Dogs, Canis lupus familiaris and humans, Homo sapiens have coexisted at least 14,000 years. When you consider how different the two species communicate, interpret the world around them, and make decisions based on these abilities, it is amazing how the dog has adapted to living with us. However, this may explain why many dog owners find themselves unable to cope with their dog’s behavior. The sensory organs of dogs affect thought processes and understanding the canine senses can be helpful in building better communication between us allowing a healthier human-canine bond. How dogs perceive their world using their own unique set of senses helps us to understand the differences between us.
How can the behavior consultant help? In matters of behavior, dog owners should seek out only those consultants qualified through appropriate education and training. Animal behavior problems can be complicated along with recognizing the unique characteristics of each individual animal and family. The skilled behavior consultant will embrace not only scientific knowledge but will have sufficient education in dog behavior consulting as exemplified by cynopraxic modalities. The cynopraxic trainer-consultant will not only acknowledge the necessity of play, esthetic appreciation, emotional empathy, compassion and ethical restraint but will characterize qualities that mediate connectedness, facilitate the bonding process, support behavioral healing, composure, sincerity of purpose, presence and a certain amount of playfulness (Lindsay, 2001). In conclusion, “the ability to train dogs is an art that depends on a trainer’s ability to play and a dog’s ability to play in turn…where there is no play, there is no relationship or meaning.” Play facilitates “portals of affection and trust” and “humane dog training is playing with a purpose” and as “Heine Hediger (1955/1968) said, ‘Good training is disciplined play’ Lindsay (2001).
The Role of Integrated Compliance and Obedience Training - In preventing and treating behavior problems The role of incorporating obedience training or “nonconfrontational compliance training” is commonly suggested in conjunction with treating dog aggression problems. One of the benefits, according to Tortora (1983) is dogs learn cooperative behavior provides safety. In addition, Clark and Boyer (1993), argue “…obedience training promotes a ‘feeling of security’ because “clear lines of communication and social boundaries” using reinforcement and deterrents effectively help establish better behavior. According to Blackshaw (1991), the use of obedience training produced a “…high success rate involving dominance and territorial aggression” using “proper restraint techniques” coupled with obedience training. Even researchers (Cameron, 1997:271) who “discount the preventative value” seem to agree, “…obedience training provides tools for owners to use in modifying pet behavior.” In addition, incorporating simple obedience skills such as sit and stay provide avenues for positive reinforcement facilitating “secondary control” over aggressive behavior (Voith, 1980 a; Uchida et al., 1997). In spite of the overwhelming support and apparent success, the incorporation of obedience and noncompliance training remains controversial. Even though literature suggests the “preventative value” of obedience training is unclear, many authors still insist obedience training does offer a preventative value (Lindsay, 2001). Scientists like Overall (1997) says, “…dogs require rules and need a rule-based social structure” allowing communication and cooperation between parties. Overall advocates a type of “compliance training” similar to Voith’s “nothing in life is free” and says her program “…provides a means for ‘preventing such problems and in treating all forms of behavior problems’ (Lindsay, 2001).
“Choice responding refers to the manner in which individuals allocate their time or responding among available response options” (Fisher & Mazur, 1997). Everyday life presents choices with many of us giving little thought to how those choices influences our present and future behavior. Understanding how those choices are derived may be important in solving behavior problems and training situations. A choice made between behavioral responses has been greatly influenced by previous reinforcement history and one’s personal preferences.
Coprophagia Coprophagia is classified as an appetitive problem and is considered so distasteful by many dog owners that in many of the more unresponsive cases euthanasia if frequently suggested especially when the “owners bond with their dog [is] irreparably damaged” (McKeown et. al.,1988) cites Lindsay (2002) who suggests this is a “rather extreme and questionable practice.” In spite of the distasteful connotations this repulsive behavior may cause dog owners; coprophagia is considered ‘normal” among puppies only representing small health risks (Hubbard, 1989) however, we can risk exposing puppies to “viral pathogens” such as parvovirus and “parasitic infections” that may be shed in other dogs feces (Lindsay, 2002). A study conducted by Baranyiova’ et al., (1999) using a 305 dog owner survey indicated “36%...ate feces” and found to be more common among female dogs (45%) with males representing only 30% cites Lindsay (2002). Unfortunately, dog owners are quick to punish this behavior in spite of more acceptable means such as training, management and in some cases adjustments to diet and exercise. Owners who are experiencing this problem should get a thorough veterinary examination to rule out any medical or dietary causes before implementing any behavioral training or modification. Coprophagia can be a serious problem due to associated health risks and its effect concerning the human-animal bond therefore, it is suggested by Lindsay (2002) that it not be “summarily dismissed as a normal” behavior or something the owner should “get over and learn to live with.”
Training is a quality of life issue for pets…What training tools are recommended and should be avoided? I’ve included in the following a list of recommended dog training tools and dog-training tools that should be avoided. The recommendation was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006) and presented at the Advanced Behavior Course at the North American Veterinary Conference, Post Graduate Institute However, many dog owners are unaware of these recommendations and continue to use Flexi-Leads even though professional dog trainers do not use them. However, given the right instruction, proper size Flexi-Lead, owners can learn to navigate their dog effectively. I have created the following video demonstrating how a professional trainer can use them. If you still prefer using this tool but still struggle to manage your pulling dog, you can get help from a professional dog trainer. However, these devices can be very problematic, dangerous and not used properly do encourage inappropriate dog manners and behavior.