I continue to see the concept of choice bandied about the positive reinforcement-based training world. It can be a code word for a setup that includes negative reinforcement. “I’m going to do something physically unfamiliar or unpleasant to you and you have the choice of staying here and getting a piece of food or leaving and being relieved from whatever it is I’m doing.” I’ve suggested that this is not a laudable kind of choice; as trainers we can use our skills and take our time so that the dog doesn’t want to leave in the first place.
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.
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.
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.)
Most of us know that a dog’s tail can be a fairly good indicator of mood. We can observe whether the tail carriage is low, medium, or high and whether it is loose or stiff. Whether and in what manner it is wagging. We can often draw some pretty good conclusions from those observations, keeping breed in mind.
A dog wagging her tail loosely at a low angle is possibly friendly. A dog holding her tail upright, wagging it stiffly from side to side is one to watch out for. A dog with her tail hanging straight down or tucked between her legs is usually afraid or unhappy.
Except when she’s not.
I have a popular YouTube movie called Kongs for Beginners, in which I show how to make very easy Kongs for puppies and inexperienced dogs. All four of my dogs from that time demonstrate. A viewer commented that Zani looked unhappy because her tail was tucked. I hadn’t noticed. I agreed and put a note in the video description about it.