Dogs anticipate what they will find at the end of a scent trail

A new test conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (Institute of Psychology) at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena illustrated that dogs have a mental picture or an expectation of what they will find at the end of a scent trail based on the scent of the object.

The test was conducted on dogs (police and search and rescue dogs) trained to follow a scent as well as pets not trained to follow a scent. Both groups showed surprise when the object that they found was not the one used to lay the scent trail.


Although this test was not intended to illustrate the mind of the dog, this is further evidence of the mental abilities of dogs showing that they anticipate what will happen in the future based on their surroundings. Many dog owners have seen this behavior in relation to other events. An example is the dog who can anticipate the arrival of a family member when that person comes home at about the same time every day.

It is exciting to anticipate what future studies will show us about the mind of animals.


Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true when dealing with separation anxiety in dogs. The best thing an owner can do is prevent it from developing.

Most cases of separation anxiety occur in dogs that have a genetic predisposition for it and is enhanced or caused by the owner. This is why two dogs can live in the same home and one will suffer from this anxiety and another will not.


The genetic predisposition for separation anxiety is not limited to any breed, type or sex of dog. Preventing it is almost the same as the method to cure it. So we will talk about it in general.

Whether you get a puppy or adopt a dog, the procedure is the same. Although it is hard to resist a new puppy or cute older dog, the new dog should be left alone while at home. Puppies need lots of down time to rest and sleep.

A dog’s growth rate is much faster than humans and puppies need to sleep a lot. A new adopted or older dog needs time to adjust to their new home. The stress of a new home can tire them so they may need a bit more down time as well.  The best rule of thumb is to let the dog solicit interaction rather than force it on the dog. This is especially important if there are youngsters in the home.

Do not hold, carry or dote on the dog. Let the dog be a dog, no matter what size it is. A dog can become addicted to too much tactile stimulation. Like any addiction, the craving can be there but at the same time it is not a pleasant experience. This explains why a dog may solicit interaction from the owner and then bite the owner for responding. This is especially true for small dogs where the owner likes to cuddle and carry the dog around.

Do not make a fuss over the dog when you leave home or return. Dramatic arrivals and departures only arouse the dog and build stress. Simply leave and return home without saying or doing anything.

Leave soft music on when you leave home. Classical music works best or easy listening music. No other kind is good for dogs. Along with the music leave a chew toy for the dog. Only use the kind that you stuff with treats where the dog must work to get them out. Stuffed Kong toys or cube toys work very well. Never give your dog greenies, rawhide, pig ears, cow hooves or bones. They can seriously injure or kill your dog.

Make sure that your dog gets a good walk or exercise before you leave and is taken out when you return to “do his business.” If the dog has to relieve himself after you leave it will cause stress. If the dog has to have an accident while you are gone it can also cause stress, as well as if the dog has to wait to be taken out when you come home.

Feed your dog twice a day with a high quality dog food such as Wysong or Annamaet. Nothing that you buy in the super market or discount store is good for your dog. Poor quality food can contribute to stress in your dog. Some foods are loaded with sugar, dyes and roughage that can raise your dog’s stress level and act as a diuretic and laxative .

If your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety then work with the dog over a few days when you will be home. Start by leaving the dog for a few minutes and quickly returning. You can do this every fifteen minutes to a half an hour.

As the dog adjusts, you can leave the dog for five minutes, six minutes and work up to fifteen minutes. You may have to drive away from the house since some dogs will figure out that you are standing on the other side of the door or nearby.  If you can devote a whole weekend to this procedure you may be able to leave him for a normal work day.

Make sure that you change your routine for leaving the house. The dog will learn your routine and become anxious as soon as they see the signs that you are leaving. Dogs notice things such as when you brush your teeth, comb your hair, take a shower, pick out clothes and lastly, picking up your car keys. Examine the order you do things before you leave and change the order. This way the dog cannot determine when you are going to leave. An example would be picking up your car keys before you eat breakfast.

If your dog is destructive you may have to teach the dog to stay in a very large crate for his own protection. If this is not possible because the dog tries to get out to the point where he hurts himself it is time to call a certified canine behavior consultant. The behavior consultant will determine if the dog needs to see a veterinarian for medications and will develop a plan to work with the problem. You can find a behavior consultant at

Last of all and equally important, if your dog does something you do not like, do not yell or punish the dog. This will only elevate his stress levels and make his separation anxiety worse. Ignore any damage the dog has done. He will not know that you are angry at what he did awhile ago but associate your anger as part of your return.

With a little understanding, work and help if necessary, you can make your dog’s life much less stressful.

Road-Tripping With Dogs: How to Keep Your Pooch Safe and Active on the Road by guest blogger Cindy Aldridge


Your dog is always up for an adventure, whether it’s a quick walk around the block or a trip to the park. But planning a road trip with your four-legged friend requires a little extra preparation. Here’s what you need to do to keep your pup safe, happy, and active on the road.

See Your Vet

Before any trip, make sure your dog’s microchip information and ID tag are up to date. You can print a new ID tag at most pet stores, but changing microchip information  is a little more complicated. Your vet can help you retrieve microchip data so you can update your information with the manufacturer.

If you plan to board your dog at any point during your trip, he’ll need up-to-date rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella vaccinations. Check with your vet to see if your dog is due for shots and request a copy of his records.

Buy Safe Seating

It may be common to leave dogs loose in the car, but it’s far from safe. Your dog could get hurt in a crash or become a projectile that injures you and your passengers. The safest way for your dog to ride is restrained in the back seat. Put him in the front seat, and he could get hurt by airbags; place him in the cargo area, and he’ll be directly in the crumple zone.

There are two options for safe canine seating. For maximum peace of mind, choose a product certified  by the Center for Pet Safety. These options are:

A crate: A sturdy crate secured to your vehicle keeps your dog in place and protects him in an accident.

  • A harness seat belt: A harness seat belt connects to car seat belts so your dog doesn’t go flying during a crash.

Train Your Travel Companion

In addition to brushing up on basic obedience,  spend time building your dog’s car confidence before your trip. He’ll need help getting used to his new harness or crate and learning how to behave in the car.

Start by introducing the crate or harness at home, not in the car. When your dog is in the restraint, praise him and give treats to encourage a positive association. Then, start using it in the car. Go on short drives at first and gradually build up to longer trips. Make your destinations somewhere fun so he looks forward to car rides. Provide a toy to keep him happy in the back seat and use the quiet command to stop excited whining. If he’s whining out of anxiety, take your training back a step.

Exercise on the Go

Roadside rest stops aren’t enough to keep your dog happy on long trips—and even if they were, what fun is that? One of the best parts of road tripping with your dog is finding fun places to explore along the way. Here’s are a few ideas for outdoor activities  you can do on the road:

Plan a pet-friendly route. Green spaces are few and far between on major highways. Rather than trying to cover the most ground each day, plan a route that provides plenty of stopping points.

  • Go on a hike. Roadtrippers is a travel planning platform that makes it easy to find state parks and forests along your route. Carve out a couple of hours for a fun hike or trail run with your pooch.
  • Find a dog park. If your dog is a social butterfly or crazy to play fetch, check out to locate dog parks so you can play without risking an escape.
  • Go for a run. A morning run tires your dog out so he’s well-behaved in the car. Look for multiuse trails or high schools that open their tracks to the public outside of school hours.

Having an adventure companion is one the best parts of being dog owner. But while you may have visions of your pooch with his head out the window and wind in his fur, that’s not the safest option for you or your dog. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find excitement on the road. Focus on safety while your car is in motion and make lots of stops for fun and bonding along the journey.

Image via Unsplash  

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting

K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search Dog Training Problems by Susan Bulanda, publisher, Brush Education, ISBN: 978-1-55059-736-3 Autographed copies available at also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


My new book is now available! This book will help both the seasoned and inexperienced K9 handler. Many SAR units use a one-size-fits-all training method. When it does not work, they often do not know how to solve the training problem. This book explains how to fix those problems. Every dog is unique and what works for one dog may not work for another. Sometimes a small change in technique is all that is needed. Other times the handler is sending the wrong signal to the dog.

Getting the right dog or puppy is critical to the dog’s success. The book explains how to find the right breeder and puppy for SAR work. The way the puppy is handled during its stages of development can influence how the adult dog will react to training. If a handler is training an older dog, its early experiences can explain some of the training issues that a handler may have.

The book also explains the intelligence of dogs including the latest research about how they perceive life, their emotions and how they react to their owners. This knowledge will help a handler relate to their dog and recognize the message that they send to their dog. Although this book is written for SAR dogs, the information in it applies to all types of dog training, especially for working dogs.

The chapters include:

Finding a good SAR dog; Why dogs have training problems; What is scent; The uncontaminated scent article; Cross train a dog; SAR dog training methods; SAR dog training problems; and an appendix about the nature of scent.

Please Spread the Word!



All dogs bite!

All dogs bite at one time or another. However, most people do not realize that there are different types of bites. Unfortunately, many dogs have lost their homes, lives or been restricted due to the misunderstanding and misinformation about dog bites.

Dogs used their mouths the same as we use our hands. Puppies mouth everything. Human human babies will put everything in their mouths similar to puppies. The mouth is a very sensitive part of the body, perhaps the most sensitive. The mouth can taste, feel texture, heat, cold, size and shape.


The mouth and tongue are so sensitive that the smallest bump or lump in a person’s mouth often feels like a boulder or a cracked tooth feels like a canyon. We have to assume that dogs have the same or similar capabilities. However, dogs do not have the same capability to taste as humans do. They have about 1,706 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000. A dog’s taste buds are located at the tip of their tongue. They can taste bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Their choice of what they eat depends more on their sense of smell than taste.

Dogs use their mouths to manipulate objects, carry objects, groom themselves and/or companions, to show affection, as a means of correcting another dog, as a way to get another animal or person away from them (distance increasing), and to vocalize. One of the most affectionate things a dog may do is nibble the object of their affection. This is a very gentle nibbling using the small front teeth.

Sometimes dogs will grab a person to try and lead them somewhere, such as a door if they have to go out. This is like a person taking another person by the hand to guide them.

Bites often happen in a few seconds. It may be difficult for an untrained person to analyze a bite because you must consider the dog’s body language and the circumstances that happened just before and after the bite. Dogs also can give mixed signals. For example, a dog can act aggressively and at the same time fearfully. The dog’s life experience including training will influence what and how they bite. However, below is a general explanation of dog bites.

Dog bites follow a progression if, as a puppy, the dog has been allowed to learn how to properly act socially with other dogs. An adult dog will first give a warning look, whether it is a puppy, another animal or person. If that does not work, next are warning growls or vocalizations. (Never correct a dog for growling, you will remove an important warning, forcing the dog to go directly to a bite.) If a puppy does not heed the body language and then the vocal warning of an older dog, the dog may give the puppy an open mouth correction. This is when the older dog will “hit” the puppy with his mouth open but does not bite.

The next level is the nip. In human terms, it would be equal to a pinch. It is typically done with the little front teeth. It is a corrective measure used to stop the unwanted behavior or to communicate the message to get away or back off.

If the nip does not work the next bite will be a full mouth bite but a quick release and often not bearing down hard. This type of bite may result in a bruise or small puncture. This is also a request to back off or get away. The dog is trying to increase the distance between himself and who he bit. It is also the type of bite that a fearful dog may employ. It could be a defensive or corrective bite.

If that does no work the next bite may have increased pressure resulting in a deeper puncture or larger bruise. It is also a distance increasing bite or a fear bite.

The aggressive bite that the enraged dog or the dog who is truly aggressive will use is a bite and hold or a bite, hold and shake. These are the bites that are dangerous where the dog typically intends to hurt.

A dog that has developed strong bite inhibition, may put his mouth on a person if he is in pain. Often that is a reflex and when the dog realizes that his mouth is on a person will either stop before making contact or not put any pressure in the bite. Other times a dog who is in pain may bite. This should not be held against the dog. Also, a dog that is enraged or upset about something may do what is called redirected aggression. This also a reflex where the dog will bite whatever is near him when he cannot get to the object of his anger.

The other situation where a dog will bite because of reflex is if the dog is engaged in a fight with another animal and a person tries to grab the dog to pull him away. The dog will bite not realizing that it is not the animal he is fighting but a person. This also should not be held against the dog. In these cases of reflex biting, the humans that are working with the dog should expect it and take precautions to avoid being bitten. The only breed of dog that has been bred not to bite a human when engaged in a fight are the bully breeds, such as Pitbull Terriers.

How likely a dog will bite depends on the breed (or mix) of the dog, the lines of the breed, how well the breeder and then the owner socialized the dog and the dog’s training. Some breeds of dog are less tolerant and quicker to bite than others.

Children are often bitten in the face because they are at face level with dogs. Children of all ages should be taught how to interact with dogs and carefully monitored always. A dog that bites a child due to a reflex action is rarely forgiven even though in most cases the dog is not an aggressive dog by nature.

It would do the dogs and dog owners a great service if the dog owners studied canine body language and learned to understand their dogs. Children should be taught how to interact with dogs. Studies have shown that children can recognize when a dog is angry but not when they are fearful.

There are two excellent resources that help the dog owner learn how to read dog body language.

  1. What is My Dog Saying? By Carol A. Byrnes,
  2. The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs

Therapy dogs for Alzheimer’s and related Dementia’s

Connections: Animal Assisted Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias by Pam Osbourne, ISBN: 78-0-9993761-0-2, 144 pgs., $19.95, self-published

This is a great book for people who want to become involved in animal assisted therapy or who are already involved. The book is divided into three major parts with subsections in each part. It starts with the author’s personal experience with her parents and how their pet dog helped them. This section helps the reader understand more about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the way is changes a person’s life and how to recognize the symptoms.

Part II explains what it takes to have your pet dog become a therapy dog. It outlines how the dog can help someone suffering from these diseases. The book also tells people who do not have access to an animal assistance group what to train their dog to do to be a therapy dog. The book does not outline how to train the dog, only what to train the dog.

Part III I feel is the best part of the book. It gives the reader a collection of activities that the handler can have the dog do to engage the patients. Each game or activity has a colored graph that shows the suitability of each game for the cognitive/functional impairment level of the patient.

51qC-KD4KGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Overall this is a unique book that can be a huge help for the handler and the therapy dog. The print, page and text quality of the book are good. It includes many color photos that show dogs performing the activities listed. However, many people will need the help of a professional dog trainer to teach the dog some of the activities listed in the book.

Excessive barking in dogs

A dog who barks excessively can be a nuisance to neighbors as well as the dog’s owners. Some breeds tend to bark more than others. Often the herding breeds can be barkers because some breeds have been bred to manage livestock by barking, such as the Bearded Collie. Other breeds are bred to bark or “sound” such as hounds. If excessive barking is a problem for your situation, consider the breed traits before you get a dog by researching whether or not that breed or type of dog tends to be a barker.


If you already have a dog who barks, there are steps you can take to control the barking. Some people are concerned that if they teach their dog not to bark that the dog will not alert them when necessary. This is not true. If there is a real reason to bark a dog will do it even if he is taught not to bark.

The best time to start training a dog not to bark excessively is when they are puppies. But even if your dog is older, you can still teach the dog not to bark excessively. A good positive obedience program will help build the communication between you and your dog so that you can teach your dog to be quiet on command. An obedience program will help your dog understand what you want and will build the relationship between you and your dog.

To control excessive barking, start by determining why the dog is barking. Some dogs bark for attention, some out of boredom, sometimes there are wild animals (such as squirrels) or birds outside a window that tease the dog, and some dogs bark to lure another dog or pet to play.

The first step is to remove the stimulus that causes the dog to bark. Next exercise your dog to the point where he comes in and flops down for a nap. Depending on the breed you may have to do this a few times a day, especially for a younger dog.

Next when the dog is quiet, teach the dog to speak on command. Once the dog will speak offer a treat at the same time you give the command “quiet.” Give the treat as soon as the dog stops barking.

Note: If you hold the treat between your fingers while the dog is barking and then quickly put the treat under your dog’s nose, he will stop barking. He cannot sniff and bark at the same time.

Do not yell at the dog to be quiet without teaching the dog the command. Remember, dogs do not speak English, so they do not understand the words you are yelling at them. To a dog your yelling sounds like you are barking along with your dog and that will encourage him to bark more.

Although it may be difficult, totally ignore your dog when he barks. It may take awhile, but if you do not respond the dog will learn that barking does not get the results that he wants.

You can also try to divert the dog when he starts to bark by using a command that tells the dog to do something else such as fetching a toy which can divert the dog from barking.

When a dog barks, in most cases, he has a good reason for doing so even though that reason may not be an acceptable one to you. Dogs need to bark just as much as we need to talk. However, they can control their barking and learn when it is appropriate to bark and when it is not.

The key to success is to not give up and after your dog learns what the “quiet” command means, praise your dog for being quiet. Everyone will be happier, even your dog.

PTSD in dogs

Recently canine behaviorists and veterinarians have seen what appears to be a canine version of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in dogs (PTSD).

Some of the dogs are combat veterans and police dogs. However, it is possible that pet dogs who experience a traumatic event can also suffer from PTSD.

Scout SAR training window

Pet dogs who suffer from PTSD can include dogs that have been frightened by fireworks, are noise sensitive, or have been injured in some way. The symptoms usually vary from case to case. Some dogs will be over-responsive, showing extreme fear for example, while others change the way they interact with their owner/handler such as becoming aggressive or over clingy or timid.

Other symptoms can include attempting to escape certain environments or avoid those environments. In some cases, the dog in question who was a good working dog will suddenly fail to complete his tasks or shut down entirely.

Treatment for each case will vary. Sometimes a veterinarian will suggest an anti-anxiety medication to be used for the short term. This must be coupled with retraining, desensitizing to the environmental elements and situations that cause the problem and counter-conditioning to build the dog’s confidence. People who own or work with these dogs must understand that it takes time to work through the issues and that there is no magic pill to fix the problem.

Fortunately, there are certified canine behavior consultants who can help these dogs. There are also organizations dedicated to saving the dogs and finding suitable homes for them when necessary. One organization is Combat Canines: The DDoc Foundation.

It is important to keep in mind that rehabilitating these dogs takes time. No one knows for sure if they actually suffer from PTSD because the dogs cannot tell us. However, the symptoms strongly suggest that they do. Many of these dogs have served our country faithfully and deserve a second chance for a happy life.

Dog aggression may be related to hormone levels

According to research conducted by Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology they found that the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin may be linked to aggression in dogs. Both hormones are also found in humans.

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Dogs that tested to be more aggressive had higher levels of vasopressin. What is interesting is that further research of dogs bred to be assistance dogs who are bred specifically to be non-aggressive, had higher levels of oxytocin and higher oxytocin-to-vasopressin ratios. What this means is that oxytocin may help inhibit aggression.

Researchers also found that experience can influence the level of vasopressin in a dog. Often aggression results from a traumatic experience which alters the hormone levels resulting in a form of PTSD. On the flip side, positive experiences such as socialization with people and other animals in a non-threatening manner can raise the oxytocin levels.

The good news is that in humans, they are already using hormone therapies to help people with autism, schizophrenia and other problems such as PTSD. Perhaps this will lead to therapies for dogs that are extremely aggressive.

Pet treats, food and health insurance

In my post about finding the right dog food I listed a very informative link to a site that evaluates dog food. I have since learned that these evaluators have links to cat food, cat treats, dog treats and pet insurance. It is just as important to feed your dog or cat quality treats as it is to feed them quality food, especially if you give them a lot of treats.

Keep in mind that snacking a lot can make a pet put on weight. So, if you are using a lot of treats, especially when training your pet, you may want to decrease their food to compensate. Also, keep in mind that as your pet gets older, they will tend to put on weight (the same as many people do). If your pet tends to put on weight, look for a treat that has few calories. Some treats have only 3 or so calories.


Health insurance is another very confusing issue for many pet owners. There are so many options and prices. However, considering how expensive veterinarian bills can be, especially for catastrophic illnesses, it is a good idea to have insurance. What options you pick will depend on what you can afford to pay for without insurance. When choosing the right policy for you, take into consideration what your income will be at the end of your pet’s life. This is the time when your pet may need the most veterinarian care. Cost consideration is especially important if you will be retired or near retirement as your pet ages. Taking the time to research treats, food, and insurance will benefit you and your pet in the long run.

Cat food:

Cat treats:

Dog treats:​

Pet insurance: