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Dog Play and Prediction Error

Dog play is comprised of “ritualized aggression”, and aggression is rooted in fear. In ritualized aggression, there are varying degrees of fear/stress/aversions, along the spectrum from slight stress to possibly full blown fear, that results in a fight or bite or an attempt to flee. The fun, enjoyable parts of the “dog play stress spectrum” are positively reinforced, and intrinsically so, by their very nature. These are behaviors that are reciprocated and or result in play being accepted by the other dogs. Play bows, shoulder rolls, invitations to be chased,… Continued

The Neurological Benefits of Counter Conditioning Leash Reactive Dogs

Creating new and better associations for dogs on leash when exposed to fearful/stressful stimuli is crucial, as it is better for all involved for the dog to be less stressed and less fearful. The goal is potentially a positive association is created, or at least less stress. When this can be achieved via counter conditioning and desensitizing dogs to these intrinsic stimuli, and many times they can be, then life is better for the humans and the dogs that have stress when on leash. This is something that, among dog… Continued

Counterconditioning Leash Reactivity, the Hybrid Approach

Leash reactivity towards dogs, humans or traffic, is one of the most challenging training endeavors. This is simply because there is no consistency in the appearance of the stimuli, and there will most assuredly be at some point, an over threshold event for the dog due to “criteria pile up”. More than one piece of criteria at a time combined with a lack of sufficient distance, too much duration, and or both, then add in the stimulus entering the environment with intensity of both the visual and auditory components known… Continued

Countering The Aversive

Some pet dog trainers that are either using aversive methods or some that call themselves “balanced”, and use a combination of both aversive approaches and food rewards, may carry the notion that positive reward based trainers are against them personally, or that are looking to have them stop training dogs. While I can only speak for myself, it is not personal at all. What it boils down to for me, and many others, is the potential fallouts of using shock or choke, and/or physically reprimanding a dog that has me and… Continued

Proper Education, Not Faulty Legislation For Pet Dog Trainers

The profession of companion, or “pet” dog training is one that requires little more than the willingness to do it and promote oneself. There is no licensing required. Let me state right up front that given the appalling lack of education and the major divisions among pet dog trainers, there cannot be proper legitimate licensing that will give consumers more assurances of quality when they choose to hire someone. It is for these reasons and a few others that I am against the licensing of any pet dog trainers in… Continued

Misconceptions of Counterconditioning Leash Reactive Dogs

Misconception #1 – Feeding a dog when they are barking or fearful reinforces the fear. Absolutely not true. You can only cause more fear by implementing more fear or pain. Fear trumps food, so if the dog is taking the food, they are not that fearful. The food is not the focus of the on leash event; the impending, approaching or sudden stimulus is the focus. This is not like a food bowl that gets kicked repeatedly or a dog that is attacked by other dogs over food, and the… Continued

Choke Is No Joke

Recently there was a great blog posted to the Pet Professional Guild called Why Prong Is Wrong. I am a big fan of the author, Diane Garrod. Diane is an awesome positive dog trainer, behavior consultant and one of the most passionate people I know about getting truthful information out to dog guardians so their lives are better with their dogs. That blog offered very good information, and some great perspectives from people that have seen the negative outcomes of choke and prong devices. Additionally, I am a big fan… Continued

What is Really Happening?

Making things up to control the environment is a large part of how the brain functions for animals and humans. Research into both animal and human cognition has shown that when there is stress in the environment that may lead to harm or has a fearful component, or perhaps you just need to get active and move, the brain kicks into survival mode and attempts to make sense of the environmental context for control. How often has the handler of reactive dogs thought they saw another dog in the distance… Continued

Not All Dog Bites Are Created Equal

Dogs bite because they have teeth is a saying among dog trainers. It is not said in the spirit of sarcasm, though in some benign cases it could be applied, it is said in an attempt to remind people, all people that dogs have teeth and they use their teeth and mouth for many aspects of their life. The point is; respect it and get used to it so you can communicate with teeth- and mouth- centric creatures in a safe and positive way. Here are some facts about dogs and… Continued

Stress and Dog Training

I’d like to thank The Pet Professional Guild for asking me to blog for their website. I feel there is no better organization for pet dog guardians or pet professionals to be members of.  I’m honored to be part of the PPG team both as a professional member and as a contributor of information via their blog roll. My blog series for PPG is geared towards the very active and very inclusive dog-human dynamic. Essentially if your companion dog is as much every part of your life as your human… Continued