What I would call cognitive skills,a lot of people would call tricks. I’ve seen just how valuable these can be. Especially as a conversation starter with dogs that have never experienced being noticed, let alone someone wanting to interact in conversation, back and fourth as learning partners.
What I would call cognitive skills,a lot of people would call tricks. I’ve seen just how valuable these can be. Especially as a conversation starter with dogs that have never experienced being noticed, let alone someone wanting to interact in conversation, back and fourth as learning partners.
Having fostered and taken in dogs for homing over the years, one of the most valuable training Routes, to start the learning process of learning to learn, is the light bulb moments that can happen when learning a cognitive skill, or trick if that’s what you wish to call it.
I have no issues with the name, I just use “cognitive skills” because I’ve seen the cognitive value of starting to think things through, and make connections. I love to see that moment when the cogs first start turning.
Its no good just taking on a dog that’s never had any one bother in the past and expect to “train” just like any one that has never been fortunate enough to have a good teacher, the first step has to be “teach me how to learn” “show me how to enjoy learning” keep it simple, keep it fun. Learners remember the things that made them laugh, they don’t forget the things that made them shrink either.
Always amazes me, how many people are focused on one dog sport/interest or another take the attitude that any dog sport or interest that is not theirs is pointless, or less valuable. I try hard to give the dogs I have lived with (permanent or long stay) what they need as individuals.
My past dog sport meant weekends, some times a week at a time camped up at agility shows, before completely flipping to HTM and freestyle. Among the many friends in these sports, are those that are also into scent work, man trailing, obedience, working trials, search and rescue, gun dogs, canicross and more.
Many of these friends have also found the value in cognitive skill training too, often useful in freestyle as part of story telling.
Why is this still a taboo area? I still have conversations with folk who seem to think time spent on these skills is time wasted. Could this be just an “I hate trifle, although I’ve never tried it” “Its for children’s parties isn’t it”? A status thing? “I work proper dogs in proper dog folk land” (maybe they never had a firm trifle with a crunchy brandy soaked base)
Or is this because people see cognitive skill training as associated with the old style circus training? Animals being used like performing puppets, over and over, night after night. So don’t get to see the value of how these skills taught and used properly can have a real impact on the individuals learning.
I’m not talking dogs balancing on their front legs or doing back flips, yes I’d call that circus too. No thought for the possible injury or unseen but long term joint damage.
Just simple basic tasks like learning to go round something, nose or paw target a mat or disk, if they pick things up then put things in a bowl, paws up on a box, travel to a station, such as a platform, put two paws in a pot. Once you start the conversation they start to take interest in what else you may have to say. So why is this still such a taboo area for some? Regarded as “not proper training”
Teaching cognitive skills can be just as important in helping canine cognitive development, as they are to children who gain so much from family board games, construction games, and jigsaw puzzles. These games help them to think, understand, problem solve and it helps with learning to communicate and bonding.
Similarly word search, card games, bingo, crosswords and jigsaws, help to improve/retain memory by keeping the elderly brain fit and active. Simple tasks can also keep the ageing canine in the loop as well as adding value and purpose to their days.
So why are trainers that teach these skills ridiculed?
Short video below of clips taken of one of my longer term fosters, I used a little old flip share camera so I couldn’t fit all of this dog in. When he was given over to me for homing, he had never been in a house and had lived in a compound on an industrial estate for some time.
He discovered tennis balls and was quite obsessed with them, tennis balls are not what I would consider safe for large dogs, they can get stuck in the throat, and lives have been lost through choking. He never held the ball at the back of his mouth, more towards the front teeth. So this was a perfect tennis ball fix for him, and the start of our conversations, this game helped learning happen for him. Others that have been shorter stay and not interested in picking up I’ve found paw and or nose targets that are so simple to train have been the conversation starter.
We started (he and I) as I do with them all, with a washing up bowl, a tennis ball, a clicker and a pot of chopped up cheese (his favourite) and then progressively smaller receptacles, never thinking this big bouncy boy would ever master the precision of placing a ball in a plastic wine glass, having started out with no training experience at all. He was homed soon after we reached this stage. He had became a live in house dog, with many skills under his belt. It was the very early stages of this ball in a wine glass game (ball in a bowl) that was the start for him of learning two way communication. https://youtu.be/aiBGvGxebJw
Not circus tricks, and no more nonsense than the many skills a child can gain by joining in family board games or playing snap with granddad.
These are not just a waste of time either. There are life skills in there. Two way communication, that’s probably the most important one. The skill of observation from both sides, and working as a team are just a few of the skills to be gained.
How hard it is to travel through life with out being able to communicate with others, two legs or four. Cognitive skills practice/training, Just a waste of time? I DON’T THINK SO. ***** My posts are from the experiences I’ve had and observation. Animal teachers that have made me dig deeper and question. They’re not meant as any kind of instruction.
I’m Always happy to guide people to good teachers.
So much information out there, never just one way. If its kind, fair and it suits the individual character in front of you, and you’re bothenjoying the process, then your on the right track.
Over many years I’ve lived and worked with many dogs, from easy over friendly with every one and anything living, nervous worriers, part feral, and reactive/trigger stackers, my Flippin Eck being one of those, sometimes getting herself stacked up by the environment, bikes, strange dogs, or strange people. Of course there are many situations where dogs need to be on lead, for safety or being the rules of a venue. These are the situation where dogs that get triggered feel more insecure, their not in control, the old fight flight option has been taken from them.
These dogs can very often settle on social walks with the right set of dogs all travelling in the same direction wide paths dogs gradually let of lead as they settle or you may find introduced carefully they may enjoy the company of a walking companion after some amount of parallel walking before off lead on a neutral walk, handlers walking on focus forward to start and not walking in. Some dogs build friendships this way, but they don’t have to no more than we do.
I have walked Eck with groups of from 6 to 25 dogs. I choose the right walks for her to feel safe, wide paths, if there’s forestry either side all the better there’s outside interest on each side, dogs aren’t so likely to be focused on each other. I’m not saying its necessary for them to walk with other dogs to have a good life, what I am saying is they may sound off especially on lead but they are not bad dogs, she has certainly enjoyed these walks. Big BUT on our walk we have been lucky enough to have been part of a group of dog aware people and an established group of dogs and handlers, so no crowding, no handing out food, no focusing on or interfering with natural dog interactions, no one dog getting toys thrown, dogs moving through the countryside enjoying each other the mud, water, squirrels, nature and the chasing each other or just the leaves through the woods.
Eck got to know Ozzy the Doberman in the video as a youngster, she is about 7/8 months younger than him he’s a super temperament. Eck had not seen him for possibly 18 months to two years until this walk once bonded how ever long the gap, they feel at home with old friends, just like we do.
Little things you notice that give the game away on who lives under the mask, as they all come up from the water and move along, Eck’s first move is close to my right hand side under cover to assess the way ahead, as it happened a couple of the others turned back just to check on there handlers, no problem but interesting to see they all took the straight line ahead after coming up from the river
Eck was the only one to head to the right and under my arm, the others taking the straightest route forward. Admittedly I stuck out like a sore thumb in bright pink, hardly country colours, just happened to look like rain when we started out and it was the only light weight shower proof jacket I had in the van left in from a charity walk.
Reactive/trigger happy dogs have different hats. Different situations spark different reactions. If one of these same dogs that Eck is running with, was seen across a field or walking up ahead towards her on a path, on a different day, the initial response would be high alert, stepping up the first two stacking steps just on sight. Once there is recognition they come down one step, its not as simple as well they just need to walk with more dogs then, what has to be thought about in this situation is the body language and pheromones of the other dog, who has there paws on the ground floor on approach, and is giving out vibes of recognition “we’re on the same team mate” “I know you’re OK” “I know you, needn’t get ya knickers in a twist” Who knows what communication is going on, but I think it’s something to consider.
I think there are different types of reactivity, some could be linked up to different life stages.
1) youngsters, adolescence the spooky teens, that’s a different situation, had a few of those for re homing in the past, already labelled aggressive, usually they have been between 7 months and 16 sometimes 20 months, and mild forms in some in old age, probably linked to dementia, or changes in hearing and sight, nerves can play a part here too, just as they do with elderly people.
2) Different states maybe caused through trauma or related to a life experience.
3) Genetic predisposition, live on their wits high inbuilt survival.
Getting triggered Eck’s had me on the floor on a few occasions in the past, once at the sight of the back end of a dog walking away, so a reaction to a dogs bum, took the skin off my knees (a gravel car park) and then repeated the whole process before my scabby knees had had time to heal Her legs used to shoot out side ways like stabilisers, it was them that sent you flying, as she appeared to grow five inches, hair on end from the occiput to the top two inches of her tail, a look any hedgehog would be proud of.
I’ve worked with her and others in the past, away from any distraction at first teaching the cue “turn” as I turned in a 1/2 circle food on the nose and reward/reinforce, working from both sides. Then when we’ve reached the point of giving the cue “turn” and their turning already, good response, I change to some times reward/reinforce, just on the start of the turn, some times on a full circle, some times a 1/2 turn.
Out in the world, events bite you on the bum, the unexpected happens, and dogs that get triggered like my Eck, and others, can go over thresh hold in seconds and so are potential fast stackers (supermarket heroes) . I think that the more background training and associations we can build to help them tackle the world the better, that doesn’t mean they can always listen of course, it depends on how triggered they are on any given occasion, their emotional state, how much stacking has already started. With dogs that have been given good grounding, you stand a far better chance of redirecting them when there is a potential storm up ahead.
I then use the turn when I need to move my dog to a comfortable distance from a trigger, or to turn and go in the opposite direction, where I can’t move out a good distance from an oncoming dog, I may then turn and walk slower in the opposite direction, depending on state/height of arousal, to avoid walking in face to face and the inevitable stacking up to bursting point. This allows the other dog to catch up (assuming its minding its own business, and its just my dog that’s getting it’s knickers in a twist) and at the point of arriving we’ll turn again and walk on briskly in our original direction, the brisk movement walking on forward helps to bring them down again too.
In different situations, wide path for instance, where I’ve been able to move off the path for others to pass, I have on occasions met some nice people seeing I’m working with my dog to help her deal with their dogs passing, I’ve had a few lovely calming for the dogs conversations.
Once past I’ve called a thank you if they have taken the trouble to put their dogs on lead and give us as wide a berth as possible, and in these situations where we have stood a distance and talked, the dogs have then settled in each others company, albeit a good distance apart, and you can see them come down in height as they relax and realise there is no threat to them, picking up a link from our conversation that says, friend not foe, your not under threat.
However on the ball you are, proactive, eyes in the back of your head, life bites you on the bum when you least expect it, however disappointed, embarrassed, or any other feelings we may have when that happens, our dogs are not out to make us feel that way, their reaction in that moment is genuine, they are responding to their natural survival instincts.
Some of these dogs would no doubt survive if they lived in the natural world and had to live on their wits as their ancestors did.
One thing that every one needs to be conscious about, is that nobody is inadvertently cueing their dog to trigger up, tight leads, stiffening up when the handler has a visual on a potential issue, if in doubt just move away, even if that means crossing the road or going through a gate, your just looking out for your dog.
There may be many reasons why some dogs are more reactive/triggered. Don’t we just love to have a reason. Children that are nurtured in very stable families are not all identical, we accept that as brothers and sisters one may be shy, one maybe a handful parents cant take their eyes off for a minute, the confidence of superman, one may need lots of support and encouragement, no belief in themselves.
Our dogs are who they are too, living in our modern world is not necessarily easy for them.
Why do so many dogs now have issues, and why has becoming a behaviour consultant become so popular/lucrative In years gone by, latch key dogs were not as issue, dogs often met their owners coming home from work or even went with them and came back with them. I’m talking years back my parents & grandparents younger years. I heard many stories of dogs seen waiting outside factory gates and round the dock yards waiting for their person to finish work.
Looking back, in my life time (granted I’m pretty ancient) I remember you couldn’t walk to the park or a shop without meeting loose, local, laid back, well balanced dogs on the way, they were as much part of the local community as any one. Pups would have learned their social skills, from these natural teachers that spoke the same language, with daily practice once old enough to be taken out.
When I look back now I think my mother was quite responsible at a time when it was the norm for dogs to have a lot of freedom, our dog was always accompanied, but still met and interacted with other dogs in lots of space with lots of freedom.
It was safer then the roads were quiet, that way of life couldn’t happen now, I can still remember one of the local dogs, a large brindle mixture, loved to lay in the sun in the middle of the road in the summer, cars would drive carefully round him.
Things have changed so much, as things always will, some for the good but some not so good, we live in a world that has become very anti dog. The transition through those years has seen a change to puppy socialising classes in halls, without those well laid back, well balanced, natural teachers that speak dog lingo.
Modern day trainers often preach theory without ever having seen the other side and the changes that have passed down the line.
There’s a lot of miss information past down too. Something that bugs me that has been drummed into new trainers is how hard and heavy handed trainers used to be, before the launch of the clicker, in the UK that was the mid 90s, I found early use of the clicker for which I owe thanks to Kay Laurence. Much has changed and moved forwards again since the early clicker training days.
This miss information I believe came about through the obedience world, the word obedience makes you cringe. This was pretty much the main competitive sport along with working trials, very much military style training, ridged and harsh handling often the norm in obedience and working trail training, and seen because these were the sports on show. Even the style of teaching was to ridicule and send handlers off in tears, really!
BUT that is not how everyone trained, it is not how everyone treated animals in there care. In all my years working with animals I can honestly say people I have worked for and with, with horses and dogs, and the circle of friends over those years have put their animals welfare first, cruel or harsh treatment would not be tolerated. A video of training using games from the 1940’s. No games are not new, things turn full circle don’t they, then they’re brought out as if just invented.
Just as dogs have evolved from their ancestors over hundreds of years, I think these many years of changes has to have had some effect on them as a species. Even comparing the appearance of breeds now and the same breeds 50/100 years back, some bare little resemblance. Just as we now have many issues with obesity and people who are now either not capable, or can’t muster the energy for physical work when it needs doing, the do as little as you can, for as much as you can get attitude that’s become the norm.
What will it be like in 50/60 years from now I wonder? I’ll look down from my cloud to see if any lessons have been learned or will there even be dogs in peoples lives?
Weak internet has meant gradual update of missing paragraphs.
I have a daughter who trained as a vet nurse, and a groomer and for many years now has been attached to a kennel in Newport Shropshire, and a son who is a mechanic and class 1 HGV driver, phone calls usually include dogs, cats and vets, engine changes and conversions, motorway driving and overnight locations.
I’ve been around animals all my life. As a young child I lived in Middlesex, our family dog was a Lab X Retriever called Kim, very much a family member, I could tell him anything, that dog knew more that went on in my life than any one else ever will.
We had rabbits and tortoises and in the junior school holidays, we fostered the schools small animals.
The bottom of our garden was animal safe, the rabbits and tortoises had their own houses but could go in and out as they liked, at the top of the garden, we had an aviary of budgies, budgies in the house too.
My elder sisters first job was with the PDSA, which meant various small animals and birds would come home for fostering until ready for release. It was not unusual to find chicks in the bath and hedgehogs in boxes when you went in the loo. I remember a young seagull taking over the bathroom too, broken wing I think.
As a child I was painfully shy and didn’t speak away from home unless I absolutely had to.
I remember my mother being asked to visit the junior school to have a meeting with the head mistress, evidently I was being watched from the staff room window at play times.
The day after my mothers visit, there was a teacher to class talk first thing in the morning. First question, did anyone know why Iris Thomas (as I was then) hid round a corner at play time and didn’t play with every one else. In junior school they all seemed to run around screaming and shouting. I was about 8 or 9 years old and sat in the middle of that classroom, why not just dig the hole for me.
Anyway the outcome of Mrs Knowles head teachers meeting with my mother, meant I was given the schools small animals to look after.
A line of outdoor cages along the wall of an old air raid shelter, banks of grass up three sides and a grass roof, but otherwise a sturdy brick building where the animal feed and bedding was kept, play time heaven.
One thing was always sure, when I got home, I could always put my arm round Kim and talk to him.
In the months before we moved on to senior school our cat Felix left us an abscess from a bite on his head that had pushed inwards instead of outwards, then came the news that we were going to move, an aunt had our tortoises and last rabbit Harvey, we lost Kim, my whole world went with him. No one I could tell my secrets to and know they wouldn’t judge me.
Horses and dogs were my passion, I rode at weekends while at junior school and from about 10 years old, my parents would drive myself and two friends that rode at the same stables to Woldingham in Surrey, where we would spend the weekends and school holidays staying in a caravan, working at the stables in return for lessons.
At 14 I won a scholarship to train at a stables in Alconbury Hill in Huntingdonshire. Luckily there was only riding and handling involved in the interview/trials, anything written or read was pretty much out of the question for me at that time. I’m so glad the world has moved in understanding more about learning and more teachers are adapting methods to help the individual learner, without ridicule and abuse.
Now there is even recognition that dogs as best friend listeners can help kids learn to read, non judgemental and the kids and dogs can both feel valued.
My brother had no problems with school, my sister was at the top of the grammar school system, while I was at the bottom of the lowest grade at the local secondary modern, as long as you were quiet and kept your head down you got left alone.
It was only through my passion for horses and dogs, and the desire to learn more about them that I eventually muddled my own way through. I had a good friend Brenda that filled in forms and wrote essential letters in the early years of work.
I only stayed in Alconbury Hill for a few months, I was 15 and would not be not have been old enough to take the BHS exams for at least a couple of couple of years.
I spent the next 10 years living, training and working at the stables where I’d spent school weekends and holidays. 6 years in Woldingham then moved to Crawley Down for the last 4 years, with the same yard. I think we all loved dressage, I was never interested in show jumping.
I was given a horse, a 4 years old part bred Arab, Double Diamond, (Sox) while I was in Woldingham, by one of the livery owners, he was turned out in their own fields. Before they moved to our yard with his brother who they were riding. Sox had been broken and backed as the term goes at another yard, then turned away to mature, he had a tendency to rear, and had come over backwards a few times with the owner and she had lost confidence in him.
I started from the beginning with him no problem, he just had a very soft mouth. One hell of a buck when spooked, not much eye brow left even now after face surfing along a cinder track one summer.
I had my first own dog that was my best mate when I was 15 too, an OES bitch, suggestion of names were many, like Shep and Lassie, wasn’t having any of that being a teenager, I called her Captain Pugwash which got shortened to Puggy, in Woldingham we lived in a tiny caravan in a field.
During the day she was one of many dogs. There always seemed to be wafes and strays finding their way there too. The permanent residence were GSD, Boxer, Lab X, Beagles, American pocket Beagles, good old fashioned mongrels and my Puggy, who would sneak off hunting with the beagles but once she hit the property boundary at the top of a 52 acre field she came back as they gave tongue.
Could fill pages with detail but easier to fill another page or the end of this post with photos as I find them.
I can say hand on heart that when it came to the the animals, horses, dogs and cats their welfare came first, they were well cared for, and rough treatment by any livery would not be tolerated.
I still have a contact with Sylvia who owned the yards in Woldingham, and Crawley Down, also with Brenda that wrote my letters and filled in any forms.
Then I moved to the Rodanieh Arabian stud for the next 6 years in Colegate, Black Hill Stud, with my 4 legged crew. In the first year I was given a Anglo Arab mare, Rodanieh Maddalena, (Maddie.) Because they didn’t have the Mothers paperwork, a thoroughbred mare out of racing, Maddie was registered part bred, although an Anglo by breeding (Arab x Thoroughbred)
Maddie was 2.1/2 but from a foal they did not know where her future was heading or if there was a future. She was teeth and feet, and her box had to have the top door shut when visitors came to the stud. Maddie split a strong wooden door on one occasion flying out to get a passer by, how she didn’t do herself an injury I’ll never know, she had a bar across the top of the door too.
We backed her at 3.1/2 and once under saddle she was a different horse, there was no turning her away for a year, that’s very young, but because of the temperament it was keep it light but keep it going.
The Soanes would have been broken hearted, but an alternative had been considered if she and I couldn’t work it out as a ridden partnership. We did bond but even then I wouldn’t have walked out in an open field with her, there were strategies for bringing her in, she always wore a head collar with short rope attached, a feed scoop with horse & pony nuts to entice her to the fence, head over, heart in mouth but once you were attached to her she was fine.
The Soanse’s had a GSDs and were well known for their Rodanieh Shelties, Edna had made up many champions over the years. Edna had the “Dog World” that featured her Shelties and I had “Our Dogs” that gave more coverage to my OES, so there was a weekly swap of dog papers too. We both had the “Horse and Hound” of course.
While I was lucky enough to ride at all the major shows, my love was dressage, many of the Arabian classes at the bigger county shows were week days, most dressage competitions at weekends, the stud belonged to John and Edna Soanes, and John also had an interest in dressage, couldn’t have worked out better.
Then I freelanced for a couple of years. I had cottage on the property of a pop star of the past and his wife who had been a known professional dancer. We knew each other through a dressage trainer we shared, I looked after their horses, great facilities big indoor school acres of land and I still rode at the major shows for the Rodanieh Arabian stud. I also had a house full of hairies, they had Afghans and a king Charles.
I was also given another young horse while I was with them, a youngster with no issues, other than a big buck just for the hell of it when the wind got under his tail, a bit like a young dog having a hooley. Brown Sugar, (Demie)
Your never going to leave your involvement with horses when you have been so involved, but life changes.
I’ve found block off and move on the best way to go, dogs have always been there but just recently horse talk has raised its head again that was a big chunk of life there.
Over many years I have had many four legged friends that have taught me so much, more than any teacher could. They got me reading and writing where teachers failed. And to this day I’m so grateful to Kim, the Lab Retriever that was there for me.
I can list certificates and accreditation but quite frankly I don’t think they are worth the paper they are written on any more, many accreditation now are kept, providing the yearly fee is paid, saved a fortune once I gave that up, and life moves on so does research you have to move on with it.
I have taught for Mid Wales in the past and ran my own Scruff Pots School for Smart Dogs. I have a big interest in dogs that are nervous or get triggered, most of these issues are lack of confidence.
To be honest, in writing this I’m wondering if that interest has come about as a kind of giving back to Kim for being there for me, Sox and Maddie for their individual take on the world that taught me so much.
I’m a groomer, trained first in Westerham Kent when I was with horses, dogs kept being put my way to sort out their knotty problems. It was thought because I had and showed full coated OES, that I could do magic on any neglected coat. Some years later I also trained at the London International School of Canine Beauticians, as it was then.
I’ve competed for years in agility, was running 4 dogs at one time, so 12 to 16 runs each day, knew I should have given up pastries when I come out of agility. My husband Bill made agility equipment, we had eight sets at one time for hire to shows.
Started competing in HTM in 2007, could only get to a couple of HTM shows a year, would have started earlier as I loved the HTM and Freestyle training as did my dogs. Dogs mixed with music what could be better, I had dogs and one in particular Boogie that just lived for agility.
Boogie carved an extra special place in my heart. I picked him up from a farm about 15 miles away, he was going to a rescue Manchester way he was about 7 months old. The bitch had had him up in the mountain, they knew she had had the pups but couldn’t find them, eventually found dead pups. The bitch was working but getting skinny and still disappearing off.
Eventually they found her with one pup by this time toddling around. It was one of these farms that is just out buildings and barns in the middle of nowhere, no house.
The story I was told by the farmers girlfriend was that she had persuaded him not to euthanize the pup hard line farmer style, but he was just left to fend for himself take his chances. I think she made sure he was fed the days she was there, she then rang the rescue as he was surplus and another mouth getting bigger, so she should get rid of him or he’d get the gun.
Nature had stepped in early though and made sure he was set to survive, a good few feral tendencies, still have the scares, too long a story but the outcome was a dog that would grab and hold on to a rubber bone, of which we left a good few around, it was a case of, if I’m gripping this tight and biting on it, I’m in control of myself.
I swear that dog went out of his way to get it right to avoid making a mistake, when he was getting aroused he would so obviously look round to for one of those rubber bones to hold.
Agility so was his sport and it gave him the outlet he needed, lost to cancer at just 7 years old in 2012 such a heart break to have come so far.
Complete move to HTM then.
So many easy lovely dogs have been part of my world, its funny how the ones you struggle with get to dig in so deep, and grip so tight.
My husband Bill died at the end of 2010, before we met he was involved in a schutzhund club in Germany, over the years we have fostered and independently taken in many dogs that needed homing. when Bill was here he would happily weekend dog sit our extras, unless they were man haters.
I feel guilty that I do less now, but there are others around this area now that have stepped up. Never taken a penny for any dog I’ve re homed, but then I don’t remember the last time I paid for one either they tend to just fall in the lap, so maybe its just give and take.
I have a love of transit vans, just right for kitting out to travel extra dogs,
I’m far from academic, but I’ve never stopped digging and questioning. Just because its in a book or everyone is doing it, it still need exploring and questioning. The majority may just be following and copying and repeating without questioning, that’s the fastest way to spread miss information.
Apart from my dogs things I wouldn’t be with out are.
Cable ties, WD 40, Hot glue gun, Staple gun, Gaffer tape, and my laptop with its spell checker, now what bright spark came up with that one, beats the three dictionary’s and battery operated spell checker I used to work with.
‘Labels’ seem to be the dog training ‘in topic’ at the moment.
Labels are put on the outside of the packaging, to give an idea of what is in the box fragile, flammable etc. Is it really so difficult, to ask for a list of the individual contents.
The subject of ‘labels’ has come up a lot this year. In a podcast I listened to recently, the male being interviewed accused people of using labels to excuse their lack of training. Its to cover their embarrassment apparently.
No mention of different emotional states, history, or people that are probably working hard to improve the confidence and well-being of their dogs (most behaviours come back to confidence) People still need within their training or life circles to have a way to describe an emotional state or a behaviour they are working with.
Probably having chosen an umbrella word that give most people an idea of what they’re saying. Maybe they haven’t heard the latest ‘in’ tag words.
I think that teachers and trainers need to include to educate, but they can also exclude and divide with a few cutting words. Rather than the ‘Labels’ war that’s doing the rounds, I feel there should be more discussion on, the best questions to asked to sort out the ingredients. Otherwise it’s excluding those that need the help/guidance, and causes a kind of class divide, ‘if the words don’t fit you don’t belong here’
If the label really doesn’t fit, then help them find a more appropriate one. Don’t crush them or make them feel stupid or ignorant. I don’t think anyone should be made to feel like they haven’t swallowed the right dictionary. It’s not hard to ask, could you break that down for me? Describe what happens and in what situations? There’s a ton of possible questions depending on the ‘label’ that could help put the light on. But caution is needed here, now we have this behaviour broken down, dissected and we understand whats going on, well I suppose it needs ‘labelling’
It would be a good thing to have more groups, where different opinions can be put forward on subjects raised. Discussed in an open and honest manor, where people can share their different points of view on a subject, while remaining able to agree or disagree in a civil manor.
I rather feel so many people follow, going with the loudest voices and don’t question or share different opinions for fear of being squashed, but by doing this louder voices that have an army of followers, don’t get to hear other opinions either.
Pre/Probiotics Poop Eating Dogs (coprophagia) Gut Brain Axis
One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection. The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain, they seem to go hand in glove. There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.
One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection. The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain. They seem to go hand in glove. There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.
If the oesophagus, small and large intestines, are lined with tissue containing neurons soaked in the same neurotransmitters as the brain, and research has shown that 95% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine is to be found in these gut tissues, then to condition the gut could surely help, and may well have a knock on effect on the state of mind.
A few years back I drove friends nuts, looking into the gut brain link and repeatedly reporting on my findings. This was for one dog in particular I was working with, that lacked confidence in many areas of his life, his first year was not as I’d planned it to be. That may have had some knock on effect, or it could just be who he was as an individual (we all like to have reasons we can put into words) I just could not find a way to help him.
In my search I came across different papers on the gut brain link, and how what happens in the gut can affect mood and emotion. So the journey began, with working from the inside out, hoping that improving the gut bacteria, would help the messaging between gut and brain, and put his head in a better place.
PRE/PROBIOTICS Prebiotics are a a sort of dietary fiber, inulin, that is used as food for gut bacteria. Probiotics contain live organisms usually specific strains of bacteria that add to the population of healthy microbes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2666378 Synbiotics. When a food contains both pre and probiotics the combination is called synbiotic.
Worth giving synbiotics a go I thought. I put him on a sensitive gut formula diet, he showed no signs of a sensitive gut, but if I was to see a difference, I decided I should go the whole hog. I added pre/probiotics supplements, then started to culture goats milk kefir (probiotic) to add to the diet.Within a couple of months I could see a difference, a few months more and the difference in him was noticed, and remarked on by people that only saw him at venues we travelled to. Being such a worried little man, there were life events in his first year, that would have had an impact on him, and needed addressing, but with his renewed confidence, we were armed to tackle these.
Over the coming months I had some emails and FB messages, from friends who had noticed the difference in him (so it wasn’t just me) wanting to know about the pre/probiotics I was adding to his food, the interest was because of dogs of their own they thought may benefit. I’m privileged to have witnessed this change with one of my own dogs, rather than to have read about somebody else’s dog. It’s not a magic cure for all dogs, but worth digging into, for any dog with emotional or behavioural issues. He is who he is, and I recognise and respect his limits, as I keep telling him, he’d hate the crowd crush at Crufts.
Gut Brain Axis (simplified) Gut bacteria make chemicals that communicate with the brain through nerves and hormones. The connection between the gut and brain is called the Gut-Brain Axis. The gut is full of bacteria, working away like a little factory, making the chemicals that communicate with the brain, but it depends on what bacteria is in the gut, as to what chemicals are being made, and what messages are being sent, calm, happy and serene, stressed, anxious or depressed.
The brain in the head may do the thinking, being aware of the environment and possible threat, or fun to be had, but the gut brain can influence the emotions that arise in the head brain. It was not until the 19th century, that the enteric nervous system (ENS) was discovered, it’s a widely distributed network of neurons spread throughout two layers of gut tissue. It is part of the autonomic nervous system. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/nervous-system-of-the-digestive-system/ Research with both animals and humans are finding important connections between gut bacteria and the brain that influence emotions, including psychological disorders and mental illness, there are studies that link the gut to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s too.
Gut instincts Dopamine is associated with pleasure and the reward system in the brain, it also acts as a signalling molecule in the gut, coordinating contractions of muscles in the colon. Serotonin is also sending signals via the ENS, known as the “feel good” molecule involved in preventing depression, regulating sleep, appetite and body temperature. There’s more evidence of links between the two brains in our response to stress, “butterflies” in the stomach, is the result of the fight flight response, diverting blood away from the gut to the muscles in preparation for action. A good reason for losing appetite when you or your four footed friend are stressed.
Poo Eating Dogs Nature knows best The dog that started me on this search was and still is a mega poo eater. Looking into pre and probiotics, and the history of FMT transplants, and the way nature has of looking after nature, I think it’s safe to consider that dogs that are attracted to poo eating, are most probably just self medicating to balance their gut microbiome, especially when we look into the fecal microbiota transplantation treatments of today. While I endeavor to “pick up” I don’t freak out at not beating him to the spoils, which I may add is never his own produce.
FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTATION All the rage now. Plain poop to us, dogs have inside information, taught by nature.
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is being developed as a technique to transfer slightly processed faeces from a healthy donor to a recipient. The aim of the procedure is to establish a healthy diverse microbiome within the gut.
Camel faeces were used by German soldiers in world war II, to treat bacterial dysentery, so quite a history of recycling. In 1958 a paper was published by Eiseman et al, reporting on his FMT treatment of patients with antibiotic associated diarrhea, treatment delivered by retention enemas. The patients recovered almost immediately
Despite the volume of evidence, it was only in 1978 that the value of FMT was widely recognized. In over 95% of cases treated the cure was quick and permanent. Current modifications to the technique include the use of a stool banks, and the use of frozen feces rather than fresh (obviously not where the saying “fresh is best” came from)
Following the recognition of FMT, its applications are being currently explored in many fields of therapy, including both chronic intestinal and extra-intestinal conditions, which may be caused or contributed to by alterations in the gut microbiome, and may be restored by renewal of normal gut flora patterns. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698498/
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SCENT or SIGHT TAKES OVER Looking at the process of what happens when scent or sight takes over and the dog appears to ignore all else.
Once upon a time, anyone who wanted help training their dog had no choice but to find a dog obedience club. Now there is access to an overload of choice incorporating science-based training and welfare awareness. Many different breeds, cross-breeds and rescues are being encouraged to join in with dog club and group activities and eventually dipping their toes in the competition ring. These activities are a great way of maintaining or improving the dog’s physical condition, while expanding opportunities for mental stimulation, play and enriched bonding.
Different breeds and cross breeds can have strong, instinctive inbred traits that can make training more challenging, and I think we need an increased understanding of what those challenges may be and look for ways to help them.
Most data and research we have has been set up for the better understanding of conditions in people, however we are now on the edge of exciting times with more research, including MRI, now specifically designed to better understand our canine friends.
Whenever I have hit a problem with a dog, I’ve tried to look at what makes that dog as an individual tick. One dog took me travelling through the world of feral dogs, another led on a journey of the gut-brain link, right now I’m looking into what floats the boat of a nose on four legs.
But it’s not the case of looking at one sense. Everything is linked, even in my search of the link between the olfactory and auditory senses, I have been waylaid by research that comes up on sound sensitivity.
Most people that teach, work with all sorts of people and all sorts of dogs, and a thorough understanding of how one sense can affects another sense must give us a better understanding of some of the training challenges our gifted dogs are working with.
There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience in research papers out there that can help to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together.
Searching I have been searching for the process of what happens when scent or sight takes over and the dog appears to ignore all else.
Within each sensory system we are processing an enormous amount of data all the time. We pay attention to only a small proportion of that information, this is known as selective filtering or selective attention, and gating. (NOT selective as in deliberately ignoring)
I’ve been offered many leads to investigate but most research has been done with humans, mice and monkeys, there is now more interest in the canine world, hopefully this will lead to better understanding in the future for dogs genetically geared to a preference to use their noses or their sight.
Although there are several parts of the brain involved, the part of the brain that is involved with selective filtering is where all of these senses intersect (Daniel Huss 2015). This area is the thalamus, this is also thought to be involved in consciousness. In addition to connections from the thalamus to the cerebral cortex, there are also connections from the cortex to the thalamus, this can be explained by selective filtering.
When the cortex receives priority information, it signals back to a part of the thalamus known as the reticular nucleus, the structure uses the neurotransmitter GABA to inhibit transmission of other irrelevant signals from the thalamus to the cortex.
I’m hoping that better understanding of selective filtering/gating may help us fine tune training plans so that we can interrupt at the start of the filtering process. This is assuming we can recognise the signs early enough, but that’s the hard bit as it is usually a split second.
Scent can trigger strong emotions and memories Due to the brain’s anatomy incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb has a direct connection to the amygdala and hippocampus areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory. We can trigger strong emotional responses through scent, often used as an illustration are the scent of a particular flower at funerals. Do dogs have the same responses to scents of veterinary clinics, scent of stress from the handler or other dogs? Interestingly, auditory (sound) visual and tactile (touch) information does not pass through these areas. (Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience 2014 Ann-Lise Saive. Jean-Pierre Royet and Janet Plailly) Surprising considering how easily music triggers emotions. Source
Attention At the national eye institute in Maryland, Kerry McAlonan and colleagues, experimented with Macaque monkeys. Their results showed quick surges of activity in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) that relays information to the cortex, and a split second later a drop in activity in the TRN a satellite structure, known to turn off information during sleep. The team believe that when paying attention, the TRN glances at the images coming through the thalamus and selectively turns on or off relays to pass on only the bits that deserve attention. Robert Wurtz co-author on the paper says “If the thalamus is the gateway to the cortex, the TRN is the gate keeper” A 1950s experiment with cats also points to an attention filter and possible block. (Hernandez-peon. Scherrer and Jouvet study on attention. P123-126 google books.)
Visual Filter, Sensory Gating As you read, your mind homes in on each word and blots out the rest of the page. This roving spot of attention tames the flood of visual information that hundreds of thousands of nerves fibers attached to the back of your eye’s retina stream into the brain. (Devin Powell) In 1984 the co-discoverer of DNA, Frances Crick, suggested the thalamus could play a part in this process, once thought only to connect the eyes to the cortex, it could contain a searchlight that filters what we pay attention to. Source “Sensory gating describes neurological processes of filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli in the brain from all possible environmental stimuli. Also referred to as gating. Sensory gating prevents an overload of irrelevant information in the higher cortical centers of the brain” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_gating
Sight Hounds and visual streak Sight hounds are thought of as independent thinkers, because of mostly working at a distance. A study done by Paul McGreevey, Alison Harman and Grassi TD noticed that only dogs with long noses have a visual streak, this is a horizontally aligned area in the retina lined up with ganglion cells. Dogs with short noses such as Pugs, Pekes, and Boxers have their ganglion cells densely packed in one spot “areacentralis”.
Diet Not something one thinks about when it comes to olfaction, but the deeper you look the more you find. I’ve come across different studies that have suggested that a higher fat diet aids olfaction, useful to know if you are hoping to keep your dog’s nose with you and not on the floor. “Corn oil has lots of polyunsaturated fats, similar to what you’d find in a lot of nuts and common grocery store seed oils,” said Wakshlag. “Past data from elsewhere suggest that these polyunsaturated fats might enhance the sense of smell, and it looks like that may be true for detection dogs. It could be that fat somehow improves nose-signalling structures or reduces body temperature or both. But lowering protein also played a part in improving olfaction.” Source We also know from experience that high fat treats trigger a great interest from the dogs, and that most dried dog food are sprayed in fat to evoke appetite.
Whistles as a breakthrough? One can understand the long-established early whistle training used with gun dogs to breakthrough. (Breakthrough is a term I remember an old gamekeeper used to use). It seems widely accepted that a whistle became the tool of choice for distance training, because there was a need for minimal verbal noise during hunting or shooting. Nothing scarier to a wild animal than the sound of a human voice. In addition, dog’s ears are more tuned to the higher frequencies of whistles than they are to voices.·
Would attaching an antecedent verbal cue to a high pitch whistle, (breakthrough sound) have an impact in other scenarios, much the same as adding a performance cue to a training cue, with the dog that gets distracted by scent or vision in the competition ring? Would the brain then start to register that antecedent cue and mentally arrive back with us in the real world? With some dogs a squeaky may work, obviously in training away from other dogs.
This is the questioning I wanted to look at, think about and dissect. The advantages to a whistle are that the tone doesn’t vary. To be honest I’ve never been a whistle user, BUT I’m open minded and searching. We have clickers that give clear information, they don’t vary in sound, or bring emotion into the equation.
Sound being caused by air vibrations, the more vibrations per second the higher the sound and the higher the frequency. If whistles have a clear distinctive, consistent high frequency sound that the auditory system is sensitive to, could we use whistle training with high reward association, and then attach the antecedent verbal cue in the same way that we would attach a performance cue to a training cue. Could that whistle cue help a dog, that appears to have selective hearing when olfaction or visual disruption takes over? We accept working with muscle memory, and mental memory associations. https://www.headstuff.org/topical/science/dogs-hear-better-humans/