"Bad Dog?" The Psychology and Importance of Using Positive Reinforcement

Calling a dog a "bad dog" very often displays a lack of knowledge about dog behavior, says Marc Bekoff in this essay on the importance of positive reinforcement in dog training.

This guest post by Marc Bekoff is part of the Train for Rewards blog party.

"Eugene, you're a bad dog. Why did you try to fight with Melvin?" "Monica, why did you attack Rosie? Bad dog!" "Bad dog, bad dog, bad dog! Good dogs don't do that." "My dog Joey was badly abused by other dogs and humans when he was young and learned that he had to fight back. He was doing what came naturally. Now that I've worked hard to socialize him to other dogs and to humans and to praise him when he doesn't fight back, he's learned that fighting fire with fire doesn't work. I always told him he's a 'good dog' when he didn't fight back." "I learned that letting Henry know he was a 'good dog' when he wasn't reactive was the best…

The Train for Rewards Blog Party 2019

The 2019 Train for Rewards blog party celebrates reward-based training of dogs, cats, and other pets.  Join in the fun, find new bloggers to read, and share a photo of your pet on social media with the hashtag #Train4Rewards.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Take Part in Train for RewardsRead the blog posts, comment on them, and share your favourite posts with the hashtag #Train4RewardsAdd your pet's photo to the photo postAfterwards, reward yourself for participating with a piece of cake, some chocolate, a glass of wine, a walk on the beach, or whatever makes you happy. 
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party! Click here to enter

Confidence and Emotions Affect People's Use of Positive Reinforcement to Train Reactive Dogs

Confidence in being able to use the technique, perceptions of the effectiveness of positive reinforcement, and the emotional toll of having a reactive dog all influence people’s choice of dog training method, a new study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

If you’ve never had a reactive dog, then you’ve not experienced those grim moments of hanging on to the leash while your dog lunges and growls at other people or dogs. Feelings of anxiety and embarrassment are often compounded by negative reactions and comments from other people. But while reward-based methods are the best way to resolve behaviour issues, they aren’t always what people use.

New research from Dr. Emma Williams and Dr. Emily Blackwell (University of Bristol) looks at the factors that affect people’s decisions about the dog training methods to use with their reactive dog. The study shows the importance of dog trainers building their clients’ confidence and abilities to use positive reinforcement has important implications for how…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club June 2019

“How did wolves evolve into dogs? Persuasively."--Kirkus Reviews.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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This month the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is reading Once a Wolf: The Science Behind our Dogs Astonishing Genetic Evolution by Bryan Sykes.

From the back cover,
"The author of Seven Daughters of Eve returns with a lively account of how all dogs are descended from a mere handful of wolves.  How did wolves evolve into dogs? When did this happen, and what role did humans play? Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes used the full array of modern technology to explore the canine genetic journey that likely began when a human child decided to adopt a wolf cub thousands of years ago. In the process, he discovered that only a handful of genes have created the huge range of shapes, sizes, and colors in modern dogs. Providing scientific insight into these adaptive stages, Sykes focuses attention on our own species, and how our own evolution from (perhaps equally agg…

How Hungarian Dog Owners Perceive "Dominance" Between Their Dogs

New research investigates how Hungarian dog owners with two or more dogs describe “dominance” in the dogs’ relationship, and which pairings are most likely to involve conflict.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

“Dominance” is a loaded word in dog training. A new scientific paper by Enikő Kubinyi and Lisa Wallis (Family Dog Project, Eötvös Lorand University) begins by noting how contested the term is in ethology and psychology, before reporting on an investigation into the factors that influence Hungarian dog owners’ use of the term to describe the relationship between two of their dogs.

They say the results show the Hungarian public’s use is broadly in line with that of ethologists. They also found that when two dogs in the same household are male and female, a spayed female dog is more likely to be considered dominant and to behave in ways that might cause conflict between the two dogs.

Dominance means different things in different circumstances, and it’s important to note this study is not about dog…

Invitation to the 2019 Train for Rewards Blog Party

Join the pet blogging community in supporting reward-based training of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. #Train4Rewards

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Are you a blogger? Do you support reward-based training for dogs and other animals? Would you like to take part in the fourth annual #Train4Rewards blog party?

You are invited to write a blog post about reward-based training of dogs or other companion animals, post it on your own blog on the set date, then come and share a link to it here. Bloggers from anywhere in the world are invited to take part.

In the past, posts have covered the training of dogs, cats and horses. Posts on the training of rats, mice, ferrets, rabbits, and fish are all welcome too.

Read on to find out more.

On Friday 14th or Saturday 15th June: 1. Publish a post on your blog in support of the #Train4Rewards blog party. It can be words, photos, video, a podcast, or a combination, and relate to any kind of companion animal.  I’ve put some suggestions below to get you start…

Companion Animal Psychology News May 2019

Insect-detecting dogs, the challenges of science with cats, and spider's brains...

By Zazie Todd, PhD
Some of my favourites this month “Three very good dogs – named Bayar, Judd and Sasha – have sniffed out the endangered Alpine Stonefly, one of the smallest animals a dog has been trained to successfully detect in its natural habitat.” Sit! Seek! Fly! Scientists train dogs to sniff out endangered insects by Dr. Julia Mynott.

“The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats "dropped out" of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.” Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? This post by David Grimm is a must-read.

“Many trainers advise against these types of collars altogether, in part because the risk of injury to dogs is significant.” Should dogs be shock…