Dog Training Tips 3

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.

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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.

Dog training tips 2 -The type of dog and training

Successful dog training is not just about the method of training the dog. A big part of training a dog depends on the type of dog you have and the lines it comes from. Whether it is a purebred or mixed, all dogs have lines which is another way to say their ancestry. Typically the term “lines” refer to selective breeding, but selective or not, the parents and grandparents have a strong genetic influence on the personality of the dog and make up the dog’s lines.

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Dogs were selected for specific traits, which make up the breed. These traits are a combination of the physical and mental attributes. For example, if you have a few sheep in a field and nearby is a rabbit hiding in the brush, a Border Collie will know that the rabbit is there but will focus on the sheep. If you put a Beagle in the same field, he will know the sheep are there but focus on the rabbit. This is part of their genetic mental makeup or to put it another way, what they are bred to do.

The attitude of the dog depends on the breed(s) that it is made of. In the case of mixed breed dogs, you will only know by observation which genes are dominating their mind and to confuse things even more, the environmental stimulation can trigger different responses. For example, a dog that is a cross between a Border Collie and Beagle may be attracted to both the sheep and the rabbit, making it unreliable to use in the field.

Added to this are the general canine instincts that all dogs have. The most common and easiest for dog owners to see, is the prey chase drive. What this means is that how easy it is to train a dog depends on the genetic makeup of the dog and its individual personality or temperament.

A good dog trainer will understand how the genetics of a dog affect how it thinks and responds to stimuli and adjust the training methods to ensure success. This does not mean that some dogs must be trained using harsh methods but finding what motivates the dog can be tricky.

There are many dog trainers worldwide that advocate using choke collars, pinch collars, and shock collars. There is never a need to use these methods to train a dog. I have been training dogs professionally since the 1960’s and specialized in aggressive dogs and have never had to use any of this equipment.

A good dog trainer will motivate the dog to want to obey. But as I have said in my previous article, obedience is not a question of knowing what to do or what not to do, but the ability to exercise self-control to do it. You must give your dog time and practice to develop self-control.  More tips to come. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you need the help of a certified canine behavior consultant go to www.iaabc.org.

The amazing ability of dogs to detect scent

In a recent study conducted by the University of Alberta, they determined that a dog could detect fire accelerants such as gasoline in quantities as small as one billionth of a teaspoon.

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The study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of arson detection dogs. To test this the researchers used two dog-and-handler teams. One dog was trained to detect a variety of ignitable liquids, and the other was trained with gasoline. Interestingly, the dog trained on a variety of liquids performed well detecting all accelerants, but the dog trained on gasoline could not generalize to other accelerants at extremely low concentrations.

The reason for the tests was that accelerant dogs will give an indication at a site and when the material is tested in a lab, no trace of accelerant is found.

Those of us who use dogs for various scent work will find this information helpful. The study concluded that a dog could detect odor at one billionth of a teaspoon. In previous studies by Johnson and Johnson, they determined that a dog could detect any scent at one part per trillion.

The variables that must be considered in research such as this are:

The dog’s physical ability to detect odor. Even a good dog will have off days.

The trainer’s ability to train the dog.

The air flow at the testing site.

The age of the material, in other words, how old is the scent source?

And my last comment, if the dog who was trained to detect only gasoline would not generalize to other accelerants at a low level, he was doing what he was trained to do. It does not mean that the dog could not detect the low-level scents. The question that needs to be addressed is do the non-gasoline accelerants have a gasoline chemical that evaporates quickly that the dog would identify at a higher concentration, but at low levels are there other scents or chemicals in the accelerant that are residual which the dog is not trained to find? For example, a dog taught to follow human scent will never follow animal scent. Unless the other accelerants had the chemical composition of gasoline, the dog should not indicate it.

But this is a good study and does give us an idea of the concentration of scent that a dog can detect.

 

A Dog’s personality can change

According to a study done by William Chopik a professor at Michigan State University a dog’s life changes can influence their personality. His study has confirmed that dogs have moods and personality traits that shape how they react to situations.

The way you treat your dog and the activities that you do with your dog can influence the dog’s personality. He found that the sweet spot for training and shaping a dog’s personality is around six months of age.

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Chopik plans to continue his study to see how the environment can change a dog’s personality. For example, a dog may behave one way in a shelter and if adopted into a loving home, may react differently. A previous study by Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and head of the Canine Science Collaboratory has demonstrated that letting shelter dogs do a sleepover in foster homes goes a long way to reduce their stress.

Therefore Chopik is on the right track with his planned study about how adopting a dog out of the shelter environment may change the way the dog reacts. However, canine behaviorists know that it can take three to six months for a dog to fully adjust to a new environment.

The bottom line is that this study shows that it is important to give your dog a loving home, train your dog, and properly socialize your dog to give your dog the best possible life.

Do bigger brains mean smarter dogs?

According to a study conducted by Daniel Horschler, a UA anthropology doctoral student and member of the UA’s Arizona Canine Cognition Center, dogs with bigger brains can perform certain tasks better than dogs with smaller brains. The researchers found that larger-brained breeds had better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs, regardless of the extent of training the dogs had received.

The tests showed that brain size did not determine a dog’s performance on tests of social intelligence such as being able to follow where a person points or with the dog’s inferential and physical reasoning ability.

What the study did not define is what is considered small and what is considered large? What the study also did not seem to take into account is the difference between the way humans relate, handle and treat small vs large dogs. As a canine behavior consultant and dog trainer I have seen a vast difference between the way owners treat and relate to large vs small dogs. For example, you do not see owners carrying their Labrador Retrievers around in backpacks or pushing them in strollers. Often small dogs are not allowed to act like dogs whereas large dogs are allowed to act like a dog should act. It is interesting to consider.

Do dogs need training to understand human cues?

Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studied stray dogs across several Indian cities to determine if dogs can understand human cues without training.

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They found that stray dogs that were not timid or shy, would respond to a strange human pointing to a bowl. If the dog was friendlier and less anxious, they approached the bowls that the tester pointed to about 80% of the time. This shows that the dogs not only recognized human body language but are able to understand complex gestures.

What the researchers were unable to tell is how much experience the stray dogs had with humans and was it positive or negative. Also unknown is if people had fed the dogs in the past, using a pointing motion to indicate that there was food available.

The study does mention that more research is needed to determine if the personality of the dog is a factor in their response to human pointing. But all in all, it is another piece of information that gives us insight into the mind of the dog.

Susan Bulanda’s Books

Hi loyal followers. Earlier this month I posted about the books I have written. However, I did not realize that my website (www.sbulanda.com) was not working. It is fixed, so if you tried to order any of my books and could not, you should be able to do so now. Sorry for any inconvenience. Please note that you cannot order my WWI book, Soldiers in Fur and Feathers from my website. This is because I only have a few copies left. If you would like a copy of that book email me at sbulanda@gmail.com to see if I still have some. It is a collectible since it is a signed first edition. Also note that Scenting on the Wind and Ready to Serve, Ready to Save are on sale for $6.00 each. These area also signed first editions that are now out of print. Go to my previous blog to see my books.

Thanks, Sue

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How animals detect odor

Prof. Nowotny, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics had determined that animals may not single out a specific odor when they look for a substance. He has found that animals may find it easier to detect a collection of odors instead of a single substance. If this is true, then most of the detection dog training that focuses on teaching a dog to look for one odor rather than a scent picture, may not be the best way to train a dog.

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One single odor does not exist in a natural environment, rather there are a collection of odors. When you consider that it is impossible to isolate a single odor in a natural environment, this discovery makes sense. Of course it is possible and often likely that a single odor is stronger than the surrounding odors, but still it is not the only odor present.

Professor Nowotny suggests that animal and human olfactory systems may not be made to do analytic smelling of pure odors. He uses the example of how an animal will give off pheromones, a complex set of odors, as a form of communication and that it is important that an animal recognize the entire chemical message and not a single element in the chemical message.

For years I have maintained that when teaching a dog scent work that there is no such thing as an uncontaminated scent article. Professor Nowotny has confirmed this with his latest research. Although more studies need to be done, and we should still train our dogs as we have in the past, it does open the door for a less narrow view of what dogs detect and how they detect it and may lead to new training methods. It is always good to “think outside the box.”

Sue Bulanda’s books

With the holidays fast approaching I thought I would post a list of the books that I have written. All but two of my books can be ordered from my website (www.sbuland.com) by clicking on the “books” tab. If you want a book shipped outside of the USA please email me for the correct postage. If you order my listed books you will get an autographed copy. I only have a few copies of Soldiers in Fur and Feathers so if you want that please email me first to see if I have any more. This book is out-of-print, so do not order it from my website.

K9 Obedience Training: Teaching Pets and Working Dogs to be Reliable and Free-Thinking.  This book shows you how to teach a dog the basic obedience that is the foundation for all other training. The methods used in this book allow the dog the freedom to think for themselves rather than perform in a robotic method where creativity is discouraged. Free-Thinking is necessary for all working dogs who cannot be trained for every situation that they encourage. Obedient disobedience is also covered. The book also explains what not to do and why. It includes basic handling and grooming techniques that are necessary for a well socialized dog. Some fun tricks are included.

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K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems – explains the typical training problems and offers solutions that SAR dog handlers encounter when training their dogs. The solutions apply to all disciplines in canine search and rescue. It explains how the puppy stages of development can have lasting effects on the behavior and training of a dog. Often people adopt an older dog to train and do not understand why the dog behaves the way it does, this book gives insight to those issues. Although K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems is written for the SAR dog handler, the information contained in it applies to many training issues that are not related to SAR.

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Soldiers in Fur and Feathers: The Animals That Served in WWI – Allied Forces: A unique, collection of accounts about many different animals that served in WWI. There are many rare photos. What is especially interesting about this book is that it includes many of the mascots that the soldiers kept. Some went into the trenches with the men. For example, there is an account about how a cat saved the life of a soldier, how a pair of geese slated to be Christmas dinner wound up being kept as mascots, and one soldier had a huge Golden Eagle as a pet. WWI was a transitional war from animal power to mechanization, therefore many species of animals served, such as oxen, horses, mules, camels, pigeons, and dogs in many capacities.

2012: Second Place Winner Non-Fiction, National League of American Pen Women; Finalist for the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers Arthur Award, Certificate of Excellence for the Cat Writers Association of America.

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Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return: This is the only book written about the animals of the Holocaust victims, recording a part of history that has been overlooked. Some of the stories are sad and some joyous, but all are a part of history. Learn about Nicholas the French Bulldog owned by a woman who was part of the French resistance, and how he came to tour with the German army. Also, the dogs who somehow survived the war and were reunited with their owners and many other stories about dogs and cats.

2012: Dog Writers Association of America, Maxwell Award.

Certificate of Excellence Cat Writers Association, 2012; National League of American Pen Woman 2nd place non-fiction, 2012.

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God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals: explains the role that animals play in the Bible and how God uses them. It explores the nature of animals and miracles that involve them. The book explores many of the miracles that involve animals. It answers questions such as, do animals go to heaven, do they know and obey God, can they be evil?

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Boston Terriers, a book all about this wonderful breed of dog. Learn about their care, training and personality. The book has fun sidebars that give personal accounts of Boston terriers.

First Place Maxwell Award for the Dog Writers Association of America, 2002. (only available on-line)

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Ready: The Training of the Search and Rescue Dog: Adopted worldwide as the training book for SAR dogs. This book has been in print since 1994 and is in its second edition. It gives the SAR dog handler a training plan for all disciplines of canine search and rescue.

First place for the National League of American Pen Woman’s biannual contest, 1996. Also nominated best book of the year, 1994 Dog Writers Association.

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Ready to Serve, Ready to Save: Strategies of Real-Life Search and Rescue Missions: is about actual search and rescue missions giving the reader inside information about how searches work. It is useful as a tabletop training exercise for SAR units.

2000 Award winner for the National League of American Pen Women contest.

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Scenting on the Wind: Scent Work for Hunting Dogs: helps the hunting enthusiast understand how weather, wind and terrain features affect scent. It is a great aid for people who compete in field trials or who do any kind of scent work with dogs.

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Real Estate Today, Seller Beware! – is how to save money when selling your house. Available on Amazon

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Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

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In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.