Thursday, August 11, 2011

10 Things every Dog Owner should Know Part 2

Lowcountry Dog Magazine

Bea, Zander and Neha

(Continued from yesterday, please scroll down to see Part 1)

6. Body language is the dog's primary mode of communication.

Dogs rely heavily on body language to communicate, and a person’s body language can easily be misinterpreted. If a dog jumps on you and you respond by pushing it down with both hands, the dog may think you want to play, in much the same way it would play with other dogs. When people greet a dog, they often do not consider whether or not the dog actually wants to meet the person.

7. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Although we cannot teach dogs to reason, we can teach them to “think.” Dogs are continuous learners and have good memories. The three things that primarily influence a dog’s behavior are association, instinct and experience. Dogs recall information with associative stimuli, such as similar situations. People cannot explain to a dog—as they would to a child—not to eat food off the floor. The only way for a dog to learn that lesson is for the owner to correct it immediately using voice sounds and body language as soon as the dogs tries to eat the food. By conditioning your dog and effectively showing it what you consider good and bad behavior, you can help any dog change its behavior.

8. Bad behaviors may be natural, but they do not have to be normal.

Most people consider digging, chewing and jumping as unacceptable dog behavior. To dogs, however, these are natural actions. Dogs will do what their instinct tells them unless otherwise trained. To teach a dog what behaviors are and are not acceptable, a dog owner must leverage a dog’s association and experience to directly impact how it behaves. A dog owner needs to associate a dog’s bad behavior with a bad experience, such as a harsh voice tone, and good behavior with a good experience, such as high-pitched praise. In this way, a dog will learn what acceptable behavior is.

9. What is the right way to discipline a dog?

Since dogs cannot reason like humans, they are not deliberately naughty, despite what many people might think. Instead, their behavior is always determined by either instinct or experience. A dog will do only what comes naturally or what it has learned through association; therefore, it is not productive (or even logical) for humans to get angry with a dog. Moreover, physical force is both inappropriate and counterproductive. This includes using your hands for correcting. Since dogs do not have hands, they find that form of discipline to be provocative and threatening. For this reason, dog owners should use their hands as little as possible when training, and when you do, dogs must always associate your hands with gentleness and pleasure. Because dogs learn from association, they will comprehend your message only if it is delivered in a timely manner. A correction must be issued at the precise moment the dog is either contemplating or actually doing something wrong. Sometimes it may be difficult to catch your dog in the act, but you can create situations that will cause a dog to misbehave and then correct it on the spot.

10. Do dogs sense the world differently than humans?

Dogs experience the world nose first. Smell is the most dramatic sensory difference between humans and dogs. Dogs have about 25 times more olfactory (smell) receptors than humans do and can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. A dog’s sense of smell is also closely linked to taste. A dog is so scent sensitive, it is usually the smell not the taste that will cause a dog to reject food before it even enters its mouth. In contrast, humans have 5 times more tastes as dogs and tend to taste something before deciding if they like it. Also, a dog’s eye lacks certain components found in a human eye. As such, dogs see the world in shades of black, white and gray and have better night vision. Visual acuity also varies by breed. Due to the positioning of their eyes, short-nosed dogs can see things in the distance with more depth perception than longer-nosed breeds. Hearing is also acutely developed in dogs. The distance from which it can hear things is 4 times farther than a human. Dogs’ hearing is also selective: they can sleep beside a blaring TV but wake up as soon as they hear something not related to the TV sound. Dogs process only what they want to hear.

Information presented by Amy Clear, Dog Behavioral Therapist & Trainer, Bark Busters.

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