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Canine Behavior

Dog TrainingOne of the first questions that comes up when studying about animal behavior is how do animals learn?  The brains of dogs and humans share more similarities than differences.  Basic anatomical components of the brain are present in both – they differ more in their size and complexity.  The frontal lobe in our canine companions is smaller than that of humans (although I sometimes wonder).  Humans also have the ability to be influenced by the “Interpreter” within the frontal lobes.  The Interpreter helps us determine rules about how the world works.  That’s why humans are cynical and our canines are never pessimistic.  Dogs learn through social learning (with other dogs) and a process called conditioning.  Classical conditioning is responsible for involuntary responses such as salivating when food is present.  Operant conditioning is responsible for voluntary responses similar to the dog sitting for a treat.

The conditioning methods we use to train our dogs today are based on the large number of experiments conducted on canines and other animals by B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.  Classical conditioning is useful in providing a positive association to a negative object, such as nail clippers.  If we show our dog a nail clipper at the start of a meal each day, the dog will associate the clippers with food and not have a negative reaction to the clippers when it’s time for a manicure.  We may have to give him a treat when we present the clippers since the association now means food, but it will reduce the fear reaction in the dog when it’s time to clip his nails.  Operant conditioning methods work to stop bad dog behavior and are also how most trainers teach dogs to learn tricks and follow commands.  Operant conditioning focuses on a reward stimulus such as food, toys, a good belly rub, etc.  The principle here is that by adding or taking away a reward stimulus, the behavior will change.  Each pup has his/her own personality and to know what’s best for yours is to know your dog’s temperament and nature.  What may work for one dog doesn’t necessarily work for the other.  Not only does your dog need to observe, listen, sit and stay, but so do you.

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Stop and Wait

Training your dog to stop and wait isn’t as hard as it looks.  These commands are essential for walking dogs especially when you need to cross an intersection.  To begin, it’s easiest by starting at the door that exits your house to your yard.  Before opening the door to go outside, ask the dog to …

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As we all know, barking is a natural behavior for our canines and is one way they communicate and express themselves.  (I know some humans that bark as well).  Excessive barking, however, can be considered a behavioral problem and can drive your family (and your neighbors) nuts.  Dogs don’t bark just because they want to …

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The Escape Artist

Is your dog an escape artist?  The doorbell rings, you open the door, out goes the dog and the chase begins.  Chasing the dog however is only intensifying the dog’s urge to run.  This is a wonderful game to her and with you in hot pursuit, it’s only reinforcing her desire to sprint.  If your …

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Car Chasing

When I was growing up, we lived across the street from a dog who chased cars.  I could never figure out what was so fascinating about the chase.  I mean here’s a huge metal object that’s rolling down the street that the dog will never catch and even if he could catch up, what’s he …

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Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is a natural behavior, both human and canine.  We lock our doors at night to keep our family and possessions safe; banks keep valuables in vaults; and companies hire security guards to protect their property.  If you have more than one pup, you know that “cold stare” that one will give the other …

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Separation Anxiety

Did you know that about 10% of our canine population suffers from separation anxiety?  Dogs are very social creatures and thrive on interaction with their human companions.  It’s not unnatural for him to get confused as to why you’re leaving the house and why he can’t go with you.  Separation anxiety can be experienced in …

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Most dogs love a tasty snack now and then, but there’s one tidbit that they really should not be eating.  Feces!  Why some dogs insist on tasting these “droppings” remains a mystery.  The medical term (yes, there is an actual medical term) for eating feces, whether it be their own or someone else’s, is corophagia.  …

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