Category Archives: dog behavior

Do We Train Our Dogs, or Do They Train Us?

By Laurie Darroch

We train our dogs to help them fit in, to learn acceptable ways of behavior within our parameters, to make living with each other a smoother existence together, and simply because that is what a responsible pet owner does. You are teaching them new survival skills that fit in the human environment. Like a child, if a dog knows what it can or cannot do, it learns to act within those boundaries, but sometimes what they do makes us wonder who is actually doing the training!

A dog will test the boundaries they are given, which is a normal part of the learning process. It doesn’t stop once they are trained to an acceptable level either. It is an ongoing process at every stage of your dog’s life.

We start out with very clear goals in mind when we are training our dogs, but often find ourselves bending the rules in order to fit their individual personalities or specific needs. We don’t always do it consciously either. We see a cute or endearing behavior that isn’t quite what we wanted them to do – for instance, coming up on the couch to cuddle against you after you had decided that climbing up on the furniture was an absolute “no no” in your house. Pretty soon that becomes an altered acceptable behavior that your dog has basically manipulated you into allowing.

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Is Your Dog an Optimist or a Pessimist?

By Linda Cole

Anyone who has spent quality time with a dog understands how complicated canines can be. Like us, dogs view the world from their own individual perspective. An interesting new study has found that dogs see things in an optimistic or pessimistic way, and how your dog behaves could be because he sees his dish of CANIDAE as “half full” or “half empty.”

How we interpret events in our lives is based on our world view. We are idealists, realists, optimists or pessimists, and how we react to different situations depends on our mental attitude. An optimistic person sees the glass as half full and has faith that any given situation will have the best possible outcome. A pessimist sees the glass as half empty and doesn’t have confidence that a positive outcome will occur.

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How to Help a Dog Deal with Pain

By Laurie Darroch

When a dog is experiencing pain, whether from an obvious illness or injury, or something you can’t see or figure out, they will let you know in a number of possible ways. Because they cannot talk and explain what is going on, you are left to puzzle it out and determine how to help relieve their pain, whatever its source.

You may notice altered behavior such as withdrawal, refusal to play or even eat, or the opposite – excessive clinginess and following you everywhere in the house. You may see your dog crying or whimpering. You may notice that they are moving differently or favoring the part of the body with the injury or pain. It’s always a good idea take your dog to the vet to make sure it is nothing serious and something for which they need specific medication or professional treatment.

Here are some tips for helping your dog deal with their pain.

Comfort

Comforting your dog helps to soothe pain levels and reduce the anxiety and stress caused by pain that isn’t understood. You dog reacts to your stress as well. If they are in pain, try to stay calm. Your dog will sense your mood and react accordingly. If you are calmer handling your dog’s pain, they will feel more secure and at ease. Your dog trusts you.

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Does My Dog Need a Canine Companion?

dog companions siniBy Langley Cornwell

We’ve been conditioned to believe that dogs are pack animals, but do domestic dogs really need canine friends? I’ll admit it – I was the type who believed the answer was a resounding yes. My firm stance on this was partly influenced by the “dogs are pack animals” theory and partly by the fact that all of my pups have thrived when there was a second dog in the house. The dogs I’ve shared my life with have all been family-oriented, and I felt like we were a big, happy pack.

My commitment to this belief was challenged by a friend who rescued a dog named Mia. The relationship between Lisa and Mia made me wonder if my long-held beliefs about having a second dog might be a combined result of 1) blindly accepting the pack animal theory and 2) attempting to assuage my guilt.

The Pack Animal Theory

Because dogs derived from wolves, and wolves live and hunt in packs, most people believe that dogs are hard wired to want canine companionship. I always thought the social structure of wolves included allegiance and reliance on one another within a pack, so it stood to reason that domestic canines would yearn for the same type of species-to-species bonding.

Researchers at Washington State University at Pullman shed more light on the subject, however. Traci Cipponeri and Paul Verrell studied the intricate relationships within wolf packs and likened their interactions to that of people who work within the same corporation. They noted that wolves not related to one another form what could be called an “uneasy alliance” because they have both shared and conflicting goals. They work cooperatively to obtain food and shelter, but they compete with one another for dominance.

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Can Dogs Really Understand Simple Math?

dogs count tanakBy Linda Cole

Skidboot was an extraordinary dog that entertained people everywhere he went as the World’s Smartest Dog. A crowd pleasing trick involved Skidboot listening to his owner, David Hartwig, count to three before retrieving a ball, but Hartwig mixed up the counting in an attempt to stump his dog. In the end, Skidboot eagerly focused on the ball and pounced on it when Hartwig said three. People were convinced the dog could count. Jim the Wonder Dog was also famous for his ability to recognize numbers, but can canines really understand simple math?

Quantitative thinking is something most people don’t believe dogs are capable of. It’s the concept of analyzing mathematical data in relation to quantity or number and having the ability to figure out if one thing is larger than another. One early experiment that researchers conducted was to see if dogs understood quantity. They used a large and small ball of hamburger, each on a separate plate, and tested dogs to see which one they would choose. When the plates were set at different distances, the dogs took the one closest to them regardless of its size, but when both plates were of equal distance they always chose the larger ball of meat.

Researchers concluded dogs didn’t understand quantitative thinking and couldn’t determine the difference in size. However, what they failed to account for is the opportunistic nature of canines and seemed to discount the fact that dogs picked the large ball of meat when the two plates were side by side.

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How to Tell if Your Pet is Irritated with You

pets irritated penny blankenshipBy Linda Cole

When my Siberian Husky Jake wanted to express his irritation, he’d turn his head away from me as if saying, “I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Then he’d follow up with some Woo Woo Woo’s to make it clear he was unhappy. My cat Meryl was quick to bond with me when he was a kitten. As far as he was concerned, I belonged to him, and if I hurt his feelings, he made it clear he was irritated. He sat with his back to me and ignored me for an hour or so. That was apparently how long it took for him to forgive me. Dogs and cats aren’t vindictive, but they do have ways of showing us when they are irritated.

The Cold Shoulder – This is a sure sign you have a dog or cat with hurt feelings, and it’s not hard to picture your pet sitting like an irritated human with his front legs crossed while tapping one of his back paws in disgust waiting for an apology. You can almost hear the “Don’t talk to me.” It’s a good thing dogs and cats don’t have opposable thumbs. You might get the cold shoulder, but you won’t get a door slammed in your face.

The Stiff Paw and Head Turn Rejection – I take this action as the ultimate “I am so irritated and do not want to cuddle, hand out kisses, or even look at you right now” sign. This is when an upset dog or cat holds out a stiffened leg and blocks you with a paw to keep you from getting too close when you try to be affectionate. In addition to the stiff paw, he turns his head away from you and the message is loud and clear: you have an irritated furry friend. One of my dogs, Keikei, will also give me a kick with her back leg just in case I missed the other two signs.
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