Former journalist and mystery novelist (h/t Kirkus Reviews), Katz takes the view that we are expecting too much from our dogs and losing the sense of their animal nature and therefore our respect for them. They are beings outside the reach of what we can know, and he believes we do a disservice to them by imposing human thoughts and motives to their actions. He loves his dogs and works to see them as they are, not as we imagine them to be. He confesses this is not easy. Continue reading
Fearful dog behavior can be quite a challenge to live with and witness. It’s both frustrating and heartbreaking to watch a fearful dog navigate a world populated with scary sights and sounds. Our hearts go out to these poor shy creatures that are often even afraid of their own shadow. But what to do? How does one go about making a shy dog more comfortable in her environment? Is it okay to comfort your dog when he’s feeling nervous? Should you ignore the behavior?
In this interview, dog trainer Amy Cook answers these questions and provides empathic insight into life with a shy canine. Amy is a shy dog specialist who is also working towards her doctorate in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley with a focus on the human/canine relationship. She is also the owner and moderator of the Shy-K9s Yahoo Group, which is an excellent resource for people who are dealing with fearful dogs.
In this interview, Amy and I chat about the origin of shyness, what defines it, the trial and tribulations of living with a shy dog, and how to best address shyness or fear from a behavioral standpoint.
Is a shy dog born or made?
What are the chances that a shy dog will make a full recovery and overcome her fears, and to what degree?
How do you integrate a shy dog into your home and how do you build trust in your relationship with your fearful dog?
Most importantly Amy wants everyone to know that it is not really possible to reinforce fear and make it worse. Fear is an emotion and emotions cannot be so easily manipulated or contrived operantly. A frightened dog deserves comfort and a safe place to hide and peek while you do your best to resolve the issue via classical conditioning and training, which will take some time, patience, and understanding.
Please listen to the podcast below to hear Amy answer the questions above and more. If you’d like to learn more about fearful dog behavior and training, or have a shy canine and would like to reach Amy directly please join the Shy-K9s group on Yahoo.
Shelter dog training and behavior is enhanced by playgroups in many ways and Cindy Bruckart of the Multnomah Animal Shelter, an open-admission, official Open Paw Shelter, is here this week to tell us why playgroups are good for shelter dogs and how to go about doing them in a safe and manageable fashion.
Shelter dogs are often quite pent up, as they generally spend about 23 hours a day in a kennel environment, often with lots of frustrating stimulation going on right outside their kennel run door. While manners training, practicing household skills such as settling and chew toy training, and continued socialization are very much top priorities when deciding what sort of environmental enrichment to provide for shelter dogs (see openpaw.org for more info), playgroups may be incorporated as one ingredient in a wellness program for maintaining or creating healthy, adoptable shelter dogs.
Exercise provides a much needed outlet for amped up dogs, but it also provides an opportunity to build confidence for shy dogs and some much needed cheer for dogs displaying signs of depression.
That said, a shelter dog playgroup should not just be a willy-nilly free for all. Cindy runs her playgroups bases on the SIRIUS Puppy Training methodology of incorporating training into play sessions. Doing so both blurs the line between training and play, to make them one and the same in the dog’s mind rather than mutually exclusive, but it also offers handlers a fantastic opportunity to use the super-high value reward of play and dog-dog interaction as a reinforcement for following their requests, such as recall out of playgroup or a brief “down-stay”. In other words, there are lots of training breaks in the play session to maintain control and focus at all times.
In order to initiate shelter dog playgroups it’s essential to have at least one trained professional, who is experienced in both reading dog behavior/body language and in managing multiple dogs, involved in each session. Volunteers must be trained before participating and Cindy believes that the ratio of dog to human should be no higher than four dogs for each human helper.
In the podcast below, Cindy also talks about what kind of dogs are suitable for playgroups, lists the top three reasons to incorporate playgroups into your shelter dog training and behavior program, and shares a heartwarming story about a shelter dog who’s life was turned around, and likely saved, by the opportunity to grow and shine outside of her kennel.
Training companion dogs for sport and competition may seem a bit like barking up the wrong tree. After all, you see your dog as your best friend and got a dog so you’d have sidekick for strolls in the park, car rides, and life’s various adventures, right? So signing up for a series of classes and spending endless hours of practicing specific skills and routines that have nothing to do with your every day life may seem tedious at best.
San Francisco Bay Area dog trainer and behavior counselor, Sandra Mannion, believes that the notion there is a big difference between pet dogs and working dogs is a myth, because every dog was created for a purpose. Many of the sports available to dogs today are versions of standardized tests that were originally designed to showcase a breed or type of dog’s specialized abilities.
There are sports and competitions for nearly every activity that dogs were originally bred to do. Gun dog trials and dock diving games for retrievers, scenting competitions for hounds, herding trials for collies and shepherds, and so on.
There are even companion dog sports such as rally, obedience, and the canine good citizen test which award titles you can earn to show that your dog is well mannered and excels at being a good companion. These sports highlight basic behaviors that would benefit any dog living in our human society with all of it’s non-doggy expectations and rules. Skills such as focusing on the handler, coming reliably when called, and staying in one spot when required, and not pulling on leash are useful in every day life, so it’s not far fetched at all to try your hand at training your companion dog for sport, in fact it will only enhance your communication and relationship with your dog.
Sandra feels that integrating competition into your companion dog’s routine is a good idea because many pet dogs are underutilized with their natural inclinations and energy left untapped. If a dog’s inherent skills and impulses aren’t appropriately channeled and given an outlet, problems may ensue. Like a pressure cooker, that energy that is being generated must go somewhere!
Sandra argues that beyond basic classes (which she feels are absolutely necessary) it’s important to honor your dog’s history and genetic predispositions from the beginning by providing a fun outlet for her inclinations. Doing so will help you gain appreciation for where those (sometimes to us) annoying habits that are actually a long-standing extremely useful part of your breed or type’s heritage come from and why they exist.
Sandra’s favorite part of her job is helping people realize the amazing potential their dog has when they get past the “behavior problems” their dog is exhibiting and learn to use the dog’s energy and enthusiasm that was previously going in the wrong direction and put it somewhere productive. This leads to rewards beyond their expectations as they watch their dog develop and excel. This fresh perspective often saves relationships that were going down hill and ultimately keeps dogs in their homes with people who have a new appreciation for the amazing creature we call our best friend.
In addition to discussing the benefits of training companion dogs for sport and competition, in the podcast below Sandra and I also cover the top three things all dog owners should consider before bringing a dog into their lives in order to get the most out of the relationship and to produce a happy, well adjusted dog. For more information about Sandra, please visit her website SandraMannion.com
You may have heard of Jane Velez Mitchell from her show, “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell”, on CNN’s HLN. An award winning television journalist, she is often seen commenting on high-profile cases for CNN, TruTV, E! and other national cable TV shows. Velez-Mitchell is also a New York Times best selling author. Her new book, “Addict Nation”, an intervention for America, is the subject of our podcast.
Velez-Mitchell is an environmentalist and vegan. Her book, “Addict Nation”, doesn’t just talk about problems in our culture, it poses useful, “do-able” alternate ideas for creating a better life, without preaching. Yes, we have heard this message before from academics and self-help books, even government officials, often tackling one thing at a time. But this book is accessible, written as if you were having an impassioned dinner conversation with friends on a wide-range of topics.
Timing of this message probably couldn’t be much better. In these past few years of financial fallout, millions have had an all too personal experience of discovering that consumerism, whether it’s over-eating, drinking, hoarding, or spending money you don’t have, hasn’t fulfilled them. Interesting and bold was the view that animal and environmental rights were keys to unleashing not only jobs and strengthening the economic future of the US, but also halting the cruelty of factory farms, laboratory, and research facilities.
Join us for a chat with Jane Velez-Mitchell Wednesday, March 30 at 9pm EST – listen to the podcast and get your questions ready!