Dogs share many things with humans, both in their physical and mental health. It is important to understand that your dog’s behavior may not be deliberate on the dog’s part, or a result of his environment, but a result of a type of mental illness.
A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Helsinki, found that dogs suffer from hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention similar to the behavior of humans who have ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The researchers found that a dog’s age and gender combined with the owner’s experience made a difference in the 11,000 dogs studied. Hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention were more common in young dogs and male dogs, the same as young children and males in humans.
The researchers also found that dogs suffer from an Obsessive/Compulsive type behavior that mirrors the same disorder in humans. OCD often shows up in people who suffer from ADHD as well. In dogs it can manifest itself as such behavior as: continuous tail chasing, licking objects or themselves and staring at things.
The researchers also noted that certain breeds of dog are more likely to exhibit ADHD and OCD behaviors than others.
It is important to understand that if a dog exhibits these behaviors, that they cannot help themselves and should not be punished or otherwise subjected to aversive training methods to try and change the behavior(s). If a dog exhibits ADHD or OCD related behaviors, contact a certified canine behavior consultant for help. However, it would be diligent to the prospective dog owner to carefully research different breeds and breeders. Also avoid designer breeds, they are typically not well bred and are often a mix of puppy mill stock. If anyone would like my free brochure about how to find the right breed and breeder, please feel free to contact me.
Scientists are constantly trying to understand the mind of the dog vs. the wolf. A recent study at <a href="http://<!– wp:paragraph –> <p>www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210712122206.htm</p> Duke University showed that dogs understand people almost from birth whereas wolf puppies that were raised by people within days of their birth do not.
The wolf puppies were fed, slept in bed with and thoroughly interacted with people to try and socialize them. The dog puppies were left with their mother and littermates. The wolf and dog puppies were tested between 5 and 18 weeks old.
The researchers hid a piece of food in one of two bowls and then pointed to the right one. The dog puppies knew instantly, often on the first try, to follow the clue given by the tester. The wolf puppies never were able to follow the tester’s indication, often pointing to the correct bowl.
When the food was put in a container so that the puppy could not access it, the dog puppies looked to the human tester for help but the wolf puppies did not.
According to the researchers, the ability to understand human gestures is a complex cognitive ability that is rare in the animal kingdom. So, the fact that dogs can do it is special.
Author’s Note: Researchers try to understand the process about how dogs became dogs. There are a number of theories and as more material becomes available the theories change. One theory is that dogs are not descended from wolves, even though they are closely related but a species in and of themselves. There is evidence to support this theory the same as other theories.
Some people believe that a dog’s ability to understand what a person means when they point at something is learned in adulthood through interaction with people. However, a group of researchers at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has illustrated that this is not true.
What they did find out is that while puppies are born with an understanding of human physical and verbal cues, they were not able to initiate help from people for unsolvable problems. This ability comes with experience after interacting with people.
The lead researcher, Emily Bray has spent the last decade studying the puppies bred for service dog work at Canine Companions. Bray feels that if they can understand how dogs think and solve problems, they will be able to better identify those puppies that will make better service dogs.
The researchers noted that the dogs who become successful service dogs respond to people differently than those who are not successful. Because the researchers are able to study the genetics of the puppies in the test, they hope to identify the genes that cause these traits in puppies. This will enable them to predict the potential for service work even before the puppies are born.
Almost every dog owner has experienced jealousy in their dogs. This is manifested by vocalizations, agitated behavior and pulling on a leash. What researchers have discovered is that a dog acts jealous when they imagine that their owners are interacting with a rival. What is important about this study is that when a dog acts jealous, it shows that the dog has self-awareness. The study also showed that dogs act in a similar manner as children who are jealous. Dogs are one of the few animals that have this human-like behavior.
What further illustrated the intelligence of dogs is that the dogs in the experiment only reacted to a perceived social rival and not an inanimate object. This shows that they are capable of analyzing the situation.
It is exciting to learn more about the mind of a dog. It is too bad that similar experiments cannot be conducted on cats. I personally feel that cats are at least as smart as dogs.
For a long time, dog trainers that use positive training methods have tried to convince those who use punishment or aversive methods that aversive methods are detrimental to a dog’s mental health. Now a new study has proven that positive or reward-based training is conductive to a dog’s mental well being and adverse methods compromise a dog’s well-being.
The researchers studied 92 companion dogs from 7 different dog training schools that used aversive stimuli, (this could be shock collars, pinch collars and even choke collars or negative sound devices) as well as schools that used reward-based methods (such as clicker training) and some that used mixed methods. They filmed the dogs being trained, and then they tested the saliva for stress related cortisol. They found that the dogs who were trained using aversive methods were more stressful, showing stress related behavior such as crouching and yelping. The researchers even tested the dogs in neutral environments to see if the stress level remained high. They found that the dogs trained with aversive methods were more pessimistic.
Today we have wonderful methods to teach young puppies. The best method is clicker training. This is a way to communicate exactly what you want the puppy (or older dog) to learn. It is also fun and a great way to motivate a dog to want to work with you. Clicker training is a successful, positive training method. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the technique. Note: although I refer to dogs, clicker training applies to almost all animals. I have clicker trained birds and cats.
It is very sad that many trainers still use harsh punishment methods that cause pain. Imagine if an instructor gave you a complex mathematical problem and told you to solve it. The teaching method was to jerk a rope around your neck or shock you every time you got it wrong. Eventually you would either get it right or have a complete mental breakdown from fear and frustration. Whether you got it right or wrong, how would feel about mathematics? How willing would you be to do the next problem even if you were rewarded for finally getting it right? How well would you like your instructor?
Because people are deeply bonded to their dogs, they forget that dogs do not speak our language. They have an amazing ability to watch our body language, couple it with what we say and seem to understand. But in reality, they interpret what we do based on canine language and meaning first, even though they can learn what our body and spoken language means.
Dogs love to do things with us. They want to understand us, but we can make it difficult for them. When training a dog, you must teach and show them what you want. You cannot tell them. You must not expect your dog to “get it” immediately. Puppies can be especially frustrating because they may seem to learn quickly but in a short time, sometimes hours, they act as though they forgot the lesson entirely. In reality they have not completely forgotten, they have not had enough time to practice the lesson to have it go from short term memory to long term memory. Life for a puppy and a young dog is fascinating, everything is new, exciting and distracting. It can be hard for them to focus on a lesson. This is no different than it is for young children. Like us, the more a dog learns the easier it is for them to learn new lessons. This is because the young dog has not had enough life experience to relate the new lesson to something he already knows, but the older dog has learned how to learn. They can relate it to other lessons. This is no different than the way people learn.
If you show your dog what you want and then reward him for doing it, he will be willing and happy to work with you. Most dogs try very hard to do what we want them to do. Each dog has a different personality and drive to obey. Some breeds are not as willing to obey (being biddable) as others. It is important to recognize this. Before you train your dog, be sure to understand the dynamics of his breed. If he is a mixed breed a DNA test will help you understand the genetics that are dictating his behavior.
For example, if there were a flock of sheep in a pasture and a rabbit hidden in the brush. A Border Collie would focus on the sheep even though he knows the rabbit is there. On the other hand, if a Beagle were taken to the field, he would ignore the sheep and focus on the rabbit. This is a simple example of how genetics affects behavior.
Clicker training is a way to communicate to your dog what you want him to do. The click only says “Yes, that is correct.” What is very important to remember about obedience is this: Once a dog is trained and knows what the command is, the ability to obey depends entirely on how well the dog can exercise self-control, not on how well he knows the exercise. Even people have difficulty with self-control. Think about it.
In conclusion keep these points in mind.
Understand the genetics that drive your dog.
Teach and show your dog what you want.
Do not use harsh methods.
Give your dog time to learn what you want.
Obedience depends on self-control–no one is 100%.
Self-control comes with practice.
Puppies need more time to relate to the lessons.
Reliable obedience depends on positive motivation, not fear.
The Finland program to rehome laboratory Beagles has generally been a success. The program consisted of giving the dogs socialization and training for approximately six months. However, this was not enough time for some dogs who remained timid and suffered from separation anxiety.
The dogs were used to study animal cognition and the basic workings of the canine mind. The dogs lived in packs of eight from two to eight years.
While this program is to be commended for rehoming the dogs, the question that comes up in my mind is how can researchers study the workings of the canine mind when these dogs are not living in a normal environment without normal experiences? This is food for thought about the research that makes claims about what dogs feel and how they interpret their world.
In a study with rodents and ferrets’ researchers found that using treats could mask an animal’s true intelligence. They found a difference between performance and knowledge and that there are two processes, one for
Content and one for environment. The study was conducted by Kishore Kuchibhotla, an assistant professor in The Johns Hopkins University’s department of psychological and brain sciences.
The study wanted to explore how reward-based training affects learning verses performance or behavior. Their research showed that reward-based training improved learning in steps or stages but can mask an animal’s knowledge, especially what the animal learned early in life.
The researchers hope that the results of this study and future studies will help people with Alzheimer’s Disease maintain lucidity as well as improve testing environments for children.
Reward-based training is the most humane way to train a pet, but the pet owner must recognize that the pet is more intelligent than the training demonstrates. This is evident when a pet uses the lessons he has been taught in new ways.
We know that rats in studies create new mental maps for new spatial situations such as a new maze. But scientists do not know how the animal decides when a situation is new enough to requires a new map.
No two situations are ever exactly alike, for animals as well as humans, but how much needs to change to create a new map? The scientists at MIT and Harvard postulate that they can determine this with Bayesian statistics, a mathematical model. This model can take into account individual differences in animals as well as the situation.
Understanding remapping is important because when scientists evaluate a problem or test, they do not know if the rat is thinking about experiment A or experiment B. This will change the results of the test and possibly give scientists false data which leads to conflicting, confusing or surprising results.
Communication is always a problem when people work or train animals. We cannot tell them about the context of an experiment, the animal has to make his own conclusions based on what he sees or experiences. The researchers feel that by using a probabilistic approach, they can determine how uncertainty plays a role when change occurs.
While all of these methods are a good attempt to understand the mind of animals, because if it applies to a rat it most likely applies to other animals as well. However, as I tell my clients, there are only two beings who will know for sure what is in the mind of an animal—the animal and God. No one else, but we need to keep trying.
In Dog Training Tips 2 I talked about how the type of dog, its breed(s) influence the dog’s personality and how biddable the dog is. The term biddable means how willing the dog is to obey. Some breeds are much more biddable than others. For example, most of the herding and some of the hunting breeds are very biddable. Some of the breeds classified as working dogs are biddable but some are not. The least biddable breeds tend to fall into the livestock guarding breeds and the hounds. However, this does not mean that they are less intelligent. As a matter of fact, the livestock guarding breeds are very intelligent but as a rule are bred to work independently, and alone. They must make very important decisions to protect the flock that they are guarding. Many people are attracted to these breeds because they are very quiet and calm. However, they do not make good pets. They are bred to repel an intruder regardless if it is animal or human. It takes a special person who understands this type of dog and knows how to train them to successfully own one.
Created by Bruce Ross
The hounds are another difficult breed to train. Again, not because they are less intelligent, but because they are bred to be very focused. Think of it this way. If a hound is bred and taught to hunt fox, they must only find and follow the scent of a fox. A Foxhound who is side-tracked on the fresher scent of a rabbit or deer, is no use as a Foxhound. But, some of you may say, what about Bloodhounds that look for missing people. Each person has his own unique scent. This is true, but the hound is trained to follow only human scent, whichever human scent his handler indicates. The Search and Rescue (SAR) Bloodhound will not veer off a trail to track an animal.
Because the hounds are very focused, they often block out everything else. For the pet owner, this can be frustrating because as hound owners know, when these dogs go for a walk, their noses are often on the ground taking in all of the scents. Their tendency to focus so strongly on scent, and their ability to block out everything else makes them seem to ignore the commands of their owners. The younger the dog, the harder the hound is to train because he is going to follow his instincts first. This means that the dog’s owner must exercise a lot more patience and realize that it will take much more effort on their part to motivate the hound to break his focus and listen to commands. One way to circumvent this is to use clicker training on the very young, 12-week-old puppy, before he fully develops his ability to focus on scent. All puppies have short attention spans and if you do not want to train your puppy to hunt, then this is a good time to take advantage of the puppy’s short attention span to teach him to focus on you.
Never forget, dogs do not speak human languages. Therefore, it takes patience on our part to teach them and you must take care not to repeat a command. The dog does not understand that “Sit” is one word. If you say, “Sit, Sit, Sit!” the dog will think it is all one word and never sit until you say it three times. A thought for today, did you ever wonder why dogs seem to be able to communicate to us better than we can to them?
Feel free to contact me if you have questions or if you need a certified canine behaviorist.