Is Positive Only Dog Training just Dogma?

Colin Tennant

Positive ONLY Dog Trainers are failing too may dogs with ineffective repetition methods.

The Bad Ideologue of our Time

Colin Christopher Tennant MA. FCFBA Criminal Court Canine Expert Witness

Dog Training Methodologies

Today I am addressing the issue of dog training methodologies, which cause a number of disturbing conflicts in the world of dog training and behaviour, mainly propagated by non-professionals with an ideological misunderstanding of science and moreover practical experience of urban dog life. I state clearly that I operate on the principals of science and operant conditioning.

General dog training methods without doubt have changed for the better and the concentration on reward-based training, which I have always championed, is better for dogs. I love dogs; that’s why I want to enjoy the full enchantment of their characters by means of a good social connection.

Reward dog training is not new; it’s always been here. I was reading a book from the 1880’s and most of the training methods were reward based, which was surprising because the treatment of humans at that time was pretty brutal in Britain.

I shall proffer an example of training that has always been executed by trainers in Britain: Olfactory led training – known as scent work with dogs. You cannot force a dog to use its olfactory system in scenting/tracking; it can only be induced via a reward generally with an exciting voice tone and end game. Trainers from previous generations trained that system and have continued to-date. It’s not new or recently discovered. As a teenager I trained many dogs of different breeds in competition for searches and tracking people and an array of (discarded) objects in competitive obedience, working trials as well as with operational Police dogs.

When dogs receive reward reinforcement for their actions, their sense-associated endorphins increase which is linked with the external motivator, such as their trainer/owner whose own endorphins ignite too coincidently. Confident and stimulated dogs become interested, which increases their feeling of well-being. I will not go into the science here in all its complexities other than to state in principal the below:

Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment brief

Reinforcement Punishment
Positive Something is added to increase the likelihood of a behaviour. Something is added to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour.
Negative Something is removed to increase the likelihood of a behaviour. Something is removed to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour.

My take and lifelong experience is this – a dog will only wish to repeat a behaviour that is rewarding and decreases or ceases a behaviour that is unrewarding. Humans are much the same. I wrote that over thirty years ago in articles and books, but experienced it by observations in my teens with my working trials dogs in competition, as mentioned above.

Ideally a reward based training regime is the best. Having trained a minimum of over 15,000 dogs (not including behaviour cases) in my lifetime and mostly one to one dog training in public, often under the most difficult circumstances, one has to use flexible training methods to be successful in an urban environment. Dog Law is also watching today and that without equivocation can activate whilst you are trying to rehabilitate or train a difficult dog.

Colin Tennant

The confusing myriad of amateurs versus professionals and lack of clear skill boundaries is endemic in the dog world.

The first matter to address is sorting the wheat trainers from the chaff trainers and the many conversations my colleagues and I have had with pet dog owners can only lead to one conclusion: The professional trainer with quantitative full-time experience as well as courses completed and the life experiences of practice are the minority. They deal mostly with the dogs that have especially challenging behaviour issues. It is unfortunate that most “positive only” trainers are the hobbyist type who dabble at the edges and are certainly not qualified as industry professionals. They are often the loudest on social media having endless time on their hands; they often appear narcissistic and need attention – social media is of course heaven for them. Their virtual signalling is their elixir of life.

Over four decades I have met and chatted to many of these hobbyist trainers and many do a good job within the limits of their knowledge and time invested in learning – they are, on the whole, part-timers averaging about 2 to 5 hours training/instructing a week, which is fine for beginner classes and basics. They are not professional trainers, however, nor can they be by sheer logical accumulative knowledge be described as a professional. Conversely, the good ones don’t make false claims or train outside of their knowledge base and don’t spend their life attacking others on line for attention.

Bad idea pathogens

Too many “positive only” trainers propagate “bad idea pathogens”, that are killing common sense and rational debate in the area of dog training and behaviour. Many regurgitate a lot of ineffective training claims through their frenetic activity – spending more time on social media than actually training dogs and making statements of purported fact that are generally unsupported by results or court level evidence. They seem to share the toxicity of many Internet trolls, being driven on by attention seeking and moralising negative behaviours.

I place these aberrant trainers in three classifications using the red traffic light code:

Green – state that they are “positive only”, but use correction and negative reinforcement when necessary even if rarely. These are using the term “positive” in a very flexible manner often for marketing purposes.

Amber: are more ideologically programmed and are unrealistic in claiming results especially with difficult dog cases, but despite failure, continue the mantra of “positive only”. They are frequently deluded and disabled by intelligent thought.

Red: fanatics occupy this space and I feel these ideologues are dangerous. They do more harm than good, confuse owners and are intolerant of reality, others’ opinions and are generally ineffective beyond basic commands, which in fact most pet owners can train their dogs to do without any trainer’s assistance.

Dog education organisations

Are dog organisations generally good and well intentioned? Yes. However, the fact you belong to an organisation does not guarantee expertise as a dog trainer for the public and less so professional knowledge levels. However, organisations such as The Guild of Dog Trainers www.godt.uk have set minimum standards to attain the status of Master Trainer.

The Guild of Dog Trainers offers in-house education courses to enable learners to acquire a variety of skills essential to those aspiring to be professional dog trainers. In addition, there is the opportunity to attain the highest academic and vocational training offered by the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training (CIDBT) www.cidbt.org.uk This is a unique higher educational partnership in the UK. Both organisations are supported by The Pet Education, Training and Behaviour Council, which was the first of its type in Britain to set minimum standards in dog training and behaviour. See www.petbc.uk for further information.

In addition there are many professional dog trainers who are not members of any organisation and are highly skilled; I call these the independent trainers. The successful ones need recommendation and as such, like all good dog trainers, produce satisfactory results hence why they are successful.

The Professional Standards for Dog Trainers and Behaviourists in the UK

In most professions a person who is not trained professionally cannot control or influence a professional body’s aims and standards – think of vets, electricians, engineers, etc. The people who set the standards for these professions are not part-timers who practice engineering at home working a few hours a week and thereafter be allowed to attend and influence professional meetings/committees on professional standards. It is simply not tolerated, however at various national meetings I have observed and attended – these hobbyists extol their opinions on dog behaviour training and without reservation can state are absolutely out of their knowledge depth. Opinions are fine, but not all are equal. Animal behaviour academics have also attended such meetings and are wholly unqualified to sit at the table at the behest of their mates and too are often clueless and as inexperienced as their cohorts.

The dog training and behaviour world is like the Wild West, which is why pet owners are so often confused. I have witnessed this nonsense at the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) meetings. Dog training hobbyists who frequently could not train or manage their own dogs and are absolutely not professional, were enjoined by clueless academics with doctorates in snakes, blackbirds and many other species – apart from dogs! – attempting to formulate dog training and behaviour protocols for professionals like me. Absolutely outrageous! But the academics got in first. They know how to work the system and set the agenda to suit themselves despite never working in the dog industry, so it’s not just some hobbyist trainers who interfere, academia also has its pervasive unqualified Trojans trying to wrest control of the dog industry for their own self-interest and especially in the dog behaviour discipline and monopolise a control. It’s often about power and academics love power. However, as Yogi Berra wrote: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”.

It’s not surprising that the public experience great difficulty in finding a qualified dog trainer through this morass of misinformation and disinformation.

The more difficult dog behaviour and training challenges

Often a difficult dog has to be trained speedily and within a time frame set by owners, whether we like it or not and within their ability to afford that same advice; these are patent facts, often ignored by ineffective hobbyist trainers. These hectoring “positive only” types berate dog owners about how patient they need to be, shouldn’t own a dog if they’re not prepared to put the work in and so forth – this hectoring cuts no ice with a pet dog owner who understands the reality of their situation as by the time a professional dog trainer/behaviourist meets these pet dog owners their charges have normally been through the mill of endless “positive only” trainers proffering no solutions and with failures because of the ineffective one size fits all ideology. When positive/reward does not provoke change what do you do next? These ideologues have no answer.

I have heard of cases were they suggest euthanizing the dog and dogs have been killed at the vets not because the dog can not be assisted but by ineffective ideology. They simply do more wind bagging, stating the truth is anathema, can’t possibly admit a massive knowledge gap. As Albert Einstein stated “Genius has its limitations unlike stupidity”.

Difficult dogs presented to me are not my ideal cases, but that is the reality of practice in dog behaviour and people alike, not all people are as flexible as I would like, but that is the situation presented, not the one I chose. Another tactic “positive only” trainers use is to feign their love of dogs and exaggerate how we all need to hold hands and see it from the dog’s perspective, its sounds great and fluffy, but useless if the behaviour stays unchanged especially when criminal law is being broken, families are being destabilised and the dog is on final countdown. Sometimes I arrive on the scene just before the dog is about to be re-homed, euthanized or other awful final solution and that’s why time is critical for behavioural change. Aggression is a most difficult area and hardly any dog rescue centres take aggressive dogs in my experience despite their claims to the contrary. Attempting to re-home an aggressive dog is most difficult and rescue centres can be prosecuted in civil and criminal law if they get it wrong.

In general I have occasionally to use, where applicable, equipment to assist the management of difficult dogs, I do so because owners pay me for help in changing their dogs aberrant behaviour. The overwhelming majority of these dogs thereafter lead happy fruitful lives until old age with a great owner relationship. If using reward only worked I would use that as I am a reward based professional, but that is not always viable in such complex cases, especially in a difficult environment where a dog lives. I deal with critical cases, Urban comes to mind here. My job is to do my best to secure that dog’s future and life; in such circumstances a piece of food is not a solution hence why I am called in.

My dog training styles

Dogs without doubt contribute much to our eudaimonia and by return when training my own dogs from puppyhood, I use reward via voice tonality, toys, touch and much close interaction; the most powerful being psychological inducements to focus the dog on me in all situations in order to illicit the training responses I need at that time. In those same circumstances, teaching the dog, whether distracted or not, that I am worth watching because of the fun we can have together, that’s it in a nut shell – well a big nut shell. Early puppy conditioning is critical. 21 Days To Train Your Dog.

Early dog / puppy training development

At first when training my puppies it’s should always take place in really friendly induced conditions, in the house and garden until I can transfer the same training into areas with more distractions, the very environment they will have life experiences and within the social boundaries of dog law and their peer canines. The end game is a trained dog in all situations without constantly giving food, the main default of too many amateur trainers, which I call the three FFFs: Frenetic Food Feeders. If reward is used incorrectly or too often, positive reinforcement can cause dogs to become set in their ways and when the reward is not forthcoming they regress – and quickly. However, if dogs are accustomed to positive reinforcement for a specific behaviour, they may be resistant to change because they think they might not be rewarded for a different kind of behaviour. Dogs need to learn and understand that reinforcement is related to pre actions not just their behavioural action at the time, this is a critical psychological component often misunderstood.

Of course as a dog trainer I have been willing to spend inordinate amounts of time until I gain the best trained puppy/dog. That is not the same for many pet dog owners; their dog is a pet and the time they are willing to put in is not comparable to a trainer and surprisingly to some hobbyists with demands on their time. Fitting in with a dog behaviourist and trainer is not often a priority compared to say caring for their family and other mandatory daily duties. These are simple plain facts of modern life and will affect your advice as an expert.

I don’t know a trainer or behaviourist who would disagree that reward based induced training methods are superior to negative training styles, but that said “positive only” has its limits when serious aberrant behaviour is an established and well-practised behaviour in a dog whether inherent and compounded or learnt – that’s the crux of dynamics related to situational training.

Positive ideologues simply have no solutions for a dog which chases deer, attacks other dogs, attacks people, won’t come back for a reward, chases cars and many more problematic embedded behaviours other than endless lecturing with a bag of food. We are not talking about training a dog to take a treat to sit in an empty room and declare “look it works!”

I have solved all the above and many more complex behaviour issues always having a powerful component of maximum reward in such circumstances. Whether using a long line, face collar, check on a lead, voice admonishment commands, all are useful and essential in many circumstances. The dog, like a child, has to link sounds Yes and No as approval and disapproval to guide its development in our complex society.

The algorithmic “positive only” ideologue.

These people spend much time using discursive construction of truth, ideology and thereafter the emergence of post-truth narratives in contemporary dog behavioural training psychology. It’s a form of canine Marxism, except most of the adherents would not understand the politics of that destructive ideology; their primary academic reading is Facebook.

They seem ideologically possessed and can be predicted easily, in fact everything that they are going to say is an algorithmic substructure of their “positive only” dogma, which is usually predicated on several repetitive axioms and which automatically generates speech content on what they are about to say. This alleviates any responsibility for thinking on what they are about to say, but allows them to believe that they have full control and knowledge about the entire positive training dictum without a moment’s thinking. That is an ideologue and the reason why they are a danger to dogs and owners alike; they don’t think they are separated from dog training problems in the real complex world, their way is the only way and everybody, however skilled who does not believe in such ideological junk, is bad. They are the Mecca of one-style-fits-all dog training served in a pompous, smug, self-satisfying style. They ooze social media narcissism.

I have always seen my job to educate dog owners and students to understand the dog’s mind, its instinctive drives, to train dogs using the most efficient and successful styles to achieve the model outcome and with genuine kindness. I use operant conditioning as defined by science, which has component parts of positive and negative, it’s how humans and all mammals learn.

English Criminal Dog Law trumps all dog training methodologies

Our society is ruled by criminal and civil law and the egregious dog laws trump all training methods that may expose the dog owner to prosecution if unheeded. Most dog owners overwhelmingly live in urban environments, many don’t have vehicles and their training of a difficult dog with aberrant behaviour can break the dog laws as they stand today in public or in a private dwelling.

Most dog owners do not have a secluded field or training space, spending all year using spurious, ineffective “positive only” methods. Even those owners who have limited empty spaces still have to re-engage into urban landscapes with the corresponding difficulties at some point. They are daily exposed to dogs and people – not all social interactions on their terms, but as presented in real society. They often have family and other time restrictions. The Law is watching them and they frequently walk in constant fear of a confrontation with other dogs and or people; most have already had several bad experiences and have worked out where not to walk if possible, what time of day, in the least crowded area if any. They don’t need a patronising “positive only” trainer to tell them the blindingly obvious and paying for it accompanied by “give it a treat”. They need advice that works. In essence they are the experts of their specific dog’s reactions in society and are asking for behavioural advice that works – not “don’t walk near dogs, find somewhere quiet, he needs space”. How strange that the owner never worked that out.

The following critical factors determine training/behaviour methods used but not all:

  • The dog behaviour problem is as seriousness as the owner views it
  • Time frame dictated by circumstances and seriousness of the behaviour
  • The criminal and civil law consequences for the dog and its owner if any
  • The safety of the public and family who encounter dogs out of control, if any
  • The owner’s willingness to follow a long and or short term programme
  • The dog’s living circumstances and family members involved
  • The outside environment it moves in and social interactions daily encountered
  • Any current legal actions to be or are triggered at the time
  • Long and short term desired outcomes

I must have heard several hundred stories from clients who have the same formalistic prelude from the positive ideological trainer, which in general contains the following:

Their modus operandi

  • “I am kind and absolutely positive
  • I love dogs
  • I use methods that are gentle – anybody who disagrees is bad
  • This may take some time to alter your dog’s behaviour (which is a euphemism for forever)
  • I need to explain your dog’s needs (ignoring the owners)
  • You have to follow all these rules (meaning put your kids and life on hold)
  • Nothing negative must happen (ignoring the massive negative that the dog may lose its home)

They go on and on in this ideological lecture until the dog leaves the room out of boredom and when it comes to methodologies they are applied whether workable or not. When they don’t work, press repeat and keep up the ideological non-working algorithm, because there is no more to offer through this vacuous simplicity. They have no genuine empathy for the dog’s owner, only their own agenda: It’s not about dogs it’s about them, self-delusion and belonging to the “woke brigade of intolerance”.

The bill is then demanded and when no dog training change takes place it’s either the owner’s fault or let’s charge you again for another programmed patronising lecture, which is equally ineffective until the owner loses patience and realises this person is faking it. Some disappointed pet owners eventually find a good professional trainer after such a harrowing experience and the new trainer/behaviourist who is competent, versatile and gets a result from the starting point that is now worse for the new trainer because of delays.

Owners who are not lucky enough to find a professional skilled trainer believe their dog is beyond skilled help – having experienced a series of ideologues through the door and view all trainers the same. The dog is then disposed of in ways previously described.

How do I know this, because we currently have records of hundreds of these cases from CFBA members and other dog trainers from organisations like the BIPDT, GoDT and many independent trainers. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate the problem:

Dog Behaviour Case: dog endlessly barking

My colleague was called to house where a dog was barking at every noise from inside the home and at people passing outside the home in front of the house day and night on a residential street. The owner had received many complaints and under the noise abatement criminal act (Environmental Protection Act, 1990) – all this was upsetting her family situation, notwithstanding the barking was driving her family mad too. It was obvious to any behaviourist that the dog was of a mildly fearful/anxious disposition. It had also learnt that barking over hundreds of occasions alerted the owner who came running and spoke (shouted) to the dog – a great reinforcement, but in essence it didn’t need a reinforcement, it was barking as a base temperament defect. That’s the quick version.

The owner, via a vet, was recommended an animal behaviourist from an organisation well known in the UK. The behaviourist told the owner that she was “positive only” in approach and the normal half hour of how she was nice, understood dogs and wrote a long rambling report that said nothing other than endless possibilities, theorised waffle and maybe another consultation.

The behaviourist’s main recommendation was for the owner to blank out all her windows facing the street for a few weeks so the dog had no eye stimulation to bark. The owner did this, placing her house in semi darkness with lots of greaseproof paper and gaffer tape!

The husband came home and was not pleased with what seemed intolerable advice. However, because the behaviourist had a Clinical Animal Behaviour Degree he relented. It was true she had a degree in animals not specifically dogs, but little qualitative skills or experience just an academic theory degree. I will cut to the chase, after one week the dog still barked at exactly the same rate throughout the day and at similar levels, if not more; its barking was now intolerable and with the complaints, the owner was fearing impending criminal law action. After the owner sent repeated emails and calls stating that nothing had changed the behaviourist suggested another £350.00 chat as the pet insurance had ran out. The husband took all the window coverings off and said the dog had to go.

My colleague from The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association subsequently arrived via a recommendation to the owner who was frantic to keep her dog. He assessed all the triggers and what could be achieved realistically not theoretically, in that time frame. He placed a number of behavioural redirection programmes in place and used Dog Training Discs to distract the dog with the word “No”. Lo and behold the dog on that first day ceased barking within a few one-minute lessons, timing and noise association being crucial. He also pointed out what was blindingly obvious, but many “behaviourists” may not know, the dog’s extraordinary hearing skill was the main trigger of outside pedestrian noise, not sight. The previous expert missed the obvious, which demonstrated why skill and experience can not be replaced by theory.

My colleague introduced a few re directed games as follow-ups to the discs and Kong food release programmes to alleviate boredom too. And after a few days the owner stated that the average of 30 or more barking sessions had reduced to a few, which were instantly interrupted via the disc noise and command “NO”. It was solved. The husband was relieved and the dog stayed and all worked out. Do note that there where other programmes introduced to work on the dogs’ temperament, but the first dramatic change was that the dog no longer spent most of the day stressed with its owner’s anger when it barked. Peace reigned and most of all the owner reported a much more calm dog and their relationship was now positive, the dog became more relaxed and so did the owners. The psychological behaviour and atmosphere of the owners being angry at their dog dissipated, inducing the dog to a calmer state.

Negative interactions with dogs that “positive trainers” execute but are ignorant of

  • Taking a puppy from its mother (mild to critical separation anxiety stress): Negative
  • Stopping dogs getting to other dogs, a natural drive: Negative
  • Leaving a dog in a car and walking away – dogs are pack animals and get stressed initially: Negative
  • Placing a dog on lead and collar/harness restricts a dog’s freedom: Negative action
  • Stopping a dog chasing animals, a natural instinctive behaviour: Negative
  • Keeping a dog in house with no free access 24/7 causes stress re defecation: Negative

Head collars and muzzles can be useful and are used by most dog trainers behaviourists and many positive only trainers, but very few dogs do not react negatively to such attachments to their head/face however introduced and many positive only trainers seem oblivious to the psychological harm they impose on a dog day after day. All muzzles face collars are not positive from a dogs mind set – they are negative and alien. They maybe necessary and overtime a dog may become conditioned to accept them but that does not negate the initial negativity and often permanent fear and or rejection of the face coverings – for many dogs the experience is traumatic and even years later they still dislike the muzzles/face collars. Proffering a treat does not negate what I have described. These facts taken from our CFBA records of 5000 dogs monitored.

Long lines may be essential but without equivocation is negative by restriction, end tightening of the line and a sudden stop on the neck or harness. Harnesses can also cause a negative reaction on a dog hence why dogs initially try to remove them with there teeth, roll and rub against objects to get rid of the body clamp. The dog experiences the harness as a negative and most unnatural. All the aforementioned training equipment maybe necessary in some cases but to delude yourself its all positive is simply lack or reality and more to do with blind dogma as previously described.

Laws and social rules mean we have to enact the above, but do not mean the actions are positive; they are all negative on a dog’s free spirit and pretending you are “positive only” is not a truism.

Social Media Negativity

Unfortunately, we seem to have landed in a place whereby dog orientated social media commentators are vindictive and scurrilous to the point of being vile where too many of them claim qualification or expertise and have an odious opinion. Not all opinions or qualifications are equal and voicing an opinion or criticising another should be based on full-time training and professional experience, not on the last unsubstantiated Tweet or Facebook comment.

These angry, driven people seem to be desirous of occupying the high moral ground which unfortunately for them is as shallow as their sociopathic tendencies.

I have worked with dogs and people all of my life and I am sceptical of the words “new” and “modern” in training, which generally means not new or modern just semantics and word games with endless non-evidenced claims at being better, kinder and the end game of narcissistic attention seeking on the internet by the trainer. I only engage with professional, skilled people who matter, gain results and who have a body of excellent work behind them and are not anonymous.

I am open to new ideas but they do have to work and be practical for pet owners. Hot air claims are just that. One trainer claims he can train any dog out of its aberrant behaviour via games, now that’s positive is it not? That’s some claim, it’s not true of course and he cannot validate these extraordinary claims. Twenty five years before his claim I trained dogs via motivational games and still do, that’s how we taught police dogs to track or attack criminals. So what is it he states that is unequivocally untrue? He claims that “All behaviour problems can be solved via by games”. But his ilk attracts the naive and especially the “positive only” ideologues. Look, he can achieve miracles; follow the prophet of Facebook.

Dog aggression a reality check

Another claim is that using food endlessly will stop a dog exhibiting aggression and solve the issue. First, only mildly aggressive dogs especially fear based ones, can be influenced, but rarely cured by using food only; conversely, seriously embedded aggressions cannot be solved by food (treats), so that claim is also de facto untrue – at best it’s a momentary distraction, but not a focus changer. A pet owner following this nonsensical advice simply builds up the negative behaviours as time passes – their dog’s repetitive aggressive displays over a longer period of time causes the behaviour to embed further. In essence the positive only dogma has compounded the aberrant dog behaviour and all too often after method failure, the “positive only” trainer culprit does not answer the phone or email request and goes into hiding like an ostrich.

“Positive only” can mean so many different things to different trainers. Some use negative and positive, but state they are “positive only” which is confusing to say the least. Others claim ”positive only”, but happily use a lead or long line for recall, which has a check action when the dog runs its course, but don’t realise that that’s negative according to the ideological nonsense of “positive only”. So it’s worth defining each trainer’s claims so we know where we are.

My holistic reward based approach is good, but has to be combined with reality and real situations not ideology regurgitated on some Facebook page.

The Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training have had a philosophical statement on line for 18 years stating the following: “Any person who feels that they have dog training behaviour methods which are effective/kinder than any we teach are welcome to come to the CIDBT training institute to demonstrate such methods on camera. We will embrace such methods if they prove to be more efficient and work. To date not one dog trainer in Britain has offered to example such skills at the CIDBT, but thousands claim on social media they know better.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Positive only ideologues

A surreal dogma led hobby trainer may suggest you only EVER use a positive treat to get your dog’s attention when it displays aggression to another dog on the street, but can’t quite explain and blatantly ignore the realities of holding a large dog propelling its self-bulk forward with vocalised aggression and possibly with biting intent, one hand holding food is generally not workable whilst being dragged over, issuing commands above the noise of traffic and barking is most unclear especially when the only consequence for the aggressive dogs is a treat if proffered or the motivation to attack, or defend itself whichever is the greater motivation. And if the aggression is dog targeted the handler cannot control other dog’s episodic approaches to his aggressive dog – these are innumerable in complexity.

They may even recommend a dog harness so your dog can use three times its strength to pull you off balance unless you are an Olympic weight trainer, simultaneously telling you it’s better for the dog (kind) and ignoring your struggles or inability to stay on your feet. It’s this patent unwillingness to use common sense that’s a serious issue for these hobbyists.

If the treat was the greater motivator well all the tens of thousands of aggressive dog’s behaviour would be solved quickly and this article would be superfluous. Not so, back to reality, in essence the way practical training combined with psychological manipulation works is that “the motivation to induce a dog to follow your commands and or wishes has to be greater than the dogs drive to do what it wishes to do at that time and in that location”. It’s that simple!

There is nothing intrinsic in a dogs mind set to want to be trained, to do what you want or even to wish to please you in anyway. Its only inherent function is to follow its evolutionary instincts in each environment you place it in be it a field, a car or a park or killing your neighbours pet rabbit. The fact that the dogs have been domesticated does not mean it’s not a wild animal; domestication modifies its natural evolutionary instincts sufficient for us to manage them. Like all pack group species that particular pack behaviour we manipulate in dog training to our advantage “The Pack”. Unlike domestic cats which are a solitary.

The fear driven dog is being walked down the street on a lead its defensively aggressive but has learnt to execute fake and or fear vocalisation aggression as a pretext defence action and barks leaps at or barks or intimidates a person with a dog in that same street. The criminal dog law The Dangerous Dogs Act is now broken; the handler of this aggressor dog, commits the offence of owning a dangerously out of control dog in public. This is initiated via a complaint from the target person to the Police and or by third party too. The target person does not have to be bitten or even nearly bitten they simply have to state they were in fear of being attacked. Once, as a trainer, you tie yourself to an ideology that is the end of your learning.

The law states Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991

A dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so. (Section 10(3) Dangerous Dogs Act 1991).

Case Law: In addition: The dog trainer/handler is liable in case law. More than one person may be ‘in charge’ of a dog at any given time.

It does not matter what you the owner of the aggressive dog believes to be true of your dog’s temperament. The dog owner of the aforementioned aggressor dog is liable to be arrested or summoned, fined and their dog possibly seized, thereafter the owner cannot visit the dog if the Police decide. All from that one action, on that street, on that day with your titbit following an expert’s nonsense.

That should make the ideologue think when training other people’s dogs, but they don’t, they simply follow more of the same, unfortunately for the pet dog owner and to their dog’s detriment. How do I know this? Because I have worked in the criminal court circuit for 30 years plus and am Home Office trained in criminal law and dog law. I meet many people in court as a result of circumstances I have just alluded to. I always advise pet owners who have had this awful amateurish training advice to issue a civil action against the trainer for damages; one cannot just ignore this mistreatment of loving pet owners, because the trainer means well or apparently loves dogs, these trainers need to learn more and note their limitations.

The Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991 does not decree that the owner of the aggressor dog and or the “positive only” trainer accompanying them can try to dissuade the dog in the middle of this aggressive action via a treat, as if one can realistically place a treat in front of a dog’s nose whilst it is surging forward in a micro second. The law says you will control it, meaning STOP the dog immediately; pull it back/stopping the leap immediately; stop the growling immediately. These are negative actions pulling or checking the dog back under operant conditioning and what thousands of dog owners do each day in Britain knowing their dogs’ trigger points as they try to manage such dogs in public or private. And all this in a noisy urban street were commands are not even audible to the dog’s ears when it is growling, barking or set on its course of action. That is reality. Of course many or most of these dogs are not going to bite and some are muzzled, but the law does not allow for what might be the outcome only on the initial perceived aggressive action by the target person. As stated from my descriptions the law is technically broken.

A pet dog owners rights

Any pet dog owner who is indoctrinated with the accompanying diatribe of how “positive only” trainers are lovely, kind, the best, love dogs, do not use any lead force to bring their dog back to their personal space immediately should demand the following: Tell the “positive only” trainer to sign a legal agreement that they accept full lawful responsibility and accept all legal consequences including fines and paying for the dog’s incarceration if seized, as well as court prosecution and defence costs. That is the starting point for the dog owner. I tell owners to get a signed statement to that effect. Strange when asked to sign, the ideologue trainer disappears making the normal excuses. If “positive only” works, what’s the issue? It’s them fiddling around the edges of dog behaviour purporting be an expert, which they are not. That is why I believe them to be dangerous and very unkind to dogs and pet dog owners and wholly responsible for dogs with mild aggressive behaviour becoming out of control through inadequate advice over time.

Of course a trainer who uses necessary force to stop such aggressive behaviour is not placing the pet owner in such circumstances, is obeying the law and does not have to sign any document.

In my Court experience, if you tell a Judge you were a “positive only” trainer and attempting to dissuade the dog from its aggressive action by being kind and with treats – it will be viewed as negligent and irresponsible – you will feel the full weight of the law and suffer a criminal record too if found culpable in civil and or criminal cases. Be warned “positive only” trainers. This law also applies in all dog training venues and even your home or garden.

Humans with our large brains comparative to animals, understand consequences theoretically should not need negative reinforcers. In a light hearted way I used to teach students that when a driver goes through a red traffic light he’s fined – NEGATIVE – if he drives through a green one he receives no reward. Why don’t we give people a fiver for driving through a green light POSITIVE? Because some will always drive through a red one, because the fiver is not always a motivator!

We have thousands of laws that all have negative outcome if broken. Negative reinforcers do work. Dogs don’t have the luxury of a complex mind that can foresee consequences of an action other than by immediate experience, so like a young child they need clear black and white boundaries that match their brain limitations given at the time of an action.

If you are a fair, kind, good dog trainer who uses mainly rewards, but embraces the notion that there should be no consequence for unwanted behaviour, the dog will continue to respond in that manner. It knows no different unless corrected.

I have advised a number of trainers to use law to expose people who libel on line. It’s worth reading such laws. Each time I have issued legal proceedings the outcome has been excellent for me, not so good for the libeller.

Do I let dog owners off the hook for their errors of judgement in dog ownership? No, I am very aware that they choose the wrong breed and/or don’t put the research in before purchasing a dog. After over 20.000 client cases I would be remiss to not mention that. However, humans have natural drives and behaviours, which means they make plenty of errors and once they ask for help our job is not to be negative by berating them, but to show skill, compassion and most of all teach an operable set of skills which change their skill set and thereafter the dog’s behaviour in the quickest time frame. That is a professional canine educator.

Colin Tennant, March 2022

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Dog Law & Covid 19

Dog Law: Covid 19 and the implications of breaking the law relating to dogs and dog ownership.

We are now one year on into the Covid 19 pandemic and still not out of the woods yet. We are all aware of the cause and effect it has had on the human population, the mental health issues, poverty, and depression many people have suffered and are still experiencing from as result of this worldwide disease. But have you given thought to what our canine companions have had to deal with likewise, many of the puppies and young adolescent dogs that have been purchased or obtained during this period and also suffering and going to suffer as a result?

There are some owners who have had to wait a considerable some period of time before being able to get the puppy or dog they have so desired. For them unfortunately the puppy arrived at the wrong time in 2020 as the Pandemic took in hold and in March stringent restrictions were put upon us all to prevent the spread of this disease. Then there were those owners who just obtained a puppy to give them a purpose of being, whilst being isolated during this period, as it seemed the right thing to do without giving any forethought about the consequences that this would entail.

Due to the restrictions and on the advice given during the lockdown periods, if owners have complied as instructed to do so then all owners of new puppies and new dogs have not had the opportunity to do the right thing for these dogs and get them integrated and socialised as they should or would have done under normal circumstances.

All interpersonal group training had to stop between humans and their dogs, thus their dogs have no doubt suffered as a direct result. There has been a marked increase in online training, that cannot be denied, but that training does not and will never replace the social interaction all dogs need and require to be socially acceptable dogs within our communities.

As a direct result of this lack of ability to integrate our puppies and dogs, this is now become very evident in the reported increases in dog related problems that owners are now experiencing with their canine pets. By missing that most critical learning period of a puppy’s life there appears to be more and more related displayed aggression incidents coming to the fore. I as a trainer and clinical canine behaviourist and expert witness in dog law related matters am being called upon even more so now, then I have ever been to try to help owners deal with these issues.

Owners are in despair because those puppies have now grown and have not had the opportunity to get the life experience and training opportunities, they should have had during their growing periods thus far. There are now more and more reported cases of displayed dog aggression incidents either towards other dogs / animals and humans alike.

So, when it comes to the legalities of dog ownership and Dog law more owners are going to and are now finding themselves having to deal with the consequences of not having been able to train their dogs as they should or would have done so if we had not found ourselves in this predicament due to this outbreak.

More and more offences are being committed by the dogs and owners alike, some through ignorance of the law relating to dogs, and others not being responsible enough by taking proper control of their dogs, thus by not having their dogs under proper control several offences can be and are being committed under several sections of Dog Law. Under Section 2 Dogs Act 1871 Civil proceedings can be taken against the owner of a dog that is dangerous and not kept under proper control. The dangerousness alleged can be towards people or animals and the legislation applies to incidents in both public and private places.

As such owners could find themselves committing an offence without even realising that they are doing so, or should I say by allowing their dogs to be so out of control it could lead you in front of a Civil magistrate’s court hearing.

Section 2 of The Dogs Act 1871, states if your dog is not under proper control and deemed to be dangerous it could result in a control order being placed on you and your dog (with or without conditions being attached) or even having your dog destroyed by order of the courts. As the Dogs Act is dealt with as a civil complaint and as such it can be brought by anyone before the courts.

This could then get even worse for the dogs and its owners should the matter escalate to a criminal offence, as an offence under Section 3 of The Dangerous dogs Act 1991 could be committed as this law states as an owner, or a person in charge of the dog, and it commits an offence if the dog causes reasonable apprehension to a person that they will be injured, whether or not the person is actually injured. No criminal intent or recklessness is required for liability to arise and a person can therefore be guilty of an offence even if your dog is on a lead and has never behaved in that manner before.

Where no injury is actually caused the matter may only be dealt with in a magistrates’ court and the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and / or a fine of £5,000. The court will have the power to order that the dog be destroyed or kept under proper control and they may specify the measures for keeping your dog under control, (keeping your dog on a short lead in public, having the dog muzzled etc.,) the court can also disqualify you from keeping dogs and order you to pay compensation to the victim.

If your dog should injury somebody, or an assistance dog (e.g., a guide dog) then a more serious ‘AGGRAVATED’ offence is committed. The injury does not have to be a full-on bite, it can be a scratch or bruise and that would make it ‘aggravated’. If it were an aggravated offence, then this can be dealt with in either the magistrates court or go up to the Crown Courts and the maximum penalties are now:

  • Injury to an assistance dog – 3 years imprisonment.
  • Injury to a person – 5 years imprisonment.
  • Death to a person – 14 years imprisonment

Where an ‘aggravated’ offence is committed the court MUST order that the dog be destroyed unless it is satisfied that you are a suitable owner and a fit and proper person to own a dog, that the dog does not pose a risk to the public. This is when you would need to consider expert evidence from a suitably qualified canine behaviourist.

So, by allowing your dog to run up to other dogs and or people and it then acts or reacts in an aggressive manner, or if you are not able to recall your dog away then technically you have demonstrated that you do not have proper control over your dog.

I often see many dogs out in public (which under the dog law legislation) who do not have a collar with a tag attached to the collar, this likewise is a criminal offence by law a dog must wear a collar with a tag attached- it must bear its owner’s name and address. You could be fined up to £2,000 if you don not comply (there a few exceptions to working dogs when being worked not having to wear a collar at the time of doing so). Many owners who put harnesses on their dogs think that because the dog has a harness on (some with tags attached many with not) and that the dog is (should) microchipped, then they do not see the necessity for their dog to wear a collar when in public. How wrong they are. The legislation can be found under the Control of Dogs Order 1992.

By Colin Spender BA Hons,
CFBA member
Canine & Feline behaviour Association

Science: Dog attacks increase

CFBA Science Team: Dr Estella Vaz, Colin Tennant MA, Dr David Sands and Ross McCarthy MA

Growing evidence revealed by CFBA 2020/2021 Survey that dog-on-dog attacks are on the increase’

Dr David D Sands, Clinical Canine Companion Behaviourist CFBA Fellow and Companion ‘Animal Science’ Consultant January 2021

“dog-on dog attacks are clearly on the rise”

The UK is widely known as a nation of dog lovers. Yet, while owners can be seen walking a wide variety of dog breeds on streets, lanes, beaches, woodland, parkland and countryside walks, there is a dark, underlying statistic that should alert both the public and authorities that all is not well in the kingdom of companion dogs. A recent CFBA survey has indicated that dog-on dog attacks are clearly on the rise.

Responsible owners usually have an accepted level of control over their companion dogs. Some will have complete confidence in their pet’s obedience – on or off lead in public spaces – others some degree of control.

CFBA members, canine behaviour experts and competent dog trainers report that they are receiving a steady stream of reports of incidents where owners and dogs have been exposed to uncontrollable dogs with their dog walkers neglecting to offer an acceptable level of recall or control.

Concerned by the increasing number of accounts relating to dog-on-dog aggression in public spaces led to a consensus that the CFBA should develop a survey to establish if there is sufficient first hand evidence to confirm the anecdotal perception that incidents of dog aggression are steadily increasing year on year.

The survey was developed to gather data from an online survey. Each form featured 61 sections of relevant questions developed by a dedicated CFBA team. The document focused on dog ownership and the dog-on-dog incidents directly experienced by owners. This was independently distributed through Company of Animals – Our Dogs – CFBA and other sources, as a result, over 700 forms were completed and returned for analysis.

Dog walkers completing the survey forms have recited stories of walks rudely interrupted by the unacceptable behaviour of hyperactive or aggressive dogs. These episodes often cause emotional distress to owners and trigger long-lasting fear-responses in their own dogs. This can subsequently change dog- walks from a pleasant to an apprehension experience.

‘Survey reveals the true emotional and physical cost of increasing incidents in dog-on-dog attacks’

Often, these worrying episodes are from other out of control dogs, a significant distance away from their owners. Some of the most extreme incidents of dog aggression have resulted in trauma to owners and injuries requiring GP and hospital treatment for them and veterinary intervention for their dog.

When these acts of dog aggression involve injuries to animal-assistance and guide dogs, a single incident is known to undo at least a year of specialised training which is undertaken at significant cost.

The remit of the CFBA is to take a considered view on this and other topics involving dog ownership. The survey focus was to establish if dog-on-dog incidents are on the increase and if other significant aspects of dog ownership influenced the outcomes.

The overview aim of the survey is to provide up-to-date statistical data that could be made available to organisations and authorities responsible for reviewing current dog related legislation and provide information to help dog owners. It may even be the spur to encourage academic and professional dog trainers to combine forces with scientific and practical input to help deal with a growing issue affecting the healthy pursuit of most dog walkers.

The results of the survey may come as a surprise to some However, for the first time, this unique data can provide a clearer understanding for companion dog owners in respect of their personal experiences. In doing so, the statistics and analysis will be available to authorities and hopefully reach a wider public audience.

A summary may help to highlight the expectations and collective responsibilities of dog-walker when encountering other dogs in urban and rural public spaces.

The survey results have potential identified the potential limitations of The Dangerous Dog Act and Amendments which is primarily intended to protect members of the public from dog owners whose dogs are found to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in private dwellings and public spaces. While the act may criminalise owners found to have allowed their dog to be dangerously out of control, current laws fail to protect dog owners or their dogs when it has been found they have been exposed to incidents where their dog has been attacked by another dog.

The CFBA provides sufficient data to indicate there should be consideration for additional Dangerous Dog legislation to be in place that could criminalise an owner proven to have allowed their dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’ and attack another dog.

Whilst applying The Dogs Act 1871 in civil law could have serious consequences for any convicted offender, including destruction of a dog, legal action in these cases but is more complex for individuals to initiate.

Participants Analysis:

There were 703 on-line surveys completed as of the 25th March 2020. The majority of participants (92%) were located throughout the counties of England. The remaining participants were located in the rest of the United Kingdom and international participants (1%) also contributed.

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    Social Interactions of Pet Dogs - Canine & Feline Behaviour Association Scientific Survey 2020 - 2021

    Introduction

    Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) members reported via clients, personal encounters and media sources that currently, a growing number of dogs appear to react adversely when interacting with other dogs. This can result in aggressive displays of varying intensity toward other dogs, causing trauma to the dog and the owner. An aggressive dog, regardless of the root cause, is an issue in society and owners of dogs that are classified as ‘out of control’ under section 3 of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 ¹ can be prosecuted. Therefore, as an organisation, the CFBA created a unique survey of dog owners to gain a better understanding of the current status regarding social interactions of our pet dogs, with a focus on incidents of dog directed aggression. In addition, other aspects of dog ownership were also considered to provide an overview of our pet dogs’ lifestyle. The overall aim being one of education, to allow us to use this research to help educate pet owners (and ourselves as an organisation), to enjoy the outside world with our dogs and interact safely with other dogs, pet owners and the general public.

    Method

    A survey was developed to gain the required overview of our pet dogs’ lifestyle, consisting of 61 questions and open to all breeds and stages of life. Each survey was designed to be answered for one dog, participants with multiple dogs in a household were invited to complete additional surveys. The survey questions were aimed to provide numerical data as to what is currently happening on a national scale and not the reasons why behaviours are happening. The data obtained, would identify topics of interest for further investigation. Survey-based studies are a standard way to gather data from a large population set. However, data gained from survey-based studies do have limitations, due to the subjectivity of the participant answering the question and the design of the survey itself. The survey was embedded into the CFBA website and links were shared via social media from the primary sources of the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association, Guild of Dog Trainers and Our Dogs Newspaper, and by electronic mail from the Company of Animals. The survey was available for two months and closed on 25th March 2020.

    Participant Analysis

    There were 703 online surveys completed as of the 25th March 2020. The majority of participants (92%) were located throughout the counties of England. The remaining participants were located in the rest of the United Kingdom and international participants (1%) also contributed.

    The participants completing the survey represented all adult age ranges (Table 1) with middle aged adults (46 – 65 years old) being the most represented (59%).

    Table 1: Age Range of Participants:

    Participants Age (years) n (%)
    18 - 25 27 (4%)
    26 - 35 92 (13%)
    36 - 45 96 (14%)
    46 - 55 221 (31%)
    56 - 65 196 (28%)
    66 plus 71 (10%)

    When examining the human family that lived with the dogs participating in the survey, 60% lived with two adults, 19% with one adult, 14% with three adults and the rest with four or more adults. Furthermore, a high percentage of dogs (80%) were not living in the same household as children (Table 2), so have less familiarity to children’s mannerisms and behaviours.

    Table 2: Number of Children in Participants Household:

    Children in Household (n) n (%)
    0 564 (80%)
    1 59 (8%)
    2 61 (9%)
    3 11 (2%)
    4 7 (1%)
    5 or more 1 (0%)

    The high number of dogs living in a child free household can be attributed to either participants having no offspring, or having older children who have either left home or have been included as part of the household adult count.

    When analysing companion dogs in each household, data showed that almost half of the participants (47%) owned one dog (Figure 1). This is at odds with surveys performed by the pet food manufacturers association (pfma) which reported UK data in 2017 and 2019 that 74% and 72% respectively, were single dog households. Due to the surveys primary distribution channels, it is possible that our survey includes a higher proportion of breeders and dog professionals, who tend to own multiple dogs.

    In addition to a dog, 40% of the participants owned other pets. Our survey indicated that the most frequent pet dogs lived with was a cat, 24% (n=166) of participants owning a cat, either on its own or in combination with a variety of other pets.

    Figure 1: Number of Dogs Owned per Participant.

    Results and Discussion

    Dogs Background Analysis
    All age ranges were covered by the survey. The majority of dogs (80%) were adult dogs (2 years and over). The remaining dogs were primarily adolescents (15%), and puppies. The breeds recorded in the surveyed dog population were:

    • 75% of dogs, accounted for 116 different recognised breeds, three quarters of these have pedigree papers. Labrador Retrievers, German shepherd dogs and Cocker Spaniels were the most popular recognised breeds and accounted for 148 of dogs in the survey.
    • 21% of dogs, were identified as either a Poodle cross, mixed / mongrel or crossbreed (other than Poodle).
    • 4% of dog breeds could not be determined as participants incorrectly entered more than one dog in the text field.

    Gender of dogs were generally balanced in the survey with male dogs accounting for 55%, and just over two thirds (65%) of dogs that took part were neutered. The survey showed that the majority of the dogs were neutered during adolescence and early adulthood (Figure 2), with 58% being neutered between 6 months – 1 year old.

    Figure 2: Age of Neuter

    As indicated previously, recognised breeds made up three quarters of the surveyed dog population. Therefore, it is not surprising that 70% of dogs in the survey were obtained from a breeder (Table 3)[2]. With 60% of participants having obtained their dog under 12 weeks of age (Table 4).

    Table 3: Surveyed Dog Population Obtained From:

    Dog obtained from n (%)
    House Breeder 357 (51%)
    Kennel Breeder 134 (19%)
    Rescue Centre 117 (17%)
    Farm 21 (3%)
    Overseas 18 (3%)
    Pet shop 2 (0%)
    Other source 54 (8%)

    Before obtaining a dog, 505 participants saw the dam, and 270 participants saw the sire of their puppy.

    Table 4: Age of Puppy / Dog When Obtained.

    Age of puppy / dog when obtained Participants (%)
    Under 12 weeks 422 (60%)
    12 weeks - 6 months 129 (18%)
    6 months - 2 years 79 (11%)
    2 years or more 73 (10%)
    In general, the surveyed dog population was healthy. 10% of the dogs were on prescribed medication, primarily for the long-term management of chronic issues. Only one dog was on medication prescribed for anxiety-based issues related to age.

    Dog Training Analysis
    Dog training, whether at basic or advanced levels, provides a set of conditioned actions that the owner can access to communicate with their dog. There are different styles and views on training [3-8], it was not the aim of this survey to investigate the training technique used to train the dog. The questions asked were aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the training undertaken. The results obtained are provided in Table 5.

    Table 5: Dog Training Results

    Questions on dog training Yes n (%) No n (%)
    Have you self-trained your dog in obedience? 572 (81%) 131 (19%)
    Have you attended a dog training club with your dog? 516 (73%) 187 (27%)
    Has a professional dog trainer helped you train your dog? 450 (64%) 253 (36%)
    Have you ever consulted a canine behaviourist about your dog? 204 (29%) 499 (71%)
    Does your dog pull on the lead? 281 (40%) 422 (60%)
    Is your dog allowed off-lead during daily exercise? 571 (81%) 132 (19%)

    Data showed that club training remains an important place for owners to learn skills with nearly three quarters of the surveyed dog population taken to a training club at some point in their life.

    Loose lead walking and recall are two basic training skills that are taught to dogs from puppyhood. Yet, these two skills are the ones that owners generally have issues with outside of the training hall / environment. Considering the number of participants in the survey who either self-trained their dogs, attended a training club or used the services of a professional trainer, 40% of dogs pulled on the lead when walking. There were 33 dogs in the survey that were aged ‘6 months and under’ so may not have been fully trained yet. However, a significant number of dogs remain (n=248 once puppy figures are removed) that do not walk on a loose lead. Suggesting that training methods or the transfer to ‘everyday life’ of this particular skill may not be effective. It is noted, that some participants may disregard the importance for a dog to walk without pulling on the lead, so without understanding this variable only a partial conclusion can be made.

    Data identified that 81% of the dogs that took part in the survey are allowed off-lead during daily exercise. However, 2% of the total number of participants indicated that their dog has no recall and 27% indicated that their dog sometimes returns. Therefore, nearly a third of dogs surveyed had unreliable or no recall. When put into context, these results indicate that only 87% of the dogs surveyed that are allowed off-lead are considered to have a reliable recall.

    Of the 2% of owners that indicated that their dog doesn’t return to them (n=16 out of a total of 703 participating dogs). The primary reason for their dogs not recalling was hunting or scavenging (45%), followed by smelling (27%), meeting other dogs (12%), meeting people (9%) and playing (6%).

    Dog on Dog Social Interaction Analysis

    Dog social interactions are complicated, and problems with dog directed aggression can be the result of a number of factors, such as genetics, environment, development and social learning [9-13]. In the CFBA survey, 60% of participants indicated that their dog enjoys meeting other dogs and considered them as having a friendly attitude. A further 13% indicated that their dog doesn’t like meeting dogs, and the remaining owners identified that size, breed, gender or colour were contributing factors to their dog socially interacting with others (Figure 3). It must be noted that owner personality [14] and perception of other dogs could influence their dog’s ability to socially interact.

    Figure 3: Results of Participating Dog Populations Sociability

    Of the 40% of dogs that struggled with social interactions, 5% were classed by the participants as having an aggressive attitude, 16% as ignoring others dogs and the remaining classed as nervous or fearful.

    The majority of participants (73%) indicated that their dog does not attack or challenge others. However, 3% (n=24) were classed as having attacked or challenged other dogs and a further 24% (n=167) have sometimes attacked or challenged others. Therefore, 191 of our 703 participants have dogs that attack or challenge other dogs. These results are similar to a study performed by Casey et al [15] in 2012, they reported that 22% of UK owners identified their dog as aggressive (barking, lunging, growling or biting) to unfamiliar dogs.

    Table 5 identified that 132 participants did not allow their dog off lead for exercise, yet 191 of the dogs in our study are known to attack or challenge other dogs. Only 7 participants identified that they use a muzzle during a walk.

    Unfortunately, results showed that 54% (n=380) of the dog population in our survey had been either attacked or challenged by another dog. The definition of ‘attack or challenge’ was not described by the authors of the survey.

    When analysing the impact of an attack or challenge on the dog, just over half (58%) of the dogs that were attacked or challenged currently had no change of reaction toward other dogs. The remaining dogs (42%, n=160) that were attacked or challenged, were affected socially developing avoidance behaviours (11%) or aggressive displays of barking / lunging / biting (25%), with 6% recorded as being scared of other dogs.

    One of the reasons people bring a dog into their life is to go on walks with them and dogs are walked in a variety of places all over the United Kingdom. The participants (n=380) that have encountered dog attacks or challenges were required to indicate the year and place of the incident (participants could enter multiple incidents for that single dog). It must also be noted that only half of the dogs in the survey were alive pre-2016, leading to a smaller data set. Figure 4 shows the results obtained.

    Figure 4: Year and place of attack or challenge by another dog

    In total there were 923 events recorded, indicating that dogs in our survey may have experienced multiple attacks or challenges from unfamiliar dogs. The area where most attacks and challenges have occurred are public parks, with 69 incidents recorded for 2019 alone. The areas with least attacks are national parks and beaches or coastal paths. These areas could be lower risk, due to limited accessibility with the majority of dogs only visiting the beach for a day trip or holiday.

    According to the data set, since 2018 there has been a significant rise of incidents in all areas. Interestingly ‘attacks in the street’ was identified as the place where the most attacks or challenges occurred during the first quarter of 2020 (n=30). This surge may be related to the memory being fresh, or dogs being more likely to be walked on streets over winter months.

    The survey was made available during February – March 2020, therefore data for attacks is restricted to the first quarter of 2020. However, the limited 2020 figures gathered provided sufficient data to identify a rise in comparison to previous full years. The data set gathered has limitations due to the accuracy of human memory [16], increase in study dog population numbers over time and the subjectivity of participants. However, the data suggests incidents are increasing.

    Dog on dog encounters also have a post episode effect on the handler of the dog that had been attacked or challenged. 36% of the participants who indicated they had been subjected to an encounter, recorded that their walk was less relaxed and a further 14% reported subsequently walking different routes. We consider it an unacceptable statistic that 27% of the total participants in the study had experienced negative dog on dog encounters that had a long-term effect on their daily walks.

    Half of the dogs that attacked the participants’ dog approached with aggressive behaviour, while only 7% were classed as approaching with fearful behaviour. A further 32% of the dogs were attacked by dogs that initially approached displaying friendly or playful behaviour. Not all handlers have the same experience and knowledge regarding the subtleties of canine body language, which can be difficult to read especially from a distance [17, 18]. Furthermore, handlers could be less likely to interpret the signals their dogs are projecting onto the oncoming dog, which can initiate negative encounters.

    Results indicated that the number of dogs being attacked or challenged are balanced between on-lead to off-lead. However, the attacking dogs were predominately off-lead (88%) with their owner in sight (82%). Of the participants that had experienced an attack or a challenge, 200 of them indicated that the attacking dog’s owner had tried to recall their dog ineffectively. A highly significant statistic is that, in 205 encounters participants reported that the attacking dog’s owner did not take responsibility for their own dog’s behaviour. This means that just over half of the attacked dogs’ owners (54%) had to deal with the incident that had been initiated by someone else’s out of control dog.

    27% of the 380 participants having reported an attack or challenge, indicated that these were non-contact events. These dogs were likely to have been subjected to challenging behaviour. The remaining 73% (n=278) of dogs were subjected to attacks where bodily contact was made between dogs. Only 45 dogs were recorded as having to receive veterinary treatment because of the injuries they received during the attack. When this figure is taken into context over all participants in the study, 6% of dogs received injuries significant enough for veterinary treatment to be required (no fatalities were recorded).

    When the participants were asked to describe their own reactions during the dog attack, it was clear from the descriptions provided that for many the event was clearly a traumatic experience. There were a range of actions that the participants of this study took when finding themselves confronted by an aggressive encounter with a dog. Answers were collated and the most common actions are recorded in Table 6. The results recorded that only 19 participants identified that the attacking dog owner helped separate the dogs or took control of their dog without prompting.

    Table 6: Participant Action Taken During a Dog on Dog Attack

    Action taken Participants
    Verbal reaction (scream / shout) to scare or distract attacking dog. 71
    Block the attacking dog with either the body, leg, foot or stick. 53
    Physically restraining or pulling (or trying to pull) attacking dog off, by grabbing the collar / scruff / tail / back legs. 47
    Manoeuvred / pulled own dog out of the way and moved away. 36
    Recalled own dog and tried to move to area of safety. 31
    Directly shouted at owner to control their dog (note: this action was also used in conjunction with other actions, where this happened it was classed as a secondary action and not counted here). 25
    Kicked or hit attacking dog (including hitting with objects such as walking sticks and items that were in situ). 23
    8% (n=31) of owners who experienced a dog on dog incident recorded that they received an injury. The injuries that were described in the survey were grouped according to areas of the body that were injured (Table 7). The most common injuries were bites and lacerations to the hands or fingers. Injuries to hands / fingers / arms can be sustained when owners try to fight off and defend their dog (and themselves) against the attacking dog.

    Table 7: Areas of Injuries Received

    Injuries Number of injuries received
    Bites / lacerations to hands and / or fingers 10
    Bites / lacerations to legs 6
    Bites / lacerations to arms 4
    Bites / lacerations to head or facial area 4
    Bites / lacerations / bruising to undetermined body area 6
    Concussion 1

    From the overall participants (n=380) who indicated they were on the receiving end of an attack or challenge, only 23 reported the incident to the police and / or their local dog warden. This significant statistic does not encompass all the dog owners that recorded an injury by an attacking dog (n=31), taking into consideration that each injury was reportable under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 [1]. The data research indicates a failure in the system, and potentially allows handlers to repeatedly offend, which may lead to further incidents that would cause trauma and injury to others (dog owners and canine) without any consequences.

    Dog to Human Social Interaction Analysis

    Outside the Home
    The survey showed that 15% of the dogs didn’t like meeting strangers on walks. It is recognised that this figure was taken from a ‘yes or no’ based question, when in reality many interacting factors are involved to trigger a dog’s response to a stranger, so it is likely that this figure is possibly elevated [19]. This is supported by Table 8, which shows the typical reaction of the participant’s dog when meeting a stranger (outside the home). From these results, 21 dogs behaved aggressively towards people (aggression was described as barking / snarling / lunging or biting) with 10 dogs recorded as having nipped or bitten a stranger during a walk.

    Table 8: Dog Reaction to Strangers (outside the home)

    Reaction n (%)
    Calm and friendly 406 (58%)
    Excited (bouncy / pulls on lead / very waggy tail) 227 (32%)
    Fearful (tries to pull away / avoids / cowers / tucks tail under body) 49 (7%)
    Aggressive (barks / snarls / lunges / bites) 21 (3%)

    Barking is a natural alert response form of communication for a dog. Dogs are highly likely to encounter a variety of stimulants during a walk, and in this research, we wanted to identify what are the main trigger points for barking. The options provided are urban driven, since public interaction is usually greatest within an urban setting. Figure 5 shows that of the 703 participating dogs, 296 do not bark during a walk. However, for those dogs that do bark, the top three triggers are: dogs, cats and strangers.

    Figure 5: Barking Triggers (NB: Participants could choose multiple options.)

    Dog to Human Social Interaction Analysis – In the Home

    The survey showed that 14% of participant’s dogs can growl, bite or challenge visitors to the home. To understand this further, participants were required to choose the best description of their dog’s greeting to visitors (Figure 6). This question was designed to give a general overview of social interaction toward visitors. It is recognised that dogs can react differently towards known and unknown visitors and also a mixture of behaviours can be displayed when greeting a visitor (e.g. jumping up and excitability).

    Figure 6: Dog’s Reaction to Visitors

    In comparison when visitors left, 95% of the dogs in the survey were classed as not bothered. The remaining dogs reacted by barking at the visitor as they left with only 2 dogs recorded as either lunging, snapping or biting the visitor.

    The survey revealed that 10% of our participant’s dogs growl, bite or challenge family members, with ≤ 5% of the dogs displaying resource guarding behaviours (Table 9), with treats and chews being a popular item of value [20,21].

    Table 9: Results to Show Dog’s Reactions

    Dog’s reaction in the following situations: No n (%) Yes n (%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when toys are taken from it? 688 (98%) 15 (2%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when food / food bowl is removed or touched? 678 (96%) 25 (4%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when treats / chews are taken from it? 667 (95%) 36 (5%)
    Does your dog bark when someone is at the door? 224 (32%) 479 (68%)
    Does your dog stop barking when you ask it to? 233 (33%) 470 (67%)
    Does your dog bark at the post person? 441 (63%) 262 (37%)
    Does your dog rip up your letters / papers? 627 (89%) 76 (11%)

    Daily Exercise Analysis

    The survey showed that women were the main exercise provider with 73% of participants indicating that a woman owner walks the dog most often. Others walking the dog most often were male owners (23%), dog walker (2%), other family members excluding children (1%) and other (1%).

    The data does not reveal the gender of person who completed the survey. It is therefore difficult to conclude if this is a true figure [22] or that women are more likely to complete these types of survey, which may have skewed the data.

    The most frequent total daily length of time that participant’s dogs are walked for was indicated as between 1 – 1.5 hours (Figure 7).

    Figure 7: Total Length of Daily Walk

    During walks, 51% of participants regularly play with their dogs. A further 36% of participants sometimes played with their dogs during a walk and of our 703 dogs only 90 were not actively played with during a walk.

    Dog owners have the possibility to use a wide variety of equipment while walking their dogs and the CFBA wanted to understand the participant’s preferences. Note, this question was to look at preference in general, not to justify the use of one piece of equipment over another.

    From the results shown in Figure 8, the flat collar, body harness (no brands or harness styles were specified) and 1.2 m (4 ft) lead were the most popular options participants used to walk their dogs. Participants could choose multiple options.

    Results indicated that leads were not used by all participants. Leads (various types) were chosen 463 times as a piece of equipment participants used to walk their dog.

    Furthermore, the use of a muzzle is low (n=7), considering that as discussed previously, 10 dogs in the survey have bitten or nipped a stranger during a walk and 21 dogs were described as reacting aggressively towards strangers during the walk. However, insufficient data is available to understand these dogs’ behaviour and their exercise environment, to make an accurate conclusion.

    Figure 8: Equipment Used During a Walk

    Diet Analysis

    Due to advances in canine nutrition and understanding, owners now are able to make informed choices regarding what they feed their dogs to maximise digestion and overall health. There is a wide variety of brands and types of commercial food that is now available.

    Participants could choose multiple diet options as required. The results obtained showed that 50% of the time, participants fed their dog with kibble (dry food), followed by raw food (25%), wet food (18%) and lastly home cooked food (7%).

    It was unexpected that raw food would be the second most popular food after kibble. However, a rise in popularity in raw food was also observed in polls performed by food website allaboutdogfood.co.uk. Our survey did not differentiate between participants using commercially available complete raw recipes or homemade raw meals.

    Feeding regimes may be adjusted during the lifecycle of a dog or due to individual requirements. The survey indicated that 80% of participants fed their dog twice daily. The remaining participants fed their dogs once daily (12%), or three or more times (8%). The survey dog population included 33 dogs that were aged 6 months and under, which would account for half of the dogs that were fed three times or more daily. The kitchen remains the place where the majority (n=529) of participants fed their dog.

    It was found that up to half of our survey dog population supplemented their food by faeces ingestion (coprophagia). Other species faeces (e.g. sheep, rabbit, cats) was favoured over canine faeces (Table 10).

    Table 10: Coprophagia

    Does your dog eat …... Yes n (%) No n (%)
    Its own faeces 39 (6%) 664 (94%)
    Another dog’s faeces 56 (8%) 647 (92%)
    Any other type of faeces (cats, sheep, rabbit etc.) 351 (50%) 352 (50%)

    Noise Sensitivity Analysis

    Unexpected noises such as fireworks, gunshots, smoke alarms, house alarms, and traffic are known triggers for noise sensitivity in dogs. Fireworks are a common cause of a fearful response in many noise sensitive dogs [23] and every year magazine articles are published about how to support dogs during the firework and festive seasons.

    The survey showed that only 17% (n=119) of participants indicated that their dog adversely reacted to noise. From these 119 dogs, owners identified that 89 reacted to fireworks, 33 reacted to alarms, 29 reacted to vacuum cleaner, 19 reacted to traffic and 62 reacted to ‘other’ noises. Many dogs that are noise sensitive are often sensitive to more than one noise therefore, the survey allowed participants to indicate multiple triggers. Fireworks were the primary noise that the dogs reacted to, however from the data gathered this only represented 13% of the total number of survey participants.

    These results were lower than anticipated. Noise sensitivity in dogs has been investigated by various academic groups [23-28] and these show that the prevalence of noise sensitivity in dogs varies between 20% – 50%. When the CFBA survey results were compared to the literature, it was found that the data gathered was lower for noise sensitivity in dogs, especially for fireworks. The most obvious reason for this, is that the CFBA survey unlike the literature studies, was not designed to explore the behaviour profile for noise sensitivity, only to provide a basic yes or no answer if the participant’s dog reacted badly to noise and if ‘yes’ what it reacted to. Furthermore, survey questions are open to the participant’s subjectivity and interpretation of the question against their dog’s behaviour which can limit data sets [24].

    Separation Related Behaviour Analysis

    Separation related behaviours are associated with a wide range of causes and are often traumatic for both dog and owner. Therefore, questions were phrased to obtain a general overview of behaviour, to be able to identify if a further study was necessary. The survey showed that the majority of participants (93%) could leave their dog alone in the home for 2 hours or more without fuss.

    Of the dogs (n=655) that could be confidently left alone in the home for 2 hours or more without fuss, participants were asked what length of time they would usually leave their dog alone for. As predicted, most participants (68%) left dogs alone for 3-4 hours which typically coincides with a lunch break visit in a working day. A small percentage of participants (3%) chose not to leave their dog alone for longer than 1 hour. At the other end of the time scale 4% of participants left their dogs alone for 8 hours or more. There was no frequency associated to these findings.

    Further information from all participants was gathered regarding their dog’s behaviour in the home. The results are shown in Table 11.

    Table 11: Behaviours in the Home.

    Behaviours in the home: No n (%) Yes n (%)
    Is your dog destructive when left alone? 662 (94%) 41 (6%)
    Does your dog howl / whine / cry when left alone? 643 (91%) 60 (9%)
    Does your dog toilet indoors when left alone? 678 (96%) 25 (4%)
    Does your dog toilet indoors when you are present? 685 (97%) 18 (3%)
    Does your dog groom or lick itself excessively? 672 (96%) 31 (4%)
    Does your dog chase shadows, lights or excessively chase its tail? 684 (97%) 19 (3%)
    Does your dog show inappropriate sexual behaviour? 667 (95%) 36 (5%)

    The survey showed that the top three places for participant’s dogs to sleep were the bedroom (n=263), the kitchen (n=231) and the living room (n=174). Only 10 dogs were identified as sleeping outdoors in the garden or kennel. The bedroom has become the most frequent place where dogs sleep in the home with 26% of our survey dog population sleeping in or on the bed with a family member.

    Conclusion

    As an organisation, the CFBA wanted to gain a better understanding of the current social interactions of our pet dogs with a focus on incidents of dog directed aggression. The data gathered so far reflects a high percentage of companion dogs lack the expected level of positive social interaction skills, and 40% of the surveyed dog population display undesirable or antisocial responses when interacting with other dogs.

    Furthermore, the data concluded that 54% of the surveyed dog population had been attacked or challenged by another dog. With 25% of these dogs going on to develop aggressive displays (barking/lunging/biting) to other dogs. Only 6% of the total surveyed dog population received injuries significant enough for veterinary treatment. Although dog fatalities are known to have occurred during episodes of dog-directed aggression, there is an absence of fatalities recorded in this survey.

    The survey revealed that the place where the highest risk of your dog being attacked are public parks, and national parks the least likely place. However, results indicated that over the last two years there appears to have been an overall increase in dog directed aggression in all areas popular with dog walking, with 27% of participants in the survey suffering a long-term effect on their daily walk due to an attack from an out of control dog.

    The survey showed that training schools and clubs are a popular place for owners to take their dogs. These should be places to teach skill sets relevant to living in a modern world with current laws or legislation, and to provide owners with support in transferring skills from the training environment. This is particularly the case with recall training, as a third of the surveyed dog population had unreliable or no recall. Dogs with weak recall skills can be an issue to others (regardless of the original intent of the dog) and a danger to themselves.

    As an organisation, the CFBA has a remit to educate clients and dog owners regarding how to protect themselves and their dogs when under attack to minimise injury, as results indicated that the majority of attacking dog owners do not take control of their dog.

    References

    1. Dangerous Dog Act 1991

    2. Gazzano, A., Mariti, C., Notari, L., Sighieri, C., & McBride, E.A., Effects of early gentling and early environment on emotional development of puppies. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2008) 110: 294-304.

    3. Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J, Bradshaw, J.W.S., Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Anim Welf. (2004) 13:63–9.

    4. Rooney, N.J., Cowan, S., Training methods and owner–dog interactions: links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2011) 132:169–77. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.03.007.

    5. Gulherme, F.J., Olsson, I.A.S., De Castro, V.A.C., Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare? A literature review. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2017) 196:1–12. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.001.

    6. Reisner, I. (2017), The learning dog: a discussion of training methods. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    7. Blackwell, E.J., Twells, C., Seawright, A., Casey, R.A., The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2008) 3, 207-217.

    8. Herron, M.E., Shofer, F.S., Reisner, I.R., Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2009) 117: 47-54.

    9. Lockwood, R. (2017), Ethology, ecology and epidemiology of canine aggression. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    10. Pérez-Guisado, J., Muñoz-Serrano, A., Factors Linked to Dominance Aggression in Dogs. J. Anim. Vet. Adv. (2009) 8(2): 336-342.

    11. Cameron, D.B., Canine dominance-associated aggression concepts, incidents, and treatment in private behavior practice. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (1997) 52: 265-274.

    12. Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Prevalence of behaviour problems reported by owners of dogs purchased from an animal rescue shelter. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2000) 69: 55-65

    13. Sands, D.D., (2008), Know your dog. Hamlyn, London. pp. 64-146.

    14. Gobbo, E., Zupan, M., Dogs’ Sociability, Owners’ Neuroticism and Attachment Style to Pets as Predictors of Dog Aggression. Animals (2020), 10, 315.

    15. Casey, R.A., Loflus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G.J., Blackwell, E.J., Interdog aggression in a UK owner survey: Prevalence, co-occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Veterinary Record (2012) doi:10.1136/vr.100997.

    16. Manzanero, A.L. & Recio, M., El recuerdo de hechos traumáticos: exactitud, tipos y características. Cuadernos de Medicina Forense, (2012). 18(1):19-25. doi:10.4321/S1135-76062012000100003.

    17. Bradshaw, J., Rooney, N., (2017), Dog social behaviour and communication. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    18. Tami, G., Gallagher, A., Description of the behaviour of domestic dog (Canis familiaris) by experienced and inexperienced people. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2009) 120: 159–169.

    19. Casey, R.A., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G.J., Blackwell, E.J., Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2014) 152: 52– 63.

    20. Jacobs, J.A., Pearl, D.L., Coe, J.B., Widowski, T.M., Niel, L., Ability of owners to identify resource guarding behaviour in the domestic dog. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2017) 188: 77–83.

    21. Takeuchi, Y., Ogata, N., Houpt, K.A., Scarlett, J.M., Differences in background and the outcome of three behavior problems of dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2000) 69: 297-308.

    22. Hoffman, C.L., Chen, P., Serpell, J.A., Jacobson, K.C., Do dog behavioural characteristics predict the quality of the relationship between the dogs and their owners? Hum Anim Interact Bull. (2013) 1(1): 20–37.

    23. Salones, M., Sulkama, S., Mikkola, S., Puurunen, J., Hakanen. E., Tirrra, K., Araujo, C., Lohi, H., Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs. Nature research Scientific Reports (2020) doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59837-z

    24. Blackwell, E.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., & Casey, R.A., Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and cooccurrence with other fear related behaviour. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013) 145: 15–25.

    25. Martínez, Á.G., Santamarina Pernas, G., Diéguez Casalta, F.J., Suárez Rey, M.L. & De la Cruz Palomino, L.F., Risk factors associated with behavioral problems in dogs. J. Vet. Behav. Clin. Appl. Res. (2011) 6: 225–231.

    26. Tiira, K., Sulkama, S., & Lohi, H., Prevalence, comorbidity, and behavioral variation in canine anxiety. J. Vet. Behav. Clin. Appl. Res. (2016) 16: 36–44.

    27. Storengen, L.M., & Lingaas, F., Noise sensitivity in 17 dog breeds: Prevalence, breed risk and correlation with fear in other situations. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2015) 171: 152–160.

    28. Blackwell, E., Casey, R., & Bradshaw, J., Firework fears and phobias in the domestic dog. RSPCA Rep. (2005).

    Raw data is available on application and for the usual costs involved. Please use the contact page on this site.

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    Let’s Talk About Cats by Anita Kelsey

    Let’s Talk About Cats: Conversations on Feline Behaviour features 16 unique in-depth conversations with devoted feline experts, each chapter answering a question about our cats. An abundance of catty conversation points which provide many useful takeaways for cat owners to improve their own every-day connection with their cats.

    This book, the first of its kind, presents the combined wisdom of experts from all over the world on the psychology, behaviour, diet and training of cats, in a relaxed and conversational style. Contributors include Jackson Galaxy, star of My Cat From Hell, and composer David Teie, whose ground-breaking album, Music for Cats, was released by the Universal Music Group.

    Each illuminating chapter exudes a love for cats and a wealth of fascinating insights.

    This book is packed with helpful advice, guidance and true stories from the author’s own professional experience of cat care topics, explaining the most important cat concepts, giving food for thought and expanding on all the most important issues and debates in the cat world.

    Let's Talk About Cats by Anita Kelsey

    Reviews

    “I would thoroughly recommend Anita for a cat’s eye perspective of the world, She is thoroughly enlightening and very friendly too” – Claire Bass. Humane Society International

    “Insightful and very touching at times. Cat lovers will recognise their own experiences in this book and hopefully enrich their knowledge of their feline companions” Michale Hallam. Your Cat Magazine

    “This book is the most comprehensive book about cats that I’ve ever read. It literally covers everything that you can possibly think about, and it’s very well laid out and interesting” – Book Blogger – sibzzreads

    “Absolutely one to read!” – Books are cool – book blogger

    Canine First Aid Part II

    Normal Dog Parameters

    In early February we introduced the beginning of a CFBA blog series entitled Canine First Aid by Rachel Bean.  The first article was the Introduction to First Aid followed by an Introduction to Rachel Bean, RVN.

    There was an unfortunate interruption while we were all adjusting to the ‘new normal’, but over the next few weeks, we will resume the series, starting with Normal Dog Parameters followed by Haemorrhage (Bleeding), Stings, Allergic Reactions & Anaphlaxis, and finally, Poisons & Pesticides.

    Normal Temperature, Heart, and Respiratory Rates in Dogs

    Attending to your dog’s wellbeing should include basic knowledge of their normal Parameters also known as Vital Signs. If you can recognise normal vital signs then you will be able to establish when vital signs are abnormal and contact your Vet much sooner. This will aid the speed of a potential illness being treated much quicker.

    Please keep in mind that these normal values for dogs are approximations and do not apply to every dog in every situation. If you have health concerns about your dog, be sure to consult with your Vet for advice.

    Normal Temperature for a dog is 38.3 C to 38.7 C

    Most Digital thermometers are in Celsius. It is good practice to have a digital thermometer in your Canine First Aid Kit for whenever you need to check a rectal temperature.

    Temperature Abnormalities can be:

    • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by exercise, agility, working trials or simply running.
    • PYREXIA: Caused by Infections such as infected wounds
    • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by Hypovolemic Shock,
    • DIPHASIC: Caused by Distemper and other neurological conditions.

    Pulse

    Blood pumped into the Aorta during ventricular contraction creates a wave that travels from the heart to the peripheral arteries. This is the Pulse.

    Normal Pulse rate for a dog is

    • Small Dog – 100 beats a minute
    • Medium Dog – 80 beats a minute
    • Large/Giant Dog – 50 beats a minute

    Taking a pulse rate – Feel how many pulses you can feel in 15 seconds, times by 4 – this gives you the minute rate.

    The best place to take a pulse rate from is the Femoral Artery located on the inside of either back leg midthigh region or the heart beat itself located behind the elbow.

    Leg
    Elbow

    Pulse Abnormalities can be:

    • Raised rate
    • Lowered rate
    • Weak pulse
    • Irregular pulse

    Respiration

    Respiration is the normal exchange of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide between the air and body tissues. Normal Respiration for a dog is 10 To 30 breaths a minute 

    Abnormal Breathing rates:

    • Increased Breathing is called Tachypnea
    • Decreased breathing is called Bradypnea
    • Difficulty breathing is called Dyspnea

    Mucous Membrane Colours

    Any discolouration of the mucous membranes (gums) can be a lack of oxygen, blood flow, or dehydration. Always seek Veterinary advice if you notice this with your dogs gums.

    The gums can also feel “tacky”, meaning they are dry and sticky, where they should be moist like the inside of your mouth. This, along with discolouration, can indicate an emergency.

    Take the time to check your dog’s gums frequently. Knowing what they look like on a regular basis.

    Normal CAPILLARY Refill time for a Dog is 1 to 2  Seconds

    Pale gums caused by Anaemia or internal bleeding. 

    Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen
    Jaundice caused by Liver Issues
    Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen

    Table of Contents

    Articles welcome: dianekunas@yahoo.com

    Getting a New Puppy During Lockdown

    Unprecedented Times

    So, we find ourselves in the most strange and unprecedented times. Whilst we were all busily planning our lives and future, unaware of the terrifying virus on the horizon that was set to alter the course of life as we know it, some of you were planning puppies. Usually this is an exciting time of arranging excursions for socialisation, exploring the world through your puppy’s eyes of wonder and excitement and friends and family visiting you to see the new addition.

    Obviously, not much of that will be happening now…so how on earth are you going to socialise your new puppy in this strange new world?

    Temperament Formation

    As we know the most critical period of temperament formation is up to around 12 to 16 weeks of age. I talk a lot about breed and individual specific socialisation; not all puppies are the same and it is most certainly not always a case of the more the merrier in that the dog needs to play with masses of dogs and touched by hundreds of people – it should be about the needs of the individual at the time and the likely predisposed behaviour of the adult dog based on the ever changing character and development of the puppy.

    The positives about socialising your dog during ‘lock-down’ are huge – many puppies being raised now won’t be learning to run over to all dogs because they are simply not allowed…they won’t be learning that everyone in the street wants to cuddle them, because (even if people do want to…they can’t!), they will be more habituated to life as an adult dog who is with the owner and that the rest of the environment is not their business other than to be observed and accepted.

    Downsides

    The obvious downsides that I can see are for some dogs who really do need a lot of dog on dog contact to develop normal engagement skills – for example the German Shepherd Dog and the Border Collie who can be very sensitive breeds with seemingly awkward engagement skills in some individuals. Equally a lot of the guarding breeds such as the Rottweiler, Spanish Water Dog and breeds like the Akita will not be used to visitors entering the home – this may not be such a problem for the more innately gregarious dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, but may also affect some of the more timorous breeds like some of the Vizslas and UK bred Ridgebacks.

    There is not an answer to this, because we are not in control of our environment and can only work within the confines of what we have.

    Daily Exercise

    So, if you have a puppy during this time, I suggest that you use your daily exercise periods to accustom the puppy to traffic, walking past people at a sensible social distance; they will see joggers and cyclists and other dogs and learn that they are to be ignored. The most important thing is to do what you can do within these limitations – for example, if you drive to the supermarket to do your shopping and as only one family member is allowed in the store, have another family member sit with the puppy in a crate in the back of the car and allow puppy to see what is happening around. The main focus should really be on obedience training which will help greatly in the future to guide the dog through new situations with confidence. As importantly, create the household routines and boundaries that will apply in the future – if you normally work for four hours a day, the puppy will need to get gradually used to time alone – a crate is of great use when raising puppies for a number of reasons, but critically the puppy needs to learn that alone time is a part of each day to avoid separation and over bonding issues in the future. Feeding a natural raw food in a Dental Kong is a great way to ensure puppy has a positive experience when alone, as well as tiring their jaws, relieving teething pain etc.

    Work from Home

    I’m really fortunate that, in normal circumstances, I work from home. My dogs spend a great deal of time with me typically and so little has changed for them (aside from a lack of visitors, days out in the car, walking with friends, training clubs, tracking through the open spaces and only one walk per day!) As we know exercise on a daily basis is critical for physical and psychological well-being. At present, we are still able to exercise our dogs, but depending on the area, some parks and open spaces require dogs to be on lead. This can be difficult for dogs that are used to a good couple of hours free running. There are many things that you can do to increase stimulation, but you need to be mindful of whether you need to increase what you are doing…and the likely possible maintenance when life returns to near normality. So, if as in my case, life is pretty much as normal for the dogs, you don’t need to start an hour of agility in the garden or scatter feeding their food otherwise when you no longer do these things, the dogs will be lacking.

    Reduced Exercise

    However, if you are on reduced exercise, you can look to increase the dogs activities each day. I am passionate about raw feeding and so my own dogs will have bones a few times a week which keep them busy for hours in the garden engaging in normal activity, fulfilling physical and mental stimulation requirements. My own dogs are also trained to detect various scents and so I could do some scent work in the garden or the house, equally they are trained to find articles with human scent on them, so hiding small items about the place and sending them to search for them is excellent for engagement and fun. If you do have to feed kibble for some reason, you can hide it about the garden. The best prevention of boredom is to work with your dog – to teach new exercises – from going to bed, to touching your hand, playing dead, going around an object, looking at you or whatever…the things that you can teach are only limited by your imagination.

    Stay Safe

    The most important thing is to stay safe, follow government guidelines, love and enjoy your dogs, do the best that you can do during these difficult times and should you need it in the future, members of the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (cfba.uk) will be around to help.

    Ross McCarthy MA

    Canine Behaviour Practitioner and Trainer

    A member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers, The Guild of Dog Trainers, The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association. An associate of the British Police & Services Canine Association.

    www.rossmccarthy.com

    Table of Contents

    Integrating Cats and dogs – Dr. David Sands

    Socialising cats and dogs – avoiding conflict

    Many passionate animal lovers enjoy keeping both cats and dogs in the home. However, life between these two species doesn’t always run as smoothly as some owners would imagine. Unwanted behaviour can develop when pets have formed separate boundaries to territory and aggression or retreat is the options when a ‘fight-flight’, [adrenaline-response] is triggered.

    The conflict scenario is most common when an adopted dog is first introduced into a household that already has existing cats or when a cat is brought into a previous dog-only household.

    Some conflict issues dealt with through my clinic have coincided with when people move into a home together.

    There can be unwanted behaviours between dogs and cats that have been brought up together, including occasional and unexpected spats that are seemingly unexplainable for some owners. When dogs and cats are apprehensive they will display a mutual distrust during initial encounters and it is not uncommon for rehomed dogs to present an aggressive response, fearful or challenging, towards a cat that has already been established in a home by growling. Cats can growl as a warning although they mostly hiss and spit during conflicts or when they are defending territory.

    There can also have been a prior ‘learned chase-response’ in a dog that may have had a previous owner that encouraged aggressive chasing-behaviour in order to deter cats from wandering onto their property. There are dog breeds (including terriers and herding dogs) that will naturally chase cats, since this stimulates instinctive canine predator-prey responses.

    Significant changes in homes and territory cannot be ‘explained’ to cats and dogs, and in these circumstances any confused boundaries and alliances with owners can result in confrontational aggression between cats and dogs, or simply withdrawal by cats (even to the extent of them leaving).

    Alternatively, some puppies and kittens that are brought up together, and managed appropriately and sensibly, will coexist without conflict. Achieving this ideal means correctly training the dog to respond to instructions and directions, and not to put either dog or cat in situations where disagreement or possessive behaviour is likely to occur. This is often toys or food bowls in areas that both inhabit – especially when owners are not around to supervise.

    It’s important to accept that, under fur and cute demeanours, companion pets ARE animals and, genetically, one step away from nature.

    Allowing kittens or puppies to pester older counterparts may also result in friction, so be mindful that just because an owner wants them to get along and play together doesn’t mean they always will. Competition triggered through attention from the owner given to one or the other pet can also result in friction between cats and dogs.

    We advise owners to offer consistency as regards social hierarchy when giving pets attention. For safety, dogs should be already trained to instructions this can be achieved with clicker and Training discs associated with when the owner interacts with them. Any retraining procedure is likely to work successfully and quickly if it is already introduced and established.

    It’s important to accept that animals have all their natural instincts and behaviours either innate (genetic/inherited) or learned – which should be understood in order to manage them safely and appropriately.

    If a cat is being introduced to a dog that is known to be generally friendly towards cats, I advise the owner to play a distraction strategy in the initial socialising sessions. This usually involves toy-retrieval or food-searching reward games with the dog controlled on a lead while the cat is allowed to explore in the same room. This usually results in the dog learning that it’s rewarding to ignore the cat.

    However, if the dog is known to already present aggression or hyperactivity towards cats, it is important to employ a muzzle [for safety] combined with a Tether system (a training lead attached to a sturdy wall-mounted bracket or to a heavy and immovable object such as a table leg).

    Use these aids [avoidance] while distracting a dog as described above within the limits of his tether, should be used as a precaution, so that a dog cannot chase and bite at the cat.

    A dog that is displaying positive behaviour towards a cat should be immediately signalled with the clicker and rewarded with special food-treats.

    It is rarely practical to keep a dog and a kitten or cat separated in the same home. While they are unsocialised – before any initial contact – avoidance is necessary to prevent conflict.

    However, there has to come a time when they will be in close proximity and meet and this comes with potential for fearful or aggression responses. Issues can be countered through controlled-socialisation with the use of food rewards for acceptable response behaviour.

    Socialisation periods should be undertaken on a regular basis – every few hours if possible – over a settling period of about four to six weeks. If a dog presents an aggressive response towards the cat, attract its attention (squeaky toy or whistle) and then immediately lead-walk the dog away to separate them.

    When a dog is aggressive towards a new cat it is important not to react with any sort of emotional attention as this can make the event, albeit unintentionally on your part, more exciting, thereby rewarding thus reinforcing the dog’s behaviour.

    Table of Contents

    Case study 1

    In a case referred to me by a vet, a rehomed, neutered, Japanese Akita bitch aged four was showing predatory behaviour (mouthing, holding and biting), including two instances of attacks on cats within the household. The first attack took place two months after the dog was rehomed, and the second a month into the retraining programme I’d suggested to the client. Both incidents resulted in the cats needing urgent veterinary attention and surgery. During my initial home visit after referral, it became obvious that the five cats were choosing to live upstairs while the Japanese Akita was being confined to a downstairs room.

    Treatment

    A tailored behaviour modification programme required the owner to introduce and condition her dog to a clicker and whistle (linked to reward) and training discs (linked to the removal of reward) communication system (each to be introduced in a sequence).

    Controlled owner interaction, structured walks and play sessions formed part of the programme. The introduction of the tether strategy and dog gates was also recommended to offer the cats freedom to more safely roam around the house.

    A month into the three-month programme a second cat was attacked and sustained extensive injuries, necessitating a week’s stay at the veterinary clinic for treatment. This attack occurred even though a tether-system was in place. The cat, perhaps encouraged by the controlled movement of the Japanese Akita during a desensitisation period, walked past and the dog grabbed it. The client was preoccupied on a telephone at the time but insists that in observation there was no prior indication that the dog would attack.

    Outcome

    The client has since agreed to muzzle the dog when in the home to ensure the cats can avoid injury. This short-term, practical, solution is to be used in the hope that the dog will, in time, become less stimulated by the presence of the cats. The case is on-going, although there is a possibility that the eventual rehoming of the dog to a cat-free household is required

    Conclusion

    In my experience, once an attack has been presented by a dog towards any animal an instinctive prey-drive, together with any general breed trait, is stimulated, and the chances of a successful behaviour modification programme designed to counter aggression is generally poor. However, some clients are extremely determined – and have the facility – to succeed in changing unwanted behaviour rather than have the dog rehomed or euthanised.

    When prey-drive involves chasing livestock, where an immediate solution is required, remote-controlled, citronella spray, collars can be successful in interrupting the response. This is because there can be some prediction of when chase-behaviour is likely to be presented, such as on rural walks, in a situation where owners can be prepared in advance to use interruption methods.

    However, when innate prey-drive trigger is unpredictable (such as in the case of a Japanese Akita), it is much more difficult to anticipate the onset of aggression unless owners are prepared to be in a constant state of readiness to act and prevent aggression.

    Case study 2

    A rehomed Jack Russell Terrier bitch was targeting cats encountered around its home area when being walked on lead.

    The owners reported that, on occasions, they were often unaware of a cat being close by until the dog lunged into a hedgerow or pulled at a wall and aggression commenced. In some instances, the dog exhibited continuous vocalisation, including sustained high-pitched yelps and barks.

    The owners were keen to be able to counter this unwanted behaviour, not least because it caused them considerable embarrassment during walks.

    Treatment

    The Jack Russell was put through a rigid programme which again included using dog gates and tethering in the home in order to create boundaries. Alongside training and controlling factors, the dog was denied window access during daylight hours, to prevent target barking and help to reduce her overall hyperactive behaviour.

    This particular Jack Russell was highly food-orientated, so proved biddable to retraining. She responded positively to treats associated with the clicker system from an early stage, but was less receptive to ‘non-reward’ training discs in outdoor situations.

    This prognosis is found in most dogs, however, when they are exposed to this method and this opposite sound-signal to the clicker can be an option to change unwanted behaviour in cases.

    In one of several one-to-one sessions, the owners approached a cat that was sunning itself opposite their home. In a slow process, which required much patience on their behalf, the dog was kept on a lead within a metre of the cat for a 10-minute period.

    The dog commenced some unwanted vocalisation in the first few minutes but eventually this reduced to an acceptable level and ceased altogether after five minutes. The cat, in this instance, did not react or display any fearful behaviour towards the Jack Russell.

    Outcome

    Three months into the programme, the Jack Russell’s usual aggressive reaction to cats and previous acute vocalisation behaviour had reduced to low-level interest and, therefore interruptible before hyperactivity could begin.

    The drip-feeding of food treats acted as a mind-set change in the form of distraction. Because the dog was responsive to treats (rewards) the system was successful.

    Case study 3

    A Chow Chow, neutered bitch

    British short-hair, entire Tom [kitten aged 5 months]

    The Chow Chow bitch, previously socialised with an adult cat in the home, had immediately targeted a kitten introduced into the home following the loss of that cat. The owners had resorted to crating the kitten to allow the dog visual contact.

    The owners reported that, following unexpected behaviour from the Chow Chow (the dog was presenting a hyperactive and potentially aggressive reaction) was alarming the new kitten.

    They were keen to be able to counter this unwanted behaviour and hoped that a behaviour programme would successfully lead to socialising the two companion pets.

    Treatment

    The Chow Chow was initially put through a clicker and reward-whistle programme to be untilised for a period of training through positive reinforcement of calm behaviour.

    The owners were instructed to introduce a Gripper Lead (® Dogmatic) to develop a Tether-system in the home in order to create restraint. This offered controlled-safety (without their physical interaction) and appeasement to reduce apprehension from the owners being transmitted to the dog.

    Alongside training and controlling factors, the dog [controlled] and kitten [free to explore] were to be fed in close proximity to each other.

    The Chow Chow was to be offer nutritious, lasting-chews (previously associated with the clicker system) to create calm episodes when the kitten was in close proximity. Scenario sessions were to be introduced in the evening quiet within two weeks of my home-visit session.

    Outcome

    Only weeks into the programme, the Chow Chow changed its interaction from hyperactivity to calm interest and socialisation began to develop.

    The chews [tripe sticks] acted as a mind-set change in the form of distraction. Because the dog was responsive to treats (rewards) the system was successful.

    10-step desensitisation

    1. In desensitising methods, the dog should be first contained in a covered crate or indoor kennel in the room where the controlled introduction can be made. Cats should not be in the room at that time.
    2. Place a number of different treats (on saucers or in small containers) around the room.
    3. Introduce one or more new scratching posts and spray these with catnip.
    4. Then allow the cats to enter and explore the room in their own time. If they use a scratching post and take food it is a significant point of progress.
    5. Following this initial period of exposure, where some cats will investigate the sides and top of the crate, lead the dog from the crate out of the room and into another part of the home.
    6. If there has been little aggression in a 15-minute period of exposure, return with the dog after 15 minutes and repeat the process. Introduce the Tether system.
    7. If there has been much spitting and snarling give the cats an extended period to calm down.
    8. To reduce the triggers for problem behaviours, don’t give attention to and avoid eye contact with the cat and dog.
    9. Eventually, providing the initial introduction was problem-free, replace the crate with the tether system (as described earlier) where closer contact can be made.
    10. In the last step, a member of the family should reward (clicker-treating can be used here if desired) the dog for desired, calm behaviour in ignoring the cat while controlled contact outside of a crate is undertaken.

    Aversion techniques

    In escalating situations, cat-chasing behaviour in dogs may be reduced with the use of remote-controlled spray-collars that are based on aversion principles. This can prevent unwanted injuries to both parties. However, it is essential that you consult a trainer as to these collars’ appropriate and timely use (which is critical to their effectiveness) and to show you how to use one correctly.

    Dr David Sands
    Fellow of the CFBA, Canine and Feline Behaviourist

    A Wolf in Dog’s Clothing by Mark Derr

    Emerging from the deep shade of a sandstone outcropping that shelters their flock, three skinny black-and-white dogs warily approach pieces of cantaloupe rind thrown to entice them into the open, sniff, then begin eating, their eyes fixed on the strange Anglos talking with their Navajo owner. I am amazed at how much they resemble a photograph I recently saw of the Basketmaker dog, a rare, complete mummy dating from the time of Christ that was found at White Dog Cave, not far from this hogan, in 1921 and resides at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. Travelling through the Navajo Reservation with Hal Black, a zoologist from Brigham Young University, I will observe a dozen more of the dogs, some with buff coats and grey muzzles, but of the same physical type as the 2,000-year-old mummy, as if in this country of wind-blasted sandstone mesas there is no divide between the quick and the dead.

    Bred to no particular purpose, the Navajo dogs, that range from fifteen to sixty pounds, live with flocks of sheep and goats they protect from coyotes, other dogs, horses, mules, even strange people who come too close. Most are born among the sheep and goats they accept as members of their own pack, but others are adopted as barely weaned puppies from the ranks of feral dogs (who have severed their bond to humans and grown to fear and avoid them) living around the reservation’s garbage dumps or found on the roadside. I recognize many of them as mutts from modern breeds and dismiss them, not because they are less good as sheep guards, but because I am fascinated with the ancient ones. The latter remind me of the feists and curs of the American South, that are generally believed to descend from the dogs of Native Americans, mixed with those of seventeenth and eighteenth century colonists. It seems incredible that the type could persist for so long without change despite exposure to countless other dogs and I would like to believe that my eyes have deceived me, the way I know when my male Catahoula leopard dog sleeps on his back in a contorted pose resembling the dog from Pompeii zapped in the ash of Vesuvius that the relationship is purely visual.

    Back home in Miami Beach, I check with Stanley J. Olsen of the University of Arizona, one of the world’s foremost experts on dog palaeontology and a man given to scepticism regarding claims that certain dogs represent ancient breeds. “Oh, yes,” he says, “those little dogs on the reservation – they look just like the Basketmaker mummy.” He agrees that a comparative study would be interesting, but for now the techniques of genetic analysis are not refined enough to determine whether the sheepdogs are heir to the animals of people who lived in that land of buttes and mesas before the Navajo themselves arrived.

    Around the world, there are dogs that have apparently remained unchanged for thousands of years – bred true to type – often on islands where ancient wanderers dropped them, in jungles, parts of the Arctic or relatively remote desert environments like that of the American Southwest, where for long periods they would have come into contact with other dogs rarely, if at all, but also in regions where people have retained a strong tradition of using certain kinds of dog. Some researchers even speculate that many of these dogs are derived from an ur-dog domesticated 10,000 or more years ago from the Indian wolf and carried around the world with migrating bands of people, mixing along the way with indigenous wolves. In its effort to account for the affinities in behaviour and appearance among these unique dogs, this theory oversimplifies the process of domestication and dispersal. Foremost among them and closest to the wolf in appearance and behaviour is the dingo, that first appeared in Australia some 4,000 years ago when seafarers from Indonesia or Southeast Asia beached their dugouts to trade with the Aborigines and lost some of the dogs they carried for companionship and food. The dogs reverted to the wild and became the top carnivore, next to humans, on that island continent, joined over the centuries by other travellers who went walkabout. Although some Aboriginal tribes tamed puppies and kept them as hunting aides and camp guardians, as well as food in times of famine, the dogs bred in the wild and in general behaved so differently from those of European explorers arriving in the eighteenth century that they were called dingoes and declared a separate species.

    The New Guinea singing dog, now nearly extinct on its home island, is said to be a dingo of sorts, as are the pariahs, the ownerless dogs who live around towns and villages in Southeast Asia and even some of the Native American dogs. A number of Middle Eastern and African dogs are similar in appearance, but probably domesticated from different subspecies of wolf. The Canaan dog from Palestine was a pariah used to guard and herd sheep until the 1930s, when Rudolphina Menzel, an expert on dogs who, with her husband Rudolph, had fled Hitler’s Germany, consolidated it into a breed for use as a messenger, tracker, search-and-rescue dog and guide dog. Among the !Kung San bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, those who hunt with dogs – medium-sized buff or piebald animals – bring home 75 percent of the animal protein their band consumes. Pygmies use little hounds (refined by English and American breeders, they are called basenjis) to hunt birds and other game. On Sicily and in Portugal are graceful prick-eared hounds that appear to have changed little for several millennia.

    In fact, dogs like these are sought by collectors in increasing numbers, because they are deemed “primitive” – more quintessentially dog in their abilities and demeanour than the “refined” European and English breeds: pointers, retrievers, toys, terriers and other denizens of the show ring. Even the various curs and feists of the American South and the Arctic sled dogs are often called “primitive.” Despite all the rationalizations and examples used to support the distinction, it primarily refers to dogs that are more generalist in their talents, independent in their habits and relatively free of disabling genetic defects compared with those selectively bred for specific traits, size, colour and specialized talents like pointing. Since many are country dogs, they are deemed exotic or rare, when taken as pets. I prefer the word “basic” to “primitive”, because it bears less cultural baggage. It also recognizes that types like the Alaskan husky and curs have, over the years, received infusions of new blood without losing their distinguishing characteristics. Huskies retain their tough feet, somewhat wolfish appearance and habits as sled dogs despite the presence in their midst of individuals with lop ears and thinnish coats. Coming in a range of sizes and colours, curs are identified by their ability as herders, hunters that trail and tree, occasional pointers and guardians, as well as by their general deep-chested build.

    In Australia, dingoes are currently hybridizing freely with domestic dogs, raising concerns that they will become extinct. Hybridization occurs most frequently in areas where human predation has created a shortage of available dingo mates, meaning humans can help reverse the process by ending the senseless slaughter. To the dingo, however, hybridization has always offered life, not extinction. In the centuries before Anglo settlement, it interbred, especially along the coast, with dogs arriving, as its forebears had, with Southeast Asian and Indonesian traders. Like those early hybrids, many of the ones produced today are virtually indistinguishable from dingoes into whose society they are born. The dingo phenotype and culture prevail, leading me to conclude that the obsession with curbing interbreeding has less to do with preserving the dingo than with maintaining old notions of blood purity. Such a view is heretical in the world of wildlife protection, but the dingo is a dog that went wild because of the circumstances in which humans left it; if it changes in relationship to new human-made conditions, it is simply being a dog.

    Whatever terms we use, the attempt to draw clear distinctions between basic and pedigree show dogs or even between breeds, reflects our continuing attempts to understand the animal that shares our lives more intimately than any other. Under funded and assigned low priority by palaeontologists, archaeologists and evolutionary biologists, whose efforts are directed more toward examining issues relating to humans, extinct and endangered species, and those efforts proceed in fits and starts, like a dog trying to fix on a cold trail.

    Whether read on cuneiform tablets, scrolls, bas-reliefs, paintings, books, film, or the flickering pixels of cyberspace, divined from bones or mummified flesh, deciphered from the genes, what we know remains an unstable mixture of fact and received wisdom, which is too often accepted as revealed truth. As biologists decipher the dog genome – the genetic blueprint that makes it unique – archaeologists open new sites and behaviourists deepen their knowledge of dog and wolf behaviour, the story will doubtless become, paradoxically, more clear and complex. On a practical level, I hope that this knowledge will lead to a revolution in breeding that will bring an end to the production of mutant animals fit only to serve human vanity and create animals of good health and temperament, sound minds and abundant talent. Bred to type, like the sheep guards of the Navajo, the curs and huskies, these dogs would show considerably more variability than is allowed in the narrowly prescribed physical standards of show dogs, like the Pekingese, malamute or any of the other 140 or so pure breeds recognised by the American Kennel Club.

    Enough has been learned over the past three decades to allow concerned breeders and trainers to make dramatic improvements, but more must be done. The chief drawback to that reform, one expert told me, lies in inadequate dissemination of the information at hand and continued reliance on folk wisdom that views inheritance and behaviour in overly simplistic terms. I would add to that list an unwillingness among many people involved with dogs to change their ways.

    Defining Dog
    What we know is this: The dog is a subspecies of the wolf altered over more than fifteen millennia by selective breeding. Analyses of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from the mother, have shown no distinctive differences between wolf and dog or even between breeds of dog, no matter their shape and size. (DNA fingerprinting does allow scientists to identify individual dogs, but not their breed or type.) The New Guinea singing dog and dingo appear to have one or two distinctive genetic markers, perhaps due to thousands of years of island isolation, but they are not significant enough to distinguish them as separate species. Contrary to theories set forth in the past and still repeated in some quarters, no contributions were made by jackals, coyotes, foxes, otters or bears, nor were there any ur-dogs that appeared suddenly on the earth and then vanished into the bosom of domesticity, like a dog Adam and Eve. Our dog is formally Canis lupus familiaris.

    Canis means “dog” in Latin, so the dog is technically a domesticated wolf, which is a wild dog. Canis lupus is one of thirty-four living species grouped in Canidae (the dog family) of the order Carnivora, which also includes Ursidae (bears), Mustelidae (weasels), Procyonidae (raccoons), Ailuropoda (pandas), Otariidae (sea lions), Odobenidae (walruses), Phocidae (seals), Felidae (cats), Viverridae (civets) and Hyaenidae (hyenas).

    Collectively the carnivores are intelligent animals that care for their young and possess relatively large dogs for killing, carnassials – the first molar on the lower jaw and last premolar on the upper – for rending flesh and molars for crushing bones. They have four to five toes with claws that are retractable in the cats, except the cheetah, and not in the others. All lack the opposable thumb, even those with five digits. In dogs, the fifth toe of the fore and hind feet has become a dewclaw, although some breeds have no rear dewclaws while others, especially among the French sheepdogs and some yellow blackmouth curs, have two on each foot. Dogs and cats walk on their toes; bears on their heels and soles. Classification, being a less than exact science, some of these carnivores are omnivores and one, the panda, eats bamboo. Still, among this group are the top terrestrial predators, next to humans – the only natural enemy of many of them.

    Canids – members of the dog family – began to distinguish themselves from other mammalian carnivores some 50 to 60 million years ago, almost immediately upon their first appearance following extinction of the dinosaurs. These animals were miacids – ferret – to fox-size creatures with a longer body than legs, tails and those mashing and cutting teeth. Miacids gave way to larger creodants with five distinctive toes. Around 15 million years ago in the Western Hemisphere, another fox like animal, Hesperocyon, appeared, walking on its toes. From there the line passes through Leptocyon, believed to be the common ancestor of wolves and foxes. Canis lepophagus, whose remains were found in Texas and dated to the Pliocene some 5 million years ago, might be the forerunner of the wolf like canids. From their origins in what is now North America, early canids migrated to Eurasia, Africa and South America.

    By the best current estimates, 7 to 10 million years ago the dog family began to divide into the broad groupings we see today: the wolf like canids, South American canids, red foxes, and miscellaneous. The foxes, miscellaneous and South American canids have different numbers of chromosomes from the wolf like canids and do not figure in the evolution of the wolf, although the South American bushdog (Speothos venaticus), which dives under water, has been domesticated occasionally.

    The wolf like canids have seventy-eight chromosomes and could conceivably all be classed as Canis, but two are not: Lyacon pictus, the African wild dog, with four toes front and back and the highly variable markings usually associated with domestic dogs and Cuon alpinus, the dhole or red “dog”, native to Asia and India. Those grouped in Canis are the wolf (lupus); golden jackal (aureus); side-striped jackal (adustus); black-backed jackal (mesomelas); Simien jackal or Ethiopian wolf (simensis); coyote (latrans) and red wolf (rufus). The huge dire wolf (Canis dirus) rose and fell during the Pleistocene, while its cousin, the gray wolf, flourished.

    Although the wolf, coyote and golden jackal probably diverged 3 to 4 million years ago, they can mate and produce fertile offspring. Largely because of its geographic isolation in eastern and southern Africa, the African wild dog (also known as the Cape hunting dog) went its separate way about the same time. All of these canids have strong jaws and the relatively big teeth typical of carnivores, as Little Red Riding Hood discovered! Their legs are adapted for loping or trotting long distances, with the exception of the mutant domestic dog breeds and running for shorter periods with bursts of speed. As a general rule, they show a marked propensity toward pack or group behaviour. They also communicate vocally through a variety of calls, physical posturing and scent marking. Their olfactory abilities are superb, as is their hearing. They have excellent peripheral and night vision, as well as high sensitivity to light and movement. Dogs, wolves and perhaps other canids, see fairly well at a distance and discern colours, although not as acutely as humans.

    Observers have long argued that wolves and dogs possess some sort of extrasensory perception that allows them to sense the moods of humans or prey, to locate someone at a distance, to anticipate the arrival of a master, pack member or quarry, to discern when they are nearing their destination, even if riding in a closed car. Of particular fascination to a number of experts is “psi trailing,” the apparent ability of an animal to find its owners after they have left it and moved to a place it has never been before. ESP is, of course, a term human’s use for any psychic phenomenon beyond their explanation and so its use with canids is probably irrelevant. It is fairer to say that canids live in a perceptual universe far different from ours and that we are unaware of many of the olfactory and auditory signals they detect. Both dogs and wolves respond to higher frequencies than humans; wolves reportedly can hear sounds on the Alaska tundra from a distance up to ten miles.

    No one knows how many subspecies of Canis lupus have existed. Estimates range from twenty to forty. Part of the difficulty, as with defining breeds of dogs, is that wolves are highly variable in size, coloration and behaviour. In addition, heavy human predation has seriously diminished their numbers worldwide, making it difficult even to determine with accuracy what has been lost. Due primarily to heat and parasites, wolves tend to be smaller in southern than in northern latitudes, so that the little Arabian wolf and the red wolf are in the forty-five-pound range, while the Arctic grey wolf regularly exceeds one hundred pounds. The Arabian wolf seems to howl rarely and generally hunts alone or in small groups. Indeed, many of these subspecies have been studied little; more than a few cannot be examined at all, except in their remains. Thus, we will probably never know how the behaviour of specific wolves is reflected in the dogs derived from them millennia ago.

    Taming Wolf
    Fossil evidence from Zhoukoudian, China, shows Homo erectus pekinensis, the elusive Peking or Beijing man, was sharing time and space, food and shelter with wolves (generally classed as Canis lupus variabilis) at least 500,000 years ago. Remains of Homo erectus and wolves have also turned up in Boxgrove in Kent, England, dated to 400,000 years ago and Lazeret in the south of France, 150,000 years ago. It is more likely that throughout the Northern Hemisphere these precursors of modern humans and wolves lived and hunted in close proximity than that these three sites represent an accidental accumulation of old bones. Beyond that, we have only questions and surmise, especially since we know less about our prehistoric forebears than we do about wolves.

    Relatively short, with slightly smaller brains, flatter skulls, more prominent brow ridges and a noticeably more protruding jaw holding larger teeth than humans, these hominids were probably semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who colonized much of the world. They had stone tools to help them butcher their kill for cooking. The fossils found at Zhoukoudian indicate that the brains of their compatriots – or competitors – made up at least part of their diet. In the main, however, early hominids were omnivores, deriving an estimated 60 to 80 percent of their calories and protein from nuts and vegetables.

    Even estimated dates are in dispute, however, so it seems fair to say that sometime around 200,000 years ago archaic humans, Homo sapiens, emerged in Africa. They possessed significantly larger brains than Homo erectus, whom they supplanted and made superior stone weapons with which they hunted big game. Whether Neanderthals, who emerged around 100,000 years ago and vanished 70,000 years later, were a separate human species or a stocky, heavy-browed, big-brained cousin of Homo sapiens – the way the dog is a subspecies of wolf – is not yet clear, but these powerful Ice Age hunters were also found throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, slightly different beings arose, modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) with brains wired for invention and the drive to remake the world. More precisely, our ancestors showed up with a more highly developed and enlarged basal neocortex (believed to be involved in ethical and social behaviour, as well as formation of personality) than their predecessors.

    As humans colonized the world, some of them became – especially in the Arctic, Patagonia, the Great Plains of North America and steppes of Asia – predominately carnivorous in response to ecological conditions. (The polar bear, which evolved as a separate species 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, shows a similar adaptation, becoming the only solely carnivorous and semi-aquatic bear.) In the main, however, they moved in small bands of approximately twenty-five men, women, and children, taking most of their calories from plants and nuts.

    From my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember portrayals of early humans as people terrified of the world and its animals, living a marginal existence on the edge of death by starvation, exposure or assault. Since then, we have come increasingly to perceive those ancient hunters and gatherers as having had a rich culture and diet. They moved through their world as easily as we navigate ours, only in that world the boundary between human camps and nature was highly porous. Hunter-gatherers viewed animals as beings with their own habits, cultures and souls, making many of them totemic figures, the way we invest in material objects like cars and houses or famous humans with special status, not to mention God in his various guises. Early humans tamed nearly every animal they came into contact with and that impulse to collect animals has remained as strong as the related impulse to hunt them; in fact, it is no mistake that some of the most ardent conservationists have been hunters, which is not the same as saying that all hunters are conservationists – far too many of them are not.

    Even with weapons, hominids and early humans were not natural hunters and so they would have scavenged carnivores’ kills and also looked to them for guidance on how to bring down their own meat. They turned not to the bear, another omnivore, nor to the cats, but to animals – wolves and African wild dogs – that, like them, hunted in packs to bring down game much larger than themselves. Humans wanted those heavy animals for the same reasons wolves did: They provided enough meat to feed the group for days.

    Wolves and humans do not talk the same language – I assume, as do many enlightened naturalists, that all animals possess language, defined here as the ability to communicate through verbal or visual signs – but they understand each other to a remarkable degree. By the look on their faces, the tilt of their ears, position of their tails and bodies, wolves convey a great deal about their mood and intent that humans can interpret. Like humans, wolves possess associative minds and wanderlust. The social structure of their packs and their habits of nurturing and educating their young parallel those of human groups.

    People adopted wolf puppies that were orphaned or that they or their children lifted from dens during explorations. Women nursed the youngest of those puppies the way they suckled their own children. Not surprisingly, some of those hand-raised wolves hung around their adoptive family, becoming companions to the children or even the young men who played with them and learned to hunt with them. The tamed wolf took to the village as its home, alerting people to danger, the way it warned its own kind if a stranger approached the den – by barking. In some regions – for this process was occurring in many parts of the world – when food got scarce or if a spirit needed to be propitiated, people sacrificed and ate the wolf; if it proved a foul-tempered ingrate, it was driven off or killed.

    The wolves who became the tamest and lingered around the camps were those that were in personality the most social and least fearful. Mating with each other and free-ranging animals living near the camps, the tamed wolves produced, over time, a population with a high overall level of sociability, a group of fellow-travelling wolves. Under no breeding pressure from humans, allowed to come and go as they wished, they retained their wolfish look and demeanour.

    Becoming Dog
    Near the end of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone) Age, our direct forebears developed better, sharper stone blades, the atlatl for throwing spears and around 18,000 to 20,000 years ago, the boomerang (subsequently isolated in Australia) and the bow and arrow. These weapons allowed hunters to kill larger animals with greater ease from a longer range. Around the same time, in many parts of the world humans took up fishing and established semi-permanent villages with populations larger than their traditional bands, constructing their homes of the materials at hand: wood, earth, stone, skins, mammoth tusks. They developed better ways to carry water, food, firewood and pelts back to camp: baskets, ceramic pots, sledges, toboggans and travois. Boats extended the distances they could travel in search of food and in trade for furs, tools or ceramics. These humans also turned the tamed wolf into a dog, the first fully domesticated animal, meaning its evolution and breeding became directed more by humans than by nature.

    The circumstances in which our forebears found themselves changed dramatically – in part because of their activities – between the last glacial advance, which peaked around 18,000 years ago and the end of the Pleistocene some 8,000 years later. At their maximum, glaciers in eastern North America extended south over what are now the Middle Atlantic states and in the west covered Alaska, western Canada, Idaho, Washington and Montana. In Europe, Scandinavia, Denmark, most of Great Britain, Poland, Germany and Russia were under ice. Glaciers embraced the Alps and Dolomites, covering what are now Switzerland and sections of Austria, France and Italy. Bordering the ice sheets were dry steppes and grasslands supporting herds of animals, including mammoths, reindeer and giant bison. Among the predators hunting them were sabre-toothed tigers, scimitar cats, dire wolves, grey wolves and humans with their wolf dogs. In some areas, the wolf dogs resembled short-faced wolves, that is, they were barely distinguishable from dogs.

    As glaciers retreated, the earth warmed and sea levels rose, reconfiguring shorelines, flooding the Bering land bridge between the Americas and Eurasia. Established ecosystems collapsed while new ones emerged. Heavy rains turned solid land to marsh, lakes dried up, steppes and grasslands turned to forests and the great inland sea of North America, with its lush marshes, became a high desert, the Great Plains. As many as forty species of mammals vanished, especially of the huge predators and prey, among them mammoths, mastodons, great-horned bison, giant rhinoceroses, giant sloths, cave bears, dire wolves, all the sabre-toothed cats and the armadillo-like glyptodonts. Others, like the horse and camel, disappeared from North America, finding refuge in Eurasia or the Southern Hemisphere.

    To a degree we cannot yet determine that paleo-hunters contributed to the extinction of some of those large animals, like the mammoths, giant bison and rhinos, with hunting techniques that included driving them off cliffs or into bogs where they were slaughtered, baying them up with wolf dogs so they could be filled with arrows. In turn, their demise hastened that of the giant predators who fed on them. But many of those animals, especially the predators, also appear to have reached an evolutionary dead end, because they were unable to adapt to a world that had turned suddenly warmer and in some cases, to the loss of their preferred food. Their populations stressed, they were pushed over the brink by human activities, but we must not overestimate the force behind the shove. Humans with bows and arrows and atlatls, no matter how skilled, cannot drive a vibrant population to extinction, as we can see by observing how little impact the Plains Indians of North America had on the bison herds during the centuries they hunted them without horses and guns – and that is just one example. Even with those weapons, the bison endured until white commercial and sport hunters slaughtered them by the thousand for their skins. (Curiously, the Plains Indians do not seem to have used dogs in hunting bison, although they kept hundreds in their villages and donned wolf pelts while stalking their prey.)

    The animals that survived the turmoil at the end of the Pleistocene were the smaller, less specialized, more mobile ones: humans, grey wolves, lions, the smaller ungulates, downsized elephants, rhinos and horses. Their size left them better suited to the warmer, damper world emerging with the retreat of the ice.

    Disruptions caused by the changing climate and vanishing game fuelled the trend toward different settlement and dietary patterns. In some regions, groups of people realized that in the midden heaps and latrine areas of their camps, food plants they usually harvested from the wild were sprouting and flourishing. Combined with diminishing wild supplies, the bounty reinforced their inclination to return to the same campsites repeatedly to prolong their stays; humans, like other animals, being creatures of habit and territory.

    Coincident with these cultural developments, humans began deliberately breeding their wolf dogs. They culled those that were unsocial or overly timid, thereby increasing the likelihood that subsequent generations would be as easily socialized. In the process, they turned the wolf into a dog. The humans wanted a guaranteed supply of reliable animals; the wolf dogs wanted security and society.

    In many parts of Eurasia, North America and northern Africa, tamed wolves had proven themselves as hunting partners, but they became more difficult to obtain as people settled into permanent villages, were prone to moving off when they felt the call to mate and were maimed or killed in combat with large, fierce animals. At a time when hunters had to turn to other species, they needed, more than ever, to be guaranteed the assistance of an animal that excelled at scenting, tracking, and holding game or driving it into ambush. With their speed and agility, the dogs could handle anything from bears to birds, deer, elk, sheep, oxen and buffalo. They also could help guard the village against marauders.

    Because no one had many tame wolf dogs – the entire human population of the world at the time was probably around 10 million – efforts to breed them dramatically narrowed the gene pool. For reasons we do not yet understand, that constriction had the effect of releasing the phenotypic variability inherent in the wolf, creating smaller, larger, differently marked animals. Slight genetic mutations – those for lop ears or a particular coat, for example – could rapidly be fixed in a line of dogs and then passed on, allowing bands to develop distinctive animals they could easily differentiate from wolves, a necessity after domestication of sheep and goats.

    Although involving a biological process, creation of the dog was fundamentally a cultural act, like making tools, weapons and baskets. Bands in one region turned their captive wolves into dogs and then traded them, the way they bartered other goods or gave them as gifts during ceremonial exchanges. The knowledge of how to tame wolves was transmitted by people who were travelling. They also mated one of the dogs accompanying them to an animal in another village. Within a few generations, a general type of dog could have become well established and spread fairly widely.

    Dogs were valued precisely because they possessed the stellar abilities of the tame wolf, but were less inclined to go their own way. The dog was as adaptable as the wolf to different climates and it was versatile enough to fit a range of needs. In addition to hunting and serving as dinner, dogs sounded a warning when someone approached, helped keep the camp clean of garbage and their people warm. They were playmates for children, totem objects for adults, as were nearly all animals that figured prominently in people’s lives. They exhibited a talent for finding their way home no matter what the conditions, which made them in some societies valued guides for the dead to the next world and for helping people in times of need – pulling them from the water, protecting them from attack by other people or animals. Wounds they licked seemed to heal miraculously, a fact that finds expression to this day in the saying “as clean as a hound’s tooth.” They also would breed with tame wolves that were still brought into camp – a bonus. It is not surprising that people domesticated the wolf thousands of years before any other animal and that many of them, especially the hunter-gatherers, kept only dogs.

    For centuries, Americans and Europeans have underestimated the importance of the emergent dog as a food source, although that was probably one of its earliest functions. Many Native Americans ate puppies, considered the most delectable, on feast days or to honour special visitors and a number of traditionalists continue the practice. The Aztec and other people in South and Central American and the Caribbean also relied heavily on dog meat for their animal protein, frequently from animals that were castrated and fattened for the purpose. Throughout Asia and Oceania, the dog has remained a highly desirable meat, frequently the primary source of animal protein. During the 1988 Summer Olympics, the South Korean government requested butchers to move their dogs, who can sell for $200 apiece – the price of some hunting dog puppies in the United States – from display in their windows so as not to offend American and European sensibilities. On walks through New York’s Chinatown, I have seen dog carcasses hanging in the windows of butcher shops.

    Throughout Europe, prehistoric people appear to have eaten dog, although at some point their descendants stopped, taking it up again only when no other food was available. Even then, they often did so reluctantly. Travelling along the Columbia River to explore land the young United States had acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their men ate dogs provided by local Indians in the winter of 1806 to supplement their meagre rations. Clark wrote that after overcoming their cultural bias, many of them became “extremely [sic] fond of their flesh.” Lewis preferred it to venison or elk; although not personally “reconciled” to the taste, Clark admitted that he and the men were stronger and healthier for having lived on dogs than they had been for months. Other travellers filed similar reports.

    By 15,000 years ago, people around the world were raising dogs, with the centres of activity being northern Europe, including England, northern North America, especially the Arctic region, the Middle East, China, Japan and Siberia. Presently, the earliest fossil called a dog comes from Obercassel, Germany and dates to 14,000 years ago, the late Pleistocene or upper Palaeolithic. (Pleistocene refers to the geological age; Palaeolithic to the human culture.)

    Trying to piece together the puzzle of simultaneous domestication around the world, experts assigned certain broad types of dog to specific subspecies of wolf based on perceived morphological similarities and assumed areas of origin. It is a rough evolutionary tree that we hope will be refined as the tools of genetic analysis become more sophisticated.

    Canis lupus pallipes, the small Indian wolf, probably gave rise to the dingo and its kin: the Asian pariah dogs, the New Guinea singing dog and related Pacific Island dogs. It could also have contributed to a few of the Native American dogs. Despite exposure to other dogs, the pariah has bred true to its original dingo type for at least 5,000 years.

    Canis lupus arabs, the equally small and closely related Arabian or desert wolf – it and the Indian wolf are now sometimes considered the same subspecies – might have been progenitor of the sight hounds, the basenji and small-game hunters of southern Europe and a number of dogs indigenous to the Middle East, like the Canaan dog of Israel and pariahs who hang around villages as scavengers and guards. Many of these animals are similar to dingoes in size and appearance, leading some people to suggest that they might, in fact, have a common origin.

    Canis lupus chanco, the woolly Chinese wolf, is the possible source of the chow chow and assorted Asian toy breeds, as well as the mastiffs, believed to have originated in the Himalayas, whose bloodlines were ultimately joined by descendants of the European wolf. Although this association is the most speculative, Canis lupus hodophilax, the extinct little Japanese wolf, probably figured in the creation of dogs like the shikoku, kai, the shiba inu and other indigenous breeds.

    Canis lupus lupus, the European grey wolf, lies at the foundation of various herding, guard, and spitz-type dogs indigenous to Europe, as well as some of the terriers, believed to have originated in the British Isles. Along with the North American grey wolf, it is also progenitor to the Eskimo dogs and many Native American dogs, with an assist in some cases from animals crossing the Bering land bridge with migrating people.

    The one apparent exception to this rule of wolf origin, which nonetheless proves that domestication was a process occurring around the world, is the Falkland wolf (Dusicyon australis). In The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Charles Darwin described Falkland wolves as so fearless and tame that they would invade campsites at night and steal meat from under the heads of sleeping shepherds and sealers. Taking advantage of that behaviour, the men would offer each visitor a piece of meat with one hand and knife it with the other. By the turn of the century, the little twenty to thirty-pound animals, which had fed on birds until the arrival of white men, were all dead. Within the past decade, however, Robert K. Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has contributed greatly to understanding canid evolution, conducted mitochondrial DNA analyses of one of the few pelts still in existence and his results indicated that this extinct animal is most closely related to the coyote. Since coyotes, a North American native, could not have gotten to those remote islands by themselves, the findings lend support to a theory that the little canids were brought to the Falklands by humans some 6,000 years ago.

    © 1997 Mark Derr All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-8050-4063-3

    Breed Dilemmas and Extinction by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia

    No breed seems to be free of dilemmas. For some it begins with the conflicts that continue among club members or the breeders who question the carrier status of stud dogs or the offspring they produce. Others believe it is the lack of quality observed in the winners, the growing number of carriers or the increase in dreaded diseases. Whatever it is, when breeders gather, the dilemmas for their breed usually dominate their conversations. Regardless of the topic, however, the solutions rest with the breeders and the elected officers of their clubs. They have the power to change and create their breed’s reality. A look at the big picture suggests that it all boils down to whether they will choose to continue on a path of trial and error or whether they are willing to try and make a difference.

    Over the past three decades the sport of dogs has steadily increased in popularity. More than 15,000 events are held annually that involve 1.5 million exhibitors in addition to those who attend as spectators. In such an environment it is not easy to see why so many breeds are entering a critical period in their destiny. The facts show that with this kind of growth there also comes an increase in the number of inexperienced breeders and a continued rise in health and conformation problems.

    Analyses of many breed problems suggest that some of their most important problems are not so obvious. For some, it is the lack of quality in the dogs being bred. For others, it is the lack of skills needed to manage and exhibit what they own, but in general, the lack of training in the fundamentals of how to breed and manage what they keep continues to persist. What breeders keep should be given more attention when you considering that 60% of the top dogs in most breeds are not owned by their breeders. This suggests a lack in the skills necessary to recognise the better pups when they occur.

    When all of these problems are combined they produce what many believe are the primary reasons for the reduction in breed quality and the decline in the size of many gene pools. All of this is happening despite the advances being made in technology and the improvements that have occurred in health testing and nutrition.

    This lack of progress can be traced to a fundamental problem. Surprising as it may be, it is not the lack of information or willingness to act that hinders progress. It is the persistence of outdated beliefs and attitudes that are based on folklore and myth. According to Padgett (1991), most breeders continue to believe that the dogs they own are genetically normal. This, he says, is because of the investment of time and money they have in their stock that they do not wish to see diminished. For these reasons, most usually avoid talking about problems when they occur, therefore, when the opportunity occurs to notice one or more trends in their kennel, they keep the results a secret. In the meantime the knowledgeable breeders work alone and their isolation makes little or no impact on their breed outside of their own kennel. This scenario seems to produce one of the greatest dilemmas facing most breeders and their clubs.

    A closer look at this situation suggests that most breed problems rest on the shoulders of the bitch owners, because they control the mating’s, produce the pups and sell them to their new owners. In short, they have both the power and the influence to determine quality or the lack there of. They hold not only the keys to the gene pool, but also to the future of their breed.

    What makes their problem solving so difficult begins with what they believe to be true. It is because there is a prevailing attitude that most dogs are genetically normal, when an abnormal pup occurs or a recessive gene expresses itself, most avoid talking about it. Those who talk about their problems are considered to have dogs that are less than average or perhaps abnormal. These attitudes prevail and are passed along from one breeder to the next, thus it is easy to see why problems and many diseases have not been eliminated. For example, it has been reported (Padgett) that the average number of defects in most breeds may be fourteen, which has not seemed to concern many clubs, but this statistic takes on more meaning when comparisons are made to specific breeds. For example, the German Shepherd Dog has at least 7 defects, while the Pekinese are known to have 14 and Beagles 31, which is more than twice the average, but significantly less than the highest, which is the Rhodesian Ridgeback with 58. Other breeds with high numbers of defects are Cocker Spaniels with 52 and Bull Dogs with 44.

    In this environment it is not surprising to find that the problems of most breeders and their clubs are not in reaching their goals, but in establishing them. As mentioned earlier, the root of these problems can be found in the misguided belief that most dogs are without defective genes. After years of this kind of thinking, the impact on many breeds has become predictable.

    Since reliable estimates have not yet been developed for each breed, health histories and breeder behaviour have become the next best alternatives. While individuals working alone cannot solve breed problems, organisations such as the AKC in conjunction with national breed clubs (parent club) can develop programmes that can make a difference. Using new technologies and ideas, stronger education programs can be developed. It is especially important that they reach the novice who continues to use outdated trial and error breeding methods. For too many, the words “pedigree analysis” remains just a phrase. Unless the novice gets help, breed problems will worsen and the number of carriers will continue to increase. As their frequency multiplies, more dogs will become inferior. Out of this scenario comes a breed’s worst problem. One that first begins by repeating itself over and over until it prevails. It begins when breeders can be heard to say, “it’s just another problem of the breed”. This scenario, when repeated year after year, serves as a reliable signal that skill levels are dangerously low. For example, there are growing numbers of breeders who produce pups of such poor quality that they must sell them on limited registrations or on spay/neuter contracts. Both actions send a signal to the buyers that quality is low. As large numbers of breeders begin to sell pups this way, the number of registered dogs in their breed declines and their gene pools begin to shrink. This problem is becoming more widespread than previously thought. It translates into what some believe will become the demise of several breeds. For example, in 2002 there were 38 breeds that registered fewer than 100 dogs each year for five consecutive years (1997 – 2002). As seen in Table 1, there were only 4 exceptions to this trend among these breeds. More importantly, there were 44 breeds that registered fewer than 100 litters each year for this same five-year period. This five-year downward trend for both dog and litter registrations points to another issue. It is called survival. The data suggests that for some breeds there is a possibility for extinction that could occur within the next ten years.

    [table id=1 /]

    The dilemma of declining registrations in a breed signals yet another symptom, which perhaps is an even greater problem, than being the decline of gene pool diversity. Twenty-three of the 38 breeds listed in Table 1 showed a steady decline in registrations and are candidates for a loss of gene pool diversity.

    The AKC and its breed clubs collectively spend millions on health research aimed at the reduction of health problems including the carriers. In such an environment problems should be getting smaller not larger. Standing in the way, however, seem to be four problems that complicate matters. First, the widespread attitude that most dogs are genetically normal, which leads to the second, the tendency to avoid talking about problems when they occur. Third, the general lack of skills needed to breed the better dogs and the fourth, which is related to the first three, that most clubs have not established their goals and have no mechanism linking pedigrees to test results. These four scenarios have proven to be the best mechanism by which breeds hide, rather than solve their problems. The net effect is that their problems increase along with the carriers who persist at the expense of their breed.

    Developing a mechanism that can expand the base of education, coupled with the willingness to share information, is the challenge. Given today’s technology, such efforts are well within the grasp of the AKC and every parent club. The first step begins by establishing goals and agreeing on a list of problems to be addressed. The second involves the development of a strategic plan that includes finding better ways to use test results along with better methods for identifying carriers. One recommendation was offered in the 2002 AKC/DNA Committee Report. It suggests that AKC provide the link that bridges pedigree information with test results. The third step requires a mechanism that will motivate clubs and breeders. One approach has been to include incentives. Some of the most effective motivators have been titles, certifications and awards. All have proven to be effective ways to motivate people. The following includes some of the known ingredients that can help programs become successful:

    • Open each program to all breeders
    • Offer titles, awards and other forms of recognition/incentives for those who achieve success
    • Develop continuing education programs that include:
    • Mode of inheritance
    • Breeding strategies
    • Pedigree analysis
    • Litter and puppy evaluation
    • Provide a mechanism that collects and distributes information about each problem
    • Establish a link between positive identification, test results and pedigrees.
    • Include website and email support
    • Provide camera-ready reports and articles regarding the status of each project with updates and success stories:
    • Newsletter editors
    • Web masters

    No programme is perfect – there is always room for improvement. Given today’s advanced technologies, these steps are well within the grasp of those interested in solving breed problems. It is important to remember that information is power and that those who accumulate, study and organise it can surely reap its benefits.
    References:
    American Kennel Club, 2002 Board Committee Report on DNA, American kennel Club, 260 Madison Ave, and NY. NY.10060

    Padgett, George A. Control of Canine Genetic Diseases, Howell House, New York, 1998.

    Padgett, George, “Genetics I Introduction”, 1991 Beagle Review, Darcroft Publishing, Wilmington, VT, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1991, pg. 14-16

    Teeling, Mary and Roethel, Cynthia, Editor, “Genetic Diseases, disease frequency and gene frequency of the Rhodesian Ridgeback”, a Health and Genetics Seminar presented by George A. Padgett, Michigan State University, Veterinary Medicine, 2001.

    This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia for the CFBA, the CIDBT and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

    About the author
    Carmen L Battaglia holds a Ph.D. and Masters Degree from Florida State University. As an AKC judge, researcher and writer, he has been a leader in promotion of breeding better dogs and has written many articles and several books.Dr. Battaglia is also a popular TV and radio talk show speaker. His seminars on breeding dogs, selecting sires and choosing puppies have been well received by the breed clubs all over the country. Those interested in learning more about his seminars should contact him directly. Visit his website at www.breedingbetterdogs.com

    Can You Trust the Dogs Trust? by Lez Graham

    I came across an article last week written by the DogsTrust entitled DOG BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS – why they do it and what can you do ? As I started to read it I thought to myself “hey this is quite good” and then, as I got towards the bottom of the first page I thought “hmmm, maybe it’s not, best go and get a pen”, so I did and I started making notes in the margin… by the time I got to page 6 I was incensed enough to put fingers to keyboard.

    The article is based on research carried out over a period of 6 months on 19 neutered males… all neutered and all males, not a great cross-section of the dog population of Great Britain. The DogsTrust factsheet follows on from this research and if people were to follow the advice within it, to use the DogsTrust generalised terminology, “a lot” of dogs bad behaviour would deteriorate.

    The author uses emotive words that will set “some” pet dog owners on a guilt trip, feeling they need to provide more and more, including another dog, for their dogs to be balanced. Their dogs should be allowed to eat as much as it likes, do whatever it wants, when it wants and to its own satisfaction, oh and did I mention it should sleep on your bed with you ? This is, by the way, in direct opposition to a study carried out by the University of Cordoba on 711 dogs, of which 92.54% were intact with an almost 50-50 split on gender.

    The factsheet tries to discredit behaviourists that are approaching dog behaviour and training from a common sense perspective, stating that any kind of dominance reduction programme is detrimental to the wellbeing of the dog but haven’t stated any facts or figures to back up their assertions. It should be noted at this point, that this factsheet was on a study that doesn’t have any real facts or figures either but relies on words like ‘perhaps’ and ‘may’ instead.

    In an ideal world I’d be able to go through the article step by step, line by line and point by point as I did while eating lunch in the garden while my two dogs relaxed in the shade – actually according to the DogsTrust this is tantamount to torture as to eat in front of your dog “is quite punishing and will only frustrate him and encourage him to beg”. I hasten to add that neither of my dogs did beg for food, indeed, they were both so frustrated that they’d fallen asleep.

    So what were the main points about this article that incensed me as a dog behaviour practitioner ?

    Firstly there was the whole issue of Punishment. The author seems to be getting confused between punishment (as in operant conditioning – positive and negative), punishment (as in applying discipline to a dog for a misdemeanour) and punishment (as in abuse).

    The DogsTrust list simplified descriptions of positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment as “ positive reinforcement, you give something nice to reward the dog; negative reinforcement , you take away something nasty; positive punishment, you give something nasty or unpleasant; negative punishment , take away something nice”.

    Now this is all very well and is the basis for a lot of behaviour modification, confusing I know, but it’s something you not only have to learn as a behaviourist, but how to apply it effectively to facilitate learning, however, what I take exception to is the DogsTrust stating that punishment and negative reinforcement are bad and that we should only ever use positive reinforcement.

    Right, let’s just take a quick reality check before I get to the finale on this section.

    We were sitting in the garden this afternoon and my Goldie decided he wanted to dig in my flower bed – I didn’t want him to so I said “Angus, No” (negative punishment as I took away something nice, in this instance digging; positive punishment because I said in a stern’ish voice “no”), he stopped doing it so I gave him a big smile (remember dogs are conditioned from puppies that good things normally follow a smile), he trotted over and got a neck scratch (positive reinforcement).

    This is the kind of interaction dog owners have on a daily basis and the words they use to reinforce their house rules. Remember also that when you recall your dog you are using both negative punishment and positive reinforcement…Let’s cut the jargon shall we ? when you recall your dog you’re stopping him from ‘doing his own thing’ and praising him for coming…. praise, reward, neck massage, back scratch, smile, sweetie – all positive reinforcement!

    Can we and should we only use “positive reinforcement” (aka reward)? Well according to the DogsTrust yes “simply because it can’t do any harm”. Turn the page, however, and the DogsTrust contradicts itself and you get a reasonably accurate picture as to why rewards only are detrimental to your dogs behaviour: “But..!” says the DogsTrust “something we do have to be aware of when using positive reinforcement and rewards in training…… when the rewards are not given quickly enough or when the treats/attention stops at the end of a session, this can lead to massive frustration for the dog and potentially aggressive behaviour towards the owner .”

    Here the DogsTrust have got it absolutely correct. Of all of the aggressive dogs that I’ve seen, the majority of the ones that have turned their aggression towards their owner are the ones that have had no consequences for their actions and have only had ‘positive reinforcement’. The owners thought it was the ‘right’ way to go, rather than say no to their dog they bribed them into stopping the behaviour momentarily, in effect rewarding them for bad behaviour. You don’t need me to tell you how quickly it escalated – the equivalent of a ‘terrible twos tantrum’ but with sharp pointy teeth.

    And secondly, the factsheet goes to great pains to denigrate dominance, the concept of leaders and leadership / dominance reduction programmes, saying that Resource Holding Potential (RHP) is what applies instead. Although the factsheet states “which we will touch upon later” it never actually does, so I went directly to the journal that the factsheet uses to get its information from, to find out what RHP is.

    The first reference to RHP is “ Parker’s Resource Holding Potential (RHP) appears to be less useful when applied to domestic dogs than to other species” (and yet the DogsTrust state it is relevant) and in basic terms means ‘ is the dog prepared to die for the resource or not’ , if it is the dog will try to control the resource and if it’s not then the dog will walk away. Now compare that to the Collins dictionary definition of dominant; “having control, authority or influence”. Is there a difference ? The journal states that the behaviour is resource based but then so is dominance… to quote William Shakespeare “ O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”.

    Part of the problem with the use of the word “dominant” or “dominance” is that we, the lay people, tend to think of dominant/ce as defined by the dictionary as laid out above, however, “among ethologists , dominance is normally defined as ‘an attribute of the pattern of repeated, agonistic interactions between two individuals, characterized by a consistent outcome in favour of the same dyad member and a default yielding response of its opponent rather than escalation’” in other words they have changed the definition of the word and then complain when we get it wrong according to the ethology definition but right by the dictionary.

    The factsheet then implies, well more than implies, that dominance reduction programmes involve pinning down dogs, grabbing them by their jowls and doing the ‘alpha roll’… maybe if you followed the Monks of New Skete back in 1978 it may but that really is ‘old hat’. Now dominance reduction programmes, or leadership programmes or rank reduction programmes or house rules / boundaries or even common sense, don’t.

    Modern leadership programmes that behaviourists recommend are based on common sense, although once more the factsheet tries to discredit and belittle techniques used by stating things like “ Dominance Reduction Programmes are detrimental to a dog’s well-being” although they can’t substantiate it with facts and figures. Just like the study by the University of Bristol, the DogsTrust are generalising rather than using examples and results; for a scientific study having to rely on words like ‘many’ and ‘perhaps’ shows that there’s no real substance behind it, unlike the study completed recently on “Factors linked to territorial aggression in dogs” where, not on only are facts and figures used throughout, the study was carried out 711 dogs of various breeds, mixed and purebred, whereas you don’t get to find out what breed the 19 neutered DogsTrust dogs were.

    Due to the lack of hard facts I can only surmise that the study and factsheet have been created to the furtherance of an end other than purely scientific. The collaboration between the two organisations seems to be designed to portray the domestic dog as a complex, self-aware creature that can regulate its own behaviour in an interspecies environment.

    At the end of the day, leadership programmes, rank reduction programmes and dominance reduction programmes are just a set of house rules to make life easier in a mixed species household. Dogs need rules and they need the rules to be applied consistently and with the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991 we, as owners, have a legal obligation to ensure that our dogs are under our control.

    As reported in the much more comprehensive and factual study carried out by Perez-Guisado and Munoz-Serrano of the University of Cordoba, using a sample of 711 dogs (354 males and 357 females of which 594 were purebred and 117 mixed breed) significant factors that contribute to territorial aggression in the dog are; lack of punishment from the owner when required, lack of basic training and spoiling the dog, and, in direct opposition to the Bristol study, one of the insignificant factors relating to the dogs bad behaviour was having more than one dog.

    By Lez Graham