Treatment Plans for Behavioral Regressions

willie in wonderland 2011

Or, alternative title: Adventures in the Willie Wonka Fear Factory. If you're cocking your head in confusion, this is about Willie's recent (and relatively new) fear of men. To review briefly: As a puppy he was pathologically afraid of other dogs, exceptionally sound sensitive and, in some contexts, quick to anger. But he adored people, loved everyone. As an adolescent, like many dogs, he developed new fears, and became cautious around unfamiliar men, but it was easily handled by having guys throw balls for him. I always knew I'd need to manage it and that I could never completely close the book on his fears, but it was easily handled and he usually appeared to be thrilled to meet unfamiliar men after about 4-5 months of counter conditioning. And then, three weeks or so ago, he barked Read More

Anger & Anger Management


CAN DOGS GET ANGRY? Yup, I'm here to say that they can. Do they get angry as often as humans? Nope, and thank heavens for that. If they did, I doubt we'd live with them, given that they have carpet knives in their mouths. Just like people, they vary tremendously in how often they experience or express anger. I've known some dogs who appeared not to have an angry moment their entire lives. More commonly, I've worked with dogs who, on occasion, are clearly frustrated at not getting what they wanted or expected. And rarely, I've worked with a small number of dogs who appeared to live in a state of 'road rage' for weeks, months or years on end. So even though I would never say that anger in dogs is an exact replica of anger in people, both in its frequency and how we experience it, it is a Read More

One Step Forward, Several Steps Back

H and W on balconey

The Hope chronicles continue, with progress and problems. The good news is that Willie, on occasion, is stepping up to the plate a bit and not letting Hope bully him as often when they are in the house. As an example, ever since he was tiny, Hope has lept up growling and bitten at Willie's shoulders as they move through space.  At first I  thought it was play, but if it was, it's the kind of play in which one individual is having fun, the other not so much. Sometimes Willie seemed to ignore it, other times he'd tongue flick and look anxious. I came to see it more and more as a behavior related to controlling space, perhaps in part motivated by herding instincts, but rude nonetheless. All Willie needed to do was snap at him one time, and I suspect it would have stopped. I've never seen Read More

What Training Can Do, and What It Can’t

The PATRICIA McCONNELL RETURNS A PUPPY! brou-ha-ha (It's almost been worth it just having an excuse to use that word: brou-ha-ha. Say it over and over and try not to laugh!) has brought up one of the most important questions in dog training. What "problem behaviors" can be ameliorated by training and/or management, and what can't? Ah, the answer is a book unto itself (and yup, it's going to be a topic of the book I'm about to start writing), so I can't answer as fully as I'd like here. But here are some thoughts, that relate to my recent experience and to our relationship with dogs in general. First, as many wise readers have noted, there is such a thing as temperament in dogs, just as there is in people.  Temperament is defined as a set of behavioral predispositions that are seen very Read More

Fear in Dogs and In-Utero Experience

I'm working on a column for Bark right now about the ontogeny of fear in dogs. The editors, Claudia and Cameron (the editors of Bark), adopted two sisters from a rescue organization down south. The girls are litter mates who might be BC/terrier X beagle crosses. Both came under socialized and shy, but one (Kit) has rapidly come out of her shell, while the other (Holly) is still profoundly fearful of any kind of novel event. Leaving the house is a trauma for her, as is the appearance of any object that she's not expecting. (Claudia's purse fell off a chair and Holly refused to go anywhere near it, even though it blocked her access to her favorite area of the house. Meanwhile, Kit jumped over it and continued on her way.) Claudia's question to me, and the motivation for the column, is "What Read More