Not all Dogs Want to be Social

Posted on Oct 21, 2018 in Aggression, Dog Training, Pets, Reaction, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

Giving the dog a choice, prevents bites.

I continually see the need for more education in cases of dog aggression towards humans. For some reason, when a dog growls at a human, the human’s response is to yell, hold them down or force it into confinement. Many clients admit this scolding has caused an increase in stress when the dog is near unfamiliar people.

As I perform more Bite Risk Assessments, I have discovered that many of these dogs have a common personality trait. Each one displayed  a preference to only be near familiar people. They do not like strangers approaching them or touching them.  As pups, they tolerated strangers entering their space and patting their heads, even though they tried to pull away or bite the strangers hand. What if we were to ask each dog, “How do you feel about me?” I repeatedly ask the cute dog in this video that question, and he repeatedly tells me:  “No thanks!”  

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Dog Fight or Reprimand?

Posted on Jul 21, 2018 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Reaction, Rescue Dog, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

Good dogs resolve conflict — all by themselves! 

Below, I outline an incident that occurred at a local park in detail and include what each dog’s body language indicated. There are good lessons here on how dogs resolve conflict and set the rules for the playground!

Here are the Players:

First we have Mo, a scruffy adolescent female terrier weighing about 20 lbs., who enters other dog’s space quickly and without hesitation. Next we have Nel, a shy adolescent female of about 40 lbs. who approaches other dogs hesitantly when greeting. Our third dog is a small 10 lb adolescent male named, Arlo who would sniff all the dogs and then run away and pee on the nearest tree only to repeat the pattern again. Finally, there is Ann, an adult 55 lb female who enjoys chasing squirrels mostly, and was extremely tolerant of other dogs sniffing her.

This is when it gets interesting!

This is an example of the scene, terrier closing space and insecure dog baking away.

Ann, Nel and Arlo had just politely greeted each other moments before when they spotted the gregarious Mo trotting towards them from a distance with head and tail up. From about 30 feet away, Mo began to sprint and squared off and growled nose to nose at Nel.  Nel stepped back about 6 inches from Mo when Ann stepped in with a reprimand. Ann chest bumped Mo right on her back.

 

This is when it gets noisy!

That is when it got noisy with both dogs growling as Ann stood over Mo and reprimanded her by holding her down with her mouth. I could see Ann’s mouth was open and was fairly sure she was not biting down. I quickly stepped in to separate the two, and Mo ran away.

This is an example of the scene, but not the actual dogs at the park.

Ann never even look at me, which was much appreciated as some dogs will redirect if they are too aroused. She was not. Ann immediately relaxed, and I do not even remember her shaking off. Next, Nel walked over and licked Ann’s face, possibly in appeasement.

 

This is when Mo should have stayed!

Mo’s mom was screaming at the top of her lungs saying what a bad dog Ann was and that Mo just had “poor social skills”.  I attempted to tell her to put Mo back down so that Mo could resolve the issue and learn from it.  I was certain that Ann was quite calm and had resolved the disagreement quickly.  But Mo’s Mom was upset, even though she knew that Mo was not even scratched. She left without understanding that her dog was the one that started the conflict and most likely learned an important lesson. Ann was truly just reprimanding Mo for being rude to Nel. Period.

This is my point:

If you own a dog that quickly charges into unfamiliar dogs faces and growls or gets even mildly stiff, avoid allowing this to happen.  It is a matter of time, before your dog “with poor social skills” gets put in it’s place by an adult dog who is confident enough to do so. You might complain that your dog was “attacked”. However, if there is minimal damage, it means your dog just received a reprimand for being rude. It is often just that simple. The adult dog should not be punished for reprimanding and setting rules on the playground.  Mo is clearly an insecure dog and selected the shy dog Nel to bully. Thankfully, Ann was there to keep the peace!

This is what you can do: Slow down the introduction.

After 5 minutes, this beagle never looked at the lab. The bagle was saying “no thanks”.

Begin by walking your dog toward the other dog on leash, but stop about 15 feet away and let the dogs communicate a few seconds. Call them away and repeat. The insecure dog will eventually learn to read other dogs cues from a safe distance as they mature. I use a very slow approach to be sure both dogs want to greet. If one dog is looking away, turning away, or ground sniffing, then you do not get any closer. However, if both dogs are still expressing loose body wiggles  after 5 minutes of parallel walking, then continue to get closer.

This is an example: 

 How to Introduce New Dogs

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Aggression or a Normal Response?

Posted on Nov 13, 2016 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Reaction, Reactive, Socialization | 0 comments

Based on their maturity and tolerance, dogs respond to other dogs behaviors in different ways. Let’s be honest, many of you reading this have disagreed with another person, lost your temper, and became angry in response to someones actions. 

Consider:  Una, a beautiful long haired German Shepherd, loves to play with dogs and has shown friendly behaviors to all the  dogs she has ever met. Until last week. As she was running on the beach with a Sheltie she just met, and all was well until she saw a tennis ball go flying over head.  Already on the run, Una bolted after the ball, but was immediately body slammed by a Retriever mix who was in hot pursuit of his beloved tennis ball. Upon crashing into each other, Una snarled at the Retriever mix as a reprimand for causing her a bit of pain, Una is six years old. He did not respond to her reprimand, yet remained running at her hip, Una beat him to the ball and snatched it up.

The Retriever Mix again body slammed Una, aroused from the chase, and feeling another shot of pain in her back, she dropped the ball and reprimanded the Retriever Mix by putting her mouth on his neck and giving him a good hard shake, then let him go.  The Retriever  snatching up the ball, and returned to his owner as if nothing had happened.  

Red, the Chow is being pushy.  Kandi, the Chow on the right will tolerate this for a bit, and then will growl and snap. Red takes the reprimand every time as is their relationship.

Red, the Chow on the left is engaging. Kandi, the Chow on the right will tolerate this for a bit, and then will growl and snap. Red takes the reprimand every time as is their relationship.

Una’s response to this Retriever’s use of body contact when playing was very appropriate in her mind, and she tried to return to playing chase with the Sheltie as she was enjoying this type of play. 

Response: Unfortunately, her owner saw her as being aggressive, and called Una in a harsh tone.  Una went to her owner who is usually trusting and gentle, but not this time, she was stiff and grabbed Una’s collar — nearly lifting her front feet off the ground.  Her owner is usually very excited when she comes when called, so Una was quite confused by this aggression.  The ride home was scary as her owner verbally scolded Una in a harsh tone.  Once home, Una was grabbed firmly by the collar and put into her crate while her owner continued to stomp around the house and gave Una hard-eyed stares. Una has now learned when her owner calls her it makes her feel very unsure and afraid.

The Malamute is moving forward as the Tuverian Shepherd is moving away.  These two dogs have very differnt playstyles as they are beginning to discover.

This Malamute, Loki is moving forward as the Tuverian Shepherd, Nell is moving away. These two dogs have very differnt play styles as they are beginning to discover, having just met.

Humans also respond with different levels of feedback depending on age and life experiences.  If the Retriever had lightly rubbed Una’s shoulder as he was heading to the ball or lightly bumped her body when she won the ball, she may have only turned away or growled. 

Did I mention Una initiates play with a play bow followed by a game of chase. She does not enjoy wrestling. Did Una have time to tell the Retriever Mix how she liked to play? Did he even ask? Is it possibly the Retriever has learned that a hard body slam is therefore more likely to win the ball?  Will Una’s feedback prevent him from body slamming another dog?  Doubtful, however it depends on his temperament and his sensitivity to a reprimand.

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This Alaskan Malamute, Loki has not seen me in about a year. His use of space is very clear, he likes to be close!

My point: If your dog scuffles with another, consider the entire incident.  How well do they really know each other?  Was their contact made before an invitation was offered?  Was one dog trying to steal a resource from another?  Do the dogs have different styles of play?  If one dog is a wrestler and another only enjoys chase, then you can expect some conflict to occur. If the reprimand or feedback given ends in a puncture or broken skin, take a breath and ask your self how many times has your dog played with other dogs and not broken skin?  If the answer is many, then you can assume these two dogs were very different and conflict was somewhat expected. If your dog is beginning to reprimand dogs more often, then slow greetings down and be sure  the dogs have similar personalities, play styles and time to signal intentions. This will not only reduce conflict, it will reduce the level of reprimand, and make for a far more enjoyable ride home!

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Is It Just the Dogs Breed?

Posted on Jan 31, 2016 in Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Puppy, Reaction, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Training |

Does your hound constantly have her nose to the ground?  Is your retriever pup a bit too mouthy?  Is your Pyrenees, Chow or Catahoula mix

Don't kid yourself, this girl is a loud barker when on a leash!

This sweet girl is a loud alarm barker!

acting a bit growly with strangers? Does your terrier like to grab and shake toys?  How about your adorable herder? Ever nipped at anyones heels?

Ray Coppenger, author of Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution explains Breed Specific Behaviors. Not that long ago, dogs were chosen and bred based on their ability to be useful.  For example, dogs were kept around if they were able to:

  1. Protect the herd from predators by alarm barking.
  2. Could find or flush out the bird or grouse to be hunted.
  3. Retrieve a kill after it was shot.
  4. Kill pesky rodents and small animals that jeopardized the crops.

Desired traits which were specifically bred for in the past may not be so desired for a family pet. A lazy, relaxed calm dog was not as desirable and therefore not chosen for breeding.

Isolated Behaviors in Breeds

I recently participated in a Webinar by Ken McCort. Here are some things I took away: 

  1. Hound dogs were used to search and track, which meant their nose needed to be on the ground.
  2. Sporting dogs were used to search, stalk and point at their prey. 
  3. Herders were bred to drive and chase, and, yes, even nip at heals when needed. Example, the Corgi was encouraged to nip the heels and bred low to avoid the kick back from the hoofed animal they were moving.  Shelties were bred to bark when herding as they used noise to drive the herd.
  4. Terriers and heelers were bred to grab and hold and were even knows as “catch dogs” as this was a desired motor pattern.
  5. Retrievers were used to bring birds back to their handler using a soft mouth.

To learn more, here’s a useful link: Ken McCort, Wolf Park Educator

If you find yourself wanting to change a behavior in your dog, first

Alert but not overly aroused.

Alert and ready to hunt.

consider if this behavior is a normal one to your dog’s breed.  You may never extinguish a behavior trait that your dog was specifically bred for.  While this behavior can be modified by rewarding another behavior, you must be realistic with your expectations during the behavior modification process.  

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You are NOT invited

Posted on May 17, 2015 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Puppy, Reaction, Safety, Training |

Many dogs get a reputation for being dog aggressive, when they are IMG_1590simply responding to adolescent dogs with rude behavior.  My foster beagle was one of those very rude adolescent greeters who invades other dogs space without an invitation.  I knew he would eventually receive some feedback, I just wanted it to be an air snap or nip and not a level 3 grab and shake.

Well, it finally happened, as I approached a neighbor with a calm female labrador,  my foster boy wanted to walk right up to the labradors face who was standing tall, motionless, mouth closed tight, tail a bit high and not looking at my pup at all.  

I could easily see my boy was not being invited into the labs space, but hey, he has to learn to read his own species body language as a part of growing up, right?  So, while I slowed his approach, and his body was wiggling, the labrador showed her teeth and snapped at my dogs face, again, my foster pup wagged harder and tried to approach a bit lower and more submissive, he was once again met with lots of teeth along with an air snap.  Understood!  The beagle finally understood the labradors signals that he was not invited into her personal space!

My pup calmly walked farther away, sat down and never again IMG_1591looked at the labrador as we continued to speak to one another.  My neighbor apologized profusely and would not stop going on and on about how rude his dog was!

I let him know that it was my foster dog who was NOT invited into his dogs space! In fact, his dog was very clear when we were 20 feet away that she was not interested in visiting.  Many puppy’s and adolescent dogs need a few reminders to respect the space of others.  

IMG_0028

The Boston Terrier is getting necessary feedback from Pablo on the left. I am NOT your friend and I do not want to be social with you.

 

If your dog invades another dogs space who is looking away, standing stiff, immediately sniffs the grass or scratches himself, then he is not inviting your dog near him. This dog may send more obvious distance cues in the form of a growl or snap.  This is not aggression, it is simply normal distance cues from one dog to another, a request for one dog to move away.

 

In my experience, humans have unrealistic expectations of how our dogs should behave. How can we label dogs when most of us have very little knowledge of how dogs communicate.  If you are a dog owner, please take time to learn more about dog behavior and body language cues before saying your dog is aggressive.  It is very possible your dog is simply reacting to the other dogs rude behavior!

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Why Does My Dog Do That?

Posted on Oct 12, 2014 in Barking, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Reaction, Rescue Dog | 0 comments

Do you ever wonder why your dog performs certain behaviors or motor patterns?  I sure have! For example: Why does my dog roll on smelly things?  Why does my dog shake his toy?  Should I be worried if my dog stalks his playmate?  Why does my dog guard his bones?

IMG_5215

Hunting, for fun or survival?

Specific behaviors that are unique to our dogs are called Phylogenetic behaviors.  These behaviors, or behavior patterns, have developed over many many generations and truly have evolutionary significance to maximize reproduction and survival.  Stalking and bouncing are examples of phylogenetic behavior, as is an innate fear of loud noises.

When we think of our dogs behaviors we can summarize that all their behaviors come from three simple motivations:
1. Hunting/obtaining food
2. Safety/avoidance seeking
3. Sexual/reproductive behaviors

Behaviors observed in just the hunting motivations:   orient to sound or moving object, stare, freeze, creep, stalk, run, jump, grab, hold, shake, hold down, kill, eat, guard.

Can we change phylogenetic behaviors?  All behaviors can be modified to some degree with patience and a strong counter conditioning process.

Inherently genetic behaviors may be strong in your dog and low in my dog, as each dog has a different  genetic make up.  Such as rolling in feces, a yucky behavior to us humans, but many of our dogs do it!  Why? The science behind this behavior is that our dogs roll in animal feces or on a dead animal so they can mask their scent to better help them sneak up on their prey.  Does your dog need to stalk his prey for survival? Unlikely, but this behavior can be a strong genetic trait.

IMG_0732

Resting for the next hunt.

We know some dogs learn to play fetch just by watching another dog play fetch. This is called Social Learning.  Other dogs perform behaviors for the reward, for example my female Scottie will frequent my neighbors back yard and scan for a squirrel to come down the bird feeder. She has been successful on two occasions and enjoyed eating them as well.  Does she need to hunt for survival?  No, but this behavior is both rewarding to her, and a strong genetic trait, therefore she will repeat it.

Many dogs use hunting behavior patterns in play, others will use sexual motor patterns like mounting and neck biting to initiate play.  The point is our dogs do many behavior patterns as a result of their genetic make up. If this behavior is followed by a reward, then this behavior will most likely continue to be practiced.

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