Writer's Blog

Creating Calm Behavior.

As if the daily stress weren’t bad enough, along comes Muttsy, creating more tension and stress because no matter what you do, he just won’t settle down. Calling Dr. Prozac! And owning a dog is supposed to lower your blood pressure, not raise it. Before you resort to drugs you should be aware that there are some things you can do that will have a calming effect on your dog without the use of pharmaceuticals. (As the name Natural Dog Training implies, we prefer to solve behavioral problems by restoring the dog to his natural state; our philosophy is that drugs should only be used if there is a definite physiological problem.) First of all, except when he’s asleep, a dog often attains

Using Praise as a Correction.

In the interest of building an easily-referenced library of dog training tips, here is another article previously posted on the Amazon blog. By the way, in reviewing this before posting it, I realize it may be one of the most profound things I’ve ever written about dogs. Enjoy! Doing Things Backwards? My Dalmatian Freddie and I were in Central Park one day when he was a little over a year old, and he found a discarded chicken breast near a park bench. What a treasure! As soon as he saw it, he ran over, took it in his mouth, then looked over at where I stood, about twenty yards away, and dug his paws in, getting ready to run off with it. At the time I had developed the idea that eve

Chasing Squirrels (2006).

To Chase or Not to Chase I mentioned in a previous post (Friday, June 6, 2008) the need to take charge of a dog’s emotional charge. You want to do this without attempting to become some mythical pack leader, of course. I’ve described this process in my work with Boomer, but another excellent example comes from my own dog, Fred, who used to love to chase squirrels in Central Park. Freddie had been traumatized by an incident on Second Avenue, when a business owner pulled down a gate right next to Freddie's head. He panicked, and ran across Second Avenue to safety. When a dog is in a panic you're not supposed to move toward him, but I wasn't about to leave Fred on the other side of the street

The Science Behind Why a Dog Loves to Be Called a “Good Boy.”

Who’s a Good Boy? Lauren Mackenzie Reynolds is a PhD Candidate in Neuroscience at McGill University in Montréal. In a 2018 she wrote an article for the Massive Science website where she suggests that dogs have a certain amount of linguistic abilities. “We talk to our dogs not only to praise them, but to ask them to perform actions, to identify objects…. And, for the most part, they seem to possess some level of understanding.” She also references a well-known border collie named Rico, who knew the names of all of his toys (something I wrote about sometime ago). She goes on to say that how dogs process human language is still unknown. In an October 17, 2018 blog post, Dr. Marc Bekoff wrote ab

Canine Emotions, Part 1.

There is no mental connection between a dog and its owner. What there is, is an emotional connection.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Drive Training

Which Training Approach Is Best? In certain training circles it’s widely believed that learning theory is the only truly scientific and, therefore, the only correct approach for training dogs. Is this true? Not exactly. To be fair, learning theory (also known as behavioral science or behavior analysis) is much more scientific than dominance theory, especially as it’s applied to dog training. There is plenty of scientific evidence showing that dogs and wolves form dominance hierarchies, but none showing that such hierarchies can cross species boundaries. Still, while dominance training is based mostly on fantasy, not science, positive training is not based on hard science. There are no underl

Can Dogs Really Be Jealous?

Was Darwin Wrong? No! (Originally Published on July 27, 2014.) A new study on dogs has been touted as proof that they can be jealous when their owners pay attention to another dog, even a make-believe, stuffed dog. The researchers are careful to say this is not the same thing as human jealousy, it’s more like a genetic pre-cursor. They begin by citing an earlier paper where dog owners were asked to recount specific cases of emotion, including jealousy in their dogs. That study found that “when the owners gave attention and affection to another person or animal, the dogs seemed to engage in attention-seeking behaviors (pushing against the owner or in between the owner and the rival, barki

Open Letter to New York City Dog Trainers

Can One Technique Solve All Behavioral Problems? I'd like to introduce you to a wonderful new training technique. It can help shy dogs become confident, turn aggressive dogs into love- muffins, eliminate fear, decrease unwanted barking, make dogs happier and more playful, increase obedience, and can even help with housebreaking issues. In fact, it does all that and a lot more. I must be joking, right? Nope. It's called "The Pushing Exercise" and here are just a few case histories: Ginger: I got an e-mail from a veteran dog trainer of 35 years who started out using “pack leader” methods but switched several years ago to an “all positive” approach. She wanted to know how to get her “sh

Treating PTSD With Natural Dog Training

Play vs. Prozac In a previous article here (“Canine PTSD: Its Causes, Signs & Treatment”) I wrote about the very real probability that millions of pet dogs in North America may have developed post-traumatic stress as a result of being mistreated, abused, lost or abandoned. This is particularly true of rescue dogs. Of course not all rescue dogs suffer from post-traumatic stress. And symptoms of trauma can be found in non-rescue dogs as well. However, it’s important to understand that, due to the release of certain neuro-chemicals in the brain, both during the initial traumatic event as well as in subsequent flashbacks, a dog can actually develop neurological damage similar to what’s seen in

Can Play Help Cure PTSD in Dogs?

Dogs Can Help Vets with PTSD. Can Play Help Dogs? Originally published in "My Puppy, My Self" at PsychologyToday.com on August 1, 2011. PTSD In Dogs In her recent blog post, "Why Dogs Heal PTSD," Tracy Stecker beautifully describes how the canine-human bond can help war veterans overcome PTSD and start getting back to normal. We usually think of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a condition primarily afflicting such veterans. But battered children and spouses can also exhibit symptoms. Victims of automobile accidents, natural disasters, and violent crimes can too. So can abused dogs. Nicholas Dodman, of Tufts University, says, "There is a condition in dogs which is almost prec

Is It Possible to Cure Canine PTSD?

Yes! Why Do Veterinary Behaviorists Believe That Canine PTSD Can’t Be Cured? The Dogs of War If you’re interested in understanding or learning more about Canine PTSD, there’s a wonderful film about post-traumatic stress in military dogs called The Dogs of War, produced and directed in 2013 by Kristen Kiraly. Kiraly was a student filmmaker at the time and she did a fabulous job. You should definitely take the time to watch it. [1] Two things stood out for me when I watched the film. The first is that the main dog profiled—a retired military detection dog named Bix—seemed to always be carrying a tennis ball around in his mouth. [2] According to his adoptive owner, this helped calm his ner

Case History No. 4—Oddy & Penny

Why do some dogs develop PTSD while others experiencing the same trauma don't? Originally published in slightly different form on December 20, 2012 at PsychologyToday.com. PTSD Develops in Different Ways in Different Dogs This is the 4th in a series of case histories of dogs I’ve worked with who may have suffered from PTSD, which statistics suggest may be much more common in pet dogs than it is in military dogs. This series of posts is meant to be a helpful diagnostic tool for veterinarians, shelter and rescue workers, as well as dog owners and dog trainers to hopefully prevent more cases of Canine PTSD from going undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. In the first case history (of my own

Case History No. 3—Noodles

Miniature Dachshund or Incredible Hulk? Originally published in "My Puppy, My Self" at PsychologyToday.com on October 3, 2012. “You wouldn’t like me when I'm mad.” — Bruce Banner Three Ways to Diagnose PTSD in Rescue Dogs This series of blog posts is intended to show the different ways that pet dogs can show symptoms of PTSD, and how to determine if your dog—or a dog you’re working with—might have the disorder. It’s also important to know that rescue dogs are probably more at risk for PTSD than military dogs. Another important piece of information is that the brains of patients with PTSD show a signature similar to those who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury. This means that PTSD carri

Canine PTSD:—Fancy the Boxer

Are Pet Dogs More at Risk for Developing PTSD? First published at PsychologyToday, August 29, 2012. Seeing the Forest and the Trees It has become clear in the past year or so that dogs can suffer from PTSD. Most of the media attention has been focused on U.S. military dogs who’ve suffered trauma during wartime deployment. However, military dogs are “a special breed.” They come from hardy stock, chosen for their working character. In training they’re tested to withstand the rigors of combat. It’s rare for a dog who’s afraid of loud noises or is unable to focus on his job under chaotic conditions to ever make it into battle. Bottom line: these are tough, well-trained dogs with nerves of ste

Canine PTSD: "Its Causes, Symptoms & Treatment."

Case History No. 1—My Dog Freddie Does PTSD Cause Brain Damage in Dogs? Originally published in "My Puppy, My Self" at PsychologyToday.com. “PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric disorders cause what is called ‘negative neuroplasticity,’ including activation of abnormal circuitry in the brain, and strengthening of those circuits over time. They also cause shrinkage … and decreased connectivity between parts of the brain.” —David J. Hellerstein, M.D. How Common Is PTSD in Pet Dogs? Post traumatic stress disorder is probably much more common in dogs than most dog owners and dog lovers realize. We tend to think that it’s only found in military service p

Fear, Force, Punishment & Corrections: Part 3, Force.

October 24, 2016 Why There’s No Such Thing as Force-Free Dog Training Are You Using Using Force? You’ve just come home from work. Your dog is happy to see you. You put the leash on and take him for a walk. You want to go to the bank, which is to your left, but your dog wants to go to the park, which is to the right. What do you do? If you take him to the bank, you’re using force. Granted, it's a very mild form of force, but it’s force nevertheless. Another example: you let your puppy out of her pen for some free time. You try to keep an eye on her but your attention wanders. And when you look back you see her chewing on some electrical cords. Do you let her continue chewing or do you pull he

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© 2016 by Lee Charles Kelley.