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In his book, “Dog Psychology: The Basis of Dog Training”, Leon F. Whitney, D.V.M., describes the varying needs that dogs experience throughout their lifetimes. There are the basics; like food, play, and shelter, but then there is the most prevailing need of all animals, “the need to escape”. While dogs are beloved members of our families, they are essentially “modified wild animals” as Whitney puts it; meaning they too can be overwhelmed and driven by the need to flee potentially dangerous situations and or people.
Whitney argues that dogs learn at a very early age to fear and avoid certain objects and animals, and that this learned behavior is carried over into a fear of humans. However, it is possible to overcome this innate shyness with careful training. The author goes on to tell a very enlightening story of his Redbone coonhound, Tall Boy. Tall Boy was frightened at the sound of the gun firing when they went hunting and would run off, not to be seen for days. This behavior was, of course, problematic for Whitney who needed the dog to hunt with. So, he cleverly devised a plan to override this fear-reaction by replacing the negative association of the gunshot with a happier one. The next time they went out together, the dog chased a raccoon into the tree and barked, signaling to Whitney it was time to shoot. Tall Boy was chained at this point, and thus could not escape when the gun was fired. He jolted, but quickly overcame his fear and ran up to shake the raccoon that had fallen from the tree. Whitney repeated this process later that same day and Tall Boy’s fear already seemed to be dissipating. While he still jerked at the sound of the gunshot, he didn’t have nearly the same reaction as the very first time he heard the frightening sound. The author reasoned that the dog had learned to associate the sound of the gun with the happy experience of a raccoon falling from a tree and that this positive connection was able to override the negative one.
Whitney argues that this process has wonderful applications for training. He points out that many shy dogs fear humans, and that this fear is difficult to surpass, even by treating the dog with love and respect. He says that the dog may even still exhibit this fear behavior once any actual, instinctual fear of its owner has receded. However, Whitney’s successful training of his own dog, Tall Boy, can be applied to help a dog overcome his wariness of humans as well. By properly utilizing his technique, and creating a positive association with an originally fearsome stimulant, much can be accomplished and the “need to escape” can be successfully overcome.
Whitney, L. F. 1. (1971). Dog psychology: The basis of dog training. New York: Howell Book House.
Typically, two dogs will only engage in an aggressive altercation if the owner of both dogs is in close physical proximity to them. Away from their owner and on their own, dogs understand their position quite well. However, with owners present, the normally submissive dog forms a mental alliance with the owner, changing the dynamic. This alliance boosts the confidence of the typically submissive dog which triggers an attempt to assert itself over the other dominant dog. This phenomenon is reinforced by the fact that fights rarely occur in the absence of owners.
Check out the podcast on News Talk 1010′s Animal House where I answer some questions.
Every day, working K-9′s spend a great deal of time diligently working to protect and serve their owners. For many of these dogs, the majority of their day is also spent outside. Unfortunately, every year, countless working dogs become ill, and many even die from heat exposure while they are on the job. Understanding the prevalence of this issue and how to help dogs avoid this life-threatening condition, can save countless working animals from falling victim to serious health issues.
Canine pet owners with a dog or even a kennel of dogs need to be well aware of the exercise needs of their companions. Pet owners should attempt to calculate the number of yards that each of their pets runs during the day. Many are surprised to figure out just how little activity their pets actually get in a single day. Apartment dogs and canines in smaller homes often move less than 100 yards a day. Even dogs that go for leashed walks often only clock in approximately a quarter mile of exercise in a day, which is low for most dog breeds. Even pets who have access to kennel runs may only move 100 yards in a day if they are not using the space to run or get exercise. Another dog in the same run could potentially run as much as ten or twelve miles a day, but the dog would need a certain amount of drive in order to travel that distance daily on his own .
There is a distinct difference in the memory capacity of dogs as compared to that of humans. One of the key differences in the memory capacity of dogs as opposed to humans is that dogs can only hold an image in their mind for a few short hours, and they do not have the ability to recall those images later on. After a few hours, the image in the dog’s brain gets crowded out. People on the other hand, think by images.
The theory behind this notion has been tested in different experiments, particularly one where an experimenter tested dogs’ abilities to recall memories. The dog involved with the experiment was leashed, and about nine yards away, the experimenter placed a piece of meat underneath one of three containers, in full view of the dog. The experimenter waited no more than 30 minutes and released the dog to determine if he could remember which container had the meat in it.
The dogs participating in the experiment eventually learned to open a cage in one particular way to access meat, and in another way to access bread, in situations where they could see the food first. A wolf was tried in the same experiment, and failed to remember the location of the meat in instances where he was restrained for more than five minutes. Ultimately, the author of this study found that dogs were able to remember exactly how to open wire doors during the experiment. However, when the food was not provided as a stimulant, the dogs did not remember what they obtained as a result of their actions.
This, of course, impacts the question many owners and trainers have about dogs and their ability to remember their absent masters. Based on the information found in this study, a dog is likely not able to remember and reflect about an absent master. The dog will look for the master at the accustomed time, and will also be able to remember and recognize the owner based on his movement. The dog will not sit and reflect on the absence of his master, until the proper triggers are put in place.
One of the fundamental building blocks of successful canine training, is a process known as chaining. This process involves dogs responding or reacting to a certain stimulus, that may also be the stimulus for another response. Dogs think differently than humans, and much of their lives are filled with a series of chain reactions. Understanding chaining or how these chain reactions work can be instrumental in the successful training of any canine.
Adding a dog to your home can be exciting for any family. However, these pets are also a big responsibility, as canine companions require a great deal of time and attention, particularly when it comes to training. Over the years, thousands of pet owners have struggled with the responsibility of training their dog. However, research has found that there are certain approaches to behavioral training that are more effective than others. One of the most utilized and proven solutions are to use positive reinforcement during training.
Effectively training your dog to be a happy, healthy and well behaved member of your family is about more than just learning tricks or commands. Training begins with understanding the basic psychology of your pet.
Understanding the basics of dog psychology can help you and your canine companion engage in more effective communication, and help make the training process easier on you both.