What is a Dog? This is an honest question! After 25 years of working with all sorts of dogs I am still mystified by them. They are so common and familiar, yet they are still so unexpected and amazing. I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately. My guess is that different people have vastly different answers to this question. Why does it matter? I think that’s what I’m even more interested in exploring! It matters because our vision of dogs shapes our treatment of them. And our treatment of them is vital to their mental and physical health.
New Literature Review Recommends Reward-Based Training A review of 17 papers concludes that reward-based dog training has fewer risks and may even work better than aversive methods. The review, by Dr. Gal Ziv (The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences) looks at the scientific literature on dog training methods. Seventeen studies were identified that include surveys of dog owners, intervention studies, and reports from veterinarians. The paper identifies some methodological issues with the literature, but the conclusion is that people should use reward-based methods to train their dogs.
The domestic dog, Canis familiaris is said to be the most morphologically variable of the mammalian species. According to scientist, artificial selection contributed heavily to the rapid development and variation in color, shape and behavior we see in dogs today. The difference among dog species rivals that of any other species in the family Canidae.
These forms of learned aggression may become more threatening, providing little warning in the “context of social code violations” e.g. disturbing a sleeping dog or taking a prized object away. The intensity of the dog’s response to these social code violations will directly depend on the negative stimulus. The dog described here has some control over their aggressive response and those responses are in direct correlation to the invoking stimulus.
Science Daily reported, “Using dominance to explain dog behavior is old hat.” One of their references included an article from JVB (2009) “Dominance in domestic dogs –useful construct or bad habit?” The paper is much broader than implied by Science Daily; the following will make clear some of their conclusions. Associative Learning Theory The paper suggests stable relationships between …
Canine Communication Understanding how to communicate with dogs effectively is partly achieved by understanding how dogs developed under domestication, as well as how they adapted to their ever-changing environment. Another reason why is partly founded in one’s acceptance or non-acceptance that “animals are endowed with a private experience or self-awareness comparable to our own” which presents a “moral crisis” according to Lindsay (2000) that “would revolutionize how we view and treat animals under our care.” Temple Grandin (1995), suggests dogs are “…akin to the thinking style of artists or musicians” considering things in “…terms of their immediate sensory significance, relevance to the animal’s current motivation state and associated memories” added into the context or situation (Lindsay, 2000). What does communication mean? Communication among animals is described as a transmission of information between one animal and another or between groups of animals with the intent to affect behavior. Typically, communication takes place-using signals that may include verbal, tactile, odors (pheromones), facial expressions and body movements. The communication exchange will usually have three components. These components consist of 1.) the person sending the message, 2.) the person receiving the message and 3.) the communication signal. The purpose of the message is to change the attitude, mood or behavior of the recipient. The receivers’ response indicates whether the senders’ message, the function of the behavior has served its purpose. Communication can take place between the same species (intraspecific) or with another species (interspecific). In the case of dogs, Canis lupus familiaris communication is common in both situations. The ethological definition according to Miklosi (2005) is the “…skill to change the behaviour of the other occurs always in a functional context like aggression, courtship, parental behaviour, cooperation etc.” He further says, “[t]he evolution of dog-human communication depends on both changes in the communication system and changes in other behavior systems that have facilitatory effect on communication.” Why do species communicate? According to Lindsay (2000), “…expressive social behavior…exercises an important modulatory effect over emotion and mood.” Communication is a behavior, says Horwitz (2001), having a “goal and function.” Communication in higher organisms serves to “regulate social interaction” among members of the group with the purpose to facilitate “cooperative behavior,” according to Lindsay (2000), which is vital to the groups survival. Wolves have developed complex ritualized communicative behaviors of “threat and appeasement signals” for sustaining “dominant-subordinate relations” among pack members (Lindsay, 2000). Dogs in both intraspecific and interspecific relations, utilize some of these same behaviors with the purpose of increasing (agonistic) and decreasing (affiliative) social interaction.