A common complaint among those who live with deaf (and blind/deaf) dogs is that they use their mouths roughly. This is very common throughout puppyhood and adolescence, but if dogs are not taught to use their mouths gently, this problem can extend into adulthood. Deaf dogs sometimes get a bad rap for being more aggressive than other dogs. But this is a myth. Let me tell you more …
Dogs use their mouths in many ways – when they eat, chew, play, discipline, bark, and too many more ways to list. Dogs can cause injury to humans if they are not taught to use their mouths gently and to be respectful of human skin. This means it is our responsibility to teach our dogs the behaviors that we like, such as treating our skin gently.
We cannot expect our dogs to stop using their mouths because it is a normal dog behavior. Just like when we use our hands. But just like we must learn to use our hands gently and appropriately in life, so must our puppies learn to use their mouths gently and appropriately.
Because there is a myth that deaf dogs are more likely to bite than hearing dogs, it is of utmost importance that we, as advocates for deaf dogs, make sure our dogs know how to be gentle and respectful with their mouths. It’s important that we can show others by example that deaf dogs can be safe and wonderful companions, so that more homeless deaf dogs can get adopted.
A few days ago, I heard a story on the radio about police dogs and their handlers. The reporter was talking to a retired police dog handler who now trains dogs and works as an expert witness. What he said was disturbing for anyone who gets stopped by a police officer-and-dog team, but, to anyone with dog training experience, sounds plausible.
What he was talking about was how common it is for the K9 handlers to miscue their dogs.
Sometimes it is conscious and intentional; the officer wants to do a search so he claims that the dog alerted. That gives him probable cause so the search is legal. That’s the idea, anyhow. This reporter said that “cops even joke about dogs being probable cause on four legs.” The trainer backs this up.
Sometimes, he says, the miscuing is unintentional — subconscious. The officer believes that there will be something to find, and he unconsciously signals this to the dog. A study done at the University of California, Davis, in 2011 tested teams on searchers where there was no contraband. The study was actually looking at the handlers’ behavior. Dogs are so attuned to their handlers — and often so eager to do what they think the person wants them to do — that they’ll signal. And the researchers found that, over and over, handlers led their dogs to alert to … nothing.
Here is a wonderful blog by PPG member Debbie Bauer on how to teach a blind or deaf dog to wake up gently.
There is a myth that deaf dogs can be “dangerous” because they will bite when they are startled or woken up.
Could this ever happen? Yes, it could. But it could also happen with a dog that can hear just fine.
Does it happen a lot? No. Most deaf dogs are no threat when startled.
Can this scenario be prevented? Yes, definitely! You can teach your deaf dog to wake up easily and happily. By teaching this skill to your new dog, you can prevent this issue from developing.
Start training when your dog is awake and paying attention to you. Let your dog see you reach towards it. Touch your dog and then pop a wonderful treat into its mouth immediately. Don’t wait to see what your dog will do. There should be no lag time. Just touch and pop the treat into its mouth. Make these really special treats. You want your dog to really look forward to being touched.
If your dog is also blind, give it a moment to become aware that you are nearby before you touch at this stage of teaching. Touch gently and quickly give a treat. In the beginning, give your dog a moment to know you are there, sniff your hand, etc, before touching. You can progress in the same way as working with a deaf dog.
Why train a cat? Why indeed. Myths about the trainability of cats abound: “Cats can’t be trained because they’re too independent.” “Cats are difficult to train because they are not food motivated.” “Cats don’t need training like dogs do.” These are all common misconceptions, but get ready to kick all the myths to the curb and add some useful cat training tools and techniques to your repertoire.
Professional dog trainers will already know all about clicker training and many use the method regularly in their training sessions with dogs. What is less common is the concept of clicker training – or indeed any form of training – for cats. In fact, clicker training is a fun and unique way for cats and humans to communicate with each other, and better communication can strengthen the cat-human bond and build trust. It can also provide enrichment for cats in the form of mental and physical stimulation. Cats can be clicker trained to accept husbandry procedures like taking medication, being groomed and having their claws trimmed, and going into a cat carrier. You can also use clicker training to teach a cat to walk on a harness and leash and to do a variety of cute tricks, too. In addition, many feline behavior problems can be resolved using clicker training, and training can help a cat feel safe and secure in stressful situations as well.
How Cats Learn
By understanding how cats learn and how we can influence what they learn, we can create events to be perceived more positively than they may otherwise be perceived (such as going into a cat carrier). Just like with dogs, learning is happening all the time, regardless of whether you are intentionally trying to teach something. Learning can take place with one repetition or many. Experiences can either help reinforce what has previously been learned or teach something entirely different. Most importantly, as an animal is learning he is also developing negative or positive associations as to how things make him feel.
Here is another interesting blog by Pam Hogel. Pam thank you for writing such excellent blogs.
The New York times recently published an article describing a study that compared dogs’ and wolves’ ability to perform cooperative tasks.
The article, and the short accompanying video, are somewhat disdainful in their assessment of the dogs, who did not perform as well as the wolves on the task. The rope-pulling task used for the study is one at which other species, including elephants, chimps, and multiple bird species, have succeeded. Two test subjects must pull on ropes at the same time in order to bring a tray with food rewards into reach. If only one dog pulls at the rope, he will pull it out of the test area without pulling the food tray to him, thus failing the test. (Alternatively, as an elephant discovered, one team member could stand on her rope and let her partner do all of the pulling. Neither the dogs nor the wolves appear to have discovered this method of freeloading.)