Coconino Humane Association [Flagstaff, Arizona]

Coconino Humane Association [Flagstaff, Arizona]

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Coconino Humane Association [Flagstaff, Arizona]

Coconino Humane Association
3501 East Butler Ave.
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
928-526-1076

 
 
 

Behavior Bites
Tips on Animal Behavior from Karen London, PhD

 

Choosing a Dog: Guidelines for Success
Karen B. London, Ph.D., CAAB, CPDT

Picking a dog is a big job. When you adopt a dog, you are choosing an individual to come into your home and to join your family. If you get along great, the transition is smooth, and the relationship develops well, years of happiness and love result. If a dog doesn't turn out to be such a good match for you, frustration and regret may be in your future. With such high stakes, it makes sense to do everything you can to make the best choice possible. Making a good choice is easier if you follow a few basic guidelines for adopting a dog.

Choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. If you never even get around to brushing your own hair, don't choose a dog who requires daily grooming. If you take daily runs, an active dog may be great for you, but don't choose a young energetic dog with the hope that you will then become an exercise fanatic and finally lose some weight. If you love a lot of physical contact, choose a loving, cuddly dog rather than one who tends to be more aloof.

Pick a dog that is right for your living situation. There are so many ways to go wrong in this way. People tend to be concerned about getting a big dog if they live in an apartment, but energy level may be more important than size. A large, calm, older dog may do far better in limited space than a small dog who wants to run around for most of the day and has a hard time settling down. Beware of getting a dog who was bred to bark at the sight of intruders if you live where the windows face a bike or walking trail or the local school yard. Your neighbors won't appreciate it, and after a while, neither will you.

Choose a dog that is the right age for you. If you really want a puppy, this means that you are ready and willing to deal with some accidents in the house, some serious lack of sleep for at least a few months, some adolescent behavior such as chewing and perhaps temporary inattentiveness, and some unknowns about your puppy's eventual size and behavior. Getting an adult dog will let you bypass some of these stages and some of the unknowns involved in getting a young animal. Getting a puppy is a fine thing to do if you are doing it for the right reasons rather than just because puppies are so insanely cute.

Choose a dog who is social. Make sure you don't confuse overly aroused behavior for social behavior. A dog that is leaping up on you, spinning in circles, and barking frantically is not necessarily friendly, just energetic.

Choosing a dog is best done after giving some serious thought to what you want in a dog. Consider exercise requirements, mental activity requirements, and grooming requirements before selecting a dog. The more you think about what kind of dog you want ahead of time, the more likely you are to make a good choice that will lead to happiness for all.

This planning ahead and thoughtful consideration of what you want means that you should not get a dog on a whim, or get two dogs when you planned on only getting one. Refrain from choosing a dog just because you feel sorry for the dog. It is unwise to choose a dog just because of what the dog looks like. For example, many people choose a dog for reasons as frivolous as the dog having a black eye patch which makes the dog look like a favorite childhood dog. This is not a reliable way to successfully pick a companion for life.

The thoughtful consideration and planning you put in ahead of time will serve you well as you add a canine member to your family. Best of luck in choosing a dog who is just right for you and who brings love and joy to your family for many years.


"The Six Things Everyone Should Know
About Dog Training and Behavior"
by Karen B. London, Ph.D.

1. Anyone can learn the nearly lost art of dog training. An important component of success is understanding canine ethology, which is the natural behavior of dogs. For example, it helps to know that moving away from a dog is likely to make a dog follow you whereas walking towards a dog may make that dog run away from you. That can be very helpful when working on a reliable recall. Another example is that if your dog is jumping up on you, pushing him away with your hands may make things worse, not better. For dogs, batting at another individual with your forelimbs (paws or hands) is a signal that you want to play. That's why so many dogs get even more excited and jumpy when their owners try to push them away after the first jump.

2. Dog training takes practice. One of the best clients I ever had was not naturally a truly gifted dog trainer with a Dr. Doolittle-esqe way with the animals. She was a dance teacher who understood, like few people do, that any new skill takes practice and lots of it. She practiced her timing, her movements, and the way to use her voice a little every day, focusing on one aspect of her skills at a time. She was patient with herself and her dog, not expecting miracles, but celebrating each bit of progress as the success that it was. Over time, she became an excellent trainer, well rewarded for her diligence.

3. There are many intermediate steps in all parts of dog training. For example, calling your dog to come when you are at the front door holding his leash and a dog biscuit is step one. Calling your dog to come when he is chasing a deer is step 100. A common mistake is working really hard at steps one through five such that your dog can come anywhere in the house or yard when nothing else is going on, and then assuming your dog knows what come means well enough to do it at step 85, when the a visitor is entering your house holding hamburgers for the barbecue. Skipping steps is a recipe for failure, and the best dog trainers work methodically step by step, which sets the dog (and human!) up for success.

4. The relationship between the dog and the human is critical for successful dog training. Of course, there are some well-trained dogs without great relationships with their humans, but these are the exceptions. If you want your dog to respond to any cues, commands, or requests that you give, developing a strong relationship with her will serve you well. How do you develop a good relationship? Kindness, fairness, and fun are the keys. Be affectionate and loving with your dog, not letting your temper get the best of you. Let your dog know what you expect and be consistent in your responses to both her best and worst behavior so she can learn the rules and follow them. Share activities with your dog every day, including training, play, and going on outdoor adventures.

5. Every dog is different and needs to be treated as such. Dogs have different likes, dislikes, and personalities, which means that training needs to be customized for each dog. Many dogs love to work for food, whereas others like to work for toys and chances to play. Some dogs like to do the same task over and over, and some dogs do best with more variety in their training routine. There are dogs who respond well to loud noises when they are learning not to go up onto the counters or into the nursery, and dogs who panic or wilt in response to even moderate noises. Individualizing your training program may mean using bits and pieces of advice from many different trainers. It also means keeping in mind that nobody knows your dog as well as you do, and your decisions about what's right for your dog are inherently valuable.

6. Behavior problems should not be blamed on their owners. Sure, we can all probably do a little better in the area of raising polite canine citizens and teaching our dogs the very best social skills. However, so many serious behavioral problems have a genetic component to them, including separation anxiety, fearfulness (including aggression that stems for fear), and the tendency to be reactive and easily aroused. It is not fair to assume that people caused their dogs to have behavior problems, and until that truth is grasped by more people, we will continue to have people feeling too ashamed of their dog to seek the help that they need and deserve.


Karen London, PhD

Karen London is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and also a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems, including aggression, in dogs. Karen was trained by Dr. Patricia McConnell at Dog’s Best Friend, LtD., and worked there for four years as a Behavioralist and Trainer. She then worked as a Certified Applied Animal Behavioralist and taught training classes at the Upper Valley Humane Society in New Hampshire. Karen is the author (with Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.) of "Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Aggressive Dog," "Feeling Outnumbered: How to Manage and Enjoy your Multi-Dog Household," and "Way to Go! How to House Train a Dog of Any Age." She is currently a columnist for the BARk Magazine, has served for three years on the Animal Behavior Society’s Board of Professional Certification, and is busy writing her next book (also to be co-authored with Patricia B. McConnell), which will be on canine play.

 

Dog training has so many variables that any questions about it can be answered with the phrase, "It depends!"

 

Coconino Humane Association [Flagstaff, Arizona]

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