Touch is important because without it serious behavioural issues can arise. It’s vital for the development of a balanced mind. It is such an important sense that this is why touch/praise can replace initial treat based reward training and is likely to be more powerful overall as a reinforcer of good behaviour. It should be noted that what is a good reinforcer and a powerful one – given at the wrong time – will mean that it is as easy to reinforce “bad behaviour” as good behaviour, so timing and understanding when to reward is everything! For example, touching a dog in an unstable stateRead More →

In Bruce Fogle’s book “The Dog’s Mind” he says that early handling (stressing) in the puppy’s life can be good for the emotional development of the dog and probably makes him better able to cope with stresses later on in life. Mild stresses early in life influence the adrenal-pituitary system, fine tuning it to respond in a sensitive and graded manner later on in life rather than in an all or nothing fashion. According to EEG readings on puppies, dogs mature faster if they undergo mild stresses early in life. They also perform better at problem solving when they are older than do other dogs.Read More →

As the tail is such a good indication of what a dog is feeling and of its intentions, it is very hard for dogs to “read” other dogs that do not have a tail. Docked tails (or even those that from breeding are shorter and more upright – for example in the Shar Pei) can cause all sorts of confusion because they stand up and look challenging. An upright and stiff tail indicates the dog is confident and willing to be “top dog” but is not really expecting any trouble (such as a Shar Pei I was working with) but a more upright tail, especiallyRead More →

The most important thing to remember always is don’t run otherwise you look very much like prey! You also don’t want to look tough and strong and give strong eye contact – as this can look like a challenge. In fact completely avoiding eye contact is good. Use peripheral vision, but not so peripheral that you miss something! Don’t look weak and don’t look like a threat! Also, try not to smile – this might help you think about relaxing but to the dog you are “showing your teeth”! Yawning is a good idea – this is a “non-threatening” gesture and can be helpful whileRead More →

Biting from not learning bite inhibition: The number one unwanted behaviour has to be a dog that does not know how to inhibit its bite and which oversteps the mark when it comes to using its teeth. Learning how to be a dog is something dogs can only learn from each other and removing them too soon will mean that there is a huge gap in their learning. Dogs need to know that if they bite too hard it hurts and both siblings and mum will yelp and not play with the pup that bit too hard, often moving away – or they may giveRead More →

The hormones produced by the dog’s adrenal gland include the corticosteroids which are the most relevant from a behavioural point of view. Hydrocortisone, also called cortisol, corticosterone, 11-deoxycortisol, and cortisone are the types of glucocorticoids found in most vertebrates. To generate energy, glucocorticoids signal the liver to both release its own stored glucose and to soak up muscle proteins and fats from the blood and convert them into glucose. Breaking apart this molecular food releases stored energy that is then dumped into the bloodstream as glucose. The glucose is preferentially delivered to the brain and heart to fuel the fight-or-flight responses to perceived stress. AsRead More →

One should never underestimate the effect that diet can have on any animal – including the human! Although dogs have a scavenger heritage, this does not mean that they can just live on anything and remain healthy. Third world dogs that scavenge for survival do not live such long lives and suffer a number of health issues. Currently there are actually very few studies that have been conducted to evaluate the role of nutrition in (problem) canine behaviour relating to serotonin levels. Some studies from the USA however do seem to show that there is a correlation between high protein diets and fear based territorialRead More →

There are a number of signs that indicate a dog is showing fear based aggression. These are primarily: Head down Body down Ears back Growling Snarling A general guide to fear based aggression: Tail between the legs, lip rolled up, Ears back and flat against the head, crouching down, dog avoiding direct eye contact and possibly with glazed eyes, drooling/snarling/teeth bared, trembling/shaking/hiding and/or running away from whatever is causing the fear, barking, snapping/or nipping and retreating which can escalate to a full blown bite if the situation is not read well, jumping up, even herding/nudging and actual gentle nipping, panting. A dog can exhibit some,Read More →

Taking a puppy away from its mother in the transitional stage (2-4 weeks) can create a number of problems for later life.  Any time before 8 weeks even, can cause problems – so that a puppy is pre-disposed to become fearful of other dogs.  Ideally the whole litter should be kept together until at least 8 weeks. Puppies removed from their mothers even at 6 weeks and certainly less, exhibit appetite and weight loss, increased distress, higher mortality rates and higher susceptibility to disease.  Also, bite inhibition needs to be learnt from the siblings and the mother of the puppy and this can not happen if it isRead More →