ve requested the advice on dog bark collars.

Do Bark Collars Work?

Bark collars are designed to emit an electrical shock each time a dog barks. Such callers do not actually train, they punish! A prime example of the torture that a dog must go through when wearing such a tormenting device can best be described as follows:

There was once a Chihuahua named Chu Chu that lived in an apartment complex of which the rules stated that no dogs were allowed. In order to keep this Chihuahua quiet, its owner affixed a bark collar around Chu Chu’s Neck.

One evening, Chu Chu was curled up next to the fireplace, cozy, warm, and sleeping as sound as a baby, when suddenly the telephone rang and the vibration of the buzzing sound activated the bark collar. A sudden electrical shock traveled right into the dog’s throat. Before that moment, Chu Chu had never been much of a barking dog, however, the surprise feeling of the voltage caused him to go into a panic.

The dog’s screams continued to activate the bark collar as he ran from room to room in a scared frenzy. He literally rammed into wall after wall in his frantic attempts to escape this strange monster that was attacking his throat. He finally plunged himself through a glass window and unfortunately, Chu Chu’s owner had them living on the top floor of the apartment complex, causing the little guy to plunge to his death.

If You Truly Love Your Dog, Train Him, Don’t Punish Him

Forget about bark collars or any other dog training devices that inflict pain and surprise on your pet. Instead, simply set aside 4 to 5 days of your time to properly instruct your dog with good manners. Think of your pet is your child and give him the best attention you have to offer.

By using proper barking prevention techniques, you will teach your dog to stop barking for no apparent reason, while at the same time maintaining his protective prowess. He will still bark to let you know that an intruder is on your property, but he will not bark for the sheer joy of hearing his own noise.

After about five days of proper schooling, he will respond to your verbal commands, know when to bark, and of course, know when to keep quiet, all without having to resort to shocking and painful bark collars.

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Read Part 5 | Read Part 6 | Read Part 7 | Read Part 8