The Hottest Dog Book Makes Good Sense


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The hottest dog book is paws down John Bradshaw’s Dog Sense: Dog Sense: How The New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. 

My friend at WGN Radio, Bill Moller sent this along from an NPR interview. Bradshaw’s comments are a huge breath of Fresh Air!!! Bradshaw relies on science, rather than the antiquated and misleading notions Cesar Millan “The Dog Whisperer” offers.

Here are some Bradshaw comments, (in quotes) followed by my views (in italics).

On common misconceptions about wolves

“The
main [myth] … is that wolves are essentially an intrinsically
aggressive animal that is continuously trying to take over whatever
group they find themselves in and dominate it.

Wolf packs are families…Wolves don’t need to roll other wolves over to determine who’s boss, anyway.

And the new wolf biology
really exposed that as an artifact — that particular view of wolves came
from wolves in zoos and in wildlife parks, where a bunch of unrelated
wolves were basically put together and told to get on with it and, not
surprisingly, they got on with it by being aggressive toward one
another. The new picture of wolf society is that wolves are harmonious
animals. They live in family groups. They get along really well
together, and they’re almost never aggressive to one another. The
aggression comes out when two families meet, so they have very strong
family ties.”

Alpha roll should be called power roll – doesn’t demonstrate anything about status to dogs, just about your ability to force a dog over.

Wolf researchers and experts confirm exactly what Bradshaw is saying. This simply means, there is totally no need for anyone living with dogs to be ‘the alpha dog.’  For starters, dogs understand we are not dogs. Also, dogs aren’t wolves. No matter, as pointed out here – the alpha wolf didn’t win some sort of test or duel – the alpha wolf is typically “dad” or a sibling. Be a good teacher, so your dog understands, and be consistent –  for the overwhelming majority of dogs, that’s all you need to know

(click continue reading)

On playing tug of war with your dog

John Bradshaw

“Let’s
take a very simple piece of advice that trainers take out, which is you
should never allow a dog to go in front of you through a doorway
because it will give the signal to the dog that you are submissive and
are therefore allowing him or her — the dog — to become dominant.

“Take
another one. Many trainers advise against playing tug of war games
because there is a risk the dog will win and the dog, by winning, will
think that you are being submissive and he will therefore be able to
control you in the future. We’ve done research into a number of these
things — including the tug of war game — and have shown that the premise
is just completely not true. If you do let a dog win over and over
again at tug of war, it likes you. It wants to play with you more than
it did to begin with because it’s having fun.

Do you really think the winner is alpha? If you do, you are mistaken.

If, on the other hand, the
dog gets less attracted to you and doesn’t so much want to play with
you — again, but there’s absolutely no change of the dog’s behavior
outside of that particular situation of play — the dog does not get into
its head that you’re kind of a soft touch and that in the future it
will be able to control you and whatever you do.”

Taking the
answer a step further…it’s all about relationships, and communication.
Often Millan projects that you are the dog’s adversary. Learning
happens far more readily through play – the the animal feels comfortable. Besides, why would you want an adversarial
relationship with your dog? 

On breeding

“There’s
still a great genetic variability if you take the dog as a whole. But
within a breed, the variation has diminished. So you get all kind of
inherited diseases coming up [which are] very difficult to eradicate at
the moment while the breed barriers are being maintained.”

Yes, but sometimes mixes are equally problematic – if a dog is a Golden Retriever/Poodle mix (also called Labradoodles), potentially now the dog may carry issues from both breeds. In any case, the path dogs are going in genetically is not a good one.Dogs should be living longer than ever. Reality is that today half of all dogs will face cancer, and most Golden Retrievers will die of a cancer, and often before their 10th birthday. No doubt ‘bad breeding’ is a part of the explanation – but no one really knows exactly what’s gone wrong. 

On military dogs

“I’ve
been involved with training dogs for the military for about a decade
now, so I think everybody but me has been surprised by the dog that went
in to find Osama bin Laden. They’re very valuable dogs. And I must say,
if I was in an environment like that, I would actually much rather have
a dog ahead of me than another human being because it’s another set of
senses — and particularly the olfactory sense. These dogs are trained to
find and then indicate all manners of things. In that particular
instance, it would presumably be explosives and ammunitions and guns and
so on.”

Mr. Bradshaw – It seems I know everyone in the dog world – amazing our paths have not crossed. I’m virtually hugging you for these comments.

On dog senses

“They’re
colorblind to a certain extent but colorblind humans are not that badly
handicapped. Their hearing is a little bit more sensitive than ours in
the high-pitched region. But it’s their sense of smell that really
distinguishes them from us.

Dog takes the time to smell the flowers – and EVERYTHING else!

And I don’t think we really take up too much
recognizance of that. I think dogs have a right to sniff things
whenever it doesn’t cause a problem to us. When I meet a dog, I hold my
hand out. I don’t stick my fingers right out, just in case, but I just
make a loose fist and put my hand out to the dog. If it’s a small dog,
I’ll squat down. And that dog will want to come and sniff my hand and
lick it if necessary. That’s a greeting, and I think if we don’t do
that, I think it’s as upsetting to the dog as if we were talking to
somebody that we never met before and covered our faces at that point in
time, as if we were trying to disguise who we were.”

Well said…it’s interesting that when you think about it now – even your own dogs, who see you when you walk in the door, and hear you – and recognize your face and voice. So, they must know it’s you….Still, they need a sniff to confirm. We can’t imagine how dogs perceive the world. A smell of a blade of grass is like receiving business cards from a dozen dogs in the neighborhood.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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