24 February 2017

Irresistible: Emotions affect choice of breed despite welfare issues

Knowing a breed of dog may have health problems does not stop people from wanting one, because emotions get in the way. 

This French Bulldog puppy is cute - but sadly the breed is prone to health problems

A new Danish study by Peter S Sandøe (University of Copenhagen) et al investigates the reasons why people acquire particular small breeds of dog and how attached the owners feel to their pet. The research helps explain why some breeds are popular despite a high incidence of welfare problems. 

The study looked at people in Denmark with French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Cairn Terriers.

The results suggest that even knowing a dog of a particular breed is likely to have health problems may not stop people from getting one, because of their emotional response to the breed. 

Lead author, Peter Sandøe told me in an email,
“In all, this study prompts the conclusion that the apparent paradox of people who love their dogs continuing to acquire dogs from breeds with breed-related welfare problems may not be perceived as a paradox from the point of view of prospective owners of breeds such as Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs.  
Thus apparently available information about the problems in these two breeds has not served to prevent their growing popularity because fundamental emotional responses to the phenotypic attributes of these breeds are highly effective positive motivators.”
Some owners did not prioritize health when getting their dog. As well, for owners of CKCS and Chihuahuas, those whose dog had more health/behaviour problems had a stronger attachment to the dog.

French Bulldogs and Chihuahuas were chosen for the study because of their tendency to have problems related to their conformation (or appearance). Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were chosen because they also tend to have health problems, but not related to what they look like. Finally, Cairn Terriers were picked because they are relatively healthy, so they make a good contrast.

There were differences in how people acquired the breeds. People with Chihuahuas were most likely to say there “wasn’t really any planning”, and they were also less likely than CKCS owners and French Bulldog owners to have put time into learning about dogs from books or dog professionals before getting it. Cairn Terrier owners were also less likely to have learned in this way, and more likely to rely on prior experience with the breed.

People were most likely to get Cairn Terriers and CKCS as puppies from breeders. (In Denmark most dogs come from small breeders with between 2 and 4 breeding bitches). Although breeders were still the most common source of Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs, these breeds had a greater tendency to be acquired from a previous owner (22% of Chihuahuas and 15% of French Bulldogs) or other sources. 

A cute Chihuahua puppy. Some people said there wasn't any planning when they got their Chihuahua, evidence that emotions play a role in getting a puppy

The researchers found that the dog’s distinctive appearance, breed attributes and convenience were all motivations in getting a dog. Personality was also important.

These motivations varied by breed. Distinctive appearance and personality were particularly important for owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and French Bulldogs. For Chihuahua owners, these were less important, but convenience played a bigger role. Owners of Cairn Terriers were less motivated by appearance and more by breed attributes. 

Interestingly, these motivations were also linked to attachment. People who were motivated by distinctive appearance and breed attributes were very attached to their dog. 

The scientists say it’s possible that appearance is directly linked to levels of attachment, because facial features that are baby-like may induce parenting behaviours in the owner. This has also been suggested by previous research (see e.g. children’s preferences for baby-like features in dogs and the role of eyebrow movements in adopting shelter dogs).

The scientists say the motivations to acquire a dog can be seen as intrinsic (as for Cairn Terriers) or extrinsic (for the three other breeds, where cuteness, baby-like features and fashion play a role).

The researchers also collected data on health and behaviour problems. French Bulldogs had the highest levels of problems and the greatest expenses. Although only 67% had visited a vet in the last year for a health check, 29% had had a sudden illness or injury, and almost 9% had a chronic illness. 12% of French Bulldog owners had spent the equivalent of more than US$760 on vet bills in the previous year. 

Chihuahuas were the most likely to have a behaviour problem (10%) and to have dental problems (33%). Most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had been for a health check (81%), 19% had had a sudden illness or injury, and 5.5% had a chronic illness. Cairn Terriers had fewer problems and the lowest expenditure at the vet.

A Cairn Terrier - generally a healthy breed. Emotions affect people's choice of dog breed.

Interestingly, owners of Cairn Terriers had the lowest levels of attachment, and Chihuahuas the highest, with French Bulldog and CKCS owners in between. For example, if we take the statement, “I would do almost anything to take care of my dog”, 70% of Chihuahua owners strongly agreed. For French Bulldog owners it was 62%, CKCS owners 56%, and only 43% of Cairn Terrier owners.

But perhaps this reflects decisions that owners had already had to make about their dog. The scientists wondered if health or behaviour issues would affect people’s desire to get another dog of the same breed. 

French Bulldog owners were actually the most likely to say “yes, for sure” they would get the same breed again (29%). Only 10% of French Bulldog owners were keen to get a different breed next time, compared to 25% of Chihuahua owners. (This number is higher than the percentage of Chihuahua owners who "for sure" wanted the same breed again, 17.5%). 

For three of the breeds (Cairn Terrier, CKCS and Chihuahua), health and behaviour issues did not have an effect on the likelihood of wanting the same breed again. But for French Bulldog owners, health/behaviour issues reduced the number who said they wanted the same again, from 31% for the majority with no issues, to 20% for those with one problem and 12% for those with two problems.

Data from Swedish insurance company Agria, obtained by the researchers, provides sobering information about the median age of death, as shown in the table (just 2.5 years for male French Bulldogs and 3.8 for females). 

The median age of death of four dog breeds
Reproduced from PLOSOne under Creative Commons licence

French Bulldogs are very popular but they are brachycephalic, i.e. short-muzzled, which can cause breathing difficulties (including brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) and eye problems. But the French Bulldog can also have what is known as a screwed bobtail (a short curly tail). Sometimes this malformation affects the spine and causes spinal problems. 

Chihuahuas are very small and this tiny, frail shape can cause many problems, including an extremely high risk of injury, knee problems (patellar luxation), and aggression because of fear.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suffer health problems as a result of being bred from a very small stock. They are prone to heart problems and to a neurological condition called syringomyelia, in which fluid-filled cavities build up on the spinal cord. Early signs include excessive scratching, generalized pain, and weakness in the limbs.

The scientists sent questionnaires to a representative sample of owner of the four breeds, and 846 people took part. This study is well-designed and has an excellent response rate (up to 45% for the owners of Cairn Terriers). It incorporates small breeds with very different types of health problems and lifespans, which makes the results so interesting.

The results suggest there is a real challenge for people trying to promote improved welfare, since it seems that factors other than good health are important contributors to the decision to get a puppy. People’s motivations to get each breed were different, and in some cases the features of the breed that potentially cause problems also tug on our heart strings. Care-giving might also increase the attachment bond.

If people love their dogs, it makes sense they would want the same breed again. 

This important study makes a valuable contribution to animal welfare. It would be very interesting if the researchers could follow up with the owners at a later date to see if the desire to get the same breed again changes over time. 

The paper is open access

What factors did you take into account when choosing your dog?

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Sandøe P,, Kondrup SV,, Bennett PC,, Forkman B,, Meyer I,, Proschowsky HF,, Serpell, JA,, & Lund, TB (2017). Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds. PLOSOne
Photos: Patryk Kosmider (top); Joy Brown (middle); Marina Plevako (bottom). All Shutterstock.com.

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22 February 2017

The Function of Play Bows in Dog and Wolf Puppies

New research casts doubt on an old explanation for the play bow – and suggests it’s all about more play.

A Border Collie does a play bow in the snow - but why do dogs play bow? Read on for more.

The play bow is a glorious signal in dogs. The bum goes up and the elbows go down, leaving the rear end sticking up, usually accompanied by a lovely happy face (as pictured above). Not just reserved for other dogs, our canine friends will play bow to us too.

Traditionally, it was believed that the play bow serves as a signal to say something like, “I’m just playing, it’s not real!”, because many of the behaviours dogs perform in play – chasing, growling, biting, nipping, etc – can also be aggressive. But recent research with adult dogs has thrown that into question.

In 2016, Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere (University of Michigan), Julia Espinosa and Barbara Smuts looked at play bows between adult dogs. If the play bow functions to say “I’m only playing!” then you would expect to see more ‘offensive’ behaviour that could potentially be misinterpreted either just before or just after the play bow. They did not find this. Instead, both the bower and the bowee were typically still before the play bow happened. Afterwards play resumed in the form of chase sequences or both dogs rearing up.

In other words, the play bow seemed to function as a signal to make play start again after a pause (see: why do dogs play).

Byosiere et al concluded,
“the fact that both bowers and partners were often stationary before play bows and highly active after them (in the form of synchronous interactions or runaway/chase dynamics) supports the hypothesis that bows most often functioned to reinitiate play after a pause.”
But that study only looked at adult dogs. And in fact, dogs are not the only animal that play bows: coyotes, foxes, lions and wolves have all been seen to play bow. A new study by Byosiere et al investigates the role of play bows for dog and wolf puppies.

All of the puppies in this study were hand-reared, which means that the dogs and wolves have all grown up in a similar environment. The wolf pups were born in captivity and hand-reared in small groups; and the dog puppies were born in an animal shelter in Hungary and also hand-reared in the same way as the wolves.

The study analysed videos of dog-dog and wolf-wolf play in which at least one of the dogs or wolves was a puppy. The researchers coded play bows that were performed by the puppies during a play bout. The dog puppies were 2 – 5 months old, and the wolf puppies were 2.7 to 7.8 months.

It has been suggested before that the play bow is a visual communication signal, which means that it would be performed when the bower is in sight of the bowee. The results found this was the case, as previously found by Horowitz (2009).

A cute white puppy does a play bow outside - learn the meaning of a play bow
Photo: Cryber; top, xkunclova; below, Warren Metcalf (all Shutterstock.com)

In the wolf puppies, every one of the 69 play bows coded was performed while the two were in visual contact. In the dog puppies, all but one of the 136 play bows was performed in sight of the other dog. And in the one case where the other dog was not looking, the bowee barked, suggesting they knew they needed to get their partner’s attention.

As described for the adult dog study, if the play bow is a signal to say “I’m just playing”, you would expect to see more ‘offensive’ behaviour immediately before or after it. This was not the case for either wolf or dog puppies prior to the play bow. After the play bow, the dog partners (i.e. the bowees) showed more offensive behaviours, which is contrary to this hypothesis.

The scientists also looked specifically at bites, and found there were no bite-shakes immediately before or after the play bows. This is surprising, because earlier work by Bekoff (1995) found that play bows were associated with bite-shakes. The difference might be because Bekoff looked at younger puppies. In fact there were few bites and nips in the videos of dogs and wolves used in this study.

Another possible reason for a play bow might be so that the bower is well-placed either to run away from or chase the other dog. In Byosiere’s earlier study with adult dogs, there was no evidence of it being used to attack the other dog in play, but it seemed possible it was used to escape.

In fact for the dog puppies, their partner (bowee) was more likely to play-attack them than the other way around. This was not found in wolves.

Two young wolves playing in the snow - both dogs and wolves play bow, so what does it mean?

However, both wolf puppies and dog puppies were more likely to run away after the play bow, suggesting it positions them to escape.

As mentioned above, Byosiere’s study with adult dogs found that play bows tended to occur after a pause and serve to re-start play. This was the case for dog puppies, as both bower and bowee tended to be stationary before the play bow. In wolf puppies, however, this was not confirmed, although the bowees did tend to be still before the play bow.

Finally, it has also been suggested that play bows might serve to synchronize behaviours between the two partners after the bow. However, this was not found to be the case for either wolf or dog puppies.

The results of both studies are summarized in the table.

Dogs play bow in order to re-start play after a pause, science suggests
Reproduced from PLOSOne under Creative Commons Licence

The scientists write,
“Taken together, findings from this study and the previous study on adult dogs suggest that play bows do not occur at random and do not, therefore, simply enhance the play atmosphere in a general way. Instead, their association with particular behaviors before and after the play bow suggests strategic use of this play signal to accomplish immediate goals, including continuation of play by enticing the partner into a runaway/chase interaction.”
This study finds that the play bow is a visual signal for both dog and wolf puppies, but it does not serve to stop ‘offensive’ behaviours from being misinterpreted, as previously thought. In dogs, it seems to re-start play after a pause, however in wolf puppies the function is less clear. The authors suggest it may be that the intent is still to re-start play, but that it is less likely to be successful in wolves.

This is a fascinating study that will no doubt have many of us paying more attention to what happens before and after our dogs play bow.

The study of wolf and dog puppies is open access and can be read via the link below, while you can find the adult dog study via Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere’s Researchgate profile.

What do you like about watching dogs play?

You might also like: Do hand-reared wolves get attached to their humans? and 6 reasons to love canine science.

Stay up to date and subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology.

Bekoff, M. (1995). Play Signals as Punctuation: the Structure of Social Play in Canids Behaviour, 132 (5), 419-429 DOI: 10.1163/156853995X00649
Byosiere SE, Espinosa J, & Smuts B (2016). Investigating the function of play bows in adult pet dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Behavioural processes, 125, 106-13 PMID: 26923096
Byosiere SE, Espinosa J, Marshall-Pescini S, Smuts B, & Range F (2016). Investigating the Function of Play Bows in Dog and Wolf Puppies (Canis lupus familiaris, Canis lupus occidentalis). PloS one, 11 (12) PMID: 28033358
Horowitz A (2009). Attention to attention in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) dyadic play. Animal cognition, 12 (1), 107-18 PMID: 18679727

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19 February 2017

Companion Animal Psychology News February 2017

The latest news on cats and dogs from Companion Animal Psychology, February 2017.

Some of my favourite posts from around the web this month

"Cats, on the other hand get a raw deal. Especially stray ones." Our cat in Havana by Will Grant.

Memory wins when dogs sleep. Julie Hecht on how sleep helps learning in dogs.

"I will never forget the first time a patient died at the clinic." Compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and burnout in the animal care profession by Dr. Vanessa Rohlf.

Opening the heart's floodgates, with a paw. Beautiful piece by Amy Sutherland about match-making people and dogs at a shelter.

The need for transparency in training and behaviour. Daniel Antolec writing for the Pet Professional Guild blog about the problem of false representations in the dog training and animal behaviour industry.

I can’t control neurodegeneration: on acceptance and letting go. Maureen Backman’s diary of life with her senior dog Earl.

International Cat Care on the problems faced by ‘designer’ cats: Manx, Munchkin and Scottish Fold.

Does good welfare equate to happiness? Monkeys, happiness and winning debatesLauren Robinson's post about her PhD research on monkeys is of wide interest to anyone who cares about animal welfare.

Pets in the News…

Trump shutting down the USDA animal welfare info as reported by TeenVogue.  Some information has since been put back, but not the missing puppy mill reports, says ASPCA.

DNA saves a dog in Michigan from the death penalty.

The sale of puppies under 8 weeks old is to be made illegal in the UK, as illegal puppy imports ‘more than treble’ in 3 years.

Breed-specific legislation is not working for dog control, says Prince George’s top bylaw officer. Prince George wants to follow Calgary’s lead and draft new laws based on responsible ownership rather than breed. Meanwhile, Laval has new animal control bylaws that do not include BSL
And Surrey skips breed ban, puts more teeth into updated dog bylaw. The BC SPCA says it’s the best bylaw in the province.

86,000 Hong Kongers get minor injuries from domestic animals every year and cats are the most common culprit followed by dogs. Playing with the pet was the most common activity immediately prior to the attack.

And Scottish hospitals see 80% increase in dog attack victims.

Taiwan animal euthanasia ban comes into force  following the suicide of veterinarian Chien Chih-Cheng last year http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36573395

French Bulldogs are increasingly popular in the UK, and that’s a welfare issue, explains Pete Wedderburn.

Dogs Trust joins the Sort Our Shelters campaign to license shelters in Scotland.

Upcoming Events

The Delta Institute Dog Behaviour Conference 7 – 9 April 2017 in Sidney. Keynote speaker Dr. Alexandra Horowitz; other speakers include Dr. Julie Ashton, Dr. Vanessa Rohlf, Dr. Melissa Starling, Dr. Bradley Smith and Dr. Gaille Perry.

Summer internships at the Canine Cognition Center at Yale.

Measuring animal welfare and applying scientific advances: Why is it still so difficult? UFAW International Symposium 27 – 29 June 2017 Royal Holloway, University of London UK.

UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarships Deadline 28th February.

Photos and Video

I love this photo series by Italian photographer Marianna Zampieri of hard-working cats on the job. You can follow her on Facebook

This Vanity Fair article has a trailer for the documentary Kedi about the street cats of Istanbul.

Jane Sobel Klonsky’s photos of senior dogs and their people, from the book Unconditional: Older dogs, deeper love, are featured in this article in The Oregonian.

Fashion’s most stylish dog, Hector Browne, at New York Fashion week.

Just your average video of two blind cats enjoying themselves… via Slate.

Alexandra Horowitz on the alpha dog myth.

Research Studies

These two research studies are currently looking for participants:

US Pet Owners: This survey aims to investigate the use of the internet by U.S. pet owners to find pet health information. It will take 5 - 10 minutes to complete. More information is available on the first page of the survey

UK Pet Owners: This survey aims to investigate the use of the internet by UK pet owners to find pet health information. It will take 5 - 10 minutes to complete. More information is available on the first page of the survey.

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

This month, the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is reading Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal.

My article, “Dominance” training deprives dogs of positive experiences, has struck a chord this month. Many thanks to Marc Bekoff for mentioning this post in his round-up of “hot” dog articles. You should check out the other articles he mentions too.

Several friends of Companion Animal Psychology have shared photos of their happy dogs with me, and it makes me very happy to see all these photos.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the science about dogs, cats and the human-animal bond, subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology. Subscribers can send me their comments simply by hitting the reply button – it comes straight to my in box.

15 February 2017

"Dominance" Training Deprives Dogs of Positive Experiences

Dominance is an outdated approach to dog training – and it also means dogs miss out on fun.

Problems with dominance dog training and a dog playing in a blur of snow

Approaches to dog training based on dominance rely on the idea that you have to be the ‘alpha’ or pack leader. Unfortunately, this type of dog training is not just out-of-date and potentially risky, but modern approaches to dog training are also a lot more fun – for you and the dog.

What is dominance in dog training?

We sometimes hear the phrase ‘my dog is being dominant.’ ‘Your dog is being dominant’ can even be an insult because it implies you are not confident enough.

What people mean by ‘dominant’ can be anything from your dog walking through a door in front of you, to jumping on you, or relaxing on the sofa, growling at you or winning a game of tug. For that reason alone, it’s not a very helpful description.

Let’s unpack these examples for a moment, because using a framework of dominance is taking away the person’s choice about things. It’s perfectly fine for your dog to walk in front of you, and it’s up to you if they jump on you to greet you or are allowed on the sofa (some people like it, some people don’t – of course strangers probably don’t like to be jumped on).

If your dog growls at you, it’s important not to punish them because this is their way of telling you they are uncomfortable; instead you should stop what you are doing and reconsider how you can fix it so you and your dog are both happy. A dominance-based approach would potentially put you in danger of getting bitten.

As for tug… dogs who win at tug are more involved in the game (suggesting they enjoy it more) and show more playful attention-seeking afterwards, such as nuzzling and pawing at their owner (Rooney & Bradshaw 2002). Games of tug can be fun for you and the dog, and are a useful way to entertain your dog at times when walks are limited. Arbitrarily saying people should not play tug or should not let the dog win is doing a disservice to both dogs and people.

Problems with dominance in dog training

When people apply dominance to dog training, it usually results in them using aversive methods, such as alpha rolls, because they think they have to make their dog submit. This can cause a range of issues.

Here are just a few examples:

Why you should not use dominance to train dogs, like this cute GSD puppy
Photo: Grigorita Ko; top, alexei_tm; below, oneinchpunch (all Shutterstock.com)

What do scientists think about dominance and dogs?

“Dominance” as applied by so many people in dog training is not the same as “dominance” when used by scientists, which is a much more nuanced term. Even so, it does not adequately describe the relationship between dogs and people.

Writing in his Psychology Today blog, John Bradshaw, author of Dog Sense, explains that for dogs to think about dominance would actually require some important cognitive abilities – knowing that other creatures can think about us – which we have no evidence that dogs have.

He says,
“It is more parsimonious to interpret dogs’ behaviour as if they were simply trying to maintain access to essential resources, perhaps the most important being, uniquely for this species, access to one or more human attachment figures.”

So how does this relate to dog training? In the same post, Bradshaw says,
“Both for their own safety and to be acceptable to society, companion dogs need to be kept under control, but that can be achieved by reward-based training, without reference to their position in some illusory “hierarchy”.”

Now, you can find some scientists who think dogs have dominance hierarchies between themselves, and Marc Bekoff summarizes some of them in his blog. But he also says,
“I don't think that dogs need to be forced into submission to train or to teach them how to live harmoniously with other dogs, with other animals, or with humans. I favor positive training/teaching methods and they have been shown to be highly effective in achieving these goals.”

Let’s be clear about this: these two scientists have very different views about dominance and dogs, but they both say it’s not the way to train a dog.

It’s unfortunate that some people mistakenly believe the dominance or pack leader approach to dog training is based in science, especially since it has negative consequences.

Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog and Being a Dog, explains the problems with the alpha dog myth in this recent video for Business Insider.

Luckily, there is an excellent alternative to the dominance approach: reward-based dog training.  

Reward-Based Dog Training: Many Things to Like

Let’s look at reward-based training from the dog’s perspective. 

First of all, it teaches the dog what to do, instead of just what not to do. With reward-based training your dog knows, for example, to sit and wait while you come in from the car with bags of shopping instead of jumping all over you. Over time, if the behaviour of ‘sit’ keeps getting reinforced, your dog will sit in other situations when they are not sure what to do. That happens to align with what you would like too, but can you see how it’s useful from the dog’s perspective? It helps to give a sense of control e.g. “If I sit, I will get patted.”

Secondly, it’s something fun for the dog to do with you. Dogs love hanging out with their owners and doing nice things. The great thing about reward-based training is that your dog is guaranteed to earn some rewards, because you’re going to set the difficulty level to make sure that happens.

And did you know that dogs like to work to earn rewards? Ragen McGowan, the scientist who worked on what she called the ‘eureka effect’ in dogs (McGowan et al 2013) told me that it’s just like the great feeling we get when we solve a problem. Dogs in her study wagged their tails more and were more excited to get another go when they had to work to earn the reward, compared to when they just got the reward anyway.

A dog wants to take the ball from her owner's lap

Plus, of course dogs like the reward. Maybe it’s a piece of tripe stick (that’s a favourite in this household) or cheese or roast beef or tuna fudge… these are not the main component of your dog’s diet and so it’s a nice treat for them to get something different and tasty to eat.

Not only that, but a new model of animal welfare includes providing positive experiences as well as minimizing negative ones (Mellor, 2016). Training with positive reinforcement is a nice experience for your dog that provides cognitive stimulation, and so it can be part of ensuring your dog has good welfare.

These are just a few reasons why your dog will like reward-based training, and I’m sure you can think of others too. I will leave it to you to think about what dominance or alpha-based training is like from a dog’s perspective.

If you have been used to training using a ‘dominance’ or ‘balanced’ approach, you are not alone (especially since there is so much erroneous information about dog training on the internet). If you need some help to make the switch to reward-based training, find a good dog trainer, and/or start by reading some of the dog training classics such as Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. You might also like my article on positive reinforcement in dog training.  

Of course, we can never know what it is actually like to be a dog, but sometimes it’s a nice exercise to put ourselves in their paws. If you already use reward-based training methods, I would love to know what you think your dog likes best about reward-based training.

Stay up to date and subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology.

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Arhant, C., Bubna-Littitz, H., Bartels, A., Futschik, A., & Troxler, J. (2010). Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: Effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 123 (3-4), 131-142 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2010.01.003
Casey, R., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G., & Blackwell, E. (2014). Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, 52-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.12.003
Deldalle, S., & Gaunet, F. (2014). Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog–owner relationship Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9 (2), 58-65 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.11.004
Herron, M., Shofer, F., & Reisner, I. (2009). Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 117 (1-2), 47-54 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011
McGowan, R., Rehn, T., Norling, Y., & Keeling, L. (2013). Positive affect and learning: exploring the “Eureka Effect” in dogs Animal Cognition, 17 (3), 577-587 DOI: 10.1007/s10071-013-0688-x
Mellor, D. (2016). Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” by Updating the “Five Provisions” and Introducing Aligned “Animal Welfare Aims” Animals, 6 (10) DOI: 10.3390/ani6100059
Rooney, N., & Bradshaw, J. (2002). An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog–human relationship Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 75 (2), 161-176 DOI: 10.1016/S0168-1591(01)00192-7

12 February 2017

Happy Dogs: Photos

Gorgeous photos of happy dogs.

Portrait of beautiful Belle

"Belle is full of sparkle!  Her favorite treat is without a doubt string cheese... Her best trick is she brings in the paper every morning and takes it right to her bed then gives it to us, and she also does a lovely bow that we call "tada"!"
Belle has her CGC and is a service dog and a Pet Partner's Therapy dog.
Photo: Heidi Steinbeck.

Lola looking very cute

"Lola loooves any food but freaks over prosciutto or smoked salmon."
Photo: Claudine Prud'homme.

Turtle in a field of flowers

"Turtle will do almost anything you ask him for any piece of food you give. Some of his favourites are carrots, hotdogs and peanut butter. He is very food motivated.  Turtle's favourite thing to do is sit on the couch with the people he loves, and of course just looking handsome."
Photo: Charity Long.

Happy Howie smiling at the camera

"Howard's favourite treat is tuna fudge, and his favourite trick is waving hello."
Photo: Jennifer Phillips.


"Foxxy loves to train and learn and goes nuts for steak and string cheese."
Photo: Suzanne Bryner.

Idg and Gaby
Idg and Gaby

"Idg likes chicken so much she stole a whole cooked one from the kitchen counter and ate every bit of it by herself. She's learned to get in the tub and to open the door using chicken as a reward!
Gaby likes eating anything she can find and sleeping all day and telling everyone what to do!  Her favorite chew treats are Beams catfish skins. She likes to play follow the leader through the house (her version of hide-n-seek)."
Idg and Gaby have their own Facebook page.
Photo: Tery McConville.

Kuma's portrait

"Freeze dried liver is his favorite reward, and without a doubt, the Flirt Pole is his favorite toy"
Photo: Paul Arrighie.

Portrait of Molly

"Molly likes chicken and cheese but her favourite thing in all the world is an egg carton with interesting goodies hidden in it."
Photo: Sarah McLaren. (Twitter).

Portrait of Eddie on a hike
"Eddie’s favourite reward was probably liver treats, but he was so food motivated that anything edible would do! That was particularly useful when teaching him a reliable recall, one of his best-learned skills. His favourite activity, the thing that made him happier than anything else in the world (maybe even more than liver treats!) was off leash hiking."
Eddie passed away from a brain tumor in 2015, aged 11.
Photo: Jean Ballard.

Portrait of Freddy the Yorkshire Terrier

"Favourite treat? Anything edible.
His party trick is keeping a balloon in the air forever. He plays keepy-uppy better than any footballer."
Photo: Alan Mace.

Many thanks to everyone who shared photos with me! Look out for another photo blog post next month.

08 February 2017

Timing and Attention Matter in Dog Training, New Study Shows

Analysis of videos of dog training sessions show that getting the dog’s attention and good timing of rewards are linked to better results.

A young Terrier plays in the snow

A new study looks at the interactions between people and dogs whilst teaching ‘lie down’. The results show the importance of the timing of rewards and of getting the dog’s attention in order to be successful in dog training.

The study is part of a wider research project at the University of Sydney into what they call “dogmanship.” I asked first author Dr. Elyssa Payne (University of Sydney) what this means.
“The formal definition for dogmanship is an individual's ability to interact with dogs,” she told me in an email. “So, someone with good dogmanship is more likely to get the best out of that dog (which could manifest in good obedience performance, working success or just a good companion relationship).”
The study analysed 43 videos of dogs being trained to lie down that the researchers found on Youtube. The scientists used sequence analysis, which looks at the sequential order of events (i.e. the person does X, then the dog does Y, then the person does Z…). They also used lag sequential analysis to see what happens after a lag of 1 second, 2 seconds and 3 seconds (e.g. person does X, 1s later dog is doing Y…).

They looked at it from both perspectives, i.e. what the dog does following the person’s behaviour, and what the person does following the dog’s behaviour. The results show the interactive dance between people and their dogs during a training session.

For example, the person bends over, and 1s later the dog might be recorded as lying down, pawing the owner, or jumping up. At a lag of 3s after the person bent over, dogs were seen lying down, in incomplete recumbency (i.e. partially lying down), or pawing the owner.

Dr. Elyssa Payne told me,
“The key results of our DogTube paper were that certain human behaviours (in this case looking at the dog and non-speech vocalisations such as kissing noises) are more likely to attract dog attention while dog attention was more likely to wane immediately after a food reward. So, dog trainers should be mindful of their animal's attention and time food rewards according to training goals. 
“Our analysis also highlights the usefulness of attention gaining mechanisms that are more unique to training sessions (e.g. kissing noises, whistles or tongue clicking), although these are time sensitive (dog is likely to respond within 1 second).”
After a food reward was given, dogs stopped looking at their owner. The researchers suggest several possible reasons, including the dog directing their attention to the food, preferring to look away from people whilst in possession of food, or because they were sniffing the ground (perhaps checking for any dropped food).

The two human behaviours of bending over and of both hands touching the dog tended to result in the dog pawing at them or making a noise (barking and whining were both included in this category).

Timing and attention matter in dog training, study shows. Photo shows Siberian Husky with one blue and one brown eye

People responded to the dog’s behaviour too. They seemed to notice when their dog was looking away from them and responded by looking at the dog; they also noticed lip licks as this was another time when they tended to look at the dog.

Looking at the dog and making non-speech noises (such as the aforementioned kissy sound) usually resulted in getting the dog to look at the person.

The person’s body position was important for the dog’s behaviour at all of the time lags. If the person was bent over, kneeling or crouched down, the dog was likely to be lying down 1 second, 2 seconds and/or 3 seconds later.

However, when the dog was only partially lying down (i.e. the chest was not on the floor or they were in a play bow position instead), the human was typically bent over only at 2 seconds before hand, or crouching or kneeling at 3 seconds beforehand (but not 1 or 2 seconds before). I think this suggests the person has not held their position long enough. (In the early stages of teaching a dog to lie down, when using a lure or a large hand signal, you may have to hold in position for a little while and wait for the dog to lie down).

Most of the people in the videos used food rewards, and 143 rewards were given in total across all of the videos, with 42 instances of a clicker being used. Other methods people used included tightening the leash, leash corrections, and pushing the dog.

Of course, Youtube videos may not be representative of dog trainers in general, and information about the trainers and dogs (such as prior training experience) is lacking. The videos seem to cover a range of training methods and abilities which is nice. We can't infer a causal relationship from the results. The study takes advantage of an easily-available source of data, and the videos are likely more naturalistic than if people had gone into the lab to train in front of the researchers.

Although it’s no surprise that human behaviour affects dogs, the specifics of the results are useful. And there’s an important implication. The scientists write that “This information has implications for dog-human interactions in an obedience setting but also underlines the possibility that dogs that are perceived as difficult to train may be in the hands of people who lack the timing and awareness that characterize good dogmanship.”

The good news is that your timing, body position, and attention-getting are all things you can improve if you want to.

You might like my user-friendly guide to positive reinforcement in dog training, and my list of research studies on dog training (which includes links to places you can read about them). And if you want to work on your dog training skills in a class setting, see how to choose a dog trainer.

How have your dog training skills improved since you first started to train dogs?

Stay up to date and subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology.

Payne, E., Bennett, P., & McGreevy, P. (2017). DogTube: An examination of dogmanship online Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 17, 50-61 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2016.10.006
Photos:  Maksyn Gorpenyuk and gillmar (both Shutterstock.com).

Companion Animal Psychology is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Companion Animal Psychology is also a participant in the Etsy Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Etsy.com.

05 February 2017

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club: February 2017

The book of the month is Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal.

An African hedgehog is reading a book, apparently

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club continues with discussion of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal.

From the inside, "Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a first-hand account of how science has stood traditional behaviourism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for so long."

Towards the end of the month, I will post my thoughts about the book. You will be able to leave your own thoughts on the book in the comments section.

Through the book club, we will learn more about companion animals and our relationship with them, and build up a nice library of books about animals and the human-animal bond. Of course, we'll also enjoy talking about the books.

Are you reading too?

01 February 2017

What is Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training?

A user-friendly guide to everything you need to know about positive reinforcement.

A user-friendly guide to everything you need to know about positive reinforcement

If you are new to dogs, or new to dog training, this article is for you. It covers technical definitions, the practicalities, reasons to use positive reinforcement and some common mistakes that people make.

At the end, there are suggested resources in case you want to learn more. Positive reinforcement training is fun, and lots of people get the training bug. Hopefully that will include you too.

When people talk about positive reinforcement dog training, they sometimes refer to it as positive dog training, force free dog training, clicker training, even science-based dog training. Some of these terms relate to a wider dog training philosophy as well as a specific method, and those philosophical and ethical issues are important. But positive reinforcement is also a technical term with a specific definition.

We’ll get the technical definition out of the way first.

What is positive reinforcement? 

Positive reinforcement is a very effective way to train dogs (and other animals).

Positive reinforcement means adding something immediately after a behaviour occurs that makes the frequency of the behaviour go up.

Technically speaking, the term breaks down into two parts. Reinforcement means the behaviour continues or goes up in frequency. (If the behaviour went down instead, it’s not reinforcement).

And positive means something is added.

For example, you ask the dog to sit, the dog sits, and you give him a treat (something is added). The dog is more likely to sit next time you ask (the behaviour was reinforced).

What kind of reward is used in positive reinforcement? 

For most dog training, food is the best reward to use. That’s because all dogs like food, and it’s efficient because you can deliver it quickly.

Play is sometimes used as a reward in dog training. For example, a game of tug or fetch. You may even have seen some working dogs or agility dogs be rewarded with a game of tug.

In practise food works best for most everyday dog training situations. You can deliver it much more quickly (think how long it takes to play a game of tug, compared to how long it takes your dog to gobble a treat). That means you can do another repetition right away. Also, sometimes play will get in the way of what you are trying to teach.

Petting and praise are sometimes suggested as rewards. But you have to think about it from the dog’s perspective – and yes, scientists have thought about it too. One study found dogs are not interested in praise. It has to be conditioned to mean something. For example, if “good boy” is always followed by a treat, then they will learn it predicts a treat; but otherwise, nada, it’s meaningless (read more on whether dogs prefer petting or praise).

A guide to positive reinforcement in dog training to teach your dog like this happy Australian Shepherd who shakes a paw

Most dogs do like petting, but the same scientists found that dogs prefer food to petting as a reward in dog training. And in case you’re wondering, there are other studies that compared food to petting as a reward in a dog training situation.  They also found food leads to better results.

The efficiency issue is relevant too: food is quicker.

So food is the best reward to use as positive reinforcement.

What kind of food rewards should I use with my dog? 

There’s a huge variety of food rewards, ranging from treats you can buy from the pet store to types of human food that are suitable for dogs and treats that you make yourself.

Pick something your dog really likes, because that means it will motivate them. Of course it needs to fit within an overall balanced diet. You may also want to vary the rewards, either just to provide variety or to suit the task you are training.

For example, if you are doing a lot of training, little cubes of chicken might be most appropriate because it’s a healthy component of a dog’s diet. Or you could use treats that are tiny so that you aren’t over-feeding (some come in miniature size). At other times, pieces of cheese or deli meats might be appropriate in suitable quantities. Use your very best rewards for teaching recall (i.e. to come when called).

Types of food you can use in positive reinforcement training include: little pieces of chicken; squares of roast beef; cubes of cheese (Cheddar, Parmesan, etc.); tiny dried fish; carrot; peanut butter treats; tuna fudge; tripe stick; rollover; Vienna Sausage; spam; Zuke’s minis or Fruitables minis; Rawbble; dog biscuits; various chews or jerky strips; freeze-dried salmon; dried herring; salami; pieces of ham; turkey; bits of meat balls…

Did some of those items make your mouth water? That’s good, because that’s the effect you want it to have on your dog! Of course you don’t use a whole slice of ham all at once. Use something about the size of a pea. Why not try out several different food rewards to find out which your dog prefers?

A guide to positive reinforcement in dog training for dogs like this black Labrador Retriever who has just earned a treat for his sit

As well as bite-size pieces, you can also deliver food rewards via a tube for the dog to lick. You can buy some ready-made (e.g. leanlix) or you can make your own using squeeze tubes (often found with camping supplies), a reusable food pouch or the TreatToob.

And although cats should not be fed dog food, it’s fine to give your dog cat food, and that can make a tasty reward too.

If purchasing treats, read the ingredients to check you are happy with them from a nutritional perspective, and go for something you think your dog will find tasty (duck, turkey, salmon, bacon, peanut butter, etc.).

Make sure it is safe for dogs. If buying human food for your dog, look out for onion (in some meat and other products) and xylitol (e.g. in some brands of peanut butter), neither of which is safe for dogs.

If you prefer to make your own treats, here is a recipe for tuna fudge. You can substitute different ingredients, e.g. swap tuna for canned salmon or sardines.

And if you want to know what I use, I made a list of the best dog training treats.

How can I use positive reinforcement if my dog is on a special diet? 

If your dog is on a special diet, you can still use food rewards. One easy option is to use the canned version of whatever special kibble you normally feed. (If delivering it on a spoon, just be careful your dog doesn’t eat the spoon; they may need some practise at licking it, or you might prefer to use a food tube).

Another option could be something that is an ingredient in the special diet (whether that’s chicken or fish or whatever). You might also be able to tailor the tuna fudge recipe with ingredients that are right for your dog.

What do professional dog trainers use as rewards? 

I asked Kristi Benson CTC what type of reward she uses when training dogs. Kristi is a dog trainer in Manitoba, Canada, and a staff member at the Academy for Dog Trainers.

She said, “I like to use food, and types of food that I like to use are things that are choppable into small pieces and that can go down the hatch really quickly, so the dogs can eat them quickly so that I can recycle and do another trial really quickly.

"I also like using stuff that dogs really like, so stuff that’s a little bit grouty, a little bit stinky, like smoked fish kind of stuff. Sometimes I use cheese. I do buy rollover sometimes, I know that’s kind of the junk food, it’s a little bit junk foody. But then I say to myself well, you know I get junk food occasionally too, so if I’m not training a dog that often… And it’s very easy, and you know it’s supposed to be a complete meal which seems reasonable.

"And I also use some recipes that are floating around the dog training community, and they’re like tuna fudge, liver brownies. And then I have another recipe that I like which is made out of eggs, because we get a lot of eggs here on the farm so, if we have an extra dozen eggs it’s nice to make an egg dish. And those are baked into squares, and you can cut those up.” (Kristi has published the treat recipes on her website).

And for recall: “I go volume with recall when I’m training my dogs, just because it’s easier. But I recommend to my clients things like tinned tripe in a tube, to really ratchet up the palatability factor, along with amount. So give them quite a bit and give them something that’s really delicious.”

Positive reinforcement in dog training - a guide for all dogs, like this happy Saluki in a field of tuilips


What is not positive reinforcement 

Sometimes people make the mistake of calling the moment when something unpleasant stops positive reinforcement. It’s not.

For example, some shock collar trainers pretend that when the electric shock stops, it is rewarding for the dog. It is not.

Relief is not the same as a reward.

Remember too: positive reinforcement means something has been added. Stopping something is the opposite of adding something.

It’s worth being alert to this because there are many weasel words used in dog training and there’s a lot of erroneous dog training information on the internet.

Because there is no regulation of dog trainers, this is unfortunately something dog owners need to be aware of.

But my dog is not food-motivated! 

This is something I hear from time to time. If it is truly the case that your dog is not interested in food then you need to take him to see a vet. If your dog is not eating there may be an underlying medical problem that needs urgent investigation.

More often when people say this it turns out the food they are using is not particularly motivating. For example, they prefer to use kibble, but this is not exciting enough to motivate their dog.

It’s a common mistake for people to make when they are new to dog training. If this applies to you, check the list above to find another food item to try. And then a different item too. You can audition a few to see which are your dog’s favourites – and remember that variety can help as well.

A guide to positive reinforcement dog training for dogs like this cute white dog on the settee

Sometimes people are reluctant to use food in dog training, and that’s why they are using kibble. But you have to feed your dog, so you might as well make some of it tasty food to use in training.

Some people are worried it might affect their relationship with their dog – perhaps they fear their dog doesn’t really love them if he wants to work for food. But your dog can love you and food (there’s even an fMRI study to show it).

And when you see that happy, expectant look on your dog’s face when they are about to receive a cookie, doesn’t it fill you with a lovely warm mushy feeling?

Why use positive reinforcement in dog training? 

Not everyone uses positive reinforcement to train their dog. Some people use positive punishment or negative reinforcement instead. Research shows that this is not the best choice.

Many studies find that people who use reward-based training methods report their dogs as being more obedient than those who use aversive techniques. Using positive reinforcement is better for the human-canine bond and better for animal welfare than using negative reinforcement. Also, a past history of using positive reinforcement in dog training is linked to better success at teaching a new behaviour. (If you want to read the research for yourself, see my list of dog training research resources).

In contrast, the use of punishment has been associated with an aggressive response from some dogs  and the use of aversive techniques is a risk factor for aggression towards both family members and strangers outside the home.

Although these studies are correlational and do not prove causation, there are several things that might explain it. One is that positive reinforcement teaches your dog what to do, instead of simply punishing them for a behaviour (which doesn’t teach them a new behaviour to do instead).

Positive reinforcement in dog training - used here by a girl and her father to train the family dog

Another is that dogs may find punishment stressful, and if they associate the owner as the cause of the punishment, it may affect the relationship with their owner.

There’s another reason to use positive reinforcement: dogs like to work to earn rewards (dubbed the ‘Eureka! effect’). And scientists now recommend that good animal welfare includes positive experiences.

So using positive reinforcement in dog training is good for your dog. For more information, see my article seven reasons to use reward-based dog training methods.

Why is positive reinforcement not working? 

If you’re thinking, “But I tried positive reinforcement and it didn’t work!” there are several possible reasons.

Perhaps the most common is not using the right reward to motivate the dog. Go back to the list of suggested food rewards and find something tastier to try.

But there are several other possible reasons too. Here are a few of them.

Maybe you aren’t using a plan but are making it up as you go along. You’ll get better results if you follow a plan. (If you want to learn more, see Jean Donaldson’s Train Your Dog Like a Pro which includes sample plans for obedience behaviours).

Maybe you aren’t delivering the food rewards fast enough. For example, you ask your dog to lie down, but by the time you are ready to give them the reward, they have already jumped up and moved around so in fact you rewarded the wrong behaviour. You need to have the rewards ready to be delivered quickly.

Maybe because you know you have to deliver the rewards quickly, you are actually moving your hand to your bait bag or crinkling your baggie before the dog has done the behaviour you asked for. That’s very confusing. A hint you might be doing this is if your dog is busy watching your treat hand!

Or perhaps you’re just making it too hard for the dog. It’s very common to think the dog has learned the behaviour when they just practised it once or twice. It’s like if you were learning to waltz; moving your feet the right way a few times isn’t enough to be able to waltz; it takes more practice. Your dog needs lots of practise too.

A guide to positive reinforcement in dog training. Here, a woman uses food to lure her dog into a down position

And speaking of practise, you also have to build up the distractions very slowly. Just because your dog knows how to sit in the kitchen when nothing else is happening, doesn’t mean he can still sit at the park when other dogs are running around, a child is approaching and a skunk just popped out from behind a tree. That’s a sudden leap in difficulty!

These are all things you can work on, but dog training is a skilled activity and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are struggling. You may need to ask for help from a qualified dog trainer or take your dog to a class. Because dog training is not regulated, make sure you read my article on how to choose a dog trainer first and pick someone who is suitably qualified.

See below for some suggestions for further reading if you want to work on your training technique.

But the trainer says it won’t work for my dog?! 

Some dog trainers will say ‘positive reinforcement isn’t working’ or ‘it won’t work for this dog’ as an attempt to justify using a shock collar.

First of all, remember that dog training isn’t regulated. Look through the list above of some of the technical things dog trainers need to learn. Unfortunately it’s possible that some people are making mistakes themselves and blaming it on the dog.

Secondly, it’s important to know there are risks to the use of a shock collar. One experimental study in the UK concluded that shock collars do not work any better than positive reinforcement for teaching dogs to come when called in the presence of livestock. They also found negative effects on welfare for some dogs.

Look after your dog, and don’t let a dog trainer use methods you aren’t happy with.

(See more resources on shock collars).

Do I have to use a clicker? 

It’s up to you.

Clickers are used to mark the moment the dog is doing the right behaviour. It’s very quick, so it buys you time to get the treat out and give it to your dog.

Some people absolutely love using a clicker. They also think it helps improve their technique (perhaps because they are paying close attention to when to click, and not to move before then).

Some people really don’t like the clicker. They find it clunky and awkward or too complicated. Luckily for them, there is a study that found using a clicker versus a verbal marker or no marker at all (just food rewards) didn’t make much difference to training success.

Another study compared the use of a clicker (and food) versus food only in a 6 week trick training course for novice dogs. People in both groups said the training was fun, and there were no specific advantages or disadvantages to using the clicker. Of course, it may be different if used over a longer period of time (e.g. at competition level). This is something we need more research on.

A guide to positive reinforcement dog training

For behaviours that are brief and fleeting, a marker (your voice or a clicker) will really help. But for many of the behaviours we teach, like sit and lie down and come when we call, we don’t need such precise timing.

The most important thing is to use food rewards to train your dog. If you try the clicker and like it, that’s great, and lots of people do. But if you don’t like it, don’t worry about it. Just keep using food.

Will I always have to use positive reinforcement? 

This is a common question and it’s easily answered with another question: Will you want your dog to keep doing the behaviour? If so, you’ll want to keep rewarding it.

Now, you might not always reward every single time. Using an intermittent reinforcement schedule (in which the behaviour is only rewarded sometimes) can help build up resistance to extinction (that’s when the behaviour stops). That’s useful, because in real life there might be an occasion when you forgot to put some dog treats in your pocket.

But it’s a very common mistake to stop rewarding a behaviour altogether. The end result is that the dog stops doing it, and people say “I tried it, and it didn’t work.” Actually, the technical term is extinction: you extinguished the behaviour because you stopped rewarding it.

Another very common mistake is to not reward a behaviour often enough.

Remember that dogs like to work for food, and you have to feed your dog anyway. Training for food rewards is a good way to exercise your dog’s brain and provide enrichment. Instead of trying to stop, it's best to keep thinking of new things to teach your dog.

For the people training their cats… 

You can use positive reinforcement with any species, and that includes cats. Remember that because cats are small, they only need small rewards. Check out my interview with Dr. Sarah Ellis about her book The Trainable Cat to learn more.

Final words and further reading on positive reinforcement

Hopefully this article has provided you with useful information about the use of positive reinforcement in dog training. If you liked it, please share with your friends.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with the latest news about the science of people and their pets, subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology.  And if there are topics you would like to read about in future, please let me know (subscribers can simply hit the reply button).

What type of food reward does your dog like best?

Further reading 
Excel-Erated Learning: Explaining in Plain English How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach Them by Pamela Reid.

Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. (You might also like to check out my interview with Jean Donaldson to mark 20 years since the first publication of this influential book).

Train Your Dog Like a Pro by Jean Donaldson.

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell.

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.

Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor.

If you want to know more about any of the studies mentioned in this article, click the link and you will be taken to a page with a summary, the full reference, and a link to the academic paper. For a more complete list, check out my dog training research resources page which lists scientific papers about dog training and places where you can read about them for free, on this blog and elsewhere.

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