Category Archives: Dog Training

Talking to Dogs

Koala, a black Labrador, rests on her hammock-style dog bed
Photo by Deni Elliott

A newly published study finds that dogs pay attention to both the way we talk to them and to what we say. Alex Benjamin and Katie Slocombe’s ‘Who’s a good boy?!’ Dogs prefer naturalistic dog‑directed speech looked at what they term “dog-directed speech,” or DDS, which is similar in tone and affect to baby talk. Their canine test subjects were all adult dog guests of a boarding kennel whose humans gave permission for their participation.

An earlier study had played recorded human voices using baby talk and regular speech. The content of the speech was supposedly of interest to dogs: greetings and expressions of “good boy!” and “come here!” Puppies in this study showed greater interest than adult dogs. The earlier study had serious flaws, though, primarily that the dogs heard the voices while alone in a room. It’s not surprising that adult dogs didn’t respond to a disembodied “come here” or praise.

Benjamin and Slocombe’s study is far more respectful of canine intelligence. While they also used recorded speech, so that all dogs got the same stimuli, a matching researcher (gender-wise) was in the room and the dogs were able to approach and interact with the human. In the first experiment, the stimuli were:

  • DDS (higher pitched, more emotional speech) with dog-directed content
  • Human-directed speech with human-directed content (assumed to be uninteresting to dogs)

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The Opposite of Force


by Eileen Anderson

Clara's pool provides enrichment she can choose when she wants

I think I’ve figured something out.

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.

It can also refer to human-centric preference tests, many of which are subject to extreme bias.

But here’s my new realization. I think we have grabbed hard onto the concept of choice because it seems like the opposite of force.

  • Instead of pushing the dog’s butt down into a sit, I don’t. The dog now has a choice.
  • Instead of restraining the dog for nail trims, I don’t. The dog now has a choice.
  • Instead of pulling the dog away from the fire hydrant by his leash and collar, I let him sniff, or I give a cue for another behavior that I will strongly reinforce. He has a choice.

But there is a semantic mismatch here. Force and choice are not opposites.

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Teaching Deaf (and Blind) Dogs to Use Their Mouths Gently


By Debbie Bauer

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.

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So Easy to Miscue …

by  Pam Hogle

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.

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How to Teach Your Deaf (and Blind) Dog to Wake Up Gently

 

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.

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