Tag Archives: Dogs

What Do Your Dog’s Urination Rituals Really Mean?

An extensive study on canine scent marking published recently in the journal Animal Behaviour provides conclusive evidence dogs of both sexes compete for status through urination.

The characteristics by which canines judge one another’s position in the doggy hierarchy include the location chosen, angle of leg lift, height of the marking and quality of the urine.

Overmarking is when a dog pees on or near the mark left by another canine. Adjacent marking is when a dog urinates very close to, but not directly on, the mark of another dog. Both types are known as countermarking.

Putting to rest previous assumptions that overmarking is done exclusively by males to hide female urine marking, this study reveals both male and female dogs do it. And they do it to urine marks of either sex, not just marks left by the opposite sex. The dog’s status plays an important role in the tendency to countermark.

According to Anneke Lisberg, study co-author and a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:

“Although both sexes countermark, they do it a little differently: Males are more likely to overmark than females, and high-status males exposed to a place like a dog park are the energizer bunnies of marking. Males and females investigate urine, and the higher tailed dogs of both sexes urinate and countermark. But the males don’t stop after the first mark or second or third.”

(Dogs of either gender with high tail positions are assumed to be higher status dogs.)

Lower status dogs, more submissive than their higher ranking counterparts, often don’t do any countermarking at dog parks. Based on studies of other animals that urine-mark, it’s in fact risky for a submissive individual to even pretend to overmark. In the world of canines, it seems attempting to fake elevated status with countermarking is inviting trouble from higher ranking dogs who know the difference.

Dr. Lisberg explains how scent marking probably helps dogs relate to one another:

“Because these are signals that can be investigated from a safe distance, it may be that dogs are able to sort out a lot of their relationships through marks before they ever meet face to face. If they can sort out things chemically, it could help them make smarter decisions about whom to approach and how to approach them.”

Dr Becker’s Comments

All of you dog guardians out there know how much time your beloved pooch spends investigating pee, and peeing.

If you’ve paid attention to your pet’s urination rituals, you know he’s using his keen sense of smell to gather information. As he stops and sniffs and sniffs and sniffs, he’s picking up facts about all the other animals — in particular, canines — that have relieved themselves in the area.

Canine Scent Marking and Facebook

Unfortunately, despite how much time our canine companions spend in pee-related pursuits, very little is known about urinary communication among dogs. Anneke Lisberg and her colleague, Charles Snowdon, would seem to be research pioneers in the field of canine scent marking.

Their study suggests dogs of both sexes use a variety of different urination activities to:

  • Assert social status
  • Find potential mates
  • Size up unfamiliar dogs
  • Limit potentially threatening close contact during social introductions

Dr. Lisberg believes dogs may use urine investigation and scent marking in an attempt to establish safe social connections with other dogs. According to Discovery News, she thinks it is possible dogs “might be able to assess many personal aspects of health, stress, virility, diet” and more just by sniffing another dog’s urine.

Dr. Lisberg believes marking and countermarking could be the canine equivalent of Facebook. It allows dogs to easily gather information about one another’s personal lives, from a safe distance.

Another interesting if arguably unscientific viewpoint on canine scent marking comes from a 1944 novel by British philosopher and author Olaf Stapledon, titled Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord.

Sirius is a sheep dog with human-level intelligence. He attends Cambridge University with his guardian, and among other scholarly activities, has plans to write a book called The Lamp-post, A Study of the Social Life of the Domestic Dog. The opening passage, as written by Sirius:

“In man, social intercourse has centered mainly on the process of absorbing fluid into the organism, but in the domestic dog and to a lesser extent among all wild canine species, the act charged with most social significance is the excretion of fluid. For man the pub, the estaminet, the Biergarten, but for the dog the tree trunk, the lintel of door or gate, and above all the lamppost, form the focal points of community life. For a man, the flavors of alcoholic drinks, but for a dog the infinitely variegated smells of urine are the most potent stimuli for the gregarious impulse.”

Scent Marking Behavior by Gender

In Dr. Lisberg’s experiment, she presented peed-upon, short wooden stakes to a group of dogs that included intact males and females, neutered males and spayed females.

She then observed and recorded the behavior of all 4 categories of dogs. Contrary to what you might expect, the females in the group spent just as much time investigating the urine of unfamiliar dogs as the males did. The males primarily investigated the urine of unfamiliar males, however, the females were equally interested in the urine of both sexes.

Dogs with the highest tail positions (assumed to be the highest status dogs) spent less time sniffing; dogs with low tail positions spent the most time at it.

As you might guess, dogs with high tail positions did the most overmarking. None of the females overmarked. Instead, they adjacent-marked from a distance of 4 to 5 feet. (Lisberg has done another study that suggests overmarking and adjacent marking are actually different responses with different motivations.)

At the Dog Park

Another experiment Dr. Lisberg performed was at a popular dog park. She set out to observe pee investigation, Ano-Genital (AG) investigation (butt sniffing) and peeing behavior at the entrance to the park. Some of her observations:

  • Male and female dogs were equally likely to urinate immediately upon entering the park. Males peed more frequently, however.
  • Male dogs already at the park overmarked or adjacent marked more than females. They also spent more time doing pee investigations of new dogs entering the park.
  • Dogs of both sexes with high tail positions marked and investigated more than dogs with low tail positions. And no female dog with a low tail position either peed upon entering the park, or countermarked those that did.
  • Ano-Genital sniffing was done more by dogs already in the park than those just entering. It was also done more frequently by dogs who appeared relaxed. There didn’t seem to be any relationship between AG sniffing and either the sex or status of the dogs.

Dogs entering the park were frequently quickly surrounded (for purposes of butt sniffing) by several dogs already at the park. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a dog park, you’re probably aware this is a potentially threatening situation for your dog as she enters the park (and often for you, as well).

Dr. Lisberg noted a consistent tendency of dogs getting the AG treatment to quickly move a few feet away and urinate. This caused the other dogs to sniff the urine rather than the new dog, which ended the potentially stressful physical contact. Lisberg speculates urine marking may be a way for dogs to reveal social information about themselves while avoiding the tension created by AG behavior by strangers.

Perhaps if more dogs were free to greet one another through the pee-and-sniff method vs. the butt sniff method, there would be fewer issues when leashed dogs are introduced to other leashed (or unleashed) dogs. Maybe our canine companions need the freedom to communicate information about themselves through urine, without the threat posed by close contact sniffing among strangers.

Food for thought!


Dog Daycare In Oxford Mississippi

All Dog Daycare Programs are Pretty Much Alike, Right? Wrong! Our Dog Daycare Leads The Pack. It is Fun & Safe.

View Our Dog Daycare Pictures
Resort Lobby Hours for Arriving & Departing Dog Daycare Guests

Make a Dog daycare reservation today!

Scroll Down To Review A Typical Day at Pampered Paws Dog Daycare

Your Peace of Mind
Pampered Paws has created a balanced approach to dog daycare that ensures your peace of mind while your pet enjoys optimal levels of play and socializing. Because dogs do not naturally play or socialize for 8 hours a day, forcing your pet into playgroups for lengthy periods can be both stressful and physically challenging. It is essential that your dog has a private space and quiet time during the day between play sessions.

Our Pampered Paws Dog Daycare Program, designed by Niki Tudge, limits the number of participants and matches dogs based on age, physical activity and personality traits. In addition, dogs less than 20 pounds have their own “Small Paws” daycare in a separate, specialized environment. Pampered Paws dog playgroup sizes are a maximum of five to ensure we can effectively supervise your dog’s play and guarantee all dog interactions remain polite and stress free while giving them many opportunities to interact safely with their canine buddies.

Fun For Your Dog
Your dog enjoys all the amenities of our resort for the day! We encourage happy wagging tails, cold noses and playful barks. Belly scratches, ear kisses and chew toys are all on the agenda too. We do not object to dog drooling and shedding either! Our Pet Care Technicians are trained in canine behavior and communication and we practice polite daycare obedience skills. Your dog will be continually reinforced for all appropriate behaviors, such as no jumping, appropriate barking and polite canine greetings and we only use positive dog handling techniques.

Some dogs in daycare enjoy sniffing, barking, chasing and general canine dog-foolery! Other dogs simply prefer the contact and company of humans while their owner is at work. We will gear your dog’s daycare experience around its needs. At Pampered Paws Dog Daycare each guest receives its own private space for eating, sleeping, lounging or some good old-fashion dog-watching!

Frequently asked questions

A Typical Pampered Paws Dog Day Care Schedule
Dog Daycare

7:00 – 8:00 am Arrivals
Our daycare dogs are checked in. Any belongings they bring are placed into their cubby while they wait in their private “rooms” for play-date to begin.

8:00 – 11:30 am Morning Activities
Your dog will participate in ball-fetching, chasing games, wrestling, climbing, tunnel running and many special activities we schedule from time to time.

11:30 am – 12:00 pm Individual Attention
When we distribute snacks and cookies, each dog has a few special moments alone with a Pet Care Technician.

12:00 – 2:00 pm Nap Time
Yes, your dog will actually rest while it is here! Dogs rest in their rooms with soft music and lights out. This is important quiet time as your dog has had a very active morning and will need to relax and recharge.

2:00 – 4:30 pm Afternoon Activities
In the afternoon, your dog will experience a slower pace of play, just as much fun but with less vigor

4:30 – 5:00 pm Individual Attention
For dogs that are staying overnight, it is now dinnertime. Daycare dogs leaving to go home spend this time relaxing and getting cleaned up.

5:00 – 6:30 pm Pick Up Time
Each dog unwinds in their room before its owner arrives to take it home

Pampered Paws Canine Slumber Party guests
Get more information about our Slumber Party Services.

For Oxford MS dog daycare pricing and information on dog daycare packages please request a FREE phone consultation.

Sign up now for Oxford MS dog daycare
Dog Daycare Pricing

Enroll your dog into a full day of fun and play with its doggie mates – $17.50
Read more here about your dogs daily activities
Save on Pet Care with a Pampered Paws Dog Daycare Package
A 10 visit dog daycare package $147.73 each daily visit is $14.77
A 20 visit dog daycare package $282.61 each daily visit is $14.13
A 30 visit dog daycare package $406.25 each daily visit is $13.54

Your Dog Daycare Packages is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.
Each 30 visit package includes a complimentary Dog Park membership
Oxford MS Dog Daycare!

Debunking The Dominance Myth in Dog Training

The DogSmith Dog Training and Dog Behavior Counseling, behavior change methods, protocols and philosophies are founded in the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the science of controlling and predicting behavior.

Using dominance theory  in dog training is an antiquated thought process based on  myth. Dogs do what works for them, what gains them access to the things they  want. Dogs do not wake up each day and wonder how they can plot and plan to take down the human race, to dominate us.

A dog running out through a door before you is not a sign of dominance its an excited dog who wants to go out and play

A dog pulling on a leash is not a sign of dominance its a dog who has never been shown how to walk nicely on a leash

A dog jumping up at you is not a sign of dominance it is more often than not a dog who wants to greet and welcome you the way dogs greet each other.

Read more on dominance theory by clicking on some of these links. If you need help with your dogs behavior then contact a professional dog trainer who understands how and why dogs behave the way they do.

Position statement on the use of Dominance Theory in behavior modification of animals (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior)
Dominance and dog training (Association of Pet Dog Trainers)
The myth of alpha dogs (Eric Brad)
Blunt force trauma: canine reality (Eric Brad)
Debunking the dominance myth (Carmen Buitrago)
Behind the behavior (Kath Charlton)
Canine dominance: is the concept of the alpha dog valid? (Dr. Stanley Coren)
If not dominance, how do we explain the development of social behavior? (Dog Welfare Campaign)
Are dogs pack animals? (Jean Donaldson)
Let’s just be humans training dogs (Dr. Ian Dunbar)
Misconceptions of the mythical alpha dog (Dr. Ian Dunbar)
Dominance is not leadership (Eric Goebelbecker)
Is dominance in dogs a popular myth or a reality? (Pat Gray)
Position on the use of dominance and punishment for the training and behavior modification of dogs (Don Hanson)
Why dominance won’t die (Debbie Jacobs)
Dinner at the dog dominance cafe (Edie Jarolim)
Dominant dog theory will soon be but a whisper (Sally Jones)
Veterinary behaviorists question dominance theory in dogs (Timothy Kirn)
Alpha theory: why it doesn’t work (Steven L.)
Dog training and the myth of alpha male dominance (Jennie Lee-St. John)
The concept formerly described as “dominance” (Patricia McConnell)
The “d word” and social relationships in dogs (Patricia McConnell)
Dominance mythologies, Suzanne Hetts (Patricia McConnell)
Wolf pack/dominance myth (Joan Orr)
The dominance myth in dog training (Paul Owens)
Why won’t dominance die? (David Ryan)
Is wolf dominance a myth?  Scientists say yes! (Grisha Stewart)
Using “dominance” to explain behavior is old hat (University of Bristol)
Alpha roll or alpha role? (Nicole Wilde)
The dominance controversy (Dr. Sophia Yin)

?Contact The DogSmith Dog Training Center in Oxford MS, if we cannot help you we can refer you to a DogSmith dog trainer or other professional who can.

DogSmith’s Specialize in “Canine Slumber” parties. It what we do and how we roll!

Calling All “Small Paws” Special Pampering Just For You!

Home-Style Accommodations, Guaranteed Tail Wagging Results!

Make your pet’s reservation and design its vacation itinerary.

Lapdogs have unique needs and require special attention while away from their owners. At Pampered Paws Pet Resort & Spa, home of The DogSmith in Oxford MS, we have designed the perfect accommodations for small breed puppies and lapdog residents. Small breed puppies over 12 weeks of age and under 6 months old, and small dogs less than 25 pounds, enjoy the facilities and services of The Pampered Paws, “Small Paw”  Cottage. The cottage is designed to ensure your pet receives all the attention it needs, whenever it needs it. Just like home. The daily accommodation rate is fully inclusive of all the amenities your dog will enjoy.

Puppy Boarding Each Canine Slumber Party includes:

    • Room service twice each day, (we serve a holistic premium pet food)
    • Constant cuddle loves and play
    • A cozy dog bed
    • A yummy bedtime snack
    • A fun day of play with like sized friends
    • Access to a private garden and toys
    • Private time to rest and unwind
    • A healthy lunch-time snack
    • Dog movies & canine music
Lapdogs $40.00
Puppies $40.00
Infant Care
(under 12 weeks) Includes 7 bathroom breaks and 4 meals each day

Pampered Paws Small Paw

Additional Services & Fees if requested:
Administer Medications Per day – $2.00

Personalize Your Pets Vacation!

Choose What Your Pet Needs, When It Needs It!
Schedule Your Pet for a Spa Service. Read more about our Spa Services

Each Local DogSmith specializes in “Canine Slumber Parties. Your dog enjoys the comfort and safely of a DogSmiths home. Visit us online at www.DogSmith.com to fetch your local DogSmith

Lets Call Kicking a Dog What it Is: Abuse

Written by Deborah Flick at her blog Boulder Dog

Sourced March 22nd 2011

Denial. Denial. Denial. People who don’t see abuse and torture when they are looking right at it are in denial. Denial is a very dangerous state of mind, it allows for all sorts of atrocities to go unchecked.

I thought about this when I read the always-on-top-of-current-dog-news Mary Haight’s new post: “Cesar, Abuse Is Not a Training Tool.” She includes a video to back up her argument. It’s a must read.

Mary asks: “How can so many people, including professionals, watch him abuse, and yes, torture dogs, and think it’s okay?” This is a really important question that we need to deconstruct.

I took a crack at it the Bonfire of the Insanities: Dumbinance Strikes Again, a post that I wrote 16 months ago. It’s all about denial. You can read below.

It’s deja vu all over again. That’s what occurs to me lately when I reflect on the abusive treatment of dogs in the name of training.

In my previous life I founded Denver Safehouse for Battered Women and taught classes on violence against women at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Rapists don’t think they rape. They’re just have sex with a woman who really wants it anyway. Men who beat their wives aren’t committing felony assault, they’re just showing her who’s boss.

The perpetrators were not the only ones in denial. Our entire culture colluded with them.

Rape was just another name for sex, it wasn’t assault. Some scholars argued that rape was impossible. Not so many years ago in Colorado it was legal for a man to rape his wife because within marriage the law assumed that marriage was just another way of saying sex-on-demand.

Beating up one’s wife was an acceptable way for a man to manage his unruly woman. Police turned a blind eye to women beaten within a inch of their lives. I know this to be true because I was on the front lines at the beginning of the so-called battered women’s movement. Every place we turned to for help—police, social services, mental health—turned us away or gave the woman bad advice, namely, some version of “It’s for your own good.”

With both rape and battering people assumed “she was asking for it” and that it was “good for her.” As for the the man, well, he was just asserting his rightful superior role. And the few who said, well maybe he hit her a little too hard, quickly qualified their statement with “It wasn’t that bad. It didn’t really hurt. I mean he didn’t break any bones.” Sound familiar?

I know from that experience that changing the perceptions of a culture entrenched in denial is like trying to right a monster vessel adrift at sea. It’s slow going, but it can be done. And, it’s still a work-in-progress.

I am not equating rape and battering with kicking a dog. Actually, I just said that because I don’t want to offend people who might take offense at that analogy. In my heart of hearts, though, I see the abuse and torture of dogs in the name of training or behavior modification as criminal acts against sentient beings, and frankly I think those who commit those acts should be treated as criminals by the law.

We can be begin our rehabilitation by asking ourselves, those of us who see nothing wrong with kicking dogs for their own good: What would you lose if you saw CM kicking a dog as abuse, as the deliberate infliction of pain? What would change for you? How do you feel about that?

Bonfires of the Insanities: Duminance Strikes Again (Redux)

Dominance theory, or dumbinance theory as I prefer to call it, reared its howling head again, this time as a prescription for child rearing—“Becoming the Alpha Dog in Your Own Home.” (As of today, the most popular article in the NYT.) Meet Cesar Millan, the new no-nonsense nanny. Here. In the New York Times. Again. (In case you missed the last exercise in fawning over Millan by the national paper of record, go here.)

To mark this dubious occasion I decided to get out ye ol’ bellows and stir up some embers of thought ignited by this bonfire of the insanities.

Insanity? You betcha. It’s downright crazy to look at one thing and see another, or not to see anything at all. Take dog poop. Poop is poop. Not chocolate puddin’. If you think poop is puddin’, you are in denial.  And, I don’t mean you’re cruising in a river in Egypt.

My aim here is to clear the smoke from our eyes so we can see what’s what, and stop convincing ourselves that that stuff we’re eatin’ is puddin’ and not poop. It’s poop!

Let’s begin with this quote from the Times article exhorting you to be the alpha dog in your own home, Cesar-style. It’s attributed to Allison Pearson, author of the novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It” about the pressures of contemporary motherhood. She said, “Unlike modern parents…dog trainers don’t think discipline equals being mean.”

Ah. Come again? Cesar Millan doesn’t dish out mean “discipline”? Is there more than one Cesar Millan? Did I miss something? I don’t think so. I’ll make a bold statement here. I am not crazy. Cesar ain’t dishing out puddin’.

Just to be fair, if Pearson was referring to the likes of Ian Dunbar or Karen Pryor or Pat Miller or Trish King, to name just a handful of excellent dog trainers who don’t think discipline equals being mean, I’m with her. They rely on the science of behavior and research that shows, time and again, that putting your energy into positively reinforcing your dog for doing the behaviors that you like rather going on a search and destroy mission for the behaviors that you don’t like, not only gives you a well-mannered dog, or child for that matter, but a relationship based on trust, not fear.

But, given that the Times article was about Cesar Millan, presumably, that’s who Pearson was talking about. (Or, the author of the article, by leaving the reader to make her own inference, makes it appear Pearson was referring to Millan. Allison, who were you talking about?)

Am I saying that Cesar’s style of discipline is mean? In a word, yes. In fact, it’s beyond mean. It’s sometimes cruel and abusive. When Cesar forces a fearful dog-aggressive dog to confront his fear by bringing the dog face-to-face with another dog and then strangles the dog with a choke collar for struggling to get away, or for aggressing, that’s mean. When Cesar drags a Saint Bernard who is fearful of stairs up a flight of stairs by the neck to get him over his fear of stairs, that’s mean. When he wraps a shock collar on a dog’s neck and shocks it to make it stop chasing the cat as the owner looks on, visibly shaken, that’s mean.

Do I think Millan thinks he’s being mean? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t.

I think Cesar Millan is in denial about what he’s doing to dogs in the name of “discipline”. And, his placid demeanor enhances the delusion. Think about it. If he yelled in anger as he kicked, slapped, pushed, and choked dogs, we’d be appalled. We’d call the SPCA. We’d boycott National Geographic Channel and it’s advertisers.

Let me be clear. Millan does deserve credit for not flying into a rage when he disciplines a dog. For that he is a decent role model. Indeed, the first rule of dog training is Do not rage at your dog. If you are frustrated, or angry just stop interacting with your dog until you calm down. (Take note. This is good advice to follow with your child or your spouse or your friends.)

But unfortunately Millan’s self-styled calm-assertive veneer polishes the illusion that his discipline does good, not harm. Choking a dog into submission while remaining bucolic makes it appear as if the medicine is going down like, well, puddin’. Presumably if Millan is placid and not acting out of anger then he’s not hurting the dog either.

So when his disciples repeat and repeat, as if in a trance, Cesar says anything that works is okay as along as you don’t harm the dog, they’re in denial too. And when the National Geographic Channel and the New York Times further aids and abets this lunacy, we are entering the realm of collective consensual denial of harm.

But, hey, so what?

Here’s what. Denial scrambles reality. Denial allows us to do harm without recognizing our actions as harmful. Denial invites us to rationalize harm away.

Take blame the victim, for example, as in “he’s a red zone dog.” Cesar’s methods are all that will work. (Not true).

Or, minimization as in it’s not so bad. That’s a good one. I wonder if Bella, the American Bull Dog, would agree that it wasn’t so bad when Millan activated the electric collar he put on her to teach her not to guard her food.

Denial also provides us with cover for not doing the right thing, for not taking a stand against harm.

We have a choice. We can clear the smoke from our eyes, point out poop when we see it and haul it away. Or, we can keep on chowin’ down the puddin’ around the bonfire of the insanities. What are you going to do?

Here is another interesting blog…..

Sourced Dancing Dog Blog The video shows Millan, over and over again with different dogs, kicking them. Millan says he doesn’t “kick” the dog but uses his foot to distract/correct–the sounds or extreme movement coming from most of the dogs leads me to believe otherwise.  When he is facing the back end of the dog I see that kick going to the groin. Thanks to Steve Dale at his Chicago Now blog for bringing this up and for the video.

Barking in dogs. The Easy Way To Understand and Manage It

Barking is a very common problem in dogs and one we receive many telephone calls about. Dogs are biologically predisposed to bark and they bark for many reasons. Barking can be reinforced with either positive or negative reinforcement, they bark to access things, such as treats or attention, or they bark to avoid or remove unpleasant things from their environment, such as threats, strangers or other dogs. The problem with barking could be an intensity issue, a duration irritant or a frequency concern.

To really understand why a dog is barking you need to identify the antecedents, what triggers the behavior, and the consequences, what maintains the behavior. Is the barking the result of fear and therefore a respondent behavior or is the barking operating on its environment and being maintained through the accessed consequences.

Look at the setting events and motivating operations, one of which could be fear, and the direct antecedent the SD that triggers the barking.  In other words is the dog getting enough daily exercise and is its living environment offering it enough mental stimulation. Is the dog barking to access people, is it lonely and isolated from its family members. Is the dog in any pain, have you ruled out any potential medical problems?

In many situations the barking is an operant behavior and can be manipulated and controlled through the consequences. The dog can be trained to bark ‘speak’ on cue and then trained to ‘be quiet’ on cue. This teaches the dog to do a different behavior to access the desired reinforcement. In some cases teaching some control behaviors such as sit/wait/down and maintain behaviors can help prevent and manage the problem.  When barking becomes habitual the barking itself can be reinforcing for the dog. When a dog barks there can be a release of neurochemicals such as endorphins, dopamine or cortisols. These chemicals produce pleasant sensations for the dog and thus encourage the problematic barking behavior.

If the dog is barking due to anxiety, panic or fear then this becomes a little more complicated. The dog needs to be systematically desensitized to the item or situation that creates this emotional response.

So to change or modify a problematic barking behavior you need to understand how the dog interacts with its environment. Is the behavior being strengthened or weakened through its consequences or is the barking problem the visible signs of a fearful, anxious or panicked dog.

Punishing a barking behavior is ineffective and can make it worse, it will certainly affect how the dog perceives you and it is highly likely that the punishment will lead to other ‘fallout’ problematic behaviors such as fear or aggression. It is far more pleasant and far more effective to teach your dog an alternative behavior or change its views on certain situations to eliminate the need for the dog to bark.

What behavior change procedures might you employ in changing barking problems in dogs?

A dog cannot bark when holding a ball!

When developing a behavior change program for barking problems in dogs we first need to complete a functional assessment. The functional assessment will help us identify the immediate antecedents and the distant antecedents, the motivating operations and setting events. The functional assessment will reveal the behavior postcedents, in particular the consequences, those responsible for maintaining the behavior. Prior to developing behavior change plan goals with the clients we will need to measure the dimensions of the behavior in terms of frequency, duration and intensity. This will help us set realistic expectations for the client.  The functional assessment will guide us in our choice of respondent conditioning protocols, operant conditioning protocols or a combination of both when the operants are motivated by a conditioned emotional response (O’Heare 2009).

It is impossible to completely eliminate a dog’s barking.  Barking is a natural and necessary dog behavior. The behavior change plan should develop goals that reduce the most relevant dimension of the barking and limit the number and types of stimuli that elicit the barking. Operant conditioning techniques are used for changing operants which are behaviors that are controlled by their consequences The behavior change program should make the problematic barking irrelevant, inefficient or ineffective (Miltenberger 2004).

If the problematic barking behavior is elicited by external factors in the home during the owner’s absence then the owners can employ some management techniques, antecedent control procedures, to remove or reduce the likelihood that the dog will be exposed to the discriminative stimulus. Crate training or reducing access to certain areas of the house may be sufficient in resolving the problem. However, this is not considered a comprehensive approach to changing the behavior.

If the behavior requires the intervention of a comprehensive behavior change program then these antecedent control procedures are still important management activities during the behavior change plan. It is important to the success of the behavior change program to have antecedent control, manipulation of the dog’s environment, so the dog cannot engage in the problematic behavior and receive ongoing reinforcement (O’Heare 2009).

Another important antecedent control procedure (management activity) of the problematic barking is ensuring the dog is receiving an adequate amount of exercise.  Exercise levels should be increased. Exercise induces the release of endorphins and enhances serotonin activity which supports the regulation of mood and the control of impulsive behaviors. A dog that is well exercised will be more relaxed and less likely to react to troublesome stimuli and engage in troublesome barking (Lindsay p112 2000).

If the barking is triggered by extended periods at home alone, the dog is bored and/or frustrated, then the dog’s owners should introduce and incorporate mentally stimulating activities into their dog’s environment.  Interactive toys, food dispensers or simply the engagement of a dog walker or pet sitter can break up long periods of time replacing boredom and problematic barking with physical exercise and human companionship.

When problematic barking behaviors are triggered by specific stimuli such as front door bells, arriving guests, access to yard time or other specific stimuli and are positively reinforced by the results of these activities then the most effective behavior change program will involve a constructional approach. The focus of the behavior change program will be on replacing the problematic barking with other more appropriate and acceptable behaviors that accesses the same or similar reinforcement (O’Heare 2009).

Differential reinforcement protocols can be used targeting the problematic barking while developing alternative, incompatible or, a lower rate of the current barking behavior.  The problematic barking behavior can then be reduced in either/or all frequency, intensity or duration or replaced with an incompatible behavior such as grabbing and holding a tennis ball in the dog’s mouth.

The initial behavior change program should take place outside the context of the problematic behavior. For instance, if the goal is to teach the dog, when the door bell rings, to locate, grab and hold a tennis ball then this behavior can be shaped, through differential reinforcement of successive approximations to a terminal behavior, in another location (O’Heare 2009).

Once the behavior is under stimulus control like a verbal cue then stimulus control can be transferred to the door bell by presenting the new stimulus, the door bell, followed by the old stimulus, the verbal cue, which is then followed by the behavior and reinforcement. After repeated trials and conditioning has taken place we then drop the stimulus (verbal cue) from the sequence and the door bell will have taken control over the behavior.   The old stimulus is faded away while the behavior has a high probability of reinforcement to avoid S?, the extinction stimulus, and too eliminate errors (Burch and Bailey 1999 p 131).

The behavior can then be generalized in the real world setting, in the house, in different rooms, in the presence of different people and then finally in the areas where the new target behavior is needed(O’Heare 2009).

Burch, M, R and Bailey, J, S (1999) How Dogs Learn, Wiley Publishing Inc

Lindsay S. (2000) Applied Dog Behavior and Training Volume One, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford England.

Miltenberger (2004) Behavior Modification Principles and Procedures Third Edition, Thompson. USA

O’Heare, J. (2008) Behavior Change Programming and Procedures 2009, CASI,


This survey does not reveal surprising results to those who work as professional dog trainers or dog behavior counselors.

The aim of the research was

  • To map a child’s knowledge of dog’s communication signals
  • The understand the perception of a child’s own authority in the relationship with a dog and
  • To determine the frequency of individual risk activities in their mutual contact.

The research abstract detailed that ‘ The research study has revealed alarming deficiencies, especially in the knowledge of communication signals and canine body language. The awareness of signs of the two most hazardous communication signals (threat and attack) was very poor”.


Journal of Nursing, Social Studies and Public Health, Vol. 1, No. 1–2, 2010, pp. 102–109

Marie Chlop?íková, Adéla Mojžíšová
University of South Bohemia, College of Health and Social Studies, ?eské Bud?jovice, Czech Republic

Every relationship, even that between a child and dog, should be based on mutual respect and understanding that allows not only trouble-free interaction, but also creates
a good basis for a positive approach and relationship of both partners. If the child is supposed to create and strengthen the relationship with an animal – a dog – he/she must learn to know and respect not only dog’s basic physiological needs and supervision of the dog’s health status and fitness, but also specific differences seen in the behavior and communication
(communication signals) of his/her animal companion (Fra?ková 1999).

Ignorance of divergent patterns of behavior, perception of hierarchy (authority) by the animal in the human family, a variety of communication signals representing aversion
or pleasure of the animal, or just spending free time together (independent activities – walking the dog) puts both individuals into risky situations and represent primary causes
of possible conflict. The decision to let the child grow up together with a dog belongs, without a doubt, to one of the best decisions we can make. However, it is necessary to realize the
responsibility of adults in this relationship. A dog can make a child’s life richer – as a silent companion, a guardian, psychological support, and a loving and faithful friend. A
dog is worthy of our reverence and respect for all these positives. If children are taught to respect all living beings and pass this experience along, the positive consequences of our effort will enrich future generations (Hessler-Keyová 2002).

The full article can be sourced here

Thank you to Doggone Safe for bringing this important study to our attention.

Joan Orr  of Doggone Safe added in her email newsletter dated March 9th 2011

Some Key Risk Factors Identified in this Study

  • Children considering themselves to be the highest authority over the dog
  • Children walking the dog without adult supervision
  • Ignorance of dog body language signals – considered by the authors to be the main bite risk factor

The overall bite incidence in this study was 51% (of 200 children age 8-12). This is consistent with finding from our own survey of children in Be a Tree sessions that 54% (of 869 children age 5-9) has been bitten.

The results of this study provide strong support for the Doggone Safe approach of teaching children to read dog body language to help reduce the dog bite risk.

The DogSmith National Training Center will later on this year be rolling out an entire educational program around dog bite safety. This will be in partnership with Doggone Safe and Dogs & Storks. Watch out for our news releases. each locally owned and operated DogSmith Franchise will become a licensed Presenter on behalf of both these organizations