Category Archives: Behavior Information

Articles and Links… Dog Behavior

Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: jerseydogtrainer@gmail.com

Littermate Syndrome

So… you want a new puppy. You look for breeders, you research online and you see pictures of the most adorable puppies being offered, you see a picture of a pup and you’re all excited to go see it. The breeder brings out your puppy of choice, along with a litter-mate. These pups are the last to be sold. Breeder tells you how attached the two puppies are, and it would be really sad to separate them. Your heart melts and you return home with two dogs.

You place both pups into one crate. When feeding the puppies, you put their food into a single bowl for both of them to eat. You allow them to be together all day and love to see the strong attachment they have toward each other.

Around the age of 4 1/2 to 5 months, you begin to notice the puppies are squabbling with each other. One puppy is always trying to steal the other one’s chew toys. That same puppy gets very upset when his sibling is getting attention from the humans in the house. When eating their meals, that same puppy will not allow his sibling to approach the bowl until he’s finished eating. One day your two loving dogs are having more serious fights, even when they’re in the crate! Suddenly you realize you need help from a professional.

One of the puppies has become a bully, and his sibling has no self-confidence at all. “Littermate Syndrome” is very common! If you think your own dogs are suffering from this you should read this article:

Littermate Syndrome: The risky downside to raising sibling puppies

A Message About Christmas Puppies

For those of you who are planning to purchase puppies this season, please give this idea a lot of thought before you make that final decision. Puppies are a lot of work! Ask yourself if you will have the time to devote to this new baby in order to get him housetrained properly. Will you be able to take him for potty breaks every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes throughout everyday? If you are planning to keep puppy in a crate for 8 hours every weekday while you’re at work, your puppy will not be able to hold his water or bowels for that long. Puppies have a bladder the size of a pea! He may wind up soiling his crate and get very upset about having to sleep in a mess. Puppies that are crated for too long will not become emotionally stable dogs! They need both mental and physical stimulation every single day. So… all that being said, will you be able to provide your beautiful new puppy with all of his needs during this very hectic time of the year? Please think carefully about this before impulsively getting a puppy.

Puppies need to be thoroughly socialized. They need to meet 100 people by the time they are 12 weeks old! They need to meet other puppies and dogs of different colors, sizes and breeds too. Puppies need to be exposed to everything in their environment that they will experience in their life by 12 weeks of age. Will you have the time to devote to getting your pup sufficiently socialized throughout this holiday season? Most people would have to answer, “No.”

Sadly, June of every year is a month when shelters begin to fill up with adolescent dogs. These surrendered animals were the puppies purchased during the holiday season. People surrender their dogs at this age because (1) they are now showing shy, fearful and aggressive behaviors due to insufficient socialization, (2) they have not been completely housetrained because nobody took the time to get the dog out often enough for potty training, and (3) the novelty has now worn off for the children to whom these puppies were given as Christmas presents.

Puppies are living, breathing creatures. They have special needs just like human infants. Please think carefully whether bringing a puppy into your home during this holiday season is an appropriate decision to make for you and your family. A better choice might be to wait until spring when the weather is warmer and you won’t have to worry about housetraining your puppy during a snow storm. Also, you’ll have more time to research the breed that will be best for your lifestyle.

©2010 Renee Premaza

A Message from an Aggressive Dog

Dear Humans,

For some reason, my humans have decided to tie me up outside everyday on a chain for hours and hours. Everyday I feel lonely and isolated. While I’m tied out on this chain, I watch as the world passes by. I see children playing and running around. Sometimes children throw sticks at me, but there’s nothing I can do to protect myself from them. They scream at me and tease me by coming close and then running away. Sometimes I watch people walking their dogs. Other times I see dogs pass by without any humans. They try to get near me. I get nervous and growl and bark at them so they’ll go away. Everytime I try to run and sniff someone or run toward another dog, the chain holds me back. I get a sharp pain in my neck. Ouch! That hurts a lot! It makes me very angry and frustrated. Now I don’t like children and I don’t like other dogs because they make this pain happen. I am getting angrier with people. I am living a miserable existence.

I wish my family would let me come inside with them. I want to be with the rest of my pack, and not out here so isolated. I wish my family would take me for walks and play with me. I want to be with them. Why did they bring me here in the first place? If I am a problem, they should have me trained. I want to do the right thing, but I need to be shown what I’m supposed to do. They punish me instead. I am a dog and do not think like humans. I do not speak English. I speak “Doglish.”

Today I bit a child who came too close to me! The police were here to talk to my family. They said a judge may say I have to die! Please don’t let this happen to your dogs! Please, please don’t tie your dogs out on a chain.

Why Do Dogs Misbehave?

Actually, dogs don’t really misbehave. To them, no matter what they do, it isn’t wrong — it’s just dog behavior. Dogs only do what works for them! If your dog jumps on you (and other people), it’s because they want your attention. Even if you knee them in the chest (not recommended!), or push them off of you, or you holler at them for jumping – They’ve still gotten your attention!

How about when your dog steals your socks or some piece of laundry you’ve left on the floor or in your laundry basket? You watch him chasing around the house with the socks, or he hides under the table with his booty. What do you do? You chase after him attempting to get the stolen item back, right? How clever your dog is! He’s gotten you to play a very fun game with him, and he got your attention again. Take the dog that barks at us constantly until we acknowledge him, or we play with him, or we scream at him. What’s this dog trying to accomplish by barking in our faces? He wants our attention!

Does your protection dog bark like a nut when your mailman comes to your door? Does he go crazy if the UPS driver pulls up to your house to deliver a package? Well…your dog has learned that every time these guys show up, he barks and they leave. Wow, that works, right?

Keep in mind that when your dog has developed a behavior that you don’t like, there is always something or someone reinforcing that behavior to make it work for him.

So …how do we teach our dogs to behave better? We teach them alternative or incompatible behaviors. We make the new behaviors more rewarding than the ones we’re trying to extinguish. That’s it in a nutshell, folks.

To increase a behavior – reward it!

To decrease a behavior – reward a new and desirable behavior!

© Renee Premaza, 2009

The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory

The following article was written for www.clickersolutions.com by Melissa Alexander. It is copyrighted and is reprinted with permission:

Note: The information in the following article came from an interview with Dr. Ian Dunbar, who spent nine years studying the social behavior of dogs during the study mentioned below. In an earlier version of this article, Dr. L. David Mech was credited with the 30-year study. This was a mistake. The researcher who conducted the study was Dr. Frank Beach. An effort has been made to correct this error. However, if you know of a place where the original article was published, please notify the editor and request a correction.

The original alpha/dominance model was born out of short-term studies of wolf packs done in the 1940s. These were the first studies of their kind. These studies were a good start, but later research has essentially disproved most of the findings. There were three major flaws in these studies:

  1. These were short-term studies, so the researchers concentrated on the most obvious, overt parts of wolf life, such as hunting. The studies are therefore unrepresentative — drawing conclusions about “wolf behavior” based on about 1% of wolf life.
  2. The studies observed what are now known to be ritualistic displays and misinterpreted them. Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the “dominance model” comes from, and though the information has been soundly disproved, it still thrives in the dog training mythos.

    For example, alpha rolls. The early researchers saw this behavior and concluded that the higher-ranking wolf was forcibly rolling the subordinate to exert his dominance. Well, not exactly. This is actually an “appeasement ritual” instigated by the subordinate wolf. The subordinate offers his muzzle, and when the higher-ranking wolf “pins” it, the lower-ranking wolf voluntarily rolls and presents his belly. There is no force. It is all entirely voluntary.

    A wolf would flip another wolf against his will only if he were planning to kill it. Can you imagine what a forced alpha roll does to the psyche of our dogs?

  3. Finally, after the studies, the researchers made cavalier extrapolations from wolf-dog, dog-dog, and dog-human based on their “findings.” Unfortunately, this nonsense still abounds.

So what’s the truth? The truth is dogs aren’t wolves. Honestly, when you take into account the number of generations past, saying “I want to learn how to interact with my dog so I’ll learn from the wolves” makes about as much sense as saying, “I want to improve my parenting – let’s see how the chimps do it!”

Dr. Frank Beach performed a 30-year study on dogs at Yale and UC Berkeley. Nineteen years of the study was devoted to social behavior of a dog pack. (Not a wolf pack. A dog pack.) Some of his findings:

  • Male dogs have a rigid hierarchy.
  • Female dogs have a hierarchy, but it’s more variable.
  • When you mix the sexes, the rules get mixed up. Males try to follow their constitution, but the females have “amendments.”
  • Young puppies have what’s called “puppy license.” Basically, that license to do most anything. Bitches are more tolerant of puppy license than males are.
  • The puppy license is revoked at approximately four months of age. At that time, the older middle-ranked dogs literally give the puppy hell – psychologically torturing it until it offers all of the appropriate appeasement behaviors and takes its place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The top-ranked dogs ignore the whole thing.
  • There is no physical domination. Everything is accomplished through psychological harassment. It’s all ritualistic.
  • A small minority of “alpha” dogs assumed their position by bullying and force. Those that did were quickly deposed. No one likes a dictator.
  • The vast majority of alpha dogs rule benevolently. They are confident in their position. They do not stoop to squabbling to prove their point. To do so would lower their status because…
  • Middle-ranked animals squabble. They are insecure in their positions and want to advance over other middle-ranked animals.
  • Low-ranked animals do not squabble. They know they would lose. They know their position, and they accept it.
  • “Alpha” does not mean physically dominant. It means “in control of resources.” Many, many alpha dogs are too small or too physically frail to physically dominate. But they have earned the right to control the valued resources. An individual dog determines which resources he considers important. Thus an alpha dog may give up a prime sleeping place because he simply couldn’t care less.

So what does this mean for the dog-human relationship?

  • Using physical force of any kind reduces your “rank.” Only middle-ranked animals insecure in their place squabble.
  • To be “alpha,” control the resources. I don’t mean hokey stuff like not allowing dogs on beds or preceding them through doorways. I mean making resources contingent on behavior. Does the dog want to be fed. Great – ask him to sit first. Does the dog want to go outside? Sit first. Dog want to greet people? Sit first. Want to play a game? Sit first. Or whatever. If you are proactive enough to control the things your dogs want, *you* are alpha by definition.
  • Train your dog. This is the dog-human equivalent of the “revoking of puppy license” phase in dog development. Children, women, elderly people, handicapped people – all are capable of training a dog. Very few people are capable of physical domination.
  • Reward deferential behavior, rather than pushy behavior. I have two dogs. If one pushes in front of the other, the other gets the attention, the food, whatever the first dog wanted. The first dog to sit gets treated. Pulling on lead goes nowhere. Doors don’t open until dogs are seated and I say they may go out. Reward pushy, and you get pushy.

Your job is to be a leader, not a boss, not a dictator. Leadership is a huge responsibility. Your job is to provide for all of your dog’s needs…food, water, vet care, social needs, security, etc. If you fail to provide what your dog needs, your dog will try to satisfy those needs on his own.

In a recent article in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) newsletter, Dr. Ray Coppinger – a biology professor at Hampshire College, co-founder of the Livestock Guarding Dog Project, author of several books including Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution; and an extremely well-respected member of the dog training community – says in regards to the dominance model (and alpha rolling)…

“I cannot think of many learning situations where I want my learning dogs responding with fear and lack of motion. I never want my animals to be thinking social hierarchy. Once they do, they will be spending their time trying to figure out how to move up in the hierarchy.”

That pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?