Dane dog down

Some dog folk prefer to have their problems addressed in the privacy of their own homes. Each problem is unique and requires a different approach. Not all problems are trainable, some benefitting more from management rather than discipline.

Some calls are so simple that one wonders whether the caller is trying to have you on. For instance, one lady phoned me asking “please can you come and help me with my dog. The situation is an emergency, so we need you here tomorrow if you can make it”. Of course I immediately cleared my diary and rushed around, expecting the worst. After all, an emergency requires prompt and decisive action, not so?

For me, one of the biggest problems with house visits is finding the house. I have a natural bias to turn left, and can happily spend hours getting to the correct suburb and then going round and round in circles, before breaking down and phoning for more directions, only to find that I’ve driven past the house five times already!!

Anyway, this call was only about half-an-hours’ drive away in a suburb that I am vaguely familiar with, so after only two wrong turns I arrived at the house. It turned out that the dog in question was a young Great Dane male (intact) which was kept in a large area at the back of the house. The owner was very proud to point out that there were no plants of any sort – this so that there was nothing for the dog to destroy. This poor dog had only been off the property twice (to visit the veterinarian – hardly a red letter day for the dog!) and was kept in this area bereft of any stimulation. True, there were other dogs, but they were kept inside the house. The “emergency” was that the owner had two weeks prior to my visit put a collar on the dog. And the dog now wouldn’t stand up with the collar around his neck. So here was this huge Great Dane male lying on his side and propelling himself along the ground like a flounder. Take the collar off, and hey presto! He was back up on all four legs bouncing around like any normal dog.

Problem number one was that this dog was not used to having strange people enter his enclosure. It took a few minutes for him to accept that I wasn’t the Great Dane Killer from Hell. I always use food as a primary reinforcer, as no animal (including humans) will eat if it is stressed. As for a lot of the time I am working with animals that I don’t know, this is the easiest way to assess how receptive the animal is to my presence and the training process. Needless to say, this Dane would not touch a morsel of food. We tried chicken liver, cheese, roast chicken, raw beef, cat food, etc., etc. No go. The dog was just too stressed to eat. That was problem number two. Problem number three was that the dogs left in the house didn’t quite see why they should be excluded and set up an almighty wail from inside, which of course distracted and upset our poor Dane even further.

After spending some 10 minutes or so playing ball with him, we took the plunge and placed a collar around the dogs’ neck. He fell to the ground like a stone. No amount of coaxing would get him to lift his head. So I put another collar on him. Then another. And another. And then I attached a lead to each collar. The poor dog now looked a bit like a horizontal Maypole. We moved away from him to see if our presence was upsetting him. Not a bit. He wasn’t going to get up with those heavy things around his neck. I went back and removed all the leads and two of the collars. And started playing ball with his owner on the other side of the garden. (I was assured that this was his favourite game). Sure enough, this proved too much for the dog, and (after carefully checking that we weren’t watching him), he leaped to his feet and joined in the game. As soon as we looked at him, he fell to the ground again.

This procedure went on for some time – collar on, dog down. Play ball, dog up. By the end of an hour the dog was wearing all three collars and leads and was walking around the garden in a relaxed fashion. He was still unhappy about someone holding the end of the lead whilst he was on his feet, but at least the owner now could see that the collar wasn’t the problem, but rather the manipulative dog!

Rico brings new hope for an end to rhino horn smuggling

The following article was released by the EWT, who have given me permission to post it on my web site.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is proud to welcome its newest member of staff – Rico the Wildlife Sniffer Dog! Rico, who is being trained to detect wildlife products, is funded through the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust and will be deployed as part of a partnership between the EWT and the African Consultants for Transport Security (ACTS), a cargo screening company that uses sniffer dogs to detect explosives in cargo.

Rico, a two year old Belgian Malinois, arrived in South Africa from Germany on Tuesday the 6th of March 2012 to take up duty as a Wildlife Sniffer Dog at OR Tambo International Airport’s cargo and baggage sections. The canine is physically ideally suited for the task as he has a high work drive, immense confidence and intense focus, coupled with an extraordinary sense of smell.

The dog forms part of the EWT’s strategy to quell the rampant rhino poaching and illegal wildlife trade. The rhino poaching crisis has demonstrated that there is no single solution to addressing illegal wildlife trade, which is an increasing global phenomenon, estimated to be the third largest illegal industry worldwide after drugs and human trafficking, and often has its roots in organised, trans-boundary crime. For this reason the EWT is implementing interventions at several stages in the poaching and wildlife trade chain, including the deployment of highly trained sniffer dogs specifically trained to detect wildlife products like rhino horn, at various ports of exit through the country.

Rico will be housed and cared for by ACTS at their canine facility in Kempton Park, with generous sponsorship for the animal also coming from BIDVest and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Fund. Once he has acclimatised to his new environment Rico is to be introduced to his future handler. While he already understands the principles of searching for and detecting scents he will now be imprinted on the specific scents – particularly rhino horn, ivory and abalone – that he needs to detect before being put to work. As he matures, new scents of other threatened species affected by illegal trade and smuggling will be added to his olfactory repertoire.

The EWT will facilitate the deployment of a further five dogs at various high risk border points of entry and exit during 2012. This will contribute to increasing the detection rate of wildlife contraband in transit and therefore, the risk associated with wildlife crime and rhino poaching specifically. With increased detection comes improved arrest and prosecution rates and hopefully, a reduction in poaching through deterring individuals involved in organised crime.

A day after arriving in SA, Rico shows his enthusiasm to get to work (Photo: Claire Patterson-Abrolat)

Article By The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT)

Critics Challenge ‘Dog Whisperer’ Methods

JonBee jumps up at Cesar Millan, his sharp teeth snapping repeatedly. Millan calmly yanks on the leash and pulls the wolf-like Korean Jindo away. This continues for over a minute, with Millan’s face remaining undisturbed and JonBee’s owners gasping on the other side of the living room. Finally, the dog shows a moment of weakness. Millan quickly pins him to the floor and rolls him onto his side. Millan’s calmness seems to be reflected in the dog now lying frozen in submission.

Every Friday night, troubled American dogs undergo a seemingly miraculous transformation on national television. The magician is Cesar Millan, better known as the “Dog Whisperer.” He is the current face of dog training, and he has brought “dominance theory,” an age-old training technique, back into canine conversation and practice.

To understand how to control a dog’s behavior, according to Millan, one needs to look at the hierarchy of wolf packs. Domestic dogowners must confidently carry the title of “pack leader” and assume power over their pets.

But many dog trainers and behavior experts criticize the show, advocating a gentler approach to training that replaces coercion and physical behaviour corrections with food rewards and other forms of positive reinforcement. They point to new studies that have placed the two popular dog-training methods head-to-head and almost universally shown positive training to be more successful than punitive methods in reducing aggression and disobedience.

Millan may have the ratings, they argue, but purely positive trainers have the science.

No more crying wolf

Millan’s concept of dominance is based on an old understanding of the behavior of wolves. In the 1960s, researchers observed that wolves formed large packs in which certain individuals beat out others to earn “top dog” status. These were called “alphas.” Millan contends that a dog displaying aggression is trying to establish dominance and attain alpha status, much like its ancestors. He advises humans to take on this position themselves, forcefully if necessary, to keep the dog in a submissive role.

Dog trainers whose practices are grounded in these concepts, such as the late Bill Koehler and Captain Arthur Haggerty, have dominated the business for most of the past half-century. But as Dave Mech, an expert on wolf behavior at the University of Minnesota, points out, the early wolf research – much of it his own – was done on animals living in captivity.

Mech has been studying wolves for 50 years now, yet only over the past decade has he gotten a clear picture of these animals in their natural habitats. And what he’s found is far from the domineering behaviour popularized by Millan. “In the wild it works just like it does in the human family,” says Mech. “They don’t have to fight to get to the top. When they mature and find a mate they are at the top.” In other words, wolves don’t need to play the “alpha” game to win.

In the 1980s, around the same time that our understanding of wolves began to change, positive dog-training methods slowly emerged from the fringes and grew in popularity. A tug-of-war continues today between dog trainers practicing predominantly positive reinforcement and those using punishment-based techniques.

Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University, is one of the leading proponents of positive training methods. He believes the source of most bad behavior, especially owner-directed aggression, is mistrust and recommends rebuilding a dog’s trust by “making sure that the dog understands that all good things in life come only and obviously from you.” To get those things – whether food or basic attention – the dog must learn to please you first.

But others see these techniques as little more than pampering borne out of lax and inappropriate attitudes toward pets that have recently come into vogue. “In the last ten to fifteen years it’s become, ‘don’t ever say ‘No’ to your dog; don’t ever punish dogs,'” says Babette Haggerty, who is carrying on her father’s dominance-based teaching at Haggerty’s School for Dogs in Manhattan. “I think people are coddling dogs more than ever before.”

But in 2004, “The Dog Whisperer” – Millan’s doggy psych 101 – premiered on the National Geographic Channel, and the momentum mounting in the positive direction was stymied. “In America, we [had begun] using human psychology on dogs,” Millan says in an email. “What was needed was for humans to learn dog psychology.”

Perils of punishment

Many veterinary behaviorists believe punishment-based techniques, like those seen on the show, could come back to bite dog owners. The National Geographic Channel even posts a warning on the screen during each episode: “Do not attempt these techniques yourself without consulting a professional.”

According to a paper in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, attempts to assert dominance over a dog can increase a dog’s aggression. Researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom studied dogs in a shelter for six months, while also reanalyzing data from previous studies of feral dogs. Their findings support those of the Mech at the University of Minnesota: dogs don’t fight to get to the top of a “pack.” Rather, violence appears to be copycat behavior – something borne of nurture, not nature.

In another recent study, around 25 percent of owners using confrontational training techniques reported aggressive responses from their dogs. “The source of dog aggression has nothing to do with social hierarchy, but it does, in fact, have to do with fear,” says Meghan Herron, a veterinarian at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study published in the January 2009 issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science. “These dogs are acting aggressively as a response to fear.”

Dogs react physiologically to stress and fear in the same way people do, with hormones. Two 2008 studies out of Hungary and Japan showed, respectively, that concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol increased in dogs that were strictly disciplined and that levels were linked to elevation of aggressive behavior. What’s more, an Irish study found that physically or verbally reprimanding a dog with a history of biting people was one of the significant predictors of a subsequent bite. The results were published in April 2008 in Applied Animal Behavior Science.

“[All these studies] confirm what many of us have said for a long time,” says Pat Miller, owner of Peaceable Paws dog and puppy training in Hagerstown, Maryland. “If you use aggression in training your dog, you’re likely to elicit aggression back.”

Paybacks of positive reinforcement

Before practicing professionally as a dog trainer, Jolanta Benal of Brooklyn, New York, learned the difference between positive and punitive methods personally.

Her dog, Mugsy, had an attraction to men in uniform. Whether they were wearing UPS brown or U.S. Postal Service blue, Benal’s bulldog would lunge at them on the street. So she hired a highly recommended dog trainer to try to correct this behavior.

“He would set Mugsy up to do offending behavior, and then throw a can full of pennies at the dog,” she says. “It was a traditional old school technique. And it worked to suppress the problem behavior – at least in the moment.” Mugsy’s unhealthy obsession with the postal workers, however, did not go away. Even if he didn’t always jump at the UPS guy on a walk-by, says Benal, he wasn’t happy to see him either.

Benal then traded in for a new trainer that brought chicken instead of coins. As the man in uniform approached, Benal was now instructed to distract Mugsy by giving him the treat. And it worked. After several times, the dog would look to her in expectation, rather than towards the uniform-clad men in alarm. “For the last year of his life, he was an angel,” says Benal. “It was amazing the changes it brought.”

Millan argues that using food to coax dogs may be impractical: “It can result in an addiction to treats or an overweight dog,” he says in an email. However, Dodman of Tufts University explains that trainers only give food at the beginning of training. After a period of time, owners should reward intermittently, reinforcing the response. “If every time you played the lottery you won money, then the excitement wouldn’t be there anymore,” says Dodman. “The thrill for the dog is ‘Will I get a treat this time?'”
Back-aches from stooping low to feed a dog, or the added cost of extra chicken or doggy treats, he believes, are far less dreadful than the anxiety and altered relationships caused by the punitive alternative.

Dodman has some data to back him up. In February 2004, a paper in Animal Welfare by Elly Hiby and colleagues at the University of Bristol compared the relative effectiveness of the positive and punitive methods for the first time. The dogs became more obedient the more they were trained using rewards. When they were punished, on the other hand, the only significant change was a corresponding rise in the number of bad behaviors.

A series of more recent papers also support Dodman’s theory and Hiby’s results. A study published in the October 2008 issue of Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that positive reinforcement led to the lowest average scores for fear and attention-seeking behaviors, while aggression scores were higher in dogs of owners who used punishment. Another 2008 study, this one published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, found that positive training methods resulted in better performances than punishment for Belgian military dog handlers.

Bridging the differences in dogma

It’s hard to argue that the slow, patient techniques used in positive reinforcement would elicit the same dramatic moments seen on Cesar Millan’s show. “There’s a big difference between looking at behavior as a ‘Stop that’ versus a ‘Here’s what I want,'” says Bruce Blumberg, a professor of dog psychology at the Harvard Extension School. “Positive reinforcement is a different mindset. And it’s one that doesn’t work quite as well on TV.”

Dodman is one of many people who have asked the National Geographic Channel
to discontinue “The Dog Whisperer,” consistently one of the highest-rated shows on the network. The American Humane Association issued a press statement in 2006 asking for a cancellation because of what they suggested were abusive techniques used by Millan. More recently, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior issued a position statement in which it expresses concern “with the recent re-emergence of dominance theory and forcing dogs and other animals into submission as a means of preventing and correcting behaviors.”

Millan defends his methods, asserting they “use the minimum force necessary to prevent or correct a problem.” According to the dog rehabilitator, he can “redirect the behavior of most of my pack with just my body language, eye contact and energy.” He points to the “thousands upon thousands of letters” he receives from viewers touting “miracles” of restored relationships and saved dogs. “All I want is what is best for the animal,” Millan says.

Despite the controversy, there is a lot that everyone agrees on. Both sides of the training spectrum teach that a lack of discipline or structure is not conducive to a well-behaved dog. “Dogs need direction and boundaries, just like human relationships,” says Haggerty, the trainer from the School for Dogs in Manhattan, which uses dominance theory. “If dogs don’t know what the boundaries are, they will wreak havoc.”

How a dog owner projects those boundaries is also important. “You have to be calm, you have to be clear, you have to be consistent, and you have to make sure you meet your pet’s needs for other things: exercise, play, social interaction,” says Herron of The Ohio State University.

So what does an owner do when a calm and structured environment still breeds a misfit pup like JonBee? Should it be the leash and hand that redirects the dog, or poultry and patience? Current science favors the chicken flavor. But whichever strategy you choose, everyone agrees that the timing must be precise. It is very difficult for a dog to make an appropriate association and learn from the reprimand or reward otherwise.

Of course, if you take Blumberg’s Harvard class, he’ll tell you, “If your timing is lousy using positive reinforcement, the worst thing that happens is you get a fat dog.”

Clicker Workshop Module 1 : 4 December 2011

Lacey has the habit of “killing” her scent cloth in the scent discrimination exercise in “C” test obedience. Here Sue, her handler, clicks and treats her for carrying it calmly.

Carla teaching her Groenendael, Maya, for targeting a disk with her right front paw.

Maxine getting her volunteer, Retha Kruger, to demonstrate different ways of getting behaviours. Here Retha is being compelled to sit on a chair. You can see by her face that she is not enjoying the experience, which is one of the reasons why we do not use compulsion in clicker training.

Clicker Workshop Module 2 : 7 July 2011

Attendees and their dogs demonstration “101 things to do with a Box” – each handler was tasked to get 10 or more behaviours within 5 minutes. Sharon and Ashley (a dog she rescued and had only had for 4 months) demonstrate how easy this is.

Here the dogs had to perform a behavioural chain – in this case they needed to weave through the poles, go around the bucket and then return straight to the handler. The handler was not allowed to move forward. They had 10 minutes to get this behaviour on cue. Here Charles shows how he and Gaudy mastered it.

Some dogs were nervous of the equipment. Here Mariano rewards Ashley for moving towards the scary bucket. This is not his dog, and it was the first time dog and handler had met and worked together.

Clicker Workshops

Clicker workshops are designed to be interactive and fun for both you and your pet. Animals such as dogs, cat, horse, meerkat, parrot, rat, chicken etc. have participated in these workshops, so that attendees can see for themselves how this training method works for all animals.

The Module 1 workshop includes the following:
What makes a good trainer
What is clicker training?
How it all began
What is the difference between a primary and secondary reinforcer?
Conditioning your animal to the clicker
Timing skills

If you’re interested in participating in one of these workshops, e-mail me on Maxine@clickersa.co.za , and I will notify you of forthcoming events.
Some photos taken at recent Module 1 Clicker Workshops:

Maretha teaching her Pug to jump on cue

Classic Working Trials

This is a wonderful sport for handlers and dogs alike. Most of the competitions are held out in the bush, as we need a lot of acreage for the tracking stakes. There are levels through which the teams must progress.

Entry level is Companion Dog, then Tracker Dog 1, then Tracker Dog 2. After a team has qualified Tracker Dog 2, they may decide whether to go on to Tracker Dog 3 or Police Dog. Once a dog has three qualifying certificates under three different judges in either Police Dog or Tracker Dog 3, it earns the title of “Police Dog Champion” or “Tracker Dog Champion”. Full details regarding this sport are available on the KUSA web site: www.kusa.co.za

Here are a few pictures of some of my students competing in the Companion Dog stakes. These pictures were taken at an open show in Birch Acres, Gauteng.

There are three sections to Companion Dog, and the dog has to gain a qualifying mark in each group in order to obtain a Qualifying Certificate.

Heel on lead (all three paces, with left, right and about turns)
Heel free (all three paces, with left, right and about turns)
Retrieve a dumbbell
Recall to handler
Send away (20 metres)
Down stay (10 minutes out of sight)

“A” Frame
Clear Jump
Long Jump

Elementary search
In this exercise the dog has 2 minutes in which to sniff out and retrieve an article. The judge gives the article to the handler to scent, and then places it somewhere in the ring. The article is placed in an area 15 metres square and the team are not allowed to see where it is placed. It is a test to see that the dog can sniff out an object with human scent and retrieve it promptly.

Of course, the dogs don’t always perform as you expect them to. It can be quite stressful for the dog to suddenly be asked to perform all these different exercises in a strange environment on the same day. So sometimes nature takes its toll. (dogs are not allowed to eliminate in the training area, and lose marks for doing so). These are pictures of one of my dogs who just couldn’t hold it any more. She is supposed to be doing an area search …….. This show was held at a grass farm in Heidelberg.

Calming Signals

One of the topics I like to introduce handlers to when they attend puppy socialisation classes, is Calming Signals. In 1997 Turid Rugaas and Terry Ryan published a book entitled “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals”. This book describes how dogs are able to offer certain behaviours in order to calm those around them down. Turid Rugaas, who hails from Norway, first noticed these behaviours when her little Elkhound, Vesla, appeared able to prevent aggression in other dogs by behaving in a certain manner. Here is a direct quote from her book:

“Dogs, being flock animals, have a language for communicaton with each other. Canine language in general consists of a large variety of signals using body, face, ears, tail, sounds, movement, and expression. The dog’s innate ability to signal is easily lost or reinforced through life’s experience. If we study the signals dogs use with each other anduse them ourselves, we increase our ability to communicate with our dogs. Most noteworthy of all canine signals re the calming signals, which are used to maintain a healthy social hierarchy and resolution of conflict within the flock. These are skill which, when carried over to our own interactions with dogs, can be highly beneficial to our relationship. Dogs have the ability to calm themselves in the face of a shock (fearful or stressful situation) and to calm each other as well. As an exale let’s consider the manner in which dogs meet each other. Dogs which are worried in a social situation can communicate concepts such as, “I know you are the boss around here and I won’t make trouble”. Furthermore, the boss dog is very apt to want the worried dog to realize that no trouble is intetnded. “Don’t worry, I’m in charge around here and I mean you no harm”. Dogs that do not signal properly can be the cause of problems.”

Some of the commonest calming signals used by dogs, taken from Turid’s book, are as follows:

Sniffing the ground
Sniffing the ground is a frequently used signal. You often see it being offered in groups of puppies, and also when you are out walking your dog and someone unfamiliar comes towards you. In fact in any place where there is a lot of activity, noise or unusual objects. Sniffing the ground may be anything from moving the nose swiftly down toward the ground and back up again – to sticking the nose to the ground and sniff persistently for several minutes.
Is someone approaching you on the pavement? Take a look at your dog. Did he drop the nose down toward the ground, even slightly? Did he turn his side to the one approaching and sniff the side of the road?
Of course, dogs sniff a lot, also in order to ´read the newspaper´ and enjoy themselves. Dogs are pre-programmed to use their noses and it’s their favourite activity. However, sometimes it’s calming – it depends on the situation. So pay attention to when and in which situation the sniffing occur!

Walking slowly
High speed will be seen as threatening to many dogs, and they might want to go in to try and stop the one who is running. This is partly a hunting behaviour and is triggered by the sight of a running human or dog. If the one running is coming straight at the dog, it involves a threat and a defence mechanism sets in.
A dog who is insecure will move slowly. If you wish to make a dog feel safer, then you can move slower. When I see a dog react to me with a calming signal, I immediately respond by moving slower.
Is your dog coming very slowly when you call him? If so, check the tone of your voice – do you sound angry or strict? That may be enough for him to want to calm you down by walking slowly. Have you ever been angry with him when he came to you? Then this may be why he doesn’t trust you. Another reason to calm you may be if the dog is always put on a leash when coming when called. Take a look at your dog the next time you call him. Does he give you any calming signals when coming? If he moves slowly, you may need to do something different in the way you act.

“Freezing” – is what we call it when the dog is stopping while standing completely still, sitting or laying down and remain in that position. This behaviour is believed to have something to do with hunting behaviour – when the prey is running, the dog attacks. Once the prey stops, the dog will stop too. We can often see this when dogs are chasing cats. This behaviour, however, is used in several different situations. When you get angry and aggressive and appear threatening, the dog will often freeze and not move in order to make you be good again. Other times the dog may walk slowly, freeze, and then move slowly again. Many owners believe that they have very obedient dogs who are sitting, lying down or standing completely still. Perhaps they are actually using calming signals? Very often a dog will stop and remain calm when someone is approaching. If your dog wants to stop or move slowly in a situation like that, then let him. Also, should your dog be in a conflict situation with a human or dog, and is unable to escape, freezing may be one way to calm the other dog or person.

Sitting down/lifting one paw
I have only rarely seen dogs lift their paw as a calming signal, but on a few occasions it’s clearly been used to calm another dog.
To sit down, or an even stronger signal, to sit down with the back turned towards someone – for instance the owner – has a very calming effect. It’s often seen when one dog wants to calm another dog which is approaching too quickly. Dogs may sit down with their backs turned against the owner when he or she sounds too strict or angry.

Walking in curve
This signal is frequently used as a calming signal, and it is the main reason why dogs may react so strongly towards meeting dogs when they are forced to walk straight at someone. Their instincts tell them that it is wrong to approach someone like that – the owner says differently. The dog gets anxious and defensive. And we get a dog which is barking and lunging at other dogs, and eventually we have an aggressive dog.
Dogs, when given a chance, will walk in curves around each other. That’s what they do when they meet off leash and are free to do things their own way. Allow your dog to do the same when he’s with you.
Some dogs’ needs large curves, while others only need to walk slightly curved. Allow the dog to decide what feels right and safe for him, then, in time and if you want to, he can learn to pass other dogs closer.
Let the dog walk in a curve around a meeting dog! Don’t make him walk in a heel position while you’re going straight forward – give him a chance to walk in a curve past the meeting dog. If you keep the leash loose and let the dog decide, you will often see that the dog chooses to walk away instead of getting hysterical.
For the same the reason, don’t walk directly toward a dog, but walk up to it in a curve. The more anxious or aggressive the dog is, the wider you make the curve.

Other calming signals
By now you have learned about some of the more common calming signals. There are around 30 of them, and many have yet to be described. I will mention a few more briefly so that you can make further observations:
• “Smiling”, either by pulling the corners of the mouth up and back, or by showing the teeth as in a grin.
• Smacking the lips
• Wagging the tail – should a dog show signs of anxiety, calming or anything that clearly has little to do with happiness, the wagging of the tail isn’t an expression of happiness, but rather that the dog wants to calm you.
• Urinating on himself – A dog who is cowering and crawling toward his owner while wetting himself and waving his tail, is showing three clear signs of calming – and of fear.
• Wanting to get up into your face and lick the corners of your mouth.
• Making the face round and smooth with the ears close to the head in order to act like a puppy. (No one will harm a puppy, is what the dog believes)
• Lying down with the belly against the ground. This has nothing to do with submission – submission is when the dog lays down with the belly up. Lying down with the belly towards the ground is a calming signal.
• …and there are even more calming signals that are used in combination with others. For instance, a dog may urinate at the same time as he is turning his back to something. This is a clear sign of calming by for instance an annoying adolescent dog.
• Some dogs act like puppies, jumping around and act silly, throwing sticks around, etc. if they discover a fearful dog nearby. It’s supposed to have, and does have, a calming effect.

Meeting situations
A meeting situation between two strange dogs will almost never show signs of strong submission or what people refer to as dominant behaviour. A meeting situation between two dogs will usually be something like this:
King and Prince see each other at 150 meters range and are headed toward each other. They start sending each other message the moment they see each other. Prince stops and stands still (´freezes´), and King is walking slowly while he keeps glancing at the other dog through the corner of his eye.
As King gets closer, Prince starts licking his nose intensely, and he turns his side to King and starts sniffing the ground too. Now King is so close that he needs to be even more calming, so he starts walking in a curve and away from Prince – still slowly and now he is licking his nose too. Prince sits down, and looks away by turning his head far to one side.
By now the two dogs have ´read´ each other so well that they know whether they wish to go over and greet each other, or if this could get so intense that it is best to stay away from each other.

Never force dogs into meeting others
Allow the dogs to use their language in meeting situations so that they feel safe. Sometimes they will walk up to each other and get along, other times they feel that it’s safer to stay at a distance – after all, they have already read each other’s signals, they do so even at a several hundred meters distance – there’s no need to meet face to face.
In Canada, dog trainers who attended my lecture, came up with a new name of these calming signals: ´The Language of Peace”. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a language which is there to make sure that dogs have a way to avoid and solve conflicts and live together in a peaceful manner. And the dogs are experts at it.
Start observing and you will see for yourself. Most likely, you will get a much better relationship with your dog and other dogs, too, once you are beginning to realize what the dog is really telling you. It´s likely that you will understand things you earlier were unable to figure out. It is incredibly exciting, as well as educational.
Welcome to the world of the dog, and to knowledge of a whole new language!

Entire Article to be found at www.canis.no/rugaas/

Dangerous Dobermann OR Takkies Talk!

Children are truly wonderful at getting to the root of the matter. They seem to have a gift for hitting just the right note. Let me tell you a story regarding a friend of mine and her two small grandchildren. Toni and her family were very keen horse riders, and spent lots of time at the nearby stables, where the ones that could would ride, and those that couldn’t, would wander around happily patting the horses and feeding them titbits.

On this particular occasion, Toni had driven over to the stables to check on one of her own horses, and had taken her grandchildren along for the ride. The girls were twins of four years old, and are fairly precocious, being the youngest of a bunch of cousins.

On getting out of the car, an old Dobermann wandered out of the stables and came up to sniff the newcomers. This dog lived on the property and often used to accompany the out rides or sit on the sidelines watching various classes being taught. Now the twins were quite relaxed around animals the size of horses, but a Dobermann!!! No, that was just not on. They simply wouldn’t get out of the car whilst this “huge” animal was wandering around outside. So Toni got one of the grooms to temporarily shut the dog into one of the empty loose boxes. They were only going to walk over to one of the exercising rings, have a look at the horse and then go back to the car and leave, so it was no big deal to leave the dog in the stable for the half-an-hour or so that it would take.

Once the dog was safely out of the way, Toni and the twins started out to visit their horse. Now out of the car and relaxed, the twins immediately shot off like bullets in opposite directions, both screaming for the other to follow them. Quite used to all this racket, Toni proceeded on her way undeterred. Suddenly there was a commotion behind her, and Tessa turned to find the old Dobermann had somehow got out of the stable and was ambling up behind them. The twins were stricken! Knowing the dog was completely harmless, Tessa continued on her way, interested to see how the little girls would handle the situation. A little hand slipped in to hers, and looking up anxiously into her granny’s face, the smaller twin said “my takkies are feeling a bit lonely and would like to walk next to your takkies for a bit. Is that OK?”

Smothering a laugh, Toni asked the child if she was nervous of the dog. “Oh no!” she said. “It’s just that my shoes get lonely sometimes and need to walk next to bigger shoes”.

So that is the story of how a simple pair of children’s takkies can help a child save face when frightened.

Showing in the Breed Ring

Some years ago I imported a dog from Belgium, and was encouraged by the local club to enter him in breed shows. Having never been a great fan of beauty contests, I was somewhat hesitant to do this. However, I was assured that my puppy had the makings of a breed champion and that it would be a pity not to at least have him assessed under various judges. So I started showing in the breed arena.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this sport, it entails acquiring a dog which is registered with the country’s Kennel Union. One then enters a show (either open or championship) and arrives bright and early at the show grounds. After finding a suitable parking spot and setting up a chair to sit on as well as shade and water for the dog, you settle down in front of your ring for a long day. Rings are allocated according to the different sports dogs are bred for, so there is a ring for e.g. toys, working, herding, terriers, hounds, utility, etc. I have a Malinois (one of the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog), and so had to wait outside the Herding ring. The dogs are shown in alphabetical order, so Belgian Shepherds are preceded by other breeds like Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, Beauceron, etc. Dogs are shown separately from bitches, and for some reason the males go in to the ring first. Once your class is called, you enter the ring and the dog is checked for any disqualifying faults, such as an incorrect bite, missing teeth, eyes that are too light, incorrect coat colour, etc. Disqualifying faults vary between breeds. Once that has been ascertained, the dogs are run in a circle, triangle and straight line so that the judge can check to see whether the gait of the dog is correct for its particular breed.

As instructed by the regular attendees to these shows, I entered and my dog often won his class and sometimes the coveted Challenge Certificate and Best of Breed awards. I became more courageous and started travelling a little further to attend shows, as you need to win 5 Challenge Certificates under different judges for your dog to earn the title of Champion (Breed). I had already qualified dogs in various working disciplines, and thought it might be quite nice to have a breed champion as well. So I began to show my Malinois (his name was Danjo) more seriously.

As often happens, some of us handlers gravitated together and began to try and make the tedious waiting day a little more bearable. (it is not uncommon to arrive at the grounds at 07h00 and only leave again at 17h00, having only had two spells in the ring of about 2 minutes each). On one occasion, a friend and I agreed to meet at a show in Pietermaritzburg and spend the day together. My friend was even more of a rookie at this game than I was, and asked for some pointers on how best to show her dog, which was a Standard Schnauzer. Only too willing to show off my newly acquired knowledge, I told her that the most important part of showing was your grand entry into the ring. (a judge had told me a couple of weeks prior to this that most judges are influenced by their first impression, and a good entry into the ring is a good way to get the judge to take note of your dog from the outset).

This is quite difficult to explain, so I told my friend not to worry, just to watch how I (the Undisputed Expert of Grand Entry into The Ring) did it. So she stood there with bated breath and watched my class being called up. The three dogs in front of me trotted into the ring with tails pluming and handlers preening. Then it was my turn…….

Determined to put my new-found knowledge to good use, I gathered up the lead, called to my dog and charged into the ring. Unfortunately I forgot to check where the entrance gate was, and so instead ran straight into the boundary tape, tripped up and promptly fell flat on my face. My beautiful dog (no doubt horribly confused by this new mode of locomotion), leapt on to my back and sat on me. Gasps of horror from the onlookers! The judge ran forward to help me back on to my feet. Now thoroughly confused, Danjo decided that this man was the cause of all the disruption and tried his best to fend him off. Being a breed that is used to guard and defend his property (which includes owner), Danjo did this by lunging forward and trying to bite the judge, who very wisely leapt out of the way. As I still have a firm grip of the lead, the dogs’ charge was short lived. Once I’d regained my breath, I struggled to my feet (covered in mud as it had rained heavily the night before) and staggered back in to my place. The judge very kindly allowed by to compete (he could have excused me due to the dogs aggression). Needless to say, my dog was placed last.

Eventually the class ended and I was allowed to scurry out of the ring with my poor non-champion dog. My friend was still in her spot at the side of ring – her eyes were big and bright. “My word”, she said – “I see what you mean about making the judge take note of you! But I think I’ll just stick to the conventional way of competing, if you don’t mind.”