Canine Aggression Case Study – Fall 2014

fall 2 NH 2014

Recently a blog reader wrote in after one of her dogs snapped at her. The incident generated a lively conversation in the comment section, and I thought it was worth writing a post about it. So many of us have been in a similar situation that I thought it would be a valuable discussion for lots of dog owners. The reader (thank you TK!) graciously agreed to let the incident serve as a case study, and I am grateful to her for providing us a jumping off point for a good discussion about how to handle an aggression-related behavioral problem. I’ll describe the incident, but before I go any further I should be clear that I am summarizing for the sake of brevity. If the dog’s owner was a client I would spend at least forty-five minutes interviewing her and working with the dogs (preferably in Read More

The Importance of Pets

It's uh...  "Throwback Monday?" Things are a tad crazy right now, what with winter looming,(Translation: Spend much of Sunday planting the 300 bulbs that arrived on Saturday. Be sore today.) and a trip to APDT tomorrow morning. I'll be giving the Keynote Wednesday morning, please come up and say hi if you are a blog reader. (There is also a book signing from 5-6 pm on Thursday, maybe see you there?) I've been having a hard time about leaving. Jim will be home and all the dogs, cats and sheep will be fine, but I am already missing them. (Which is ridiculous, given that I haven't even left yet.) This morning, as every morning, Willie put his front paws on the bed and after licking my face, rested his head against me and gave his little moan of happiness. I stroked his head, in awe of how Read More


salvia-sol seal 2014

In preparation for a talk I'll be giving soon in Madison, WI about the mental lives of animals, I've been reading Subliminal, by Leonard Mlodinow. I highly recommend it; Mlodinow elaborates on our increasing, and sometimes unsettling knowledge about the power of our unconscious. Here's a talk given by the author himself about the topic. (He also gets my vote for the best cover ever of a book: If you check it out on Amazon you can't tell that, in person, you can only see part of the cover until the light hits it just right. I burst out laughing after I'd purchased the book while thinking: "This cover is beyond strange" and then discovered the full cover while walking out of the bookstore.) This is relevant to my upcoming talk (and my fascination with the cognitive life of non-human Read More

What is so rare as a day in… September?

clouds hinkley mn 2014

With apologies to James Russell Lowell, it is the fall months that make my heart sing the most, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I know what's coming? I'm playing hookey today, soaking up knowledge from one of the UK's top sheepdog trainer/handlers, Gordon Watt, who also judged the Nippersink Trial last Friday-Sunday. Thanks to advice from Kathy Knox at her great clinic the weekend before, Willie and I had a great second run at the trial, and did our best ever in the ProNovice class. I can't resist a chance to work with Gordon, sort of like taking a tennis lesson from Raphael Nadal. There is only room for me to work one dog with Gordon (thank you Margaret for getting me in, not to mention organizing both the trial and the clinic!), so I'll probably work Maggie because she is Read More

Click and… Always Treat? Or Not?

Ears Up Spectator Dogs Hinckley 2014

Let me start by asking: Which does your dog like better, the anticipation of something good, or the good thing itself? Counter-intuitively, the research of Jaak Panksepp suggests it’s the anticipation of a reinforcement that is most enjoyable, not the reinforcement itself. Panksepp calls the emotion of anticipation the “seeking or wanting system,” versus the “liking system” that kicks in once an individual gets what it wants. In other words, which gets your dog more excited, hearing the clicker, or getting the treat? Hearing “Let’s go on a walk!” or actually going on the walk? (See here for a speech on this system by Panksepp.) I thought of this a while ago when walking into the Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin to see a show by the famous comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. I floated in on a Read More