Category Archives: Training Articles

Dog owner responsibilities by William E Campbell

Darwin Play Bow Rascal 011711

January 23, 2011

Joyce Kesling, CDBC, Professional Dog Trainer

I had to share this with many of you, knowing you will more than appreciate what he says.  I feel exactly the same way, but he says it so elegantly. I have referred to these types of individuals as “predators” taking advantage of others, who either lack understanding or as he suggests the needs of the individual, not the pet.

The client who wants instant, off-leash control of a potentially dangerous dog doesn’t only want to have his cake and eat it, too.  He is violating the laws of most communities and adding fuel to the forces who want to outlaw dog ownership in many cities.  His viewpoint is not only dangerous to himself and others, (including the dog), but is awash in irresponsibility.

The ‘solution’ to this type of client’s situation lies in counseling that motivates the owner to change his attitude about his responsibilities.  In other words, we need to differentiate in our minds between clients-wants and client-needs, and apply our skills to bring new insights to this kind of client.

There are those in this field who use and sell devices ranging from choke and prong collars to electrical shock-collars as a means of off-leash training or containing dogs in the yard.  However, the reality of the average dog-owner’s dilemma of ‘wants versus needs’ begs for a counselor who will help that client recognize that dilemma, deal with it, and then become a responsible dog owner in a society that is becoming alarmingly more anti-dog due to irresponsible pet owners and distorted media coverage regarding dangerous breeds.

I regard people who prey on human weakness as hucksters because these devices are not 100% effective, and because they feed on human selfishness.  Further, they utilize a mechanistic ‘ends-justifies-the-means’ mentality in man’s relationships with one of his oldest mammalian partners, the dog.

I have explained the essence of this viewpoint to many clients during preliminary discussions of problems, and the vast majority agree; when an owner must rely on painful, artificial control of a pet dog, something is terribly lacking.  Very few really want a dog who comes who comes when called simply because they, the owners, represent a means of escaping 250 volts of electric shock to the throat.

Source:

Dog Behavior Problems: The Counselor’s Handbook by William E. Campbell, 1999

Why consider the use of Shock Collars (E-Stimulus, E-Touch) carefully

Any more suggestions Cesar (Millan)?

Why consider the use of Shock Collars (E-Stimulus, E-Touch) carefully

This is a bit technical but brief overview on this issue.  I will do my best to make it easy for everyone to understand.  In the JVB (2007) Overall evaluated the molecular and cellular use of shock on the learning process.  She suggested, “we may be changing other behaviors or processes” with these devices technically called E-Stimulus Devices.

Overall (2007) uses what she describes as “a landmark study” by Schilder and van der Borg published in Applied Animal Behavior (2004).  Schilder and van der Borg noticed dogs exhibiting more stress related behavior when using these types of devices.  Stress related behavior continued with the control group, during free time in the handlers presence while at parks, when dogs should be relaxed.  Stress behaviors and/or conflict resolution behaviors is extensively defined in recent dog literature.

The authors, Schilder and van der Borg (2004), concluded three negative effects from the use of e-stimulus devices (shock collars).  They are as follows:

  1. This type of training is stressful
  2. Dogs are feeling pain
  3. Dogs learn to associate the collar with shock and presence of the handler/owner!

Overall (2007) suggests, though some guard type dogs are successfully trained using these devices, other concerns i.e. “heightened uncertainty and reactivity” were reported.  She says,  president of  a regional detection dog group in the US believed “any handler who hits the streets with a dog wearing a shock collar did not have a well-trained or reliably trained dog.”

As said earlier, I am attempting to offer only an overview on the use of e-stimulus devices, aka shock collars, not an in-depth study or research paper.  There appears a growing number of dog trainers schooled to use these devices as standard training equipment.  One such school is located in Florida.  Their slogan “We do this quickly, effectively and lovingly.  Plus we GUARANTEE our E- Touch approach and dog training for the life of your dog.”

Guaranteeing results is a very questionable practice in the discipline of behavior and often advised against in literature when selecting a dog trainer or behavior specialist.  Not even a human therapist will guarantee your results.  This is purely marketing, and when their system fails, because they have not correctly identified any underlying problems associated with a behavior complaint, the owner will either seek other counsel or worse, surrender the dog to an unknown fate at a shelter.

A legitimate concern exists for newly introduced dog trainers, veterinarians, dog owners/handlers, dog-related businesses, and dog owners who are unaware of these findings and literature on the subject is sorely lacking.

The following statement and review comes from a “Letter to the Editor” in response to Overall’s (2007) editorial cited earlier.  The response appeared in the JVB (2008)  published by a “representative” from Radio Systems Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of e-stimulus devices which they refer to as “static stimulation.”  The brands represented included Invisible Fence, PetSafe, Innotek, SportDOG, and Guardian Brands.

The author, in the first paragraph says, “We are in complete agreement with Overall…decisions to use such equipment should not be made lightly,” and states their literature includes warnings.  I am purposely omitting the author’s reasoning for suggesting e-stimulus devices as a “legitimate means of behavior modification” that would need discussion on learning theory, highly technical and lengthy paper.  The intended target audience is to bring attention to dog-related business’s, shelter and rescue personnel, foster parents, veterinarians, groomers, daycare owners, and dog owners.

Before making an informed decision using dog-related equipment for purposes of behavior modification, a complete behavior history and medical workup should be completed.  This gathering information about the dog, family, and dog’s environment, help the behavior consultant identify the problem and informed choices how to approach modifying the dog’s behavior.

Additionally, any medical reasons sometimes masquerading and/or contributing to a behavior problem need eliminated first by a veterinarian.

Once these two requirements are completed, any medical problems eliminated, the consultant can begin offering solutions including training, modifying the owner’s behavior, and any necessary management.  If the case involves a dog who has already bitten, a risk assessment is necessary.  The owner/handler, rescue organization, or foster care person is apprised of any risks and recommendations keeping in mind the public’s safety and anyone coming into contact with the dog.

If a certified behavior consultant (IAABC), board certified veterinarian (ACVB), ABS and/or AVSAB member were to decide the use of an e-stimulus device is warranted, then according to the representative the following must be taken into consideration.

The choice of the targeted stimulation is important, and since instrumental behavior (learned) is usually rewarded by its consequences, “not all behaviors are equally likely to be associated with certain consequences.”  They state, “researchers discovered that certain responses can be exceedingly difficult to establish” using shock avoidance!

Here’s the kicker… they admit animals are not ‘biologically prepared’ to associate a negative event when faced with danger.  I’m including any type of fearful stimulus.  It is widely known animals have choices when faced with threatening situations.  They can freeze, flee, defend themselves offensively or offer appeasement behavior (tend-befriend).  The author says, “if a trainer attempts to punish defensive aggression in an already frightened dog, the aggression is likely to escalate,” not diminish.  Aggression, except predatory, is always associated with fear and unless you change the emotional response, you cannot change the dog’s perspective toward that fear.

The author suggests behavior “targeted for suppression” using e-stimulus devices include roaming, chasing vehicles, prey drive and “other high-arousal behaviors far removed from stress.”  The bolded phrase is concerning since “high-arousal” behavior can manifest in a myriad of ways and reasons and often already associated with stress!  An example of “high-arousal” behavior could be jumping, barking, or zooming around the house to release energy!  All of these suggested behaviors, often undesirable “high-arousal” behavior are always associated with the owner, not the dog.

The dog is often responding using normal dog behavior, often perceived negatively by their owners.  Many of these dogs are living in dysfunctional environments.  A dysfunctional environment often does not include clear rules and boundaries associated with the dog’s behavior, and in most cases, owner reinforcement is often present.  So punishing the dog for owner-reinforced behavior, inconsistency, lack of enough outlets for energy expenditure, and generally not meeting a dog’s needs seem rather cruel.

The following statement made by the author needs understood, especially by dog owners considering these devices for training and/or behavior modification.  The author states, “experienced trainers acknowledge…motivating learning through aversive control” is only effective if the trainer concentrates on “one response at a time” and “intermixing behaviors only when performance” of the first target response is “fluent” (reliably trained).

Most problem behavior consists of chained behavior.  For example, dog hears owner’s car arrive home, dog begins to get aroused, owner walks in, dog jumps all over owner.  If they suggest the correct way to use these devices means, the owner/dog trainer must stop the behavior before it gets started, when the dog hears the car!  All other points in the entire chain of behavior must be “fluent” (reliably trained) first, before proceeding to the next!  I have to ask, how many of these trainers are training reliably each sequence in a chain of undesirable behavior with the owners?  This is exactly how positive trainers shape desirable behavior, but without using punishment.

The author’s argument that other punitive procedures, i.e. time out, are ineffective, citing “electrical stimulation is potentially superior to and safer” than other aversive punishment, i.e. spray bottles, restraint, and noxious tastes, is unsubstantiated.  This suggestion is weak lacking any research or quantification.

I purposely left time out from their list; time out, used effectively and consistently, with rules, timing and proper social settings can/is very effective, given the dog wants to stay in the social environment.  If the dog’s social environment lacks rewarding opportunities and training an incompatible behavior, sending them to time out will have no effect at all, in some instances, it may offer the dog relief.  Therefore, the author’s statement is weak and appears to lack understanding correct time out rules and when/where its use is effective.

The author further justifies using electrical stimulation by comparing it to human cases of “self-injurious behaviors,” i.e. head banging.  Dog owners commonly complain about barking, running away and jumping, these common dog behavior problems don’t come remotely close to “head banging” but aversive punishment is commonly recommended.  A recent study, on territorial aggression suggested owners are most responsible for their dog’s behavior.  See related blog post, “Spoiling dogs, is it really good for them? .” Until owners step up to the plate, take responsibility for contributing to their dog’s behavior… after all, it was their choice to adopt or buy a dog…  We will continue to debate this issue as well as how many dogs are euthanized every day and yearly because of unresolved behavior problems.

Lastly, using the author’s own words the use of e-stimulus devices “should never be considered in isolation from positive reinforcement” when used to correct unwanted behavior.  My answer is: if more owners were properly educated in the use of positive reinforcement and life rewards, there would be limited need for these devices.

The only consideration for the use of an e-stimulus device might be to control prey drive.  However, this requires your presence, a dog allowed to roam freely will still be able to kill.  A dog diagnosed with prey drive is a danger to the community and based on a risk assessment, should be remanded to its property, and if taken out in public should wear a muzzle to protect the public and other animals.

Joyce Kesling, CDBC

Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (IAABC)

Professional Dog Trainer (APDT)

Sarasota, FL

http://www.responsibledog.net/

Campaign to ban Cesar Millan’s The Dog Whisperer from Italian TV

Campaign to ban Cesar Millan’s The Dog Whisperer from Italian TV

22 October 2009
Italy trying to ban Cesar Millan Dog Whisperer

Members of the APBC have provided information and resources to concerned pet behaviour counsellors in Italy following the broadcast of The Dog Whisperer featuring Cesar Millan on Italian TV.

 
The Italian pet behaviour counsellor Laura Borromeo contacted members of the APBC after just three episodes of the controversial show were aired. She is developing a campaign that aims to educate the public that there are alternatives to Cesar Millan’s methods.
 
 
The Italian ASETRA web site represents the Society for the Ethological Studies of the Relationship between Animals and Humans and it is denouncing Millan’s methods with dogs: http://www.asetra.it/?Comunicati_Asetra
 
The Italian veterinary web site ANMVI is warning vets and owners about how dangerous and abusive Millan’s approach is towards dogs. They announce that they are taking steps to stop the show from being broadcast: http://www.anmvioggi.it/10262/12-10-09/la-veterinaria-disapprova-il-metodo-millan
 
There has also been coverage in the local Italian newspapers too where the headline message is equally clear; “Stop Millan – the veterinarians say he is educating people in the wrong way.”
 
Laura Borromeo is taking advice from lawyers so that a strategy can lead to the program being prevented from being broadcast.
 
Dog owners, dog trainers, pet behaviour counsellors and vets all have a choice in how pets are treated. The APBC believes in promoting the best in pet behaviour and it is clear from experience and research that some of the methods used by Cesar Millan can lead to an increase in dog aggression and behaviour problems. That’s why the APBC chooses to use better ways to train pets. There is a choice.
 
Graham Thompson
APBC Provisional Member.

Copyright 2009 APBC

No Shock Collar Coalition ~ Join for Dogs Sake!

Little Sunny...now Big Sunny!

No Shock Collar Coalition ~ Join for Dogs Sake!

The following is from an organization of supporters, received as a member and supporter and being passed on in its entirety to help get the word out. Please take the time to evaluate the efficacy and harmful effects determined by scientific studies and observation and sign up to show and express your support for dogs who can’t speak up for themselves. If you’re not familiar with this information then please ask those who are already members and/or you are welcome to contact me…I have sufficient information  for using these devices. Let’s raise happy dogs, not dogs trained using fearful aversive training methods and tools. The dogs will thank you and not out of fear of you!

No Shock Collar Coalition

Getting Started
You are receiving this message because you have previously signed up with the No Shock Collar Coalition.

This silent movement began in 2006, as those who love our canine companions and respect them as our brethren objected to the use of electric shock devices being used in the training and containment of dogs. In 2006 we were concerned by the proliferation of these devices, and now, three years later, there appears to be continued focus on shock collars as acceptable tools, not only in the dog trainers’ toolbox, but in the hands of the general public.

Since this problem has not abated, we believe it is time to stand up and be counted and make our position on this matter known to those who promote these devices and profit from them. In addition, raising awareness among those well-meaning trainers and owners who use them out of ignorance is also on our agenda!

To this end, we’re asking those of you who have previously signed up for the NSCC to consider your commitment to this cause; if you are no longer interested in supporting us, please use the ‘opt out’ instructions in this email to have your email address removed from our list.

If you have continued commitment to the No Shock Collar movement, please help us by encouraging your like-minded friends, relatives, clients and others to sign up with us and lend their support to our campaign. New members can sign up by visiting http://www.baddogsinc.com/noshockcollars.html.

Over the coming months, we’ll be collecting articles and other information about the use of shock collars to help educate users and distributors alike. In addition, we’ll be looking for ways to make our position known to those who profit from these devices, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Thank you in advance for your support. Remember that a handful of committed people can make a huge difference for good!

With gratitude to those who honor and respect our canine brethren, I remain

Sincerely,

Barbara Davis
BADDogsInc
Family Dog Training & Behavior
Corona, CA

Thanks

Joyce Kesling, CDBC
Responsible Dog
http://www.responsibledog.net

Does simply being around dogs or owning dogs indicate knowledge of dog behavior? (follow up)

This is not funny!
This is not funny!

November 4, 2009

Joyce Kesling, CDBC

I’m beginning to read Alexandra Horowitz’s new book “Inside Of A Dog…” including her “prelude” and “prefatory note…” and couldn’t help but be reminded of a earlier blog when I suggested dog owners marginalize dogs, their behavior, and those who study dogs (Does simply being around dogs or owning dogs indicate knowledge of dog behavior?).  Most specifically those most equipped to help in problem solving.  According to Horowitz, the “prevailing view of behavioral scientists” suggested there was no data to be obtained from the study of dogs.  Primates remained the species of choice studying animal cognition.  She says further “dog owners seemed to have already covered the territory of theorizing about the dog mind…theories generated from anecdotes and misapplied anthropomorphisms.” 

Why do we ignore our part when a problem occurs within the human-dog relationship?  Why do dog owners continue to ignore how influential a dog behaviorist is, not only preventing problems but also resolving problems without creating more conflict? 

I suggested in “Does simply being around dogs or owning dogs indicate knowledge of dog behavior?” the following could be contributing to the continued neglect and importance placed on resolving dog behavior problems. 

Some of the most easily identified, as cause and effect are the following examples.

  1. Too much self-help on the internet – recipes to train and problem solve
  2. Dog training and problem solving made easy by TV dog trainers while sitting on one’s couch
  3. Shelters, rescues, humane societies offering free telephone call in support
  4. Shelters, rescues, humane societies offering free downloaded “recipes” for problem solving
  5. Myths and anecdotal information and experience incorrectly interpreted
  6. Lack of knowledge and understanding about normal dog behavior
  7. Misunderstanding of dog-human relationships
  8. Unskilled dog trainers lacking sufficient knowledge in behavior
  9. Publics general awareness and importance using credentialed professionals at both levels, dog trainers and behaviorist
  10. Misunderstanding dogs in general

Several of these causes suggest a general lack of seriousness by owners, shelters, rescues and some instances the veterinary community.  We think so little of our part in the equation; we further fail when we do not acknowledge both physiological and mental health is closely linked. 

We further marginalize the process offering solutions to “fix the dog” in the worst way via internet and/or TV dog training programs.  In most instances, owners need counseling, offering training solutions, in many instances, choosing painful punishment i.e. e-stimulus (shock collars) collars without first getting a behavior evaluation and history.  To do otherwise suggest dogs and cats are automatons and applying fixed general rules and/or training are applicable to all situations, environments, and families/owners.  It is simply not that easy.  If our current system is working, why do we continue to see millions of dogs and cats relinquished and euthanized because of behavior problems? 

Responsible Dog and Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Combining Art and Science for Training Animals

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

Certified Dog Behaviorist

Professional Dog Trainer

P.O. Box 15992

Sarasota, Florida 34277

941-966-1188

http://responsibledog.net

http://responsibledog.wordpress.com/

https://k9psych.wordpress.com/

http://k9psych.blogspot.com/

http://www.youtube.com/joycekesling

http://vodpod.com/responsibledog

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948

Copyright Responsible Dog & Cat  2009

 

 

Considering drives and motivations when training dogs 8-)

Boudicca...doing what dogs do!

Boudicca...doing what dogs do!

 

 

Septempber 19, 2009

Joyce Kesling, CDBC

Considering drives and motivations when training dogs

 

 

The following two youtube videos demonstrate dog training using toys as rewards.  When training dogs, I like to think about what dogs do naturally, some more than others.   Dogs expressing parts of the prey drive not intended would be considered faults.  Border collies for example don’t naturally express “eye” they need the right environment to express that characteristic.  Without it, they probably wouldn’t make a good working and/or herding dog.

In this first video, Boudicca is demonstrating learned behavior take and give (release).  Training this behavior should be included in all puppy training. Rules are essential to maintain training new behavior during the acquisition phase, but also for maintaining already trained behaviors.  Note, how I emphasize my cues, hand signals and body language.  When we lack this type of consistency we can expect inconsistent behavior from our dogs.  However, this is not the same quality of precision one attempts to achieve in show obedience trials, however providing clear cues for behavior is essential, otherwise even pet/companion dogs may become anxious and frustrated.  Make sure you watch for my mistakes. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik_9vaeq-MY

In this second video, Boudicca is demonstrating how we can train dogs using parts of their natural prey drive using an internal reinforcer, rather than external.  This would be especially helpful for some dogs who might naturally express that behavior given the right environment. 

In the previous video, I used a variety of objects to generalize the behavior.  In this second video I get her started with my goal behavior, catch.  I then add the distraction, dropping a ball at my side, she should stay focused on me not the other object.  I pre-selected a soft bone shaped toy to use as the throwing object, this helps her catch a large object and express the kill bite part of the prey drive. 

The purpose for training this type of behavior not only teaches bite inhibition further but includes impulse control and cooperation.  When dogs willingly trust us to release objects, from their jaws and teeth and willingly retrieve objects to us, demonstrates very desirable manners and skills every owner should want for their dog. 

Note, how I continually use toys as rewards rather than food treats.  I use food treats to get a desirable behavior but move away from them to life rewards, especially play behaviors sooner than later!   When you consider internal and external motivation and drives, I’ve found incorporating rewards in training that stimulate internal motivations rather than relying on external motivators might be necessary for some dogs.  Teaching dogs to rely on food treats for good behavior can be compared to how we use food to satisfy unmet needs, resulting in eating disorders. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RAQqSv_VWU

 

Responsible Dog and Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Combining Art and Science for Training Animals

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

P.O. Box 15992

Sarasota, Florida 34277

941-966-1188 

http://responsibledog.net 

http://responsibledog.wordpress.com/ 

https://k9psych.wordpress.com/ 

http://k9psych.blogspot.com/  

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948

Coyright Responsible Dog & Cat  2009

Housetraining ~ Do Dogs Learn to Wait? Wait for What?

Boudicca
Boudicca

Joyce Kesling, CDBC

This post is actually a sequel of sorts to Housetraining, using a signal to indicate need to eliminate.  The main point is dogs have the cognitive ability using simple associative learning to learn to “hold it” given the opportunity to learn housetraining correctly.  Keep in mind, since dogs, owners and environments where they live are not all the same, it may be necessary to adapt these basic ideas, to fit your personal lifestyle, rather than relying on some sort of standard procedure.  

The responsibilities for housetraining a dog can be overwhelming…especially when the dog’s owner is clueless or just plain LAZY.  In this case, seriously, thinking about owning a dog should be considered, it is a long-term commitment, and the responsibilities of pet ownership should be given the same consideration as having and raising children. 

Considerations for owning and raising a new puppy

Occasionally calls to board recently purchased puppies are received.  The new owners failed to consider upcoming vacation plans, when they need to be home housetraining!  It does not happen often, but it does, and caught off guard, I forget to quote double what I charge for boarding a housetrained dog.  Why, I’m going to need to devote twice as much time and energy into taking care of an untrained puppy. 

This is just one of many considerations potential pet owners should consider before purchasing puppies.  Consider what you and/or your families’ schedules and demands are for the next few weeks or months, before rushing into a decision that you will live with for 10-15 years; that is if the dog is provided patience and training preventing them from ending up in a shelter/rescue because you failed to train them properly! 

The housetraining process has many variables, sometimes determined by breed, size, and temperament.  However, your success depends on your understanding the correct process, your dogs physiological development, cognitive abilities (learning), reasoning for confinement and close supervision, but most of all, how you contribute in teaching your dog to wait for you to provide them opportunities to eliminate in the right location. 

Breeders Responsibility – Before you bring your puppy home!

Puppies around 8-12 weeks, generally the time we bring them into our lives are at a critical stage in their development, both physiologically and mentally.  Some of your puppies housetraining actually begins at the breeding location.  This is why we encourage potential puppy purchasers to look carefully at whom and where they purchase their puppy.

Selling puppies before the age of 8 weeks is questionable; some breeders and dog experts suggest 12 weeks might be a more appropriate age to sell puppies.  This could present problems because the socialization period would overlap with ongoing breeder care and responsibility; so you want to make sure the breeder you select has done some if not all of the following no matter what age your puppy is at time of purchase.  This will help in housetraining, when you bring your new puppy home.

  1. Individual puppies should spend time in a puppy pen with an open crate.  This allows the puppy to begin learning where they sleep and where they eliminate.
  2. Each puppy should get one-on-one time with as many humans as possible
  3. Puppies should be isolated in a kennel for short periods of time (nap time), to prepare them for separation
  4. Breeders should begin introducing puppies to desirable substrates for elimination i.e. grass, crushed shell, sand, dirt, clay, concrete, anything but what is found inside a home!
  5. Puppies should be fed in individual bowls eliminating competition and possibility for developing food aggression later.

The time between 6-12 weeks is essential in developing a stable emotional temperament and affective tone.  This is the period most responsible for the development of social and emotional deficits.  This is why it is ill advised to remove puppies from their mother and littermates prematurely and why breeder selection is more important.

 We have now reached that point, you have done your homework, you have qualified and purchased your new puppy from a good breeder, you have selected the right puppy and breed for your lifestyle, and they have now entered your world.  It is completely up to you and/or your family to successfully finish the job of housetraining, teaching your puppy to “learn to wait” for you to provide his/her elimination opportunities!

Physiological Considerations

A little about your dog’s physiology

According to Lindsay (2001), “numerous conditioned and unconditioned digestive reflexes are triggered as soon as a bite of food is taken into the mouth.”  He says, the “internal alimentary reflexes function under the influence of classical conditioning” and external physiological conditions are controlled voluntarily through instrumental conditioning.  He further suggests, through proper training and conditioning the ability to control the external muscles associated with elimination are regulated by “cortical inhibition” and “for urination to occur, the external sphincter must be voluntarily relaxed” which can be “strongly influenced by instrumental learning” and why using appropriate training methods are necessary for achieving successful house training.

The following sections demonstrate “learning to wait” is simply not a stimulus response based on a learned location and/or substrate.  It is not the location and/or substrate the dog should ultimately associate with elimination. 

Certainly preferred locations and substrates are part of the overall association.  However, for the dog to learn effectively and reliably based on a real “need to go” versus an “adventure outside” is the association and connection with you and established cue! 

If you have not read Housetraining, using a signal to indicate need to eliminate you may not fully understand the explanation and its importance to successful housetraining a new puppy and/or adult dog not reliably housetrained in the first place!

Shortly after writing that article, I read another article on housetraining that prompted me to initiate a dialogue with the author.  The author suggested, the “[s]impliest [simplest] explanation is that they [dogs] are developing surface and location preferences for elimination and as dogs develop better muscle and nervous control over bladder and bowels they can choose when and where to relieve themselves.” 

This next section should provide a better explanation for how dogs learn the housetraining process, based on simple associations, but include more than simply “surface and location” stimuli to cause elimination to occur. 

Elimination Communication (EC)

In Housetraining, using a signal to indicate need to eliminate, I suggested housetraining dogs required the same kind of attention parents would give to potty training a child.  After my dialogue with the other author, I did some research on potty training children, to my surprise, my Google search turned up articles on a fairly new child potty training concept called “natural infant hygiene” or “elimination communication.”  The concept was inspired by “traditional practices of diaperless baby care” commonly used in third world countries and some natural based cultures. 

The author of a recent blog posted The Evolution of Potty Training that uses his recent experience training a new puppy with his current experience using elimination communication training his child. 

Elimination communication has four components, timing, signaling and body language, intuition and cueing.  All four components can be applied to housetraining dogs, but given some human work requirements and schedules, time allotted away from work for puppy owners versus stay at home parenting and parental leaves certainly raising a puppy will require some adjustments. 

Let’s address timing first and similarities

In potty training human babies, mothers learn when their babies need to eliminate based on feeding schedules and activity.  Proper housetraining puppies require the same considerations.  We learn through observation when puppies are more likely to need opportunities to eliminate.  For puppies, elimination is usually necessary first thing in the morning with the last opportunity before kenneling at night.  Other frequent times occur after eating and drinking, during playful activities and after napping during the day.  Initially new puppies may need to go out during the night, but this subsides as the puppy’s biological clock adjusts according to their physiological development. 

Puppies’ development for this process occurs more rapidly than their human counterpart that may take as long as 2-4 years depending on the individual and method used.  So consider yourself lucky if your only responsibility is training a new puppy!

Signaling and body language

An interesting association made concerning human parenting and using elimination communication is those who use this process suggest they become more attune to the needs and associated signals communicated from infants, suggesting this enhances the bonding process between mother and child.  To facilitate this type of training mothers must carry their infants around making these associations easier to recognize thus respond.

Training puppies requires we keep constant attention and supervision as well and watching for any signals of elimination behavior.  For dogs, this often includes sniffing, circling, whining, odd facial expressions and in some instances heading toward locations where the dog eliminated in the wrong location.  This should not occur if you are managing your puppy correctly! 

Contrasting, child elimination communication, we suggest puppy parents use short-term confinement using kennels, exercise pens that may include an open door kennel, naps (down time) scheduled throughout the day (used for impulse control), tethering via a lead to us and/or anchoring your puppy to a heavy object but remaining in close proximity to your location.  This allows us like humans parenting children to keep a watchful eye on our puppies and getting them outside before they have a chance to eliminate in the wrong location, setting them up to succeed.

Intuition

Mothers using the elimination communication suggest the “close nurturing relationship” helps them know when it is necessary to get the child to the potty location.  This is simply an unconscious knowing through observation and establishing the bond between mother and child that allows mothers to notice subtle behavioral change that may indicate specific needs.

This is not at all unlike dog owners who have established close attachments and secure bonds with their dogs.  However, this does mean we have to be in touch with our dogs and since dogs live in the moment, we need to learn to be equally observant of their behavior. 

Cueing

Communication elimination or natural infant hygiene used around the world requires a two-way communication between mother and infant.  The communication is formed using classical conditioning.  Human mothers having learned to recognize signals from the infant their need to eliminate is then paired using a verbal sound or cue, generally in human culture “shhh” or “sss” is used, some parents may use different signals for urination and defecation.  Other cues may also be associated with the elimination process such as holding the child in specific positions and locations.  In some instances, the child may eventually learn to signal the parent using the verbal cue.

There are some key differences however between teaching communication elimination between human children and dogs.  One of the most distinct differences is that dogs often learn through improper housetraining procedures and unwitting owners to use cues simply to get outside to play!  I doubt human parents experience this behavior, but it happens often enough with dogs, so dog parents need to be savvy enough to out think their dogs behavior.  This is where rewards, consequences, and confinement help establish successful housetraining for dog owners. 

Finally, the ability to “hold it”

Just like human children, dogs also go through stages of physical development that increases one’s ability to control their bodily functions.  This development occurs much faster in dogs and explained previously in “physiological considerations.”  The same occurs with human children who learn the “ability to retain” but at a human infant’s developmental pace and growing consequence of their awareness. 

Dogs possess the cognitive ability to associate and learn to control their sphincter muscles through similar conditioning as human children learning when/where access for elimination is available and by conditioning an associative cue to the process. 

Potential problems and why I don’t recommend using doggie doors!

Housetraining issues are common and second common reason dogs end up in shelters aggressive behavior is number one!  Often the client is using doggie doors!  Do you really think after all this discussion, puppies still know to take themselves outside to eliminate, and that only outdoors is the acceptable potty location, without your help and guidance in the beginning? 

Do you understand now how parents successfully use the same strategy to train infant children?  Dogs need your help just as much as human children require parents to be there, observing their signals, body language, and teaching cues associated with elimination, how is your puppy going to learn if you’re sitting on the couch learning how to train your puppy from the “dog whisperer” while assuming they understand what a doggie door means!

A couple of facts

  • Female dogs are just as capable of marking as males; an earlier issue of Journal Veterinary Behavior suggested this behavior does exist.  Thus, owners must be aware of their dog’s elimination habits through close observation; this means YOU need to be present!
  • When owners use doggie doors before their puppies elimination behavior is reliably trained, dogs may run in/out for all kinds of reasons, responding to noises, playing, perhaps even following you out there, but this doesn’t mean your dog understands without your guidance what she/he is supposed to do there!  Lack of supervision and being present when your dog eliminates can explain why so many owners using doggie doors end up with dogs that never reliably learned where the proper potty areas are located. 

My experience

Being a professional dog trainer, certified in dog behavior, I can reliably say that in all the years before becoming a professional in this industry, I never relied on dog doors to provide access for elimination purposes.  My dogs were always taken out on lead.  I think it is important dogs are supervised and their elimination behavior observed.  The only other option provided for my dogs is a securely fenced yard and still under my supervision. 

Sources:

http://www.responsibledog.net/house_training.html

Housetraining, using a signal to indicate need to eliminate

http://scienceblogs.com/primatediaries/2009/08/the_evolution_of_potty_trainin.php

http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com/5-diap/42-natural-infant-hygiene.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/11/opinion/11small.html

http://www.parentingscience.com/infant-toilet-training.html

http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Elimination-communication

Responsible Dog & Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Combining Art and Science for Training Animals

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

P.O. Box 15992

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