Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Your Breeder Can Do For Your Puppy Before It Comes Home

The time a puppy spends with the breeder is the most critical time in his development into a healthy adult dog. During this time, the puppy learns critical life skills from his mother and littermates as well as his environment and human caretakers. The lessons learned during this time are invaluable in creating a developmentally sound dog. Early separation from the litter can have devastating effects on a puppy’s normal development. A puppy’s littermates are notably the best teachers of appropriate play, including bite inhibition. The feedback a puppy receives from his littermates helps him develop an understanding of how he can, and cannot, use his mouth and he will also develop an understanding for the rules of healthy play. Play in itself is a multifunctional teaching tool, teaching not only a set of “rules” to abide by for polite play but also helping to develop behaviors necessary for survival as an adult. Through play and interactions with the mother and litter mates, the puppy is also able to learn to read and display “dog language.” This knowledge is essential in communicating with other dogs (and people!) as an adult. When taken away from the litter too soon, many dogs never develop good communication skills or learn how to engage in appropriate play. Tolerance is also learned among littermates through play and other interactions. More specifically, frustration tolerance is learned as resources are sought between littermates. The social skills learned through interaction with the puppy’s littermates are a very valuable benefit, and are hard for human caretakers to recreate.

It should also be noted that a puppy experiences most of his socialization period while with the breeder, so it is essential that special procedures are in place to ensure the puppy begins the process of socialization to novel people, events, environments, sounds, substrates, dogs and other animals. Critical socialization begins in the first few days of life, even before a puppy’s senses are fully functioning, and ends, debatably, somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks. Shortly after birth, the breeder should begin to handle the puppies daily. Hands should be thoroughly washed, and each puppy should then be gently handled for just a few minutes, and then returned to the mother.

This is will help the puppies become used to human touch and also further promote frustration tolerance as a mild stress is placed upon each puppy in the absence of their mother and littermates. At 3 to 4 weeks of age, the puppies’ senses are more developed, and they can begin to be handled more vigorously. All parts of their body, including gums, tail and feet should be touched, to habituate them to examination and extensive human handling. At this time, puppies should also experience short periods of separation to further promote healthy frustration tolerance and habituate them to periods of isolation. Although it has not yet been proven, it is believed that these periods of isolation at a young age can prevent separation anxiety from presenting at a later time in the puppy’s life. When the puppy is transitioning from mother’s milk to solid food and thereafter, it is imperative that caretakers are present at feeding time. Caretakers should make a habit of stroking the puppies during meal time as well as touching their food, removing their bowl and allowing other puppies near the food. When the caretaker approaches, strokes the puppy, takes the food away or another animal approaches, the puppy should be given a piece of extrascrumptious food reward to promote a positive association with the presence of humans and other animals around the puppy’s food. This will teach the young puppies to accept others during mealtime and alleviate much of the threat that food aggression will present at a later time.

At this same time, further exposure to novel stimuli should begin. The puppies should be exposed to a number of different people during the socialization period. This includes many different types of people, including children, large men, etc. However, the people chosen to socialize the puppies with should have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Simple exposure does not ensure proper socialization. The experience must be positive, thus friendly, non-abrupt or non-abrasive people should be asked to participate in the puppies’ socialization. They should handle the puppies as instructed above. The same goes for socialization with dogs and other animals. The other animals should be chosen based upon their personality as a play session with an unfamiliar dog that is too rough, possibly aggressive, or socially inappropriate will only hinder socialization and possibly promote a generalized fear of dogs to present later in a puppy’s life. Although the exact timing is widely debated, young puppies go through several “fear periods” in which fears are rapidly imprinted and can surface at any time in the puppy’s adult life. Extra precaution must be taken to ensure positive experiences occur during this time.

The same positive experiences should be extended to include a number of different environments, substrates, sounds and other novel events. Both the breeder and a puppy’s new owner should continue to promote socialization through positive experiences with a countless number of novel stimuli. By meeting many people and animals, visiting a number of novel places (including veterinarians, groomers and boarders), being exposed to many different sounds and other novel situations, proper socialization begins and the potential for later problems of fear and aggression can be minimized.

Finally, during this time, puppies learn faster than at any other time in their life, so obedience training should begin. Along with basic obedience, “manners” are easily acquired at a young age as well. Starting out teaching the right behaviors can save you from a lot of grief later on when going back to “fix” undesirable behaviors. Do not stop teaching them at 16 weeks. A healthy dog is continually socialized and trained throughout its life!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Checking out some new areas for the upcoming adventure class.

 Check out these shots! I'm taking a 'tour' of the local conservation lands to find new places for our adventure classes! Looking forward to introducing people to areas they may not have been before!

Winter was working on a 'find it' command with some hidden toys - something I plan to introduce in our next Adventure Class section.

All three of these picture were taken in the same area, do you know where we are going?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This dog needs a home!

It is true that sometimes dogs are surrendered or re-homed for very good reasons. This came to my attention today and I wanted to share it in case someone is thinking about getting a dog.  I wish I could find a way to post the pictures that accompanied this flyer, the dog is very appealing looking.

Emerson, a much‐beloved eight‐year‐old
West Virginia Brown Dog (Greyhound mix mutt,
roughly 50‐60 lbs) seeks a temporary or
permanent home where he can receive and give
affection. His owner, 31, is recovering from a
major medical issue and cannot give him the care
he needs.
At home, Emerson is quiet and affectionate. He
loves to be petted and to cuddle. He has
successfully lived with a variety of two‐legged and
four‐legged roommates of all sizes and sorts.
Emerson is an excellent guard dog, providing a
hearty greeting to visitors and, sometimes, to
passersby. He does extremely well being left
home for long periods of time (his owner is a busy
young professional), but will eagerly await his
owner’s return home. He does not jump, and has
been trained to sit, lie down, and speak.

Emerson loves long walks and hikes. He is looseleash
trained and walks well when he receives
occasional reinforcement (he likes to bark and
lunge at bikes and other things with wheels, loud
trucks, and motorcycles). He sometimes needs
reassurance when he first meets other big dogs
(he was attacked when he was younger), but is
extremely friendly and usually submissive once

He is healthy, except a current rash on his belly for
which he is receiving an antibiotic. He has cataracts
and sometimes bumps into things.
Emerson would love a home where he receives love,
attention, and walks. For more information, contact THANK YOU!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking for a Gift Idea?

Do you have someone on your list with a puppy, or an over rambucious adolescent dog?  Presentation quality Gift Certificates for one or more session are now available!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rectractable Leashes

As I walked through a local public park today, I was reminded how much I really don’t like retractable leashes! Winter and I were approached by a friendly person and their dog which was on a retractable leash. The dog was quite young and very exuberant and as she approached I asked her to retract her leash, unfortunately she was not very quick to respond and her dog chose that moment to shoot out to the end of the leash past me and circle around me to get at Winter. Luckily, I’m pretty quick on my feet and was able to hop the line before I got close-lined but had to continue to dance around until she managed to reel her dog in.

So why do I really not like these leashes? Have you ever read the warnings they publish with the leashes, here’s the warning PAMPHLET (yes it’s large enough to warrant an entire pamphlet) from Flexi, the largest maker of the flexible leashes. By the way, I just copied and pasted this from their web site and I had to reduce the font size so it didn’t take up the whole blog!  I only wish I was able to copy the graphics too, they are worth looking at!

Safety Precautions & Directions

Because this leash is retractable, it requires special precautions to reduce the risk of injury. Read this pamphlet before using your leash and save it for future reference.

Who can use this leash?

This leash should only be used by responsible people who have read and can follow all of these precautions. Anyone who uses this leash must be able to control the dog and watch the dog closely at all times to keep it from running off or wrapping anyone in the cord/tape/belt. Keep out of reach of small children. Never let anyone play with this leash.

Is this leash right for your dog?

• Do not use this leash with a disobedient or uncontrollable dog, since they are more likely to wrap the cord/tape/belt around people or to run off at high speeds.

• Only use this leash with a dog that does not exceed the weight limit listed on the leash.

• Leashes for larger dogs have a tape or belt instead of a cord to reduce the risk of amputations and cuts.

• Even small dogs can pull hard enough to injure you, particularly because the length of the leash allows dogs to run and build up speed. Follow all of these precautions even with a small dog.

Use this leash only as intended

• Follow the “Directions” section in this pamphlet.

• Never attach more than one dog to the leash. Never use more than one flexi™ leash at a time.

• Never attach any accessories to the leash housing unless they are sold or approved by flexi™.


If the cord runs across your skin, it can cause abrasions (like a rope burn) or severe cuts. Cuts and burns are more likely if the cord/tape/belt wraps around any part of the body. Avoid contact with the cord/tape/belt and never let it wrap around any part of your body.

• Avoid contact with the cord/tape/belt and never let it wrap around any part of your body.

• Do not allow slack to build up in the cord/tape/belt– you might get tangled in the slack.

• Do not touch the cord/tape/belt if the cord/tape/belt wraps around you. Turn around or pass the handle from one hand to the other to unwrap yourself. (See “Finger Amputation and Fractures”)

• If you want to further reduce the risk of cuts and burns, you can wear long sleeves and pants to protect your arms and legs.


If the cord/tape/belt wraps around fingers or catches on a ring, a hard pull on the leash can amputate fingers or break bones.

• Avoid touching the cord/tape/belt when the leash is attached to your dog and never let the cord/tape/belt wrap around hands or fingers.

• Do not hold the cord/tape/belt.

• Do not grab the cord/tape/belt to control your dog.

• If the cord/tape/belt gets entangled in a bush or other object, gain control of your dog before disentangling it. Do not touch the cord/tape/belt if your dog can pull on it. If you want to further reduce the risk of finger amputation and fractures, you can take off any rings and wear sturdy gloves.


If the leash or your dog’s collar breaks, or if the leash disconnects from your dog’s collar, the cord/tape/belt and hook can snap back with enough force to cause serious eye damage, broken teeth, cuts, and bruises. If the cord/tape/belt is under enough tension, this can happen even when the leash is locked.

• Follow instructions for inspecting, attaching and detaching the leash in the “Directions” portion of this pamphlet.

• Tighten the safety collar around your dog’s neck and attach the hook to your dog’s regular collar. The safety collar prevents snap-back if the dog’s collar or the hook breaks, or if the leash disconnects from your dog’s collar.


Because the flexi™ leash is longer than regular leashes, your dog can build up more speed and pull on it harder, possibly pulling you to the ground.

• If your dog starts running away from you, immediately press the brake button to keep your dog from building up too much speed. If your dog has already built up speed, you will be pulled when you hit the brake or if the dog reaches the end of the leash.

• Do not allow slack to build up in the cord/tape/belt – your dog may run and build up speed until the slack runs out, suddenly pulling you.

• Have secure footing. Do not use the leash while on wheels (for example, a bike, skateboard or roller blades).


Bystanders are at risk of all of the injuries described in this pamphlet. In particular, they can be cut by the cord/tape/belt if they contact it or if it wraps around them. They might also trip on the leash.

• Be aware of bystanders. They might not notice the cord/tape/belt. Control your dog and keep the cord/tape/belt away from them.

• When around other people or animals, shorten the leash and keep your dog at your side with the leash locked.

• Avoid using the flexi™ leash near small children, including children in strollers.

• If the cord/tape/belt gets wrapped around someone, tell them not to touch the cord/tape/belt. Gain control of your dog and do not touch the cord/tape/belt if your dog can pull on it.

OK, so that’s the safety issues that flexible leashes come with, now let’s talk about the TRAINING issues. Because of the way they work, these leashes actually teach your dog to pull. Think about it, the dog pulls against the leash and gets to move forward, the whole time he is feeling the pull against his collar, if it’s a small pup the pull is especially relevant. So by the time the puppy grows up, he’s so used to pulling hard to get the flexi to extend, he will have a well-developed habit and good luck taking the dog for a walk on a 6 foot leash!

So what do you do with your puppy or young dog that you want to keep safe, but you also want to let them romp about? Get yourself a 10 foot long line. They make them in all different widths, smaller sizes are appropriate for smaller puppies or small dogs, use the wider widths for the adolescents and bigger dogs. Yes, you still have to keep an eye on them as the dogs drag the thing around so it doesn’t get caught up around your ankles or the ankles of unsuspecting passers-by. For that I recommend going to areas that are not frequented by the non-dog walking public. Also as you are walking with your dog on a 10 foot leash (as opposed to a 6ft leash) they have much more freedom and more opportunity to walk beside you willingly – THAT’S WHEN YOU REWARD THEM!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What to think about and do BEFORE your new puppy comes home.

What is the Breeder Doing for you?

What is the breeder doing to socialize your puppy and get it ready to come home? Most breeders these days know that the from weeks 3 to 16 your dog is most developmentally receptive to new experiences, after about 16 weeks dogs enter a fear period where loud sounds and new experiences can become sources of life long sensitivities or phobias. The more experiences the young pup has the better capable they will be later in life with dealing with change. However, there are still some who keep their dogs sequestered from the world thinking they are keeping them ‘safe’. Studies show that puppies that are socialized early (from 3 weeks of age) and exposed to different stimuli while young tend to be more flexible and capable of dealing with change when older. So ask you breeder to:

- take your puppy away from the litter and mom for a short time each day

- handle your puppy each day

- expose your puppy to many different environments

o inside and outside

o different substrates like grass, carpet, hardwood, linoleum, gravel

- take your puppy for a few car rides

- get them out to meet people

- get them familiar with a crate even if it’s just made available for them to walk in and out of in their whelping pen

Be sure to ask you breeder the following questions when you pick the dog up.

- What has the dog been eating, if possible get a couple of day’s supply of food or ask this question before you take the puppy home.

- What vaccinations has the dog gotten so far?

- When does the breeder recommend neutering? Why?

- What size crate does the breeder think the dog will need when it’s full grown?

What to do before the pup comes home?

- Research and pick a vet. Make an appointment for the pup within 48-72 hours of bringing the dog home.

- Research and visit several kennels in your area, you will eventually need one!

- Are you going to use a dog walker or send the dog to doggy daycare on those days that you can’t be there? Find that person or facility now! Ask what age the dog needs to be to come, usually it’s after their final vaccines. Make sure they require proof of vaccination!

- Find a reputable trainer in the area and sign up for puppy kindergarten! Get the puppy started as soon as possible.

- Find a puppy playgroup! Use local pet shops, vets, advertisers (like Craig’s list) and visit the area fields to find people with dogs roughly the same size and age as yours. If you can, set up playdates so your dog has friends to socialize with before they come home (make sure their vaccinations are up to date!)

- Reference the shopping list below and get some supplies – but DON’T go overboard, some pups don’t like certain types of toys so you want to find out what your dog likes with 1 or 2 samples of different toys rather than buying a bunch of one toy.

- Set up the crate and the area the dog is going to live in. Remove rugs if possible, hard floors are easier to clean!

How is the new puppy going to fit into your household? – Things to talk about and decide on with your family.

- Who’s going to be the primary caretaker of the dog?

- Who’s going to train the dog?

o How much time will you have to train?

- If kids are going to be involved how are they going to help?

- Who is going to make sure the kids do what they are supposed to?

- What are the house rules going to be?

o Is the dog going to be allowed on furniture?

o Will the puppy be allowed on the bed?

o Where will the puppy sleep?

o Will you feed the puppy table scraps?

- What is a typical day (schedule) going to look like for the dog?

- Where will the puppy be when he’s not in the crate?

o Gated off room or puppy play pen

- Will there be someone home during the day?

- Will you be using a crate for your dog?

- If so, where will the crate be kept?

o How big a crate do you need?

o Multiple crates?

- Have we puppy proofed the area?

- Have you scheduled your first vet appointment?

- When does your town require a dog to have a license?

- Get an ID tag?

- Where will the puppy go to the bathroom?

o How will you get there?

- What kind of chew toys are appropriate for puppy?

- How are you going to socialize your dog?

o Puppy’s especially need to meet and play with other pups

o Must get out to experience different things, especially in the first few weeks

Longer term questions to ask

- What are your training goals for this dog?

o Pet Manners

o Obedience, Rally

o Sport like Fly Ball, Agility or Frisbee

o Therapy Dog

- Where will you do training class?

o When will you start training?

- What type of fence will you get to keep your dog safe?

- Are you going to let the dog go upstairs eventually?

- How are you going to introduce your dog to the rest of the house?

o Gates/tethers

- Will your dog have a ‘place’ to go to when visitors come over?

- Do you have visitors who do not like dogs?

- Will you need a dog groomer?

Good Skills to Have

- Patience! And understanding, remember in the beginning the puppy is a baby and doesn’t know that his teeth are sharp or that your shoes aren’t a good chew toy.

- Clicker Skills – play the light switch game

- Timing of treats.

Shopping List

- Dog food (same kind breeder is feeding)

- Crate

- Feeding Bowls

- Leash and buckle collar – remember buy puppy size to start with.

- 3 Chew toys

- Baby Gates or Puppy Playpen

- ID Tag

- Enzyme Cleaner for puppy accidents

- Bate Bag and training treats

- Long line – 15 -20 foot line (appropriately sized to your dog) with a clip so they can run around but still be safe.

What to expect

- Yes, you will loose some sleep the first few nights.

- Puppy will be a lot of work, especially early on as you are house training.

o Think of it as a bank, first you put the money in then you reap the rewards in the years to come.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior - Position Statement on Punishment

AVSAB Position Statement

The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals

AVSAB’s position is that punishment1 (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic

collars) should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems. This is due to the potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.2

AVSAB recommends that training should focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, removing the reinforcer for inappropriate behaviors, and addressing the emotional state and environmental conditions driving the undesirable behavior. This approach promotes a better understanding of the pet’s behavior and better awareness of how humans may have inadvertently contributed to the development of the undesirable behavior. Punishment should only be used when the above approach has failed despite an adequate effort as part of a larger training or behavior modification program that incorporates reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and works to change the underlying cause of the problem behavior.

AVSAB recognizes that both positive reinforcement and punishment require significant skill, effort, and awareness on the owner’s part. Both must be applied as the animal is performing the target behavior or within one second of the behavior to be most effective. Additionally, both work best when applied every time the behavior occurs so that the animal is not inadvertently rewarded for undesirable behavior during the modification process. If punishment is added to a modification plan, it should only be used if the owner has first demonstrated reasonable ability and consistency at rewarding appropriate behaviors and removing the reward for bad behavior. If punishment is suggested as part of a complete behavior modification plan, owners should not begin using it until they have ensured that the person helping them is able to articulate the major adverse effects of punishment, judge when these effects are occurring over the short term and long term, and can explain how they will reverse the adverse effects if they occur.

1For the scientific definition of punishment refer to p. 3

2 Refer to Adverse Effects of Punishment

on p. 4



Guidelines on the

Use of Punishment for Dealing

with Behavior Problems in Animals

Pununishmenent, oror the useuseuse of aversaversaversaversaversivesvesves, force, coercion, or physical corrections in order to change an animal’s behavior (For actual scientific terminology, refer to p. 3: Definitions), is commonly used by the general pet owner and by many dog trainers. Some punishments are seemingly innocuous, such as squirting a cat with water when it jumps on a counter or shouting “no” when your pet misbehaves. Other punishments, such as jerking a choke chain or pinch collar to stop a dog from pulling, throwing a dog down on its back in an alpha roll when it nips, tightening a collar around a dog’s neck and cutting off its air supply until it submits, or using an electronic collar to stop a dog from barking are more severe.

Punishment is frequently a first-line or an early-use tool by both the general public and traditional dog trainers. While punishment can be very effective in some specific contexts depending on the individual animal, it can be associated with many serious adverse effects. (Refer to p. 4: Adverse Effects of Punishment). These adverse effects can put the safety of the pet and the person administering the punishment at risk. Because of these safety risks, people recommending these techniques are taking a liability risk. Thus, just as anti-cancer drugs can be highly effective in treating specific diseases in individuals but can cause serious side-effects in those same individuals or when used inappropriately, punishment is fraught with difficulties.

The adverse effects of punishment and the difficulties in administering punishment effectively have been well documented,1 especially in the early 1960s when such experiments were still allowed. For instance, if the punishment is not strong enough, the animal may habituate or get used to it, so that the owner needs to escalate the intensity.2,3 On the other hand, when the punishment is more intense, it can cause physical injury. For instance, electronic anti-bark collars can cause burn marks on dogs. Choke chains can damage the trachea, increase intraocular pressure in dogs thus potentially worsening or contributing to glaucoma in susceptible breeds,4 cause sudden collapse from non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) due to temporary upper airway obstruction, and cause nerve damage.5 The risk of damage is greater when the choke chain sits high on the dog’s neck.

Even when punishment seems mild, in order to be effective it often must elicit a strong fear response, and this fear response can generalize to things that sound or look similar to the punishment. Punishment has also been shown to elicit aggressive behavior in many species of animals.6 Thus, using punishment can put the person administering it or any person near the animal at risk of being bitten or attacked.

Punishment can suppress aggressive and fearful behavior when used effectively, but it may not change the underlying cause of the behavior. For instance, if the animal behaves aggressively due to fear, then the use of force to stop the fearful reactions will make the animal more fearful while at the same time suppressing or masking the outward signs of fear; (e.g., a threat display/growling). As a result, if the animal faces a situation where it is extremely fearful, it may suddenly act with heightened aggression and with fewer warning signs. In other words, it may now attack more aggressively or with no warning, making it much more dangerous.

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to use punishment sparingly is that punishment fails to address the fact that the bad behavior is occurring because it has somehow been reinforced—either intentionally or unintentionally. That is, owners tend to punish bad behaviors some of the time while inadvertently rewarding these same behaviors at other times. In this way, they accidentally set their pets up to receive punishment repeatedly by sometimes unintentionally rewarding the bad behavior, which is how the behavior was learned in the first place. This inconsistency is confusing to the animal and can cause frustration or anxiety. Punishment also fails to tell the animal what it should be performing instead. Without an alternative appropriate behavior the animal may have no option but to perform the undesired behavior. A more appropriate approach to problem solving is to determine what is reinforcing the undesirable behavior, remove that reward, and reinforce an alternate desirable behavior instead. For instance, dogs jump to greet people in order to get their attention. Owners usually provide attention by talking or yelling, pushing them down, or otherwise touching them. A better solution would be to remove attention by standing silently and completely still and then to immediately reward with attention or treats once the dog sits. This learning-based approach leads to a better understanding of our pets and consequently to a better human-pet relationship.

The standard of care for veterinarians specializing in behavior is that punishment is not to be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for

behavior problems. Consequently, the AVSAB urges that veterinarians in general practice follow suit. Additionally punishment should only be used when animal owners are made aware of the possible adverse effects. The AVSAB recommends that owners working with trainers who use punishment as a form of behavior modification in animals choose only those trainers who, without prompting:

1) Can and do articulate the most serious adverse effects associated with


2) Are capable of judging when these adverse effects are occurring over the short and/or long term

3) Can explain how they would attempt to

reverse any adverse effects if or when they occur.

The standard of care for veterinarians specializing in behavior is that punishment is not used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems.

© 2007 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior


Pununishmenent is anything that decreases the likelihood a behavior will occur again. Reinfor cemen t is anything that increases the likelihood a behavior will occur again.

Both punishment and reinforcement can either be positive or negative, meaning they can have something added or removed.

Pos itive re infor cemen t: by adding something the animal wants, you increase the likelihood the behavior will occur again.

For instance, if a cat approaches your house and you put food out for it, it’s more likely to visit your house again.

Nega tive re infor cemen t: by removing something aversive, you increase the likelihood a behavior will occur again.

For instance, traditional trainers may teach dogs to fetch using a “force retrieve” method. In this method, the handler says “fetch” and then pinches the dog’s ear until it yelps. As soon as the dog opens its mouth to yelp, the handler puts a wooden dumbbell in the mouth and stops the pinch. By doing so, he increases the likelihood that the dog will open its mouth and grab the dumbbell when he says “fetch” the next time. Note that the goal of this training is to teach the dog to grab the dumbbell.

Pos itive pun ishmen t: by adding something the animal dislikes or finds aversive, you decrease the likelihood the behavior will occur again.

For instance, a common method for teaching dogs to stop jumping is to knee the dog in the chest when it jumps on you. Doing so will decrease the likelihood the dog will jump again. The goal of the technique is to stop a behavior from occurring, whereas the goal of negative reinforcement is to increase a behavior. Another example of positive punishment is the use of ultrasonic trainers to stop dogs from barking. When the dog barks, the device emits an ultrasonic tone that is theoretically loud enough to disturb the dog, so the dog stops barking.

Nega tive pun ishmen t: by removing something the dog wants, you decrease the likelihood that behavior will occur again.

For instance, if your cat meows for attention, removing your attention until the cat is quiet will decrease the likelihood that she will continue meowing to get your attention. Or, if your dog jumps on you to greet you, standing quietly and completely still, so it’s clear you are ignoring him, will decrease the jumping behavior.

Pos itive Pun ishmen t and Nega tive

Reinfor cemen t Invo lve Avers ives

Of these four categories, both positive punishment and negative reinforcement fall under what the public thinks of as punishment. These are the two categories that involve the use of aversives, force, coercion, or physical corrections to modify behavior. What’s the difference between the two? Many companies refer to their products as negative reinforcement products when they are actually punishment products because their goal is to stop a behavior by

adding something the animal dislikes. For instance, ultrasonic anti-bark devices are punishment devices because their goal is to stop barking. Whether a technique is punishment or reinforcement depends on whether the predominant goal of the technique is to stop a behavior (punishment) or to increase it (reinforcement). In the case of negative reinforcement, it’s important that the aversive should stop as soon as the animal starts behaving appropriately.

Veter inary nary Behavavior ists and Ph.D. Behavavior ists Fo cus on Pos itive Reinfor cemen t combined with Nega tive Pun ishmen t.

Of these four categories, the two most used by veterinary behaviorists and Ph.D. behaviorists are negative punishment combined with positive reinforcement. That is, they remove the rewards for the undesirable behavior and then reward the appropriate behavior. For instance, if a dog greets by jumping, they remove their attention (negative punishment) when the dog jumps, and when the dog sits or stands calmly, they reward the dog (positive reinforcement).


For the purpose of Position Statement and Guidelines on the Use of Punishment for Dealing with Animal Behavior Problems, we have defined punishment as the use of force, coercion, or aversives to modify behavior because this is what the general public understands punishment to be. The scientific definition of punishment is slightly different. The scientific definitions are important because pet product companies using punishment often incorrectly call it negative reinforcement in order to avoid the negative connotation of the word “punishment.”


1. Hutchinson RR. 1977. By-products of aversive control. In: Honig WK, Staddon JER, eds. Handbook of Operant Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall: 415-431.

2. Azrin NH. 1960. Effects of punishment intensity during variable-interval reinforcement. J Exp Anal Behav 3: 123-142.

3. Azrin NH, Holz WC, Hake DR. 1963. Fixed-ratio punishment. J Exp Anal Behav 6:


4. Pauli AM, Bentley E, Diehl AK, Miller PE. 2006. Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 42(3):


5. Drobatz KJ, Saunders HM, Pugh CR, Hendricks JC. 1995. Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs and cats: 26 cases (1987-1993). J Am Vet Med Assoc 206: 1732-1736.

6. Azrin NH, Rubin HB, Hutchinson RR. 1968. Biting attack by rats in response to aversive shock. J Exp Anal Behav 11: 633-639.



1. Burch MR, Bailey JS. 1999. How Dogs Learn. New York, NY: Howell Book House.

2. Reid P. 2007. Learning in dogs. In: Jensen P, ed. The Behavioural Biology of Dogs.

Cambridge, MA: CAB International: 120-144.

3. Yin SY. 2004. How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.

Pununishmenent canan bebe effectiveve in specific cases, but it must be used carefully due to the difficulties of performing it properly compared to positive reinforcement and due to its potential adverse effects. The following is a description of the difficulties and adverse effects that one should be aware of when using punishment (aversives).

1. It’s difficult to time pun ishmen t corre ctly. In order for the animal to understand what it is doing wrong, the punishment must be timed to occur: while the behavior is occurring, within 1 second, or at least before the next behavior occurs.

2. Pun ishmen t can streng then the undes ired be havavior . In order for punishment to affect a lasting change, it should occur every time the undesirable behavior occurs. If the animal is not punished every time, then the times it is not being punished, it is actually receiving a reward. Additionally these rewards are on a variable rate of reinforcement (i.e. inconsistent punishment), which may actually strengthen the undesirable behavior. Variable rate of reinforcement is a powerful reinforcement schedule that is used to maintain behaviors trained with positive reinforcement The animals know the reward will occur eventually, but since they don’t know which time the reward will come, they keep performing the behavior with the expectation of an eventual reward. Thus the animals become like gamblers playing the slot machines.

3. The intens ity of the pun ishmen t mus t be high enoug h. For punishment to be effective, it must be strong enough the first time. If the intensity is not high enough, the animal may get used to it (habituate), so that the same intensity no longer works. Then, the owner must escalate the intensity in order for the punishment to be effective. No matter when it is administered, punishment may cause physical harm or fear when used at the required intensity for learning to occur.

4. Pun ishmen t mayay cause phys ical har m when ad ministered at high intens ity. Many punishments can cause physical harm to the animal. Choke chains can damage the trachea, especially in the many dogs with collapsing tracheas or hypoplastic tracheas. They can also occasionally cause Horner’s syndrome (damage to the nerve to the eye). Some dogs, especially brachycephalic breeds, have developed sudden life-threatening pulmonary edema, possibly due to the sudden upper airway obstruction leading to a rapid swing in intrathoracic pressure. And dogs prone to glaucoma may be more susceptible to the disorder since pressure by collars around the neck can increase intraocular pressure.

5. Regard less of the streng th, pun ishmen t can cause so me ind ividua ls to be come extre mely fear ful, and this fear can genera lize to other con texts. Some punishments may not cause physical harm and may not seem severe, but they can cause the animal to become fearful, and this fear may generalize to other contexts. For instance, some dogs on which the citronella or electronic collar are used with a preceding tone may react fearfully to alarm clocks, smoke detectors, or egg timers.

6. Pun ishmen t can facilitate or even cause aggress ive be havavior . Punishment has been shown to increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior in many species. Animals in which the punishment does not immediately suppress the behavior may escalate in their efforts to avoid the punishment to the point where they become aggressive. Those who already show aggressive behavior may exhibit more intense and injurious aggressive behaviors.

7. Pun ishmen t can suppress be havaviors , includ ing those be havaviors that warn that a bite mayay occur . When used effectively, punishment can suppress the behavior of fearful or aggressive animals, but it may not change the association underlying the behavior. Thus, it may not address the underlying problem. For instance, if the animal is aggressive due to fear, then the use of force to stop the fearful reactions will make the dog more fearful while at the same time suppressing or masking the outward signs of fear. Once it can no longer suppress its fear, the animal may suddenly act with heightened aggression and with fewer warning signs of impending aggression. In other words, it may now attack with no warning.

8. Pun ishmen t can lead to a bad as so ciation . Regardless of the strength of the punishment, punishment can cause animals to develop a negative association with the person implementing it or the environment in which the punishment is used. For instance, when punishment is used for training dogs to come when called, the dogs may learn to come at a trot or walk (or cower while approaching) rather than returning to the owners at a fast run as if they enjoy returning to their owners. Or when punishment is used during obedience competition training or agility training for competitions, dogs may perform the exercises with lack of enthusiasm. This negative association is particularly clear when the dog immediately becomes energetic once the exercise is over and it is allowed to play. Pets are not the only ones who can develop a negative association from this process. Owners may develop a negative association, too. When owners use punishment, they are often angry, thus the expression of force is reinforcing to them because it temporarily decreases their anger. They may develop a habit of frequently becoming angry with their pet because it “misbehaves” in spite of their punishment. This may damage the bond with their pet.

9. Pun ishmen t does no t tea ch more appropr iate be havaviors . One of the most important problems with punishment is that it does not address the fact that the undesirable behavior occurs because it has been reinforced— either intentionally or unintentionally. The owner may punish the bad behavior some of the time, while inadvertently reinforcing the bad behavior at other times. From the dog’s view, the owner is inconsistent and unpredictably forceful or coercive. These characteristics can hinder the pet/human bond. A more appropriate approach to problem solving is to focus on reinforcing a more appropriate behavior. Owners should determine what’s reinforcing the undesirable behavior, remove that reinforcement , and reinforce an alternate appropriate behavior instead. This leads to a better understanding of why animals behave as they do and leads to a better relationship with the animal.

Adverse Effects of Punishment

Posositionon Statemenent


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My new Blog!

Welcome to my new blog.  I'm hoping this will allow me to add comments and update information about my services more easily and in a more timely manner. 

Right now I am living the life of Riley, with the warm sunny weather I'm loving being outside with the dogs.  The new Adventure Class has now met two times and enjoyed sunny dry weather so far!  We are getting lots of practice with the 'Leave It' command as well as getting some good practice with self control!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is puppy socialization anyway?

I’ve been training dogs for quite a while and occasionally get reminded that not everyone lives in my world.  Recently, I was talking to a prospective new puppy owner about what to expect and what she was going to have to think about before her new puppy came home.   I think I said something to the effect of, “..and of course you’ll need to get the puppy out to get socialized.” , and the look on her face indicated immediately that she thought I was either daft or speaking another language.  I paused and she said, “What exactly do you mean about socializing my puppy?”  I realized in that instant that many of us are so wrapped up in repeating the mantra, “You must socialize your puppy.”, we’ve almost lost sight of what it means.
First let me give a brief explanation of why socialization is so important.  Puppies go through a critical developmental period from about 3 weeks to about 12 weeks where they are most amenable to experiencing new things.  This period is called the Primary and Secondary Socialization period.  This period is tied to the development of social patterns and provides a foundation for many adult behaviors. 1   In short a dog that is not exposed to a variety of stimuli during this critical period is at risk of developing behavior problems later on.
So it’s really, really, really important to carefully expose your 7-12 week old puppy to lots of stimuli.  This doesn’t just mean taking the puppy to a puppy class once a week, it means taking the dog for rides in the car, walks on all different substrates, into the city, out in the country, meeting people of all shapes and sizes, and generally experiencing every possible place you might expect your dog to go when they are grown.  If your new puppy is going to be expected to be your first mate on your boat, make sure you let him walk around on it BEFORE you take them both out for a sail.  If your new pup is going to be the team mascot, don’t wait until they are older to introduce him to the team.  While you need to get your puppy out to see as much as possible it doesn’t mean that you should OVER expose your dog. Keep your trips short and enjoyable!  I have seen people who run their dogs ragged with an all-day outing or force their dogs to get near things (big loud trucks, kids on bikes) that are clearly very scary.  There are also concerns about letting your partially vaccinated puppy play in areas or with dogs that may not be vaccinated against common dog diseases.  For this reason among others, dog parks are NOT a good place to socialize young puppies  So begin socializing early, but do so with care.  Puppy play dates with puppies of similar age, that are current on their vaccinations, in an area that is safe and secure is a great way to get things going.  Just remember it doesn’t begin and end with interactions with other puppies.  The best guide I’ve seen for helping people socialize their puppies is the Puppy Rule of 12 by Margaret Hughes.
Socialization also does not begin at 7 weeks or end at 12 weeks.  Breeders can do a lot to help a dog develop resilience in their adulthood by developing a program of early handling, brief interludes of separation from the pack, taking the puppies on rides in the car, introducing them to crates, etc.  2
If you got your dog from a shelter  you may be wondering, “What about my dog, I didn’t even get him until he was 12 weeks old!”. 
As your dog gets older his tendency to be more fearful increases but this should not deter you from getting your dog out to experience as much as possible.  It should, however increase your vigilance to make sure the experiences your dog is getting are positive.  Dogs younger than 6 months of age should avoid dog parks with lots of older dogs.  Make sure you have an ample supply of yummy treats on hand to help your dog associate new things with good treats.  Never, ever force your dog to approach something it fears, no matter how silly it may seem.  Instead, let your dog choose the distance they want to keep and help them associate that very scary (garbage can, paper vending machine, snowman, etc.) with something good by rewarding them for trying (even if it’s just looking at it).
Puppy socialization should begin early (at 3-4 weeks) and continue through your dog’s 2nd birthday, and please make sure the socialization is safe and enjoyable for your dog.

1.        Steven R. Lindsay, Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training  ( Iowa State University Press, 2001), Vol 1, 47
2.       Steven R. Lindsay, Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training  ( Iowa State University Press, 2001), Vol 1, 58-61