Consciousness in Dogs

maggie tongue flick on wall 2014

Ray Coppinger loves to start controversies, and he did a great job of it at the SPARCS Conference in June. He began his talk by stating that dogs are have no consciousness and are merely "acting out motor patterns." It's always hard to know what Ray believes and what he is saying to generate a conversation, but needless to say, he was highly successful at the latter. The number of attendees who believed that dogs are not conscious or self aware was small indeed, no surprise there. I'll say right off the bat that I'm one of those who believe that dogs are indeed conscious and aware, but I also think it is an important conversation to have. First, because the more we learn about comparative mental states between people and non-human animals the better. Second, because the minds of other Read More

Resource Guarding, Dog to Dog

feed dogs

Not long ago I re-posted a blog about Resource Guarding (RG), but focused treatment options on dogs who direct their threats toward people. Many of you asked about RG between dogs, and I promised I'd address that this summer. Here we go... There's no doubt that RG between dogs is a bit trickier than when it occurs toward a person, perhaps because it is simply easier to control the behavior of a member of our species than it is a dog. But there is a lot one can do to prevent or treat RG between dogs. Can it solve all problems between all dogs? Do I have a bridge to sell you? No, but here are some ideas that I've found helpful in the past. PREVENTION I know this isn't helpful once the problem has begun, but don't miss the chance to prevent RG before it rears its jealous head. Say you Read More

Three Ways to Confuse a New Dog

swing 6-2014

"Three days, three weeks, three months." That's the mantra of many dog trainers and behaviorists, when welcoming a new dog into their household. The "magic of threes" is especially relevant when adopting an adolescent or adult dog into your home. Dogs, especially non-puppies, are often in a bit of shock for the first three days in a new home, and don't show you too much about who they are until they've been there a few days. After three weeks many dogs have settled in such that they behave as though they feel like they are "home" now, but don't fit into your routine until about three months have gone by. The number three has another relevance to new dogs: See below for the three ways we most confuse new dogs, and how to prevent it. I've thought about this a lot lately, for a couple of Read More

When to Intervene in Dog-Dog Interactions

Luke, Indiana & me

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked, and with good reason. It's a tough one. It's also relevant to my own life right now, after having just introduced a new dog into the household, and having to make split-second decisions several times in the first few weeks. I should say first off that there is no ultimate truth here. No research, no data, just my opinion based on experience with thousands of client dogs and plenty of my own. Certainly there is no dearth of opinions about when to intervene when dogs "get into it," from the extremes of "I never intervene, I just let them work it out" to the opposite attitude of calling a dog off instantly, or correcting her, for a hard eye or a quiet growl. You won't be surprised to learn that I live in the middle ground, not being Read More

Meet Maggie

Happy Maggie

Yup, Redstart Farm has a new member of the family. Maggie, a 15-month old female Border Collie from Idaho, has stolen the hearts of us all, Willie especially. He is gobsmacked. In love. Head over heels. Watching the two of them play has become one of my greatest joys in life. Those of you who have been following the farm for awhile know that finding the right dog for Willie hasn't been easy. He started life as a puppy pathologically afraid of unfamiliar dogs. He grew into an adolescent torn between fear and the desire to control everything, the kind of dog I call an "alpha wanna be." He has always loved to play with dogs who also loved to run together outside, but became tense and a tad crazy if they came into the house. Remember Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining? Read More