Author Archives: Niki Tudge

The 10 Rules to Effectively & Positively House-Training Your Dog

Depending on your dog, your family and your lifestyle, house-training a dog can be anywhere from easy, to almost impossible. Many dog owners get lucky and, in spite of the mistakes they unknowingly make, they find themselves with a house-trained dog. On the other hand, some dog owners need help from a dog trainer or dog behavior counselor. Even a small number of these pet owners may become desperate when everything they do, even under professional counsel, seems futile. Believe me, I am a professional and I had a small dog from a rescue situation once that had me pulling out all the stops. After ten days we were well on our way!

The more difficult house-training cases to crack are those of dogs that, by mistake, have become ‘reverse’ house-trained by their owners. ‘Reverse’ house-training results when dogs have been allowed to go to the bathroom inside the home and then been inadvertently reinforced for doing so.

Other difficult house-training cases include puppies from pet stores, puppy mills and backyard breeders where the puppies have been raised in contained, unsanitary conditions. Since they have no alternative, these puppies eat and sleep in the same area they use as their bathroom.
So, when you bring a new puppy or rescue dog into your home, or if you have an older dog that is not yet house-trained, follow our ‘10 Rules to House-training’ and you should be relieved (no pun intended) to find you have a house-trained dog in 10 days that will then require ongoing supervision to ensure long lasting results.

Managing the Environment

1. The first thing you need to do before you start your house-training plan is to ensure your home is free from urine stains and residual odors. Purchase a black light and a pet odor remover from your local pet store. When it is dark, turn off all the lights and thoroughly inspect your home, carpets, furniture and tiled areas. The black light will reveal any old stains so you can effectively clean and remove them. There are many very effective pet stain/odor cleaning products available on the market.

2. If you don’t already have one, purchase a good quality wire crate that is large enough for your dog to stand up, lie down and turn around in. Position the crate in a quiet, but not isolated part of your home. You will also need three Kongs (chew toys you can stuff with treats), a squeaky toy, a nylon collar and a 6 ft. nylon leash. If you have a puppy that may need to spend more time contained then an X-Pen is a great tool. This gives them room to play and move around. You can also insert a create into the X-Pen or build the X-Pen around the crate.

3. Develop and follow a 24-hour management schedule of potty breaks. This is critical because you don’t want your puppy to have an accident. Your schedule should include meals, play time, training time, bathroom breaks and sleep time for the entire 10-day program. Bathroom breaks should be scheduled every 4 hours, except overnight when you can allow 6 hours. The plan should also include two or three feeding sessions, one in the morning, one at midday and the last one no later than 6 p.m. Be careful giving your dog access to drinking water after 8 p.m. or 3 hours before she goes into her crate to sleep for the night until you are comfortable they can last the night out.

4. If you can’t be home during the midday break, either schedule some time off work or hire your local Dogsmith a experienced a dog walker or pet sitter that can help you with that portion of your house-training schedule. This will be vital for success. Remember you want to plan for all contingencies so there are no errors. Prevention of errors while building up and reinforcing behaviors in the correct location are key to this program.

5. Keep a daily journal of your dog’s eating schedule and bathroom habits. Note when your dog urinates and defecates. Note the exact time your dog eats and any other treats she is given during the day. Your journal will help you determine how long after eating and drinking your dog typically needs to use the bathroom. You can use this information to adjust your schedule if necessary.

6. Your dog’s day will include meals, sleep, play, training and bathroom breaks. During each of these periods the dog is either in her crate or tethered to you. Give your dog a Kong stuffed with yummy treats for mental enrichment while she is in her crate. Your dog must be supervised 100 percent of the time during the house-training period. When the dog is tethered to you, watch for signs of needing to go to the bathroom. If you notice your dog sniffing the ground, walking in circles or looking uncomfortable then quickly take her outside to her designated bathroom area and follow rule number 7.
Training the Behavior

7. At the scheduled bathroom times, take your dog from her crate on a leash, and take her to her designated bathroom area. Keep your dog on her 6 ft. leash but let her explore while you stand in one spot. Initially ignore your dog. Because your dog is not getting any attention from you and there will be limited things of interest to explore in the restricted area defined by the leash, she will eventually go to the bathroom. If you engage in play your dog may “forget” to go to the bathroom. This is how accidents happen. Owners go back inside thinking there dog does not need the bathroom, the puppy is then put into a quiet boring environment and they go to the toilet!!

8. Once your dog has finished, praise her with ‘good doggie.’ Give her lots of attention and treats. Have a little celebration with your dog. This lets your dog know that her behavior is remarkable and deserves praise. You MUST create a situation where your dog wants to go to the bathroom in that particular area and then has a party of fun, attention and toys. Why would your dog choose to go anywhere else when this location predicts so much fun!

9. Only after your dog has been to the bathroom should she be let off the leash to play or taken for her ‘long’ walk. This ensures that your dog will soon learn that the more quickly she completes her bathroom behavior, the more quickly she will get her reward of treats, play, her walk – or all three. ALWAYS exercise or play with or train your dog for at least 10 minutes before you take her back inside to her crate. You don’t want your dog associating their bathroom behavior with an end to play and outside time and back to a boring crate!

Developing the Relationship

10. When dogs are exposed to consistent, accident-free house- training systems you will be surprised at how quickly they learn. With the right level of commitment and conscientious use of a training schedule, you can train a dog to be solidly house-trained in 10 days. This means the dog will indicate to you that she would like to go outside. It does not mean that if you leave a young dog unsupervised and miss their signals that they need the bathroom they will not have an accident. Remember also that with puppies you cannot expect them to hold their toilet behaviors for very long. They have small tummies and eat more often than a mature dog so food is constantly moving through their intestines.

No Place For Dominance – It’s Old Hat!

Despite the growing body of scientific research to the contrary, the “dominance” approach is one that some still elect to use in animal training and behavior modification, specifically with regards to dogs and horses. The underlying philosophy of so-called dominance theory in its application to pet dogs is, at best, outdated, at worst, impacts negatively the entire approach educated pet professionals should be taking.
The theory of dominance in dogs “originated from work conducted several decades ago. According to Miller (2018), ‘[t]he erroneous approach to canine social behavior known as dominance theory is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel (1947), in which the scientist concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, and the winner is the alpha wolf. Schenkel’s observations of captive wolf behavior were erroneously extrapolated to wild wolf behavior, and then to domestic dogs.’” (Bradley, 2019).
The idea that humans should be exerting physical control over animals was first widely popularized in the 1970s in the book, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete, which recommended the infamous alpha roll to deal with undesired behaviors.
The alpha roll, is when a human flips a dog onto his back and pins him until he shows “submissive” behaviors, was founded on 1960s studies of captive wolves kept in an area too small for their numbers and composed of members that would not naturally be found together in a pack in the wild. These conditions resulted in increased numbers of conflicts in which one wolf would appear to pin another wolf. However, current scientific knowledge has recanted the findings of these studies, acknowledging that this behavior is not typical of wolves living in the wild (Mech, 1999).
Despite these findings and the great disparity in behavior between wolves and dogs, dominance theory became applied to pet dogs, popularized, and remains a widely-propagated training style today, even though it is an “obsolete and aversive method of interacting with animals that has at its foundation incorrect and misinterpreted data which can result in damage to the animal-human relationship and cause behavioral problems in the animal.” (Pet Professional Guild, 2018).
But in the 21st century, can there really still be any debate over the issue of using pain and fear as “methods” of animal training? Research has already given us the good news that, no, we do not need to use any training or behavior modification protocols that utilize escape or avoidance behavior, or that cause fear or pain. Instead, we can reference the growing body of knowledge and findings from the scientific community which advocate for humane, positive reinforcement-based protocols.

Are You Prepared For a Lost Pet?

Are You Prepared for a Lost Dog? It can and does happen to responsible, caring pet owners.

4th July weekend is coming up. Don’t wait for the weekend or a lost pet scare to kick start you getting important information together just in case!

In March I had a scare, I thought my pup had wandered off when Rick turned his back for a few seconds while out on our property with her. I was panicked and scared. 
(she was found on our 24 acres, multi building property, crashed in her crate under a desk in the school room 1.5 hours later!).

Anyway, it made me think about all the things I could and should have prepared on hand in preparation for this scary and unthinkable scenario.

Believe me, when you think you have lost your dog, all rationale thought, and reason goes flying out of your head.

So here is what I did immediately, well after I smothered her with hugs and cuddles for a few minutes, ok hours!

1. Always have on hand the telephone numbers and email addresses for your local veterinarian, animal shelters and animal control facility. If you do lose your pet, you will want to get in touch with them immediately and not waste time looking for contact numbers.

2. Have a LOST Pet poster on hand that is already set up with a recent photograph, your name and contact details. This way you can just date it and begin to distribute it as needed.

3. Have a paragraph of text and a photograph ready to go on social media. Send a copy to a friend who can help cross post it while you do other things at home. Even this minor task can be overwhelming when you are panicked. All I could do is phone a friend, ask for help and cry!

4. Have a collar on your pet with an embroidered name and telephone number. If a helpful neighbor or good Samaritan finds your dog, then help them to help you. They can contact you immediately reducing the time your pet is away from your care.

Example – Last weekend a stray dog found their way onto our property. I had to house them and care for them for 48 hours as the dog had a collar but no ID. Over the weekend or holiday weekend it may be hard to contact the shelter or an authorized person who can help ID your pet through a chip. A collar with telephone number or ID tag could have ensured the pet got home sooner rather than later.

Keep your pets safe and in the event they get lost, prepare to get them back quickly!


What is Non-Associative Learning? – Sensitization and Habituation

by Niki Tudge

Non Associative learning is when you are not pairing a stimulus with a behavior. Non-associative learning can be either habituation or sensitization. It is the simplest form of learning.

Your reflexes are the relationship between a specific event and specific response. By nature, reflexes are stereotypic, but the strength of a reflex response can be altered, it can be weakened through Habituation or strengthened through Sensitization.

When there is a reduction in response to a specific stimulus after repeated exposures to it this is known as habituation. For example, If you live close to an airport you may habituate to the sounds of planes coming and going, where guest visiting may ask how you can possibly bear to live there! The degree of habituation and the speed at which it occurs is affected by several variables including the intensity of the stimulus, the duration of the stimulus and how many times the individual is exposed to the stimulus over a given time period (Chance, 2008).

Now let’s look at sensitization. Sensitization occurs when repeated exposure or a single exposure to a stimulus increases the intensity of the response. For example, if you
are walking down the hall right after watching a scary movie and your friend pops out and says BOO! you will startle more easily. The movie sensitized you. It sensitized you to other stimuli and it did so in one presentation!

Habituation requires repeated presentations whereas sensitization does not and habituation is related to the specific stimulus being exposed to whereas sensitization sensitizes to other stimuli.

How many ways can you think of where this may be an important consideration for your dog and their behavior?

Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Help – My Puppy is a Land Shark!

Why Do Puppies Nip?

Since puppies are born without hands, the only way they have to explore the world is with their mouths.  And you may have noticed that your puppy is quite the explorer.  Everything goes into those little mouths, including your fingers, and those baby teeth are like little needles.  Ouch!

It’s completely normal for puppies in their litters to bite each other in play.  When they engage in this “bitey-face” game, they learn a little about how to inhibit the strength of their biting.  If one puppy bites another too hard, that puppy probably will yelp and stop playing.  If that happens enough times, the biter learns to apply less pressure.

But puppies are covered with fur and we’re not.  The same level of bite pressure that is appropriate during puppy play can hurt us and even break the skin.  The inhibition they learn in the litter helps, but it’s usually not enough to teach young puppies how to properly interact with humans.


How Do You Stop the Nipping?

Some trainers will recommend that you hold your puppy’s mouth closed, yell “No,” or even push their cheeks into their teeth so that they hurt themselves.  If you look at it from your puppy’s point of view, this may teach them not to nip, but it also teaches them not to trust you.  They’re not being malicious when they nip you, they are simply doing what they are instinctively programmed to do.  There are much better ways to deal with it that don’t involve hurting your puppy and making her fearful of your hands coming near her face.

When puppies are biting us in play, it’s because they are trying to interact with us in the only way they know how.  What they want out of the behavior is for us to interact back.  If you’re saying, “No, don’t, stop, cut it out!” and moving your hands all around to stay out of their reach, to the puppy you’re simply playing back and encouraging them to go after those flying hands.  They don’t understand your words and moving targets are for chasing.  The message you want to give your puppy instead is, “When you nip me, I will immediately STOP interacting with you.”        

Make sure your puppy has lots of approved items to chew on.  A nice selection of hard, soft, squeaky, tuggy etc

   Stop playing immediately.  Don’t wave your hands around but do remove them from your

puppy’s reach.  When your pup is calm, you can slowly offer one hand to her mouth.  At this point many puppies will lick the hand.  This, or any behavior that is NOT biting, should be rewarded with continued attention and/or a food treat.  But if you get another nip, redirect to a toy. Your puppy will soon learn the rules of the game.  This lets them know gently that mouthy and nippy behavior doesn’t get any attention, it simply makes me stop interacting or makes me go away.


Redirect Redirect and More Redirect!

Having a puppy at home requires a certain amount of preparation. A key part of this preparation is having on hand, in lots of locations, appropriate toys, and chews that can be used to redirect nipping behavior. You need to be set up so as soon as, and whenever your puppy begins to nip you can immediately interceded with a toy. Use the toy to redirect your puppy from you to the toy. Encourage your puppy to grab the toy, play with the toy and bite the toy.  This can become a fun game for you and your puppy. It not only teaches them that interacting with you is fun but it will also deter them from nipping at you. Here are a few examples of when having toys around is important so you can quickly intercept nipping and redirect it to a toy.

  1. Playing with the puppy in the yard – Puppies can begin to jump, nip and grab at hands and clothing. Have a toy in your pocket or on hand to redirect this behavior
  2. Walking your puppy – Puppies can be fascinated the leash, your shoes or your trousers. Have a toy on hand to redirect the behavior
  3. Enjoying puppy nap time – A relaxing nap on your knee and cuddle session can quickly turn into a puppy hand-bite-fest!. Always have a toy on hand to redirect any attempt to engage you with puppy nipping.

Track Your Puppy Nipping!

Your puppy is not going to learn in one session that nipping is not appropriate and not appreciated. They simply do not learn this right away.   She is biting because it is something she was programmed to do.  At birth it’s as unconscious a behavior to her as breathing.  She has to learn first to connect to it as a voluntary behavior that she can control.  That’s why the initial pull-away after you stop interacting is often followed by another nip (if your hands are within nipping distance).  It will take a lot of consistent repetition before your puppy is able to get to the stage where she lunges to nip but inhibits herself before making contact.  If you and other family members keep a simple record of this nipping behavior you will see in time that it reduces in intensity and frequency. One day you will stop, think and realize that the nipping has ceased. 

Children and Ankle-Biting

It’s hard for young children not to squeal, dance, wave their hands around and run when puppy is nipping at them.  This, of course, delights the puppy and encourages her to continue her “playing.”  In this case, or if your puppy is persistent and continues to nip at your ankles when you walk away from her, let her drag a leash in the house (when supervised).  After a nipping incident, you can tether the leash to a doorknob and walk out of her reach or  move your children out of her reach.  When she has calmed down, slowly and calmly approach and offer a hand for a lick.  Licks (or non-biting behavior) get praise and continued attention.  Nips make the people go away again.  Make sure to supervise children so that they don’t turn this into a rousing “tag” game, winding the puppy up and frustrating her!  Movements away from her must be immediate and smooth, and movements towards her must be calm and purposeful.

No Rough-Housing with Hands!

The most important thing you can do when your puppy is a little land-shark is to make sure that nobody in her world is rough-housing or wrestling with her with their hands.  If this is happening, then no matter what else, you are confusing her with a game that in essence tells her, “Go for my hands!”  Most puppies love to rough-house, and you can still do it.  Just substitute a toy for your hands.  While she’s going after the toy if clumsy puppy misses and nips your skin or clothing, you can yelp (if that works for your puppy), drop the toy and stop playing.  That will also help teach her to be more careful with her mouthing.

The Bottom Line

If you do absolutely nothing, chances are your puppy will outgrow this stage on her own.  But if you are consistent, persistent and patient, reinforcing calm behavior and withdrawing attention for mouthy behavior, you may survive your dog’s puppyhood with less tooth marks! Remember always actively supervise children around your puppy. Keep it fun, safe and educational for both kids and puppies!

Dogs Must Love Water! Safety First & Then for Fun

We live on a 380-acre lake, our land goes right into the middle of it. We also have a large pond in one of our pastures and a Swimming Pool. In our social time Rick and I sail and Kayak. So, it’s important that our dogs enjoy water and are competent and confident in it.

This is the first lesson for Miss McDougal AKA Doogie to begin building up a love of water.

Criteria 1 – Introducing the pool to her world – placing the pool in her garden so she gets used to seeing it (big round and blue can be scary)
Criteria 2 – In the pool no water feeling happy – encouraging her into the pool as a play area
Criteria 3 – Jumping in and out of the pool playing with a toy with a scattering of water on the bottom
Criteria 3 – Playing in the pool with an inch of water and squeaky toys

All designed to build up a excited and happy response – When her Life Jacket gets here we will increase the depth and condition her to love wearing it – then on to the big girls pool! 


Doogie – First exposure to a swimming pool from Pet Professional Education on Vimeo.

Have Fun While You Learn a New Language – Learn To Speak Dog!


By Niki Tudge

An excerpt taken Chapter One of  A Kids Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog . This chapter provides background for the parents. The remainder of the book is easy to read case studies supported by fabulous graphics.


All behaviors that dogs exhibit are designed either to access pleasurable situations and desirable objects or to avoid and escape unpleasant situations and undesirable objects. (Note: this is based on what each individual dog considers to pleasant or unpleasant, not the human, and it is important to be aware that the canine and human opinions may differ in any given situation!)

A dog’s communication systems are greatly ritualized, and have evolved specifically to avoid or cut off conflict. This has made dogs, as a species, very successful in terms of their numbers, variety, and adaptability. Things, however, can go awry when we humans misread the signals dogs send us, leaving them helpless to effectively communicate their feelings to us no matter how hard they try.

We cannot know or understand what dogs think and vice-versa. What we can do, though, is understand their body language, observe them carefully as we interact with them, and then respond appropriately.

“Speaking dog” is simple if you remember a few important rules, and has the added bonus of making any interaction with dogs more fun and safe – not to mention, the dogs you come into contact with will really appreciate it.


Types of Social Behavior

The types of social behaviors dogs demonstrate can be broadly grouped into the following two possibilities: 

Distance Decreasing.

A dog uses distance decreasing behaviors to promote approach, play and continued interaction. A lumbering soft gait, relaxed body, and a relaxed face, where the muscles are loose, indicate the dog is encouraging interaction, as does a dog who is moving towards you or leaning into you. The dog may also offer you a paw or rub against you. Dogs who want to engage in play will demonstrate the “play bow,” a posture where the dog literally bows the front of his body so the front legs are parallel to the ground while the hindquarters remain in the standing position.

Distance Increasing.

Distance increasing signals vary and can be easily misread. The signals many of us seem to have no trouble understanding are when a dog stands tall, making each part of his body appear as large as possible, with his weight on the front legs, displaying an upright tail and ears, and piloerection (i.e. the hair along the spine stands up/raised hackles). The dog may also vocalize (e.g. bark or growl). We seem to instinctively react to these signals and take them as the warnings they are intended to be. (See also the upcoming section on anxiety and stress for more on distance increasing signals.)

Misinterpreting Distance Increasing Signals

There are also a number of distance increasing signals we humans commonly misinterpret. These are the more appeasing behaviors dogs demonstrate. Dogs use these appeasement behaviors to make friendly encounters more predictable and to help them diffuse what they anticipate might be a hostile encounter if escape is impossible. These behaviors are a nonaggressive way to “cut off” conflict. When dogs display these behaviors, we need to recognize that this is their way of showing us they are unsure and a little scared.

Appeasement Signals

You may see appeasement signals in one of two ways:

Passive Appeasement.

Passive appeasement behaviors are commonly misunderstood and are often labeled as “submissive.” Dogs displaying passive appeasement will present themselves in a recumbent position exposing the underside of their body. The dog’s ears are typically back and down against the head and the tail is often tucked between the upper legs. Sometimes the dog will expel a small amount of urine while he waits for the attention or the situation he perceives to be hostile to cease.

Active Appeasement.

Dogs displaying active appeasement gestures are often incorrectly labeled as “excited,” “overly friendly,” or even “pushy.” They will often approach you with their whole rear-end wagging in a “U” shape allowing both their face and genital area to be inspected. They may be desperate to jump up and get “in your face.”

For humans, then, it is important when meeting and greeting dogs to be able to recognize if a dog is genuinely friendly and wanting to greet you, or if he is experiencing stress, anxiety or fear.

Conflicted Dogs

A dog in conflict will want to approach but at the same time is too scared or unsure of the outcome. His body language will vacillate between displays of distance decreasing behaviors and distance increasing behaviors. Interacting with a dog that is conflicted can be risky. If you make a wrong move and the dog cannot avoid the approach, then he may become aggressive. This is often the case with a “fear biter.” Many dogs who bite, bite out of fear. Our appearance and movement towards them is scary, and they bite as a last resort to encourage us to leave. Dogs whose bite is motivated from fear often display ambivalent, mixed signals. This means they are conflicted. They are torn between approaching and being scared so they will move back and forth in their communication. This conflict can be displayed very quickly and can result in nips and bites. When dogs are showing fear it is advisable to avoid sudden movements, and to allow the dog an escape route. Do not force the meet and greet by moving toward the dog, having the dog’s owner manipulate the dog into moving toward you, or trying to touch the dog in any way.

Cut-Off Behaviors

It is important that we recognize a dog’s cut-off behaviors. These are designed to end social contact. If, when greeting a dog, you do not recognize that he is scared or stressed, or you choose to ignore his signals and push forward with your approach, you are unfairly pushing him into a situation where he may feel he is only left with one option, and that is not a favorable option either to dog or human. In other words, he may feel he has no other choice but to bite.

When we get a little irritated we may tell somebody to “push off “or “cut it out.” If they don’t respond then we may speak a little more firmly and we may even shout at them. Our dogs cannot do this. They cannot explain or plead with us in English, or whichever language we speak. They can only use their canine communication system. It is up to us to understand and respond to this system so the dog does not feel threatened to the point where he escalates his warnings to a bite!

Canine Warnings

Dogs will typically give plenty of warning if they are uncomfortable with something that another dog or a person is doing. These warning signs may include a direct stare, a rigid face or body, a growl, a curled lip (this can be minimal and hard to spot) or “whale eye” (i.e. flashing the whites of his eyes, also known as half-moon eye). His ears may be flat against his head and he may have a closed, tense mouth. If you see any of these signals, stop what you are doing immediately and allow the dog to slowly back away. Be aware that dogs can make these signals extremely quickly, within mere seconds, and because of this it is not always easy to spot them.

Dogs are wonderful, social animals that love and need to be a part of our lives. But, like people, their personalities range from being social butterflies to wallflowers. Tailor your approach and greeting style based on whatever communications the dog gives you. Dogs are very clear with their intentions and emotions and respond accordingly to ours. Remember, our body language and approach speak much louder than our words as far as dogs are concerned. They are expert readers of our body language and nonverbal communication.

Specific Signs of Stress or Anxiety

Dogs often feel stressed or anxious in certain situations, and will give signs to indicate their discomfort. In such cases, there is a need for intervention to prevent pushing a dog to the point of biting, and to make sure your canine friend is happy and not feeling anxious. Some of the behaviors and signals in this section may also be mentioned in other areas of the book, but we feel they are too important to not speak to in more detail.


Please remember: It is a GOOD THING that a dog shows you that he is anxious or uncomfortable and gives you the chance to change the situation, rather than go straight to a bite. Here are some of the more subtle or commonly misinterpreted signs a dog may give when feeling stressed or anxious:

  • One Paw Raised – This looks very cute but the dog who raises his paw is not happy and does not want to be petted or bothered. A raised paw is a sign that the dog is worried.
  • Half-Moon Eye – Also known as whale eye, this is when the whites of the dog’s eye are visible. Watch for this one when kids are playing too rough with the dog, or are too noisy or close to him. It is a common expression in dogs that are being hugged. If you see the half-moon eye when children approach the dog or are interacting with the dog, it’s time to intervene and give them all something else to do. The dog just wants to be left alone.

A dog may also vocalize his anxiety in the form of a growl, a tongue flick, looking away, yawning or by licking his lips. Never punish a dog for showing that he wants to be left alone by growling, leaving the area or demonstrating any of the more subtle signs highlighted above. If you punish a dog for growling, then you risk suppressing his warning system. If you punish a dog for not staying in a set place when he feels threatened by a child’s proximity, then you risk suppressing his warning system. When a dog’s efforts to communicate are ignored and he starts to feel more and more stressed, he may get to the point where he feels he can no longer rely on his warning system. In such cases, he may simply resort to biting without any of the initial warning signals.

Now if a dog is punished for trying to communicate his discomfort with any given situation, he will still feel exactly the same way about a child bothering him. However, he may now also feel he has no way to show it and no way out of the situation because he does not want to risk being punished. Be glad if your dog gives a warning and take steps to modify the behavior of the child, condition the dog to enjoy the child, and create private and safe spaces for both dog and child.

Other Signs of Anxiety.

  • Tail between the legs.
  • Tail low and only the end is wagging.
  • Tail between the legs and wagging.
  • Tail down or straight for curly-tailed dogs (husky, malamute, pug, chow chow, spitz-type dogs etc.)
  • Ears sideways for an erect-eared dog.
  • Ears back and very rapid panting.
  • The dog goes into another room away from you and urinates or defecates. (Please find a force free professional behavior consultant for help with this.)


Displacement Behaviors

These are all things that dogs do in other contexts. It is important to look at the whole situation to determine whether the dog is feeling anxious.

For example:

  • If it is bedtime and the dog gets up, stretches, yawns and goes to her bed, then that yawn was not a displacement behavior.
  • If the kids are hugging the dog or lying on her and she yawns or starts licking at them over and over, then this is a displacement behavior. She wants to get up and leave or even to bite, but she displaces that with yawning or licking them or herself. In this context, the licking or yawning behavior tells you that the dog is uncomfortable with whatever the kids are doing and it is time for you to intervene. You must then either prevent the kids from doing this in the future, or use positive training techniques to teach the dog to enjoy (not just tolerate) these actions from the kids. (Note: Children should never lie on, sit on, or stand on any dog.)


Displacement behaviors are normal behaviors that are displayed out of context. They also indicate conflict and anxiety, i.e. the dog wants to do something, but he is suppressing the urge to do it. He may, then, displace the suppressed behavior with something else such as a lick or a yawn. For example, you are getting ready to go out and the dog hopes to go too. He is not sure what will happen next. He wants to jump on you or run out the door, but instead he yawns. The uncertainty of the situation causes conflict for the dog, and the displacement behaviors are a manifestation of that conflict. Another example: The dog may want to bite a child who takes his bone, but instead he bites furiously at his own foot.

Some examples of displacement behaviors include:

  • Yawning when not tired.
  • Licking chops without the presence of food.
  • Sudden scratching when not itchy.
  • Sudden biting at paws or other body part.
  • Sudden sniffing the ground or other object.
  • All over body shake when not wet or dirty. 

Avoidance Behaviors

Sometimes dogs are more overt when they feel anxious and want to remove themselves from a situation. Here are some examples:

  • Getting up and leaving an uncomfortable situation.
  • Turning the head away.
  • Hiding behind a person or object.
  • Barking and retreating.
  • Rolling over on his back in a submissive way. (He is saying, “Please don’t hurt me!”)

Please don’t force a dog to stay in situation where he feels anxious, especially if children are the source of his anxiety. All dogs should have a safe place, such as a crate or mat, which they can go to when they want to be left alone. All family members and guests should be taught not to bother the dog when he is in his safe place.

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A Simple Explanation of Respondent Conditioning

As a dog training professional many of your clients will present behavioral or training challenges that are a result of an emotional response, a problematic emotional response.

The observable behavior you see, the operant behavior is elicited because the dog is afraid, scared, anxious etc.  To change the problematic operant behavior you have to change the emotional response.  In order to change the dogs emotional response you need to understand respondent conditioning.



Here is a simple and succinct explanation

Within an organism there are two types of reflexes, unconditioned reflexes and conditioned reflexes. An unconditioned reflex (UR) is unlearned and occurs unconditionally, whereas a conditioned reflex (CR) is acquired and considered impermanent (Chance 2008 p 63).

An unconditioned reflex consists of an unconditioned stimulus (US) and an unconditioned response (UR).  An unconditioned stimulus is something that when presented evokes a natural, unconditioned, response,  such as blinking when air is pushed towards the eyelid or sweating when stressed or scared. Unconditioned reflexes are important for an animal’s survival.  Freeze dried liver offered to a dog is an example of a US and the dog drooling is an example of the resulting UR.

A conditioned reflex occurs when a conditioned stimulus (CS) creates a conditioned response (CR).  This is a learned response to a given set of conditions occurring in the environment.  Pavlov recognized that any stimulus could become a conditioned stimulus when paired repeatedly with an unconditioned stimulus (Chance 2008 p 64).

Respondent conditioning takes place when an unconditioned stimulus that elicits an unconditioned response is repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus. As a result of conditioning, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus that reliably elicits a conditioned response.  Each single pairing is considered a trial. With respondent conditioning the presentation of the two stimuli, neutral and unconditioned, are presented regardless of the behavior the individual is exhibiting. The behavior elicited is a reflex response (Change 2008 p 64).

High order conditioning takes place when a well established conditioned stimulus is paired with a neutral stimulus to elicit a conditioned response. High order conditioning takes place in the absence of an unconditioned stimulus. With high order conditioning many more stimuli can come to elicit conditional responses not just those paired with an unconditioned stimulus, thus enhancing the ability of the animal to adapt and survive.  But high order conditioning also affects and influences many emotional reactions such as fear (Chance 2008 p 66).


Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior, Wadsworth Cengage Learning