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Old 07-06-2012, 06:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Analyzing Dog Behavior and Puppy Behavior

Analyzing Dog Behavior and Puppy Behavior - Whole Dog Journal Article

Hang with dog folks long enough and youre sure to hear some pretty interesting theories about dog behavior. Some are, of course, useful and accurate, but the dog training world is littered with myths, many of which are at least several generations old. Some of them are just silly; some have the potential for causing serious damage to the dog-human relationship; and still others are downright dangerous. Its time to get past the myths.


It's critical that puppies be socialized to other people and other dogs, in safe public settings and well-run puppy classes. Far more dogs are euthanized due to behavior problems than illness from infectious disease.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug of Sugar Land, Texas, recently compiled a comprehensive list of dog behavior myths. With her blessing, were sharing 10 of our favorites from her list, and explaining why these busted myths should not be used as the justification for a training or behavior modification technique. I am always exhorting my interns, apprentices, and clients to be critical thinkers. When someone offers you an alleged nugget of canine wisdom, regardless of who the someone is, youre wise to run it through your own rigorous filters before accepting it as real wisdom or adopting it as the basis for a training technique. These should include:

A scientific filter. Does it make sense scientifically? If someone assures you that shock collar training is actually positive reinforcement training because the shock is no different than someone tapping you on the shoulder to get you to stop a behavior, does that concur with your understanding of positive reinforcement? (That a dogs behavior makes a good thing happen, so the behavior increases.) Dont be fooled by the euphemisms e-collar and tingle, tap, or stim for the word shock.

A philosophical filter. Is it congruent with your own philosophies about dog training and relationships? Positive punishment (dogs behavior makes a bad thing happen; behavior decreases) makes sense from a scientific standpoint. That doesnt mean you want to or have to use it with your dog, and risk the damage it can do to your relationship. Trainers with a positive training philosophy generally try to avoid the use of positive punishment, or any methods that work through the use of fear, pain, aversives, and avoidance.

An acid test filter. It may seem sound scientifically, and it may feel okay philosophically, but does it work? If youre comfortable trying it out and you dont like the results, feel free to continue on and explore why its not working or simply toss it out. Just because it works for someone else doesnt mean it has to work for you.

Now, keeping these filters in mind, lets see how some of the most common and harmful myths about canine behavior create a flawed foundation for training.

Myth #1: Puppies should not go to puppy classes/the mall/friends houses until they have had all their vaccinations at 16 weeks/6 months of age. (Fails all three tests.)

This one lands squarely at the top of the dangerous myth category. Its generally perceived as credible by new puppy owners because its often offered by the pups veterinarian.

While it appears scientifically sound on its face (an unvaccinated puppy is at risk for contracting deadly diseases!), puppies who arent properly socialized are at a much greater risk for developing behavior problems, including aggression, that are likely to shorten their lives.

The vet is right on one hand; the best way to ensure that your pup isnt exposed to dog germs is to avoid other dogs. Its certainly true that you want to prevent your pups exposure to unknown and/or possibly unhealthy dogs (and their waste). But its also critically important that your pup get lots of exposure to the rest of the world, including healthy puppies in a controlled environment, before the critical socialization period ends at 12 to 16 weeks. If he doesnt, hell be at risk of developing serious, sometimes deadly, behavior problems. (See Shoot for Early Admission, Whole Dog Journal September 2007, for more information on early education for puppies.)

In addition, during the period leading up to the age of four to six months, your pup has protection from his mothers immunities, and should receive puppy shots to cover that period of time when his mothers protection starts to decrease. Not only is it okay to take your pup places while exercising reasonable caution, you have an obligation to provide him with extensive socialization in order to maximize his chances of leading a long and happy life.

Myth #2: Dogs pull on leash, jump up on people, (add your own) because they are dominant. (Fails scientific and philosophical tests.)

Like the first myth discussed, this one can be dangerous, because those who believe this myth are likely to believe that they need to use forceful methods to assert their status over their dominant dogs.

No one disputes that dogs living in a group understand and respond to the concepts and dictates of a social hierarchy. The fact that canine social structures share elements with human social structures is probably one of the reasons that dogs make such wonderful companions for us. However, most experts in animal behavior today believe that canine social hierarchies are much more based on deference than dominance, and that most canine behavior that many misguided humans attribute to dominance . . . isnt!

A dogs goal in life is to make good stuff happen. Behaviors often labeled dominant because they are perceived as pushy and assertive like pulling on leash and jumping up simply persist because the dog has learned that the behaviors are reinforced; they make good stuff happen. Pulling on leash gets her where she wants to go. Jumping up gets attention. Behaviors that are reinforced continue, and even increase but they have nothing to do with social status.

If you remove all reinforcement for the unwelcome behaviors (pulling makes us stop; jumping up makes attention go away) and reinforce more appropriate behaviors in their place, the dog will change her behavior.

Myth #3: If you let your dog sleep on the bed/eat first/go through doors first/win at tug-o-war, he will become the alpha. (Fails all three tests.)

This one is mostly just silly. Some sources even suggest that the entire family must gather in the kitchen and take turns buttering and eating a cracker before the dog can be fed. Seriously!

See Myth #2 for the mythbusting response to this one. If you dont want your dog on the furniture, thats your lifestyle choice, but you dont need to defend it with the alpha-garbage argument. I feed my dogs before I eat so I dont have to feel guilty about them being hungry while I fill my own belly. I teach my dogs to sit and wait for permission to go through the door (say please!) because its a polite, safe behavior and reinforces deference, but not because Im terrified that theyll take over the house. And I like to win tug-o-war a lot because it reinforces polite behavior. You can quit worrying about your dog becoming alpha just because you dont rule with an iron first.

If you are concerned that your dog is too pushy you can implement a Say Please program, where your dog asks politely for all good things by sitting a nice, polite, deference behavior (see Be a Benevolent Leader, Whole Dog Journal August, 2003). If you think your dog is potentially aggressive, its even more important to avoid conflict; your attempts to physically dominate him are likely to escalate his aggression rather than resolve it. (See Biscuits, Not Rolls, July 2006.) If aggression is a real concern, we recommend you consult with a qualified, positive behavior professional who can help you modify your dogs behavior without the use of force.

Myth #4: Dogs cant learn from positive reinforcement. You have to punish them so they know when they are wrong. (Fails scientific and philosophical tests; fails acid test unless punisher is very skilled.)

This myth has good potential for causing serious harm to the canine-human relationship. Research confirms what positive trainers hold dear: that positive reinforcement training is more effective and has far fewer risks than positive reinforcement training combined with positive punishment.

One study, conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK and the University of Life Sciences in Norway, evaluated whether punishment was a contributor to behavior problems, and examined the effects of reward, punishment, and rule structure (permissiveness/strictness and consistency) on training and behavior problems. Information was collected via questionnaires from 217 dog guardians. Those who used strong and/or frequent punishment had a significantly higher level of training problems and lower obedience in their dogs. A similar study, conducted at Britains University of Bristol, also found that dogs trained only with positive reinforcement exhibited fewer problem behaviors.

For most humans, this makes sense. Do you learn better if someone acknowledges (and rewards) you when you do it right, or slaps you upside the head when you do it wrong? Even if you get rewarded for doing it right, if you also get slapped for doing it wrong, your fear of getting slapped will likely impede your learning and make you more reluctant to try things.

Of course, a good positive training program makes use of management to avoid giving the dog opportunities to be reinforced for unwanted behaviors, and will also make judicious use of negative punishment (dogs behavior makes a good thing go away) to let him know he made an unrewarding behavior choice.

For more information on why training programs that utilize positive reinforcement are most effective, see Were Positive, January 2007.

Myth #5: If you use treats to train, you will always need them. (Fails all three tests.)

This just isnt true. A good positive training program will quickly fade the use of food as a constant reinforcer while moving to a schedule of intermittent reinforcement and expanding the repertoire of reinforcers to include things like toys, play, petting, praise, and the opportunity to perform some other highly reinforcing behavior.

Treats can be a very high-value reinforcer and quite useful in training a wide variety of behaviors, so its plain silly to turn your back on them. Just be sure to fade food lures quickly in a training program, move to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement when your dog will perform a behavior on cue 8 out of 10 times, and incorporate a variety of reinforcers so youre never dependent on any one particular reward choice. (For more information about how some people might fail when applying positive training techniques the wrong way, see Positive Mistakes, May 2007.)

Myth #6: A dog who urinates inside/destroys the house/barks when he is left alone does so because he is spiteful. (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)

This myth definitely causes harm to the dog-human relationship. Dogs dont do things out of spite, and to think so gives owners a negative perspective on their relationship with their canine family member. Dogs do things because they feel good, they work to make good stuff happen (or to make bad stuff go away), or because they are reacting to events that occur in their environment. While our dogs share much the same range of emotions as we humans, they dont seem to indulge in all the same motives. Spite requires a certain amount of premeditation and cognitive thinking that science doesnt support as being evident in the canine behavior repertoire.


Dogs beg if they have been rewarded for it, whether itfs with human food or dog food.

There are two rational explanations for the behaviors described in this myth. The first is that the dog isnt fully housetrained and hasnt yet learned house manners. In the absence of direct supervision, the dog urinates when he has a full bladder (an empty bladder feels good) and becomes destructive because playing with/chewing sofa cushions, shoes, ripping down curtains, tipping over the garbage, and barking are fun and rewarding activities.

The other explanation is that the dog suffers from some degree of isolation distress. These behaviors are often a manifestation of stress and the dogs attempt to relieve his anxiety over being left alone. If your dog regularly urinates (or worse) in the house or destroys things when he is left alone, he may be suffering from a moderate degree of isolation distress, or more severe separation anxiety. This condition can worsen without appropriate management. For more information, see Relieving Anxiety, August 2001 and consider a consultation with an animal behavior specialist.

Myth #7: If you feed a dog human food, he will learn to beg at the table. (Fails all three tests.)

This is silly! One dog owners begging is anothers attention behavior, eagerly sought-after and highly valued. Behaviors that are reinforced continue and/or increase. If you fed your dog his own dog food from the table, he would learn to beg at the table. It has nothing to do with what type of food hes being fed! If you dont want your dog to beg at the table, dont feed your dog from the table.

Whole Dog Journal readers know full well that human-grade food is better for dogs than much of the junk thats in many brands of dog food. Whether its fed in a form that we recognize as something we might consume, or its been transformed into something that more resembles our mental concept of dog food, it all still comes from the same basic food ingredients.

Myth #8: He knows he was bad/did wrong because he looks guilty. (Fails all three tests.)

This myth is damaging to the relationship, as it leads owners to hold dogs to a moral standard that they arent capable of possessing. When a dog looks guilty, he is most likely responding to a humans tense or angry body language with appeasement behaviors. Hes probably thinking something like, I dont know why, but my human looks upset. Id better offer some appeasement behaviors so her anger isnt directed at me! Even when the guilty expression is a direct and immediate result of your dogs behavior because your punishment was timely Hey! Get out of the garbage! your dogs turned head, lowered body posture, averted eyes are simply an acknowledgement of your anger and his attempt to reconcile with you.

A trainer friend of mine once did an experiment to convince a client that her dearly held guilty look belief was a myth. He had the client hold her dog in the living room while he went into the kitchen and dumped the garbage can on the floor, strewing its contents nicely around the room. Then he had the client bring the dog into the kitchen. Sure enough, the dog acted guilty even though he had nothing to do with the garbage on the floor. He just knew from past experience that garbage on floor turned his owner into an angry human, and he was already offering appeasement behavior in anticipation of her anger, and to divert her ire from his dog-self. (For more information about canine body language, see I Submit, April 2006.)

Finally, most owners who have punished a dog for something that was done in their absence can attest to the fact that the punishment generally does not prevent the dog from repeating the behavior another time. What does work is simple management. Put the garbage somewhere that the dog cant get to it; under a sink with a safety latch on it, for example. Keep counters clear of anything edible. Leave the dog in a part of the house that is comfortable but not easily destroyed. Hire a dog walker to come by in the middle of your dogs longest days home alone to let him out, give him some stress-relieving exercise, and leave him with a food-filled chew toy. These actions will result in an intact home and a dog who is not afraid to greet you when you return.

Myth #9: The prong collar works by mimicking a mother dogs teeth and her corrections. (Fails the scientific and philosophical tests.)

Its a little discouraging to think that people actually believe this myth. It would be silly if it werent so potentially damaging to the relationship and potentially dangerous as well.

Prong collars work because the prongs pressing into the dogs neck are uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. Because dogs will work to avoid pain and discomfort, the prong collar does work to stop a dog from pulling on the leash, and can shut down other undesirable behaviors as well, at least temporarily. However, like all training tools and techniques that are based on pain and intimidation, there is a significant risk of unintended consequences.

In the case of the prong collar, the primary risk is that the dog will associate the pain with something in his environment at the time he feels it, and this can lead to aggression toward the mistakenly identified cause. A dogs unmannerly, I want to greet you lunge toward another dog or person can turn into, I want to eat you, if he decides that the object of his attention is hurting him.

If you have used or are considering the use of a prong collar to control your dog, please consult with a qualified positive behavior consultant to learn about more effective and less potentially harmful methods.

Myth #10: Aggressive/hand-shy/fearful dogs must have been abused at some point in their lives. (Fails the scientific test.)

This is a very widespread myth; I hear it so often it makes my brain hurt. Fortunately, while the behaviors described in this myth are problematic, the myth itself may be the most benign of our top 10.

There are many reasons a dog may be aggressive, hand-shy, or fearful. Lack of proper socialization tops the list, especially for fearfulness. If a pup doesnt get a wide variety of positive social exposures and experiences during the first 12 to 14 weeks of his life, hes likely to be neophobic afraid of new things for the rest of his life (see Myth #1). This neophobia manifests as fear, and for some dogs, as fear-related aggression.

Widely accepted categories of aggression include:

Defensive (fear-related) aggression
Possession aggression (resource-guarding)
Maternal aggression
Territorial aggression
Status-related aggression
Pain-related aggression
Protection aggression
Predatory aggression
Play aggression
Idiopathic (we dont know what causes it) aggression

Note that theres no category for abuse-related aggression. Abuse can be one of several causes of fear-related/defensive aggression, but is much less common than the fear-related aggression that results from undersocialization.

Regardless of the cause of a dogs fearful or aggressive behavior, a myth-corollary to our Myth #10 is that love alone will be enough to fix the problem. While love is a vital ingredient for the most successful dog-human relationships, it takes far more than that to help a fearful dog become confident, or an aggressive one become friendly. For more about rehabilitating a chronically fearful dog, see Fear Itself, April 2007.
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Old 07-06-2012, 07:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Be VERY cautious with myth#1! While puppies do need to get out and be socialized. Parvo is a deadly, nasty disease that has had a resurgence lately, and it is often manifesting in an even more severe form than its norm-which was already deadly! Be especially careful in outdoor public places where a dog is most likely to encounter contaminated stool.
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Old 07-07-2012, 08:08 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Old 07-07-2012, 07:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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No, dont worry about it. You are getting protection from ONE SHOT. New duration of immunity studies have shown that the longer you wait to vaccinate - ie 8-10 weeks old the better protection your vaccination will have. Vaccinating at 6-8 weeks isn't advised becuase the natural immunity from the mom dog will attack the vaccine and make it ineffective. It's also showing that one vaccine can offer lifetime protection.

What people need to do is learn about vaccines and how effective they really are. It's ok to socialize your puppy after ONE VACCINE.


http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonli...ialization.pdf

Puppy Vaccinations vs Socialization
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Prevention is Kinder then Destruction. Spay and Neuter. BE EDUCATED. If you breed, breed RESPONSIBLY 8,109 homeless beagles on Petfinder right now. Why are their breeders not stepping up? http://www.wonderpuppy.net/1breeding.php
Research, All I can do is open new doors for you to explore. Act and buy responsibly, your choice is the future of the breed. http://www.learntobreed.com/

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Old 07-08-2012, 09:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines - Rabies Challenge Fund

http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com...not-better.pdf

http://www.americanwaterspanielclub....e_Vaccines.pdf

http://www.abrl.org/files/vaccinesWDJ0808.pdf
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Prevention is Kinder then Destruction. Spay and Neuter. BE EDUCATED. If you breed, breed RESPONSIBLY 8,109 homeless beagles on Petfinder right now. Why are their breeders not stepping up? http://www.wonderpuppy.net/1breeding.php
Research, All I can do is open new doors for you to explore. Act and buy responsibly, your choice is the future of the breed. http://www.learntobreed.com/

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Old 07-10-2012, 08:55 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Excellent post!!! Thank you!!!!

Classic dog training books (tried and true):

When Good Dogs Do Bad Things by Siegal and Margolis

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) by the Monks of New Skete
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Old 07-10-2012, 06:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljas View Post
Excellent post!!! Thank you!!!!

Classic dog training books (tried and true):

When Good Dogs Do Bad Things by Siegal and Margolis

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) by the Monks of New Skete
Agreed 100%!
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Old 12-25-2012, 10:20 PM   #8 (permalink)
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TY for this encouraging post. There is indeed much advice and I've heard almost everyone of those myths in the two weeks I've had my beagle. I am concerned with my beagles behavior and will make the effort to socialize him this week, I believe he is 12-14 weeks.Not entirely sure on the birth date. Wish me luch , thank you.
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