How Do You Play with Your Dog?

fence posts snow 2-2013

Surely our mutual love of play is one of the reasons that dogs and people get along so well. As Karen London and I write in Play Together, Stay Together, "Play is powerful stuff. It influences so many things, including development, motivation, emotions, physiology, communication and behavior. Wow! That's an impressive list." After years working as Applied Behaviorists, it was clear to Karen and I that play has the power to strengthen one's relationship with a dog, or alternatively, to destroy it. You can use play to teach self control and good manners, or to inadvertently teach a lack of frustration tolerance and a lot of rude behavior that ends up getting a dog into trouble. You can use play to allow a dog to release tension, to learn a behavior incompatible with a problematic one, or Read More

News from APDT

Vic Stilwell

I wish everyone could have heard Alexandra Horowitz's talk that introduced the conference this morning. She gave an articulate and thought provoking speech about the "umwelt" of the dog.  "Umwelt" is a term coined by Uexkull to mean the world of an organism, as it is sensed, perceived and interpreted. The point, which was well explained by Alexandra, is that each species sees the world differently, based on their perceptual abilities (ie, bees see colors we don't, dogs smell things we don't) and the parts of their environment that are relative to them. Some have said that because each species, literally, lives in different worlds, we can never really understand what it is like to be another animal. (This was famously addressed in philosopher's Nagel's oft-cited article, "What is it like to Read More

The Wolf in the Parlor

True confession: I haven't finished the book The Wolf in the Parlor. I might not, at least not in the near future. Here's why: As I said in my last post, the author's thesis is that "people and dogs, around 12,000 years ago, linked their evolutionary paths together and evolved socially and physically to take on supportive roles. He argues, according to the reviews, that humans lost some of our brain power because dogs took over those functions, and dogs lost some of theirs because we became their protectors and nurturers." It seems downright churlish of me to stop reading before I read for myself the full extent of his argument, but what I've read in the first 60 pages has put me off a bit. I mentioned earlier that the thesis itself sounded a bit simplistic, but I love speculation and Read More

Books, Books, Books

Well, I had wanted to write about a book one of you asked about: The Wolf in the Parlor, but life seems to have its own schedule and I have only just started it. It is one of the gazillion books I am sent by publishers to review and I have to admit I have a hard time keeping up. (But I'd miss them if they didn't come! It's one of those high quality problems.) The book is by Pulitzer prize winning science writer Jon Franklin and has received rave reviews from the kind of places that authors dream of (Publisher's Weekly, Booklist etc.) As I said, I've just started it, but I can tell you that the book's main thesis is that people and dogs, around 12,000 years ago, linked their evolutionary paths together and evolved socially and physically to take on supportive roles. He argues, according to Read More

Not Guilty, As Charged

One of your fellow blog readers alerted us to a study recently published in Behavioral Processes titled "Disambiguating the "guilty look" by Alexandra Horowitz. It is a creative and well-designed study that supports what trainers, ethologists and behaviorists have been saying for years: "No, your dog isn't expressing guilt when he cowers at the door when you come home to find he's peed on the carpet. Rather,  he's waving a white flag, perhaps to inhibit you from punishing him any further, and is responding to YOUR behavior rather than expressing guilt at his earlier actions." Here's a summary of the study: 14 dogs and owners participated, and only dogs who were able to successfully perform a sit/stay were included.  The owner was instructed to place the dog on a sit/stay, and then show Read More