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You know you own a separation anxiety dog when…

By Julie Naismith Life with a separation anxiety dog differs from the ideal of dog ownership many of us have. “Lassie Come Home” it isn’t.  Here are 5 ways this debilitating condition will affect your life as a dog owner, plus a few tips on how to handle the changes without losing your sanity. #1 You learn to plan way ahead for everything Once you’ve worked out your dog has separation anxiety and is in a panic whenever you go out, it gets tough to leave him. When you know the… Continued

Onset of Noise Sensitivity Might Indicate Pain in Dogs

Older dogs who develop noise sensitivity might be in pain. Other behavior changes, like a normally friendly dog showing aggression to children or dogs, have long been regarded as potential indicators of pain. But a study published in February might be the first to make the connection between the onset of noise sensitivity and pain. The researchers looked at two groups of dogs. The group they termed “clinical” had developed noise sensitivity and had diagnosed painful musculoskeletal problems. A “control” group had noise sensitivity but no known painful conditions. One… Continued

Mama Dogs Don’t Use Treats…..

By Yvette Van Veen Many people seem enamoured with the idea that we should emulate what dogs do in the wild.  “Mama dogs don’t give treats in the wild,” is one of the more common expressions.  This one carries quite a punch.  People have a natural affinity for natural. Expressions, analogies, metaphors and idioms can serve various purposes.  They can help explain, illustrate and educate.  At their best, they simplify a complex topic.  They are also used to influence and to persuade.  The “mama dog” line usually falls into the… Continued

What’s a Functional Assessment in Dog Training? (And Why You Should Care)

A lot of dog training advice you get on the Internet won’t help. Pretty strange comment coming from a dog blogger who frequently writes about training, right? But even if people recommend a humane, positive reinforcement-based approach, something is missing that can’t be done in a typical online discussion. That’s the functional assessment. A functional assessment, or functional behavioral assessment, is a method from the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). It consists of identifying the functions of a problem behavior through observation and analysis, then making a plan to… Continued

Retractable Leashes Are Risky

Judging by the number of people I see walking dogs with retractable leash devices on their dogs it appears the product is popular. They are also unsafe. As Dr. Karen Becker describes them “A retractable leash is not so much a leash as it is a length of thin cord wound around a spring-loaded device housed inside a plastic handle” in her article “10 Reasons Not to Use a Retractable Leash.” The length of the retractable cord varies from 15-30 feet, and may be locked in place. Pet stewards have… Continued

The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock in Animal Training

It is Pet Professional Guild’s (PPG) view that electric shock in the guise of training constitutes a form of abuse towards pets, and, given that there are highly effective, positive training alternatives, should no longer be a part of the current pet industry culture of accepted practices, tools or philosophies. In this position statement, PPG will combine decades of research with the opinions of certified animal behaviorists, and highlight the question of ethics to explain why using electric shock in the name of training and care is both ineffective and… Continued

Encouraging Play and Activity with Newly Blind Dogs

By Debbie Bauer When a dog loses his or her sense of sight, their whole world changes.  There are many things that dogs can do without their sight, but dogs that started out sighted and are now blind are often confused and maybe even fearful when they can no longer see.  They can’t interact with their world the way they used to. Most likely, they knew landmarks around the house and yard by sight, they knew family members by their mannerisms and how they moved, they could see the steps were… Continued

Clicker Training for Cats (5/6)

By Paula Garber and Francine Miller Introducing Cats to Each Other In a nutshell, cats should be gradually introduced to each other one sense at a time: first by scent, then by sight, and then physically. Throughout the process, positive associations are built up with the scent, sight, and physical presence of the other cat using food, play, brushing, low-key play—anything the cats enjoy. When introducing cats, you can use clicker training to help boost positive associations between them and keep them focused on you instead of each other. During… 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

A Plug for Play

By Julie Naismith Just like humans, dogs need play time too. And one of the many beautiful things having dogs has taught me is that you’re never too old to play. You might be asking: “But, where does play fit into separation anxiety training?” I am all about fixing separation anxiety dogs, I am also passionate about encouraging them to play too. Working with an anxious dog is about more than tackling the causes of anxiety. The richer a dog’s life, the more productive anxiety training becomes. Enrichment doesn’t fix separation… Continued

Talking to Dogs

A newly published study finds that dogs pay attention to both the way we talk to them and to what we say. Alex Benjamin and Katie Slocombe’s ‘Who’s a good boy?!’ Dogs prefer naturalistic dog‑directed speech looked at what they term “dog-directed speech,” or DDS, which is similar in tone and affect to baby talk. Their canine test subjects were all adult dog guests of a boarding kennel whose humans gave permission for their participation. An earlier study had played recorded human voices using baby talk and regular speech. The content of the speech… Continued

Added Brainpower!

Quite a ‘buzzword’ bandied around at the moment is ‘enrichment’, so here I’m going to take a look at what it actually means and involves. Enrichment? So lets start right there – what is enrichment? Put simply, enrichment is an all encompassing term referring to the addition of something which enhances the quality of something else.  If we put this in the context of our dog’s world, we can talk about 2 main forms; social enrichment and mental enrichment. Social Enrichment refers to enhancements we might make to our dog’s environment. … Continued

Does a Deaf (and Blind) Dog Need a Hearing Dog Buddy?

By Debbie Bauer Many people think that a deaf (or blind/deaf) dog needs to have a hearing dog to follow around.  This is usually not necessary.  Although, if you do have a hearing dog, your deaf dog will watch him closely for cues to things that are important to him – mealtimes, going for a walk, etc.  A deaf dog (or even a blind/deaf dog) will notice when the other dogs around him are getting excited, heading towards the door for a walk, or the kitchen for a treat.  In fact, sometimes it… Continued

Animal Abuse Harms People Too

If you are reading this blog then I may safely assume you are an animal lover, but sometimes love is not enough. Sometimes advocacy through direction action is required. I post this as an urgent call to action to help pass animal abuse legislation which Humane Society of the United States (Wisconsin) state director Melissa Tedrowe declared in her testimony to be a “gold standard” law. Current law has significant loopholes, as I heard Senator Wanggaard declare in a Senate hearing. For the past few weeks I have supported HSUS… Continued

Higher-Order Conditioning: Did it Happen To My Dog?

  The other day I was sitting in my bedroom with Clara and Zani and the doorbell rang. And there was dead silence. This pierced my heart. If you follow the blog, you know that I lost my dear dog Summer suddenly in August. She was wonderful beyond compare. She also barked reactively at delivery trucks, the mail carrier, anyone but me on the porch, and the doorbell. So for me, this silence was one of those dozens of daily moments where my heart ached. There was a hole where… Continued

Thunderphobia in Dogs

Thunderphobia is the fear of thunderstorms and it can be severe enough to make a dog’s life miserable.  It may be more common than you know. At least 20% of dogs suffer noise phobias including thunderphobia, according to ethologist Dr. Karolina Westlund, Ph.D.  There are about 80,000,000 dogs in the United States and if 20% suffer thunderphobia the scale of the problem is enormous. It may be even greater, as Zazie Todd, Ph.D. wrote in Companion Animal Psychology in 2013. “Dogs that responded badly to fireworks tended to also react to… Continued

The Science of Force-Free Learning: How Our Pets Learn!

Introduction Here at the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), we like to focus on building relationships with our pets by using positive reinforcement to train new skills, and to build new behaviors as replacements for problematic ones. Because the emotional brain inhibits the rational brain (and vice versa), nobody, and that includes our pets, can learn something constructive and pleasant when in a fearful or anxious state. Positive reinforcement means giving an animal access to something he desires (e.g. food or a toy), which makes it more likely he will repeat the behavior that… Continued

Clicker Training for Cats (4/6)

By Paula Garber and Francine Miller Clicker Training for Behavioral Problems: Clawing Furniture/Destructive Furniture Scratching Destructive furniture scratching is a commonly reported problem in cats, and one of the many unwanted behaviors that clicker training can help. Without going into all the reasons cats scratch (for more details on scratching, see Scratch Here, Not There, BARKS from the Guild, July 2016, pp. 25-26), it is suffice to say that cats have to scratch. It is a natural behavior that serves many purposes. Having said that, cats can certainly be taught… Continued

A Change in Routine Can Be a Shock to the System for Dogs too

By Julie Naismith Dogs and novelty don’t always mix. Although many dogs breeze through change, anxious dogs can be thrown by it. If it could talk, the stressed dog would probably say: “Ok, I was feeling good about everything, but I worry when I don’t know what’s round the corner.” Regularity can help anxious dogs become comfortable with whatever might be stressing them out, especially if the worry is only mild. But switch the routine, change even one thing, and suddenly all bets are off. Anxious dogs are continually working… Continued

Teach Old Dogs New Games

A team of researchers at the Clever Dog Lab (oh, how I’d love to work there …) at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna suggest teaching older dogs to play brain games on touchscreen computers and tablets. The articles describing the related study don’t go into details on what these Lumosity-like brain games for dogs entail (and I haven’t gotten hold of the full study yet), but that’s almost beside the point. The premise of the study is something that trainers should take and run with — in all different directions.… Continued

Give Me a Break!

A little too often I think we may demand too much  of our dogs. It’s about expectations.  If we push too much, we may ultimately push too far, and this is not good with an animal who soaks up what we give him like a sponge and internalizes everything around him. Manage Expectations I sometimes see owners with young dogs and puppies become despondent and, while it’s fabulous to have goals, owners also need to remember that they have a young dog, and that other things can take over when you’re tiny…like… Continued

Quality of Life for Blind/Deaf Dogs

By Debbie Bauer I receive a lot of great ideas for new blog posts – Thank you so much for those.  I’m always looking for ideas to write about that will be useful to each of you as readers.  One idea that truly intrigued me was to discuss what quality of life a blind and deaf dog can have.  I think it caught my interest because I had never thought about my dogs not having a good quality of life.  I began to think about how we measure quality of… Continued

Why Every Cat Needs a Place to Hide

By Dr. Lynn Bahr Has your cat ever gone MIA in your own home? I lost an entire litter of kittens once in a small 1 bedroom apartment. All five furballs disappeared while I was out running errands.  Imagine my panic and the frantic search that ensued to find them.  Where could they have gone?  I pulled out drawers, furniture, and the refrigerator to no avail. Fearing I would find them by smell weeks later, I sat on the couch to have a good cry.  That was when I heard… Continued

The Opposite of Force

I think I’ve figured something out. I continue to see the concept of choice bandied about the positive reinforcement-based training world. It can be a code word for a setup that includes negative reinforcement. “I’m going to do something physically unfamiliar or unpleasant to you and you have the choice of staying here and getting a piece of food or leaving and being relieved from whatever it is I’m doing.” I’ve suggested that this is not a laudable kind of choice; as trainers we can use our skills and take our… Continued

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