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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. 


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. 



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






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?


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.


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. 


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. 



Housetraining, using a signal to indicate need to eliminate






Responsible Dog & Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Combining Art and Science for Training Animals

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

P.O. Box 15992

Sarasota, Florida 34277






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


Fetch and Retrieve

Boudicca Fetch and Retrieve
Boudicca Fetch and Retrieve






Fetch and Retrieve

I happen to love teaching dogs fetch and retrieve for a couple of very important reasons.  The first is this behavior is a building block for cooperation and what better way to teach a dog cooperation than getting him to willingly run after something, bring it back to you and then relinquish it!  The second biggest reason is providing an outlet for dogs who commonly love to chase things, what better way to redirect predatory behavior than through interactive play with our pets.  

Unfortunately, not all dogs get this training early in life.  Studies show that dogs learn this behavior best beginning when they are 9 weeks old.  However, this does not mean we can’t train this fun behavior, it just means we might need to put forth a little more effort.  Also, I tend to think all dogs are capable of learning this simple game so don’t get discouraged just because your dog isn’t a natural born retriever. 

You may also encounter other contributing factors that explain why dogs may be reluctant to play the game; some may be included in the following list. 

  1. Motivation
  2. History involving inadvertent punishment, i.e. punished previously for picking up a shoe
  3. Lack of early learning
  4. Never introduced to toys
  5. Distractions 

However, this doesn’t mean we should dismiss our dogs ability to learn this new skill, but rather we will just work harder to make it possible, keeping in mind we will gain ground in small increments that may be dependent on your individual dog. 

How we approach this training will depend on your dogs’ previous history and all the things I have already pointed out.  If we are beginning with a dog with little interest, we need to begin with the most basic step.  

Toys first 

If your dog already has a good history of playing with and interacting with toys, you may be able to skip ahead to the next level of learning.  If your dog lacks a good history of playing with toys or even you, it might be necessary to begin at the most basic level.  The idea is getting your dog in a playful mood and need to begin with an introduction to toys! 

The following is a short list of suggested toys

  1. Balls all types and materials and large enough to not be swallowed
  2. Rope toys – great for tug of war
  3. Hard rubber toys such as Kong toys and similar products
  4. Interactive toys such as Buster Cubes, stuffed Kong items, hollow stuffed marrow bones and similar products
  5. Soft Toys – I love soft toys, but unless you are familiar with how your dog interacts with soft objects I consider them to be given only under supervision to avoid swallowing any of the materials contained in them
  6. I like to suggest having a large sampling of toy types including different materials and textures – dogs love novelty and keeping toys put away keeps them more interesting
  7. Safe chew items – ask your behavior consultant or professional trainer for suggestions

This is a very limited list and a very small sampling of available options.  For more suggestions, ask your behavior consultant or trainer.  

Beginning basics – Grade School 

  1. Using one of your dog’s toys begin by rewarding any interest in the toy – if you are using click and treat, you will c/t every time your dog goes near the toy – this is shaping your dog toward the target behavior, your goal
  2. Throw the toy – your dog may chase it, if so c/t
  3. Tease him with the toy – this is my personal favorite
  4. Play peek-a-boo – hiding it behind your back
  5. If it squeaks, taunt him with it, this works great for terriers
  6. Reward any attempt to interact with the toy
  7. When he starts showing interest – put the toy away
  8. Never get angry or frustrated – always keep the activity upbeat and fun

Identifying the chain

Before we can begin, we first must identify the chain of behavior required in fetch and retrieve.  The following are the most basic steps in the behavior.

  1. Give – release item
  2. Take it – go fetch item
  3. Recall – return to you 

The behavior is performed using the following sequence, but is learned by back chaining.  

  1. Dog is in front position or along side of you using a wait cue
  2. Object is thrown
  3. Dog is cued to take it
  4. Dog returns (comes) to you
  5. Dog gives item to you 

Take it  

We first teach the dog what take it means as follows:

  1. Begin by offering your dog a treat, when he takes it c/t – do this about 8-10 times
  2. Next using 8-10 treats, offer him the treat, when he gets ready to take it, click and say the cue take it
  3. Once he is actively taking items in his mouth using the cue I like to begin introducing new items so the dog generalizes the behavior
  4. Maintain the excitement by keeping the retrieving objects put away in between training sessions
  5. Keep your training sessions short, upbeat and end when the dog is still successful 

Recalls – Sit – Wait

Recall, Sit and Wait should be part of your everyday training so this paper will not cover those training procedures.  If you are not familiar with these training procedures, ask your behavior consultant or training professional for the applicable handouts.  

Give (Release or Drop it) 

This behavior is the opposite of take it and trained as follows: 

  1. Begin first by offering a favorite toy to your dog
  2. When he takes it and has a firm hold, ask him to give or release offering him a treat at the same time
  3. The smell of the treat should immediately entice him to release the object
  4. When he releases quickly give him the treat repeating this 8-10 times
  5. When he is actively giving up the object, introduce the cue at the same time you offer the treat repeating this step 8-10 times
  6. Practice using different objects so he generalizes the behavior with many types of items, you may want to switch from using a treat in exchange for another similar toy or the exact same toy
  7. If you can’t get him to take a firm hold on the toy, you may have to shape this behavior separately 

Secondary basicsAchieving higher levels 

Once we have the foundation behaviors take it, give and recalls firmly in place we can precede to the next higher level of performance.  Remember good training is done slowly and not proceeding before the dog is ready.  Every dog will advance at their own pace and according to how much effort we put into their training, so don’t get discouraged if this takes more time than you expected, believe me it works or I wouldn’t be writing this.

  1. Start in low distraction environments this will prevent ruining any of our previously trained behaviors
  2. Make sure your dog is motivated and ready to play
  3. Rev him up if necessary
  4. Have plenty of treats
  5. Begin first by asking your dog to sit and wait
  6. Toss the toy a short distance away in front of the dog
  7. When you are ready ask him to take it
  8. Once he has taken the object in his mouth, using your recall encourage him to come using a happy tone of voice
  9. If he comes back, ask him to give offering him a treat at the same time
  10. Repeat this 3-5 times using the same distance
  11. Slowly increase the distance adding 5-10 feet depending on the dogs willingness and success at playing the game
  12. Repeat the behavior 3-5 times at every distance increase – you may even want to add additional repetitions
  13. If the dog shows any reluctance go back a step using a shorter distance and using more repetitions
  14. Use “slow dining” to reward excellent behavior
  15. Quit while your dog is successful
  16. Practice this every day slowly increasing the distance and repetitions necessary while building up the time spent performing the behavior
  17. Remember keep a smiley face on no matter how awkward your dog may seem

Slow dining is a form of jackpotting coined by Terry Ryan.  What this means is rather than quickly rewarding for good behavior, slow things down and give multiple treats or prolonged praise making it last at least 15 – 30 seconds.  This makes the reward more appetizing and furthers the bond between you and your dog. 

Oh, those difficult dogs! 

So you think you have one of those difficult dogs, well don’t get discouraged, here are a couple of helpful ways to get those less than willing retrievers to playfully go along with us. 

  1. If your dog has taken to a particular toy, duplicate it and when you throw one, present the other enticing him back using this as a lure or bribe if you want to call it that, either way the object is to get your dog to learn *how* to be more cooperative and how much fun this new behavior is!
  2. If necessary use a long line – tossing your dogs favorite toy, when he firmly has it in his mouth gently reel him in but not pulling, calling him in your happiest tone of voice encourage him to come and when he arrives make sure you reward him for his good behavior.  

Responsible Dog & Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

Sarasota, Florida 34277





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 Rev A 2005 – 2009

Cropping ears, docking tails, breed standards, and selective breeding…who’s really benefitting humans or dogs!


July 31, 2009

Cropping ears, docking tails, breed standards, and selective breeding…who’s really benefitting humans or dogs!

This week Banfield, The Pet Hospital®, “leading veterinary practice known for its focus on preventive care and experienced-based medicine” has issued a proclamation they will no longer “sanction” cropping of ears and docking of tails.  Excuse me if I do not get a warm fuzzy emotional charge like many who have opposed this practice! 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, they have attempted to persuade the AKC to change breed standards requiring ear cropping and tail docking since the 1970’s [1]!  According to AVMA, their attempts have been “resolved” in 1976 Policy, “suggested” in 1999 Policy and most recently “recommended” in their 2008 Policy.  So it seems the AVMA has made subtle attempts to change these procedures, but continue being thwarted by the AKC and at least one veterinary medical association (e.g. Utah Veterinary Medical Association) [2]. 

According to the JAVMA regarding AVMA policy on ear cropping and tail docking and consider revising their policy, this meeting took place in June 2009.  According to their report, resolution 4 “gives the HOD” [House of Delegates] an opportunity to consider revision to the AVMA’s policy amended in November 2008 stating it opposed these procedures “done solely for cosmetic purposes.”  The policy further encouraged eliminating the procedures from breed standards [2].

The Utah VMA says, “[s]ociety has mixed feelings about the procedures,” stating they are minor surgeries, relatively safe, causing little discomfort to animals and the public demand is high.  They further stated, “the issue for the AVMA is not to decide what surgery pet owners want or do not want for their pets” instead focus should be on the procedures being performed by licensed veterinarians using proper protocol and postoperative care.” 

Before I get to the real issue, I wanted to highlight exactly what has/is being done by the AVMA regardless of Banfield’s newest position; however, it would be interesting to know exactly why they made this decision.  Considering Banfield claims to be “known for its focus on preventative care,” seems hypocritical coming from a “leading veterinary practice” that chooses to waste the public’s time and attention on a matter that is significantly less important than how selective breeding practices affect pets welfare. 

There are currently numerous dog breeds with high rates of inheritable disorders, disease, physical deformities causing disability, behavior problems, pain, and suffering.  The authors of “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?”  suggest we as a society and segments of the veterinary community are ‘desensitis[z]ed to the welfare issues…the production of anatomically deformed dogs is neither shocking, nor considered abnormal.’

Some of the lowlights of this welfare problem follow.

1.)     A popular veterinary text book lists 150 pages of breed predispositions for specific disorders with some breeds predisposed to more than ninety different diseases.  One can expect a certain amount of genetic disorders in closed breeding populations, but the levels indicated here suggest cause for concern.

2.)     Breed clubs, societies, kennel clubs, breeding standards, and practices are ineffective in protecting the welfare of many breeds.

3.)     Large populations of dogs are affected, it is an international problem

4.)     The effects are perpetuated from generation to generation

5.)     Quality of life issues affect many of these breeds

6.)     The effects are often long lasting, some the entire dogs life

Now considering the two issues, do you still feel compelled to put your time and energy toward worrying about cosmetic surgery on dogs or breeding problems that affect their quality of life and welfare? 

Does anyone think the public might be interested in knowing about these issues when considering a dog breed?  Instead, we allow them to focus on cosmetic qualities or myriad of other misinformed decisions, including increasing one’s status.  I consider it part of my ethical responsibility if someone inquires about a breed consideration; we all want to help owners in many different ways, but the most important still remains education. 


1.)     History of Policy on Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs, American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Division http://www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/tail_docking_history.pdf , retrieved 08.01.09

2.)     AVMA Web site (www.avma.org) in the About the AVMA section under House of Delegates 2009 Annual Session Agenda Items, retrieved 08.01.09.

3.)     Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern? by Dr. Nicola Rooney and Dr. David Sargan, contributions from Dr. Matthew Pead, Dr. Carrie Westgarth, Dr. Emma Creighton and Dr. Nick Branson, February 2009, retrieved from www.rspca.org/uk/pedigreedogs .


Responsible Dog & Cat

Training & Behavior Solutions

Combining the Art & Science to Training Responsibly

Joyce D. Kesling, CDBC

Sarasota, Florida




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 Ownership 2004 – 2009

Pet Sitting Personal Attention or Madame Running Prostitution Business!

Pet Sitting Personal Attention or Madame Running Prostitution Business!

This connection actually entered my always-questioning mind some time ago, but recently a client brought something to my attention causing me to investigate this type of service.  Being naïve, thinking pet sitters gave “personal attention” to their charges you can understand how shocked I was when I put paw and paw together and realized these businesses do not offer personal attention for your pet at all.  Not really. 

If you consider hiring what may be unskilled, minimum hourly wage individuals, just because they love dogs, supposedly are qualified and passed background checks, then you’re just as naïve as me, if you think this constitutes personal attention then you and I surely don’t think about our pets in the same way. 

In fact, some of these pet sitting services are growing franchises and/or large personally managed businesses operating as pet sitters, but actually, who is doing the pet sitting!  You and your pets are being assigned individuals who may not even meet you personally, you are dependent on the Madame, oops, I mean pet sitting owner to “assign” individuals to your job!  Your pet’s needs are being relegated to a job, performed by individuals you won’t even personally know!

Oh I know, I know, other businesses use subcontractors too, but this is a very personal business involving peoples pets, whose owners often refer to as children!  I am not sure, but I do not think the human nanny business is managed in such a carefree manner and maybe even carelessly! 

The care of dogs is a welfare issue, that’s why I happen to be quite knowledgeable about dog care, housing needs, socialization, behavior, training, breeding practices,  raising behaviorally healthy as well as physically healthy dogs, medical issues related to behavior and how behavior and stress often cause medical problems and medical problems often cause stress, behavior problems and anxiety.  The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote, the complete article is on my website www.responsibledog.net and blog https://k9psych.wordpress.com/

What you should consider when boarding, using a pet sitter or that swanky spa!

When boarding includes socialization privileges

A well-socialized dog could be characterized by how readily it interacts and plays with other dogs.  However, dogs will be dogs! In most cases, if there are altercations, they are often minor, but one cannot be careful enough when allowing a group of dogs to interact.  If you decide to board your pet in this type of environment, make sure the staff have good working knowledge how dogs communicate, meaning they can read dogs well and have the ability to handle multiple dogs while keeping every one safe.

Often these kinds of businesses include behavior assessments, however, future behavior is not always predictable, and there is always a chance that dogs may not get along with specific dogs.  It’s best in these environments that numbers be limited by the effectiveness of staff, and sometimes alternating dogs in smaller groups, giving consideration to size, breed and personality can help provide safety while still providing interaction and socialization opportunity.

It is your responsibility to make sure your dog is safe so your decision should include evaluating the level of expertise concerning animal behavior when boarding your pet in these types of environments.  If the staff is not sufficiently educated in normal dog or cat behavior, and specifically aggression, how to manage it, recognize it and modify it, then you should be concerned about your dog’s welfare.

Is stress a consideration during boarding?

“Stress occurs when any demand is placed upon a dog that requires the dog to change or adjust” (Lindsay, 2000).  For stress to occur events or situations do not have to be unpleasant, but rather any biological or psychological demand placed on an animal is capable of producing stress.  There are certain amounts of healthy stress all animals are capable of adapting to, however chronic stress may lead to stress-related conditions.  This is an important consideration when making your decision on how, where and under what conditions you will board your animals.

Stress-related hormonal changes occur during separation in a number of species.  Tuber and colleagues (1996) studied dogs and found a “differential glucocorticoid (cortisol and corticosterone) response” occurs during five conditions of separation.

1. Alone in a novel environment
2. With a conspecific (another dog) in a novel environment
3. Alone in a familiar environment
4. With a human in a novel environment
5. With a conspecific (another dog) in a familiar environment.

The results of their study showed dogs left alone in novel environments had the highest level of cortisol output with the lowest level occurring in home kennels with a familiar conspecific.  However, dogs tested in novel environments with a human companion had significantly lower cortisol levels when compared to dogs kept in the novel environment with a conspecific.  These results lend support when considering your decision concerning your dog’s welfare when kenneling or boarding.

What exactly does my dog prefer?

According to these studies, dogs prefer the company of humans even in novel (unfamiliar) environments when compared to dogs kenneled in home environments with a familiar dog! What this means, is you may need to consider your dogs stress levels when using a pet sitter who only drops by on occasion compared to a kennel alternative that not only meets your dogs need for dog socialization but also benefits from more human contact.


You should pay close attention to the study’s conclusions, the conditions offering the least amount of stress.  The results do not lend credibility to pet sitting but rather in-home kenneling and/or traditional kenneling that at minimum offers some socialization but most of all more human attention and supervision. 


Pet sitters suggest in their marketing materials that in-home boarding and/or other similar larger facilities do not provide enough attention or contact with your pet.  This is simply a grossly over exaggerated generalized statement.  This is why you need to thoroughly check out the facility you choose, not all boarding facilities are managed the same, nor do the owners of these facilities have the same knowledge level.  Many offer very little other than caged conditions all or most of the day, you need to process the marketing materials you are reading more critically, do not assume anything they say as being true. 


What is so odd about this practice is the cost for using pet sitters actually exceeds the cost of leaving your dog at a kennel and/or in-home boarding facility.  In my opinion, these businesses are predatory type businesses; they market their services focusing on human emotions, not what is really best for dogs! 


When are we going to grow up and start treating our dogs like dogs, it is the most mature thing we humans can do to help our dogs.  Stop listening to people who do not know anything about normal dog behavior, stop watching television dog trainers, get off the couch and find individuals with the best qualifications that meet your dog’s specific needs.  The things that should matter most to you and your dog are the following:


  • Do you first know how to select the best dog for you?
  • Do you know how to raise and train a puppy correctly?
  • What are really the best care options for my dog/s?
  • How much experience does the kennel owner have?
  • How much experience does the dog trainer have?
  • What credentials does the behavior specialist have? 


Buying cutesy cloths, collars, bowls, beds are all luxuries, they do not make your dog any better, it makes you feel better.  My dogs have these things (material objects), but most of all they have someone who truly understands what they really need!


So that you understand the seriousness of this choice, I have been rather light on you so far, I am going to include a recent example of what I am talking about.  A potential client contacted me concerning some dog behavior problems.  The dog ate nearly an entire bath towel causing a serious digestive problem; luckily, there was no blockage.  It took over a week of antibiotics and recovery time before the dog felt normal.  This occurred during the “careful” watch (?) of a pet sitter!  I am sorry, but based on this dogs history, this would not have occurred under my watch, so pet owners beware who you leave your pets in the care of, it may end up costing you more than you bargained for. 


Pets under my care do get individual care, they get sufficient and supervised play time, and it’s all provided by someone with a background in professional dog training and certified in dog behavior ( www.iaabc.org ).  Yes, there is a difference; the difference is who is actually taking care of your pets and that individual’s qualifications. 


Joyce Kesling, CDBC

Responsible Dog & Cat

Training and Behavior Solutions

In-Home Pet Boarding




Teaching Relaxed Sit

Boudicca Relaxed Sit

Boudicca Relaxed Sit


Relaxed Sit

The purpose of teaching a relaxed sit is training calm behavior.  A dog that has learned to sit calmly is easier to train and accepts distractions in their environment.  It’s absolutely necessary to teach a reactively aggressive or anxious dog this behavior.  The ideal dog is relaxed and under no obvious distress.  A distressed dog indicates the same level of physiological distress that accompanies emotional distress.  A dog in constant emotional distress will be unable to cope with his environment and unable to learn new behavior.

Your goal


  • The dog will sit on verbal or hand signal when asked and remain until released.


  • Sitting is an impulse control exercise and reflects a submissive and calming position and emotional state.


  • This calm state can diffuse other dogs’ intentions.


  • This exercise is mandatory behavior for all dogs whose owners expect to take them out into public.


  1. 4-6” lead to prevent dog from wondering away.
  2. Training treats- the smaller the better
  3. Reward marker – good or yes
  4. No reward marker – wrong, oops or sorry
  5. Schedule of reinforcement – beginning with a fixed (continuous) schedule of reinforcement changing to a variable schedule once the dog is reliably offering the correct response in at least 3-4 different locations 

A dog still vibrating while sitting does not indicate a calm dog, if this describes your dog,  you will need to learn how to shape calm behavior.   

Responsible Dog & Cat

Training & Behavior Solutions

Joyce D. Kesling

P.O. Box 15992

Sarasota, Florida 34277

941-966-1188 ~ 941-587-2049





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 and Cat Rev A 2004-2009

Dog Barking ~ Canine Communication

Barking is a form of communication for dogs. Communication is described as a transmission of information between one animal and another or between groups of animals with the intent to affect behavior. Typically, communication takes place-using signals that may include verbal, tactile, odors (pheromones), facial expressions and body movements. The communication exchange will usually have three components. These components consist of 1.) the animal sending the message, 2.) the animal receiving the message and 3.) the communication signal. The purpose of the message is to change the attitude, mood or behavior of the recipient. The receivers’ response indicates whether the senders’ message, the function of the behavior has served its purpose.

Communication can take place between the same species (intraspecific) or with another species (interspecific). In the case of dogs, Canis lupus familiaris communication is common in both situations.

According to Lindsay (2000), “…expressive social behavior…exercises an important modulatory effect over emotion and mood.” Communication is a behavior, says Horowitz (2001), having a “goal and function” and communication in higher organisms serves to “regulate social interaction” among members of the group and its purpose to facilitate “cooperative behavior,” according to Lindsay (2000), which is vital to a groups survival.

The importance of understanding how dogs communicate

Understanding how to communicate with dogs can partly be achieved by understanding how dogs developed under domestication, as well as how they adapted to their ever-changing environment. Another reason why is partly founded in one’s acceptance or non-acceptance that “animals are endowed with a private experience or self-awareness comparable to our own” which presents a “moral crisis” according to Lindsay (2000) that “would revolutionize how we view and treat animals under our care.” Temple Grandin (1995), suggests dogs are “…akin to the thinking style of artists or musicians” considering things in “…terms of their immediate sensory significance, relevance to the animal’s current motivation state and associated memories” added into the context or situation (Lindsay, 2000).

Lindsay (2000) sums this up saying “meaningful communication would appear to require an internally represented and empathetic experience of the other.”

The subtle social communication occurring between humans and dogs seems to imply that
there exists a shared cognitive or empathetic substrate mediating, assessing, and evaluating
mutual intentions and meaning, as well as deliberating on different possible courses of action
based on parallel appraisals and emotions experienced by the affected communicators.

Understanding how our dogs communicate is essential in helping owners resolve behavior problems related to barking. Communication lacking clear understanding can influence behavior, so establishing clear communication with our dogs should be considered an essential part of ownership.

When does vocalization behavior begin?

Canine vocalization patterns begin during the neonatal stage of development and gradually develop until adulthood. Young puppies’ first sounds consist of whines and yelps, called distress vocalizations, and function to reunite the pup with its mother. These behaviors are replaced gradually with sounds associated with relief of stress or discomfort, contact comfort with siblings, mother and warmth, and by 4 weeks of age a more “adult-like phase of vocal communication begins” (Beaver, 1999).

Barking usually begins during the first 2-4 weeks, occurring in most cases during play-solicitation and is not associated with aggression until after 8 weeks, which usually occurs in response to a growl associated with weaning from the mother. The intent of the aggressive bark gradually increases and changes according to context and is most often associated with food defense or directed toward strange dogs.

The tone usually indicates the purpose with higher tones indicating excitability, play and greeting behavior and lower tones indicating threat or distancing behavior. The function of barking includes greeting, play, alarm, hunting, tracking, herding, vocal alerting, defense, threat, care seeking, distress, contact seeking, and group vocalization and the specific function can be determined based on the contextual situation combined with the dog’s observed body language (Beaver, 1999).

Why do modern dogs bark?

In Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) he says, “[c]an it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of years?” He suggests, “…individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind.”

According to archeological evidence, dogs have been living in close proximity to humans dating back as much as 14,000 years and some speculate even longer. The relationship between early man and dog was probably a commensal type and as dogs became more domesticated, the relationship changed to a more symbiotic type. The most compelling reason for early dogs’ ease of domestication was their willingness to live in close proximity to humans. This advantage not only provided mutual protection for early man but early prototype dogs as well. The early dogs unlike their wolf predecessors barked more, had lower thresholds for fear, and infantile facial features that stimulated human care giving instincts, factors contributing to our future interspecific-bonding process.

Barking Classifications

Alarm barking

Probably one of the earliest advantages dogs provided was alarm barking, providing early dogs selective advantages over their wolf counterparts. Alarm barking not only functioned to serve notice to other predator intruders of their location but also in turn provided warnings for early man. These early alarm barks did not distinguish friend from foe, but most likely functioned as an alarm announcing the presence of a strange animal or person.

Understanding pitch, duration and the context of barking and quite possibly breed contributions will be helpful in identifying the motivation behind the dogs barking. This understanding will contribute to treating a barking problem indicating the dog is simply over-reactive to his environment

Territorial barking

Territorial barking originated as a function for communicating long distance with other members of their group or functioning to establish their presence and location to other neighboring competitors. Contrary to this environment, modern dogs do not need this form of communication but this behavior seems to have persisted.

Howling is often the precursor to the beginning of a neighborhood bark fest, and according to Dodman (1999), “the stimulus for howling is certain tones and frequencies of sound” acting as a releasing stimuli for this underlying drive. Fire alarms seem to be a common releasing stimulus for dogs to perform this behavior.

Excitement barking

Dodman (1999) cites an interesting observation using “inhalation anesthetic” saying, “…each species goes through a stage of supposedly unconscious involuntary excitement” consisting of “species-typical disinhibition of reflexive behavior.” The most common behavior he observed was paddling their limbs along and that “all species vocalize.” The point, “if dogs vocalize when disinhibited, when excitatory systems discharge unchecked, barking must be a reflexive behavior triggered by excitement” even in a fully conscious state.

Just as we can become overly excited over certain events, dogs it seems are capable of the same inability to control their own actions, i.e. dogs who get overly excited at chasing squirrels, playing games or meeting other dogs and people.

Owner reinforcement

Since we all know dogs bark rather easily in many contexts and with significant triggering stimuli, preventing unwanted barking in the future makes sense and can easily be accomplished by well-informed owners who understand how dogs learn. Dogs learn from barking they can get what they want or when ignored dogs learn that barking is unsuccessful and cease using it as a means of reinforcement.

A good example I saw of owner reinforcement for barking was an Animal Planet show featuring the Bouvier des Flandres and even though classified by the AKC in the herding group, they are considered a working dog first serving as a police, defense, or army dog in Belgium where they originated.

Bouvier’s are considered excellent watchdogs probably needing little encouragement to bark at intruders or even guests. This subject came up during the Animal Planet program with the owner demonstrating by encouraging the dog to bark at an approaching person on the street. The dog responded with a fierce response. In this case, the owner clearly prompted the dogs barking response-facilitating learning to bark in that context. I might question this practice unless the situation is fully thought out and taking into consideration owner absence.

We often forget while raising puppies that what we might consider cute during this period of development may become what we consider a behavior problem later when the dog is no longer the innocent and cute puppy. So if we are going to teach our dogs to respond to certain stimuli, we should be equally prepared to teach the dog appropriate responses to inhibit the response. A reminder might be “Be careful what you reinforce.”

Fear related territorial barking versus confident dog

Often we find that dogs use barking in relation to fear related issues and in some instances because they are confident. In both situations, context and body language can offer the owner clues to the meaning for the dogs barking response.

The fearful dog is often evidenced by the owners’ initial inability to quiet the dog and once the dog does quiet, they retreat to safe locations waiting for the next opportunity to bark at what this dog perceives as a threatening target. Often these dogs bark at service people i.e. the mail carrier, delivery people and often-household guests. Their behavior is continually reinforced every instance a delivery person or guest leaves the house. These dogs learn they can intimidate and remove unwanted people simply by the reinforcing qualities this brings the dog.

The fearful dog will need counter-conditioning and desensitization to help them over their fears and anxieties in those contexts where the dog is uncomfortable about accepting strangers, this may even include other dogs.

Contrary to this, the confident dog will alert owners to the presence of intruders but will quiet when they accept the owners’ decision to introduce guests and strangers. In cases where territory is not the issue, an assertive confident dog can be truly dangerous. These dogs are known to stand their ground perhaps even walk toward you as if daring you to come any closer. Their body postures may not be easy to read due to conflicting emotional states. It would be unwise for one to continue approaching a dog who is advancing while continuing to emit warning barks, thus causing this type of dog to further escalate his warnings to stay away. These dogs also learn their threatening behavior keeps people and strange dogs away and if this behavior causes an owner problems counter-conditioning and desensitization can be effective in changing their perspective and response.

Distress vocalization related most often to separation anxiety and frustration

One of the saddest forms of excessive vocalization is with cases of separation anxiety. These dogs often have other signs indicating an anxious state when faced with being left alone, but the most common is barking.

According to Lindsay (2000), MacLean (1985) “…has proposed that the neural substrates mediating separation distress, maternal care, and play belong to the same paleomammalian portion of the limbic system” and these “socially directed vocalization patterns may have originally evolved to maintain close contact” between the mammalian mother and offspring. In addition, Panksepp (1982) “views distress vocalization as stemming from a primal mammalian emotional system…specifically originating in those areas of the brain that mediate panic and explosive behavior” and further says, “…the major adaptive function…is to sustain social cohesion among organisms whose survival depends on reciprocity of care-soliciting and care-giving behaviors” (Lindsay, 2000).

When dogs are confronted with differing stimuli associated with owner presence and absence these areas of the brain and interconnecting circuits are activated resulting in signs of distress and panic in the dog (Lindsay, 2000).

This type of behavior problem can be complicated and if one suspects their dogs excessive barking is related to issues associated with separation distress I recommend either consulting with a certified veterinary behaviorist or qualified behavior consultant.

Play solicitation

According to Lindsay (2000), this same emotional system has evolved to include vocalization behavior functioning to “facilitate social harmony” among conspecifics and is first experienced with littermates and as they mature they continue to use barking as part of their social play repertoire.

One should be familiar with play behavior between dogs, as it is important to recognize any escalation between playing individuals. Oftentimes play behavior can result in serious fights. According to Lindsay (2001), [p]lay is relatively incompatible with aggression and fear” however “under the influence of escalating frustration or threat” often exhibited by barking “play may slip over into overt aggression.”

Genetics and rearing practices

Lest we forget that dogs have been selectively breed for specific purposes that include barking as part of their repertoire.

Often dogs will exhibit over-reactive personalities often attributed to genetics but one should also consider the environment where the dog was raised. Often dogs raised by over-reactive parents and sterile environments lacking novelty grow up to be hyperactive, over-reactive dogs. The result often includes common behavior problems i.e. attention-seeking behaviors related to jumping, mouthing and barking.

Finally, according to Dodman (1999), “it is always helpful for owners to understand the roots of a problem if they are going to invest time trying to correct it” rather than simply offering “mindless retraining exercises.” However, offering an explanation may not always be possible especially in cases of rescue dogs whose behavioral history may not provide sufficient information to draw definitive conclusions. In these cases, the behavior consultant and perhaps even the certified veterinary behaviorist may simply treat the reinforcing consequences of the behavior taking into consideration any precipitating stimuli that may be causing the barking. Often barking cases require assistance from qualified behavior consultants that may be helpful in finding out precipitating causes that may be contributing to the overall problem and often owners are unaware.

Is punishment appropriate for barking?

Barking is a normal communicative method for dogs and punishment has no place in treating barking problems, in fact, dogs often will bark for attention especially when bored or living in socially deficient environments. A trainer with sufficient knowledge in scientifically grounded positive training principles and canine behavior should be capable of offering a multitude of training options along with management strategies depending on the context of the barking for the average owner and without a more serious problem.


Beaver, Bonnie V. Canine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians

PA: Saunders. 1999.

Coppinger, Raymond, and Lorna Coppinger. Dogs: a new understanding of canine origin,

behavior and evolution. Chicago: Chicago UP, 2001.

Darwin, Charles Robert. The origin of species by means of natural selection.

New York: Gramercy, 1979.

Dodman, Nicholas H., Dogs behaving badly: an A-to-Z guide to understanding and curing

behavioral problems in dogs. New York: Bantam Books, 1999.

Horwitz, Debra F. (2001). Canine Communication.

Retrieved from http://www.vin.com/VINDBPub/searchPB/Proceedings/PR05000/PR00469.htm .

Lindsay, Steven R. Handbook of applied dog behavior and training. 2 Vols.

Iowa: Iowa SP. 2000. Vol. 1.

Lindsay, Steven R. Handbook of applied dog behavior and training. 2 Vols.

Iowa: Iowa SP. 2001. Vol. 2.

Thompson, Nicky (Ed.). (1995). The international encyclopedia of dogs/Anne Rogers Clark,

Andrew H. Brace . New York: Simon & Schuster.

Responsible Dog & Cat
Training and Behavior Solutions

Joyce D. Kesling
P.O. Box 15992
Sarasota, Florida 34277
941-966-1188 ~ 941-587-2049

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948
© Responsible Dog & Cat 2005