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Clearing the fog on dog dominance

21 Nov

Whole Dog Journal did a great job providing resources on this topic in Dec 2011 issue.  Link is here and text is copied below in case their link changes:

“Alpha” Dominance Theory

There is a growing body of information available to anyone who wants to learn more about why dominance theory is so outdated and incorrect. Here are 10 resources to get you started:

1) The American Society of Veterinary Animal Behaviorists Position Statement on Dominance: “The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory, and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it. ( )

2) The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Position Statement on Dominance:
“The APDT’s position is that physical or psychological intimidation hinders effective training and damages the relationship between humans and dogs. Dogs thrive in an environment that provides them with clear structure and communication regarding appropriate behaviors, and one in which their need for mental and physical stimulation is addressed. The APDT advocates training dogs with an emphasis on rewarding desired behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors using clear and consistent instructions and avoiding psychological and physical intimidation. Techniques that create a confrontational relationship between dogs and humans are outdated.” (

3) Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Kathy Sdao: “. . . Even if dogs did form linear packs, there’s no evidence to suggest that they perceive humans as part of their species-specific ranking. In general, humans lack the capability to even recognize, let alone replicate, the elegant subtleties of canine body language. So it’s hard to imagine that dogs could perceive us as pack members at all.” (

4) Dr. Patricia McConnell, PhD, ethologist: “People who argue that ethology supports ‘getting dominance over your dog’ are not only focused on an issue more relevant 50 years ago than today, they are misrepresenting the findings of early researchers on social hierarchy. Social hierarchies are complicated things that allow animals to live together and resolve conflicts without having to use force every time a conflict comes up.” (

5) Dr. Meghan Herron, DVM: “Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation such as alpha rolls [holding dogs on their back], do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses.” (

6) Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM: “. . . dogs jumping on people are not vying for higher rank; they are simply jumping because they want attention and they often get it by doing so. When dogs jump on counters to steal food . . . despite having been punished previously when you are present, they are using an alternate strategy for obtaining food and getting the chance to investigate . . . These unruly behaviors occur not because the animals are vying for rank but because the behaviors have been rewarded in the past.”

7) Study – University of Bristol: “Far from being helpful, the academics say, training approaches aimed at ‘dominance reduction’ vary from being worthless in treatment to being actually dangerous and likely to make behaviours worse.” (

8) The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson (1996, 2005, James and Kenneth Publishing): “The dominance panacea is so out of proportion that entire schools of training are based on the premise that if you can just exert adequate dominance over the dog, everything else will fall into place. Not only does it mean that incredible amounts of abuse are going to be perpetrated against any given dog, probably exacerbating problems like unreliable recalls and biting, but the real issues, like well-executed conditioning and the provision of an adequate environment, are going to go unaddressed, resulting in a still-untrained dog, perpetuating the pointless dominance program.”

9) Dominance in Dogs: Fact or Fiction, by Barry Eaton (2011, Dogwise Publishing): “…The alpha wolf is not the dictator of a pack, but a benevolent leader, and domestic dogs are not dictatorial and are unlikely to try to raise their status to rule over other dogs in a pack environment.”

“I believe it’s time to open our minds and consider the concept of pack rules as a thing of the past and recognize that dogs are not constantly trying to dominate their owners.”

10) Dominance Theory and Dogs, by James O’Heare (2008, 2nd edition, Dogwise Publishing): “…while the notion of social dominance holds potential for value in a social psychology and ethology context, it is an insidious idea with regards to explaining and changing behavior between companion dogs or dogs and people… it should be abandoned completely in that context in favor of a more efficient, effective and scientifically defensible behavioral approach.”

From an interview: “The most significant problem with viewing dog-human relationships in the context of social dominance is that it implies and promotes an adversarial relationship between the two. It sets up a win-lose scenario, that actually ends up in a lose-lose scenario (as most win-lose scenarios do). It is incompatible with cooperation by its very nature, cooperation being something you need to promote an effective bond and training environment.”


Aging a dog or cat by teeth

21 Nov

The Humane Society of the United States has a great guide for shelter and other professional to age an animal roughly, by their teeth.

PDF of teeth

On-line dog food

18 Jul

I live in a small town (8,000 people) and there used to be 2 pet stores. Now that one closed down the only place to get food is the Feed and Seed place. They carry some good foods but often do not have the kind I want or the right size bag.  Just found this website in Bark magazine called PetFlow.

I have not bought food on-line before as the shipping is insane.  But this site has free shipping over a certain price, they offer special codes for free shipping, and even if you end up paying for shipping it is only $6.

I just bought a big bag of food so I won’t need any for a month, but when I do I am going to give them a try. The right food and th right size bag, always, and right to my door.  It is worth a shot anyway. Anyone heard of them or tried them already?

Stress in animals with ESL

24 Apr

This website has a list is of great signs of stress in animals.  In case that website goes away, here is the info in list form:


Signs of Stress in Companion Animals

Long term care (LTC) settings can be stressful places for animals as well as people at times. It is important for staff and residents to learn to recognize the signs of stress which may be exhibited by animals living in their facility. Failure to recognize stress signals can affect the long-term physical and mental well being of both the animals and humans in this environment. Please note that some of the signs listed below may also be caused by health-related problems. Consultation with a veterinarian may be advised.

Signs of Stress in Dogs
  • Panting and salivating
  • Pacing
  • Shedding
  • Diarrhea/ bowel movements
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Licking the lips
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Trembling
  • Shaking (as if the animal were shaking off water)
  • Yawning
  • Whining, excessive vocalizing
  • Nipping
  • Growling when approached to be handled
  • Sweaty paws(leaving sweaty paw prints on the floor)
  • Increased or decreased activity
  • Excessive scratching or licking repeatedly
  • ‘Spacing out’ by turning away or avoiding eye contact
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding behind the handler
  • Hiding under furniture or behind nursing station; refusing to interact with residents/staff or voyage beyond nursing station area
Signs of Stress in Birds
  • Depression
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Excessive activity
  • Feather picking
  • Increased pecking
  • Increased elimination
  • Inactivity or sluggishness
  • Lack of desire to socialize
  • Abnormal vocalization
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Sitting at the bottom of the cage, listlessness
Signs of Stress in Cats
  • Restlessness, distraction, agitation
  • Listlessness, unusual passivity
  • Defensive vocalizations
  • Excessive shedding
  • Dilated pupils
  • Biting
  • Inappropriate urination/defecation
  • Clinging
  • Hiding and refusing to interact with humans or other animals
Signs of Stress in Rabbits
  • Eyes enlarge and show whites
  • Body tenses with tail up
  • Ears laid back tightly
  • Growling or squeaking
  • Rabbit pushes hand away
  • Lack of vitality or interest
  • Flinches when touched
  • Breathing becomes rapid
  • Biting animals
Causes of Stress in Animals
  • Unusual noises
  • Unknown places
  • Confusing or inconsistent training or handling
  • People exhibiting strange or unusual behavior
  • Unpredictable or rough handling
  • Unusual odors
  • Being crowded by people or other animals
  • A resident or staff member being nervous or acting in a strange way from the animals perspective
  • Extreme indoor and outdoor temperatures
  • Housing or resting area in an inappropriate place, not able to get adequate rest as a result
  • Requiring the animal to be up and active 24 hours a day to match the staff shifts of facility
  • Too many animals (whether the same or a different species) within the same general area causing crowded territory issues (How many is too many? The animals will tell you!)
  • Inadequate exercise or mental stimulation
  • Inadequate diet for species
  • Humans ‘anthropomorphizing’ animal behavior thus causing behavior problems
  • Inappropriate or excessive feeding of animals
  • Visiting animals from outside the facility coming into their territory

“Embrace quietness”

2 Apr



“Cultivate quietness in your speech, in your thoughts, in your emotions. Wait for attention and then your words will be charged with dynamite.”
~Elbert Hubbard



Stuffed eyeballs

2 Apr

So Brodhi has had this stuffed toy for probably over 4 years- it is a shaggy yellow ball with sewn on eyeballs- like a little monster. Luna has been getting more and more confident and starting to play with toys around the house. I got her very excited about this toy the other day and she ripped it’s eyeballs off.

I considered it a victory because she has been so contained with play and in that moment she just let it go in her play bliss. I wouldn’t mind buying some new toys either. So the eyeballs fly off and she keep playing the the shaggy ball. Brodhi comes over because he notices that all of a sudden we have a new toy in the house. I let him pick up the eyeballs and he plays with them softly and gently in the way that Brodhi does for probably 5-10 minutes.

I love both of them- they have very different personalities and they make me laugh every day. I threw away the eyeballs of course as they are not really a safe dog toy, but I did keep the ball.  Now it is just a shaggy faceless monster.

The Diamond

18 Dec

I want to share with you an Indian parable:   A long time ago, a sannyasi (wise man) reached the outskirts of the village and settled down to sleep for the night under a comfortable tree.

A man approached him said “The stone!  You must be the one with the stone! Please give me the precious stone!”

“What stone?” replied the sannyasi. 

The man said, “Last night the Lord appeared to me in a dream and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a man under a tree who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich for the rest of my life”.

The sannyasi rummaged through his bag and pulled out a stone. “Well he probably meant this one that I just found a few days ago” he said, as he handed over a very large diamond to the man. “You can have it”.

The man gazed at the uncut diamond in wonder. It was the biggest diamond he had ever seen and needed two hands just to hold it. He took the diamond under his coat and ran home with it.

All night he tossed around in his bed, unable to sleep.

At the crack of dawn he could not take it any longer, and placed his long coat on to go find the sannyasi again. As he woke up the wise man under the tree he said, “Please share with me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.”

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