Aggressively Obsequious?

A recent comment from blog readers brought up a fascinating issue. I'll just introduce it here, and then continue delving into it as time goes on. Here's the question: Is it possible that dogs who appear to be super submissive are, uh..., not? I think the answer is yes. I say 'yes' because I think there's a difference between a dog being "submissive," in the sense of not needing to be high up in the social hierarchy, and dogs who perform "submissive displays" enthusiastically. I had a female BC once, Bess, who was a classic high status bitch. She never fought, but she did take her toy over to a visiting female once, put it down on the ground between the two of them, and then trounce the visitor for starting to sniff it. (Those of you who have attended my seminars know that this is when Read More

Muzzle Punches, Air Snaps and Tooth Clatters Revisited

What a great conversation we've had about these behaviors in dogs. I originally posted on this topic on October 10th, and the comments in response have been fascinating. For those of you who'd rather not read through them, I'll summarize them here, and add some information I've found elsewhere. First of all, I did look at some of the wolf literature (still waiting to hear from folks who work with wolves), and I did find that Zimen, an internationally respected wolf ethologist, discusses 2 of these behaviors in his wolf sociogram in Wolves of the World. I'll add his comments in the relevant section. MUZZLES PUNCHES/POKES: As best I could, I categorized your responses about the context of muzzle punches into 4 categories: Excited/Playful, Attention Getting, Warnings with potential Read More

Oxytocin Increases When Your Dog Looks at You

A friend and colleague (Toni Ziegler, an internationally known primatologist) sent me an article in a journal I usually never see, Hormones and Behavior, and I was sure you'd be as interested in it as I am. The authors, M. Nagasawa et. al., found a correlation between the level of an owner's oxytocin and how much their dog tended to gaze directly at them. First off, you probably know that oxytocin is the "feel good" hormone that is associated with lactation and social bonding. Someone called it the "wine and candle light" hormone, because it seems to play an important role in social relationships and feelings of trust and affection. (People are more trusting of strangers if oxytocin is sprayed into their nose--leading me to speculate in For the Love of a Dog that we should all be armed Read More

Playing Hookey, Website Advice

4 pm: Well, the plan was to do some research on muzzle punches (and pokes, and jabs), tooth clacking and air snaps, and then write another post about them . . . but then, the sun came out after days and days of cold, windy rain. Right now it's gorgeous and breezy and 4 o'clock and if I don't go out now and work sheep and walk the dogs it'll be dark before I know it. I just can't stop myself, it'll be cold and dark most of the day soon enough. 4:50 pm: I just got back from outside, Will and I had a ball. My ewe flock was a riot to work; one of them was on a tear (Truffles). For reasons unknown to me, she ran around bashing into other ewes as if out of a National Geographic Special on fighting mountain goats in rutting season. That sent the entire flock tearing around the pasture like deer, Read More

Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down

With apologies for the change in topics, I just have to respond to a comment on my last post, and to the hundreds of comments I've heard over the last 20 + years, about the guilt associated with putting a dog down. It is always wrenching, heart-breaking to euthanize a beloved dog, but taking a dog's life away for a behavioral problem can be especially hard. I can't take away the pain, no matter what the reason for the death, but here are a few things that I have found that have helped me and some of my clients. First, for anyone who has had to euthanize a dog, I hope it helps to know that devoted owners are often wracked with guilt, no matter why the dog died. For example, I euthanized Cool Hand Luke after a long battle with kidney failure. By the time he died (he was close to death Read More