New Puppy Primer

Wheeee! I've been working on an updated version of the Puppy Primer for six months now, and it feels SO good to finally hold the finished product in my hot little paws. In it, co-author Brenda Scidmore and I emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement, of letting dogs initiate the correct action themselves when possible, the importance of realistic expectations and of going step-by-step in training. That last issue is such a big one to me: so many of the problems I see people having with their dogs relate to them jumping from Step 1 to Step 25, without knowing that there should be many steps in between. For example,  there's (Step 1) sitting on cue in the kitchen while holding a dinner bowl and (Step 25) sitting on cue when 5 people come to the door and there are 3 other dogs barking Read More

More on Play Styles; Dealing with Problem Players

I've loved your comments about play styles after the last post. Keep them coming. One of the points that was made by many of you, that I think bears repeating, is that many dogs can adapt and learn new play styles from others. This is especially true of stable, well-adjusted dogs who aren't overly reactive to something new or challenging. Along with chase games and wrestling, several of you mentioned hounds (and English Shepherds!) who like to play "catch the prey" by chasing, play biting and then mock attacks at the throat. Another mentioned a play style that I've also seen, that I consider truly problematic. In this case, the dog chases another dog until he catches up, and then bites the chasee, often in the back leg, and brings him or her down. Eeeps. I've seen this quite often, and it Read More

Play Styles & Status Seeking: Correlated?

A short post today, but with a pithy question generated from the last post on play. We all agree that different breeds of dogs tend to have different play styles, with herding dogs, for example, more likely to engage in run/chase games and bully breeds more likely to wrestle and body slam. Wrestling can include many behaviors, but a common goal of wrestling in any species is to pin another individual to the ground. A lot of the wrestling/body slamming play in canines also includes chin over, leg over, vertical play and other movements that replicate the postures and gestures associated with high dogs seeking high social status. So here's the question: Do the dogs (in general of course) who engage in body slam/wrestle play tend to be individuals who care more about social status? I'll add Read More

Interesting Play Styles

Here's a video of Willie playing with a Lily, a 4 month old female Dogo Argentino. He has just met her, and after a brief greeting by the farm house, we walked up the hill to the Orchard Pasture. I love watching videos of dogs playing; it seems that you can see so much if you watch them repeatedly. Here are the two main events I find most notable about this episode of play (along with the fact that Willie is playing so well with her! Yeah Mr. Will, what a journey we've been on together!) One, notice how Lily's play is so often on a vertical plane. Even as a young pup, she spends a lot of energy moving upward, and trying to get on top of Will. You'll see that especially at seconds 17, 23 and 34. There are other examples, but those are the first three that I noticed. Secondly, Read More

What the Dog Knew Part I

Here's one small aspect related to the question of how dogs interpret our cues: I started listing the cues that Will responds to, asking myself if he saw them as verbs or nouns (good point by one of the readers that humans can use one word for both, as in "snow.") I didn't get very far before things got interesting. Remember that game that Ian Dunbar used to do in working seminars? Testing out what cues really mean to your dog? It came to mind when I started working with Will, and I asked him to Sit when he was already sitting. He immediately lay down. Of course, you can teach through this, but I never have because I haven't needed to. So right there.... Will and I have not defined sit the same way. I think Will defines it as an action similar to:  "Go down toward the ground," while Read More