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55 Dog Behavior Facts


    The Social Nature of dogs

  1. The ability to be social has a genetic basis. Dogs are social and are concerned with what we think, thus dog behaviors can be reinforced with praise. Cats are less social and their behaviors are best reinforced with food.
  2. Animals that are highly social form pair bonds for life.
  3. Having a social nature does not mean dogs exist in a democracy. Canine packs don’t have a democracy; they have an alpha dog.
  4. Dogs are emotionally programmed to live within a dominance heirarchy.
  5. When dogs are the same size, there is no obvious alpha dog. This can make it more difficult for dogs to achieve social harmony and there may be more fighting.
  6. Dog Bites and Dominance

  7. There are 4 ½ million dog bites per year.
  8. It is easier to teach a dog not to bite than it is to stop it from biting once it has developed the habit.
  9. As puppies, dogs easily learn what is prey and what isn’t prey.
  10. Dominant dogs bite when threatened; shy dogs run if they can.
  11. When challenged or scared, shy dogs bite from behind; they are afraid of a face.
  12. When challenged or scared, dominant dogs bite a face.
  13. Once a dog has learned to bite, neutering the dog and removing male hormone testosterone does not make the dog less likely to bite. On the other hand, a neutered dog will be bitten less often by other dogs because it does not smell as threatening as a dog that has testosterone in its body.
  14. Some advocate using a forced roll-over maneuver to teach dogs that humans are dominant so they will not bite. A forced roll-over is not natural. What is natural is for a dog that wants to show it is submissive to voluntarily roll over. Almost always, forced rollovers teach fear and resentment.
  15. It is easier to change aggressive behavior when it occurs in a horse than when it occurs in a dog or a cat. This is because a horse is a prey animal and does not have the same drive to be aggressive as a dog, which is a natural predator.
  16. Dominant personality dogs should not be given anything unless they work for it.
  17. Fear

  18. It is easier to traumatize an animal than a human.
  19. Causing fear is more debilitating and more cruel to animals than causing pain. Shock collars cause fear and should never be used.
  20. Animals are more motivated by fear than by pain; they have lower pain drives and higher fear drives.
  21. Fear has a purpose and lack of fear is a disability. Fear increases the likelihood of survival.
  22. Animals can see a predator in the distance and not feel fear, but they feel fear when the predator is close.
  23. For animals there are things that:
    • innately trigger fear,
    • they can be taught to fear, and
    • they will never naturally fear.
    For example, dogs naturally fear a snarl and bared teeth (innate fear), can be taught to fear humans, and cannot normally be taught to fear grass.
  24. Animals learn fear by watching what others are afraid of. This is observational learning.
  25. Animals can develop immunity to fear if they see that others are not afraid. Leaving pups with calm mothers allows them to learn that many things are not frightening.
  26. Fear learning is permanent. This prevents animals from forgetting something that may be dangerous.
  27. Because fear memories are permanent, make the first experience with everything positive.
  28. The brain has specialized areas for feelings of anxiety and for feelings of fear. Anxiety develops in the prefrontal cortex.  Fear develops in the amygdala, which is the memory area.
  29. There is fast fear and slow fear. Fast fear is unconscious; slow fear is conscious and more precise.
  30. There is conscious memory and unconscious memory. Learned fears become part of unconscious memory. Unconscious memory is more enduring than conscious memory.
  31. To decrease a fear, either desensitize with multiple small exposures, or counter train by pairing the feared event with something good.
  32. Animals with the most fear are often the most curious and the most intelligent.
  33. Arab horses and border collies are examples of animals with higher fear levels.
  34. A smaller-boned animal is more generally fearful than a larger-boned animal:  Arab horses are more fearful than draft horses. Chihuahuas are more fearful than Mastiffs. The smallest in a litter is often more fearful than the largest in the litter.
  35. Punishment is not appropriate for animals with a highly developed sense of fear, but it may be appropriate with animals with little sense of fear.
  36. Highly fearful animals require super gentle handling, but less fearful animals may tolerate rough handling.
  37. To calm an anxious dog, stroke, don’t pat.
  38. Temperament and Appearance

  39. Temperament and appearance are connected. For example, certain behaviors are linked to eye color, coat color, and coat markings.
  40. Cattle and horses have whorls (cowlicks) on their foreheads. The higher the whorl, the more nervous the animal. Whorls above the level of the eye are associated with nervous cattle and horses. I do not have any information about whorls in dogs.
  41. Some believe that animals with a white patch of fur are less shy than animals without white and that animals with some black in the mouth are more trustworthy than animals with all pink mouths.
  42. Conscience

  43. Animals that know right and wrong have a conscience.
  44. Animals don’t need language to know right and wrong.
  45. Without gut feelings, animals cannot function normally.
  46. Communication

  47. Prey animals are driven to communicate in order to survive. For example, prairie dogs are prey animals who communicate with nouns verbs and adjectives. They tell others what is coming and how fast. They vocally distinguish among many animals (coyotes, birds, humans) and between humans with guns and those without. Prairie dogs are not born with language but learn to communicate. In contrast, predators, such as dogs, generally have less elaborate communication.
  48. Dogs communicate threat by barking faster and louder than they bark for play.
  49. Music is a form of communication, and may be the first form of animal communication. Dogs respond to rhythms that mimic the heartbeat heard in the uterus.
  50. “Broca’s area” of the brain where speech is understood is also the area where music is understood.
  51. Learning

  52. Humans often over-generalize or think in stereotypes. Dogs and other animals don’t generalize.
  53. Because animals are hyper specific—rather than generalists—they are afraid of tiny details. To remove a fearful stimulus, it’s necessary to identify all the tiny details.
  54. Because dogs are not good at sequencing, they have trouble understanding how leashes become twisted and untwisting them.
  55. Animals dream in pictures and retrace the events of the day visually during their sleep. This may improve learning.
  56. Thinking and IQ

  57. Dog genius is manifest in the ability to smell.
  58. About 10% of dogs trained to help humans during and after an epileptic attack can tell their humans that a seizure is coming on. Dogs train themselves to do this and to signal the human. Humans don’t know how to recognize impending seizures and cannot teach this skill to dogs.
  59. Human Evolution Influenced by Wolves

  60. Aborigines have a saying: Dogs make us human.
  61. About 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals began to evolve.  Homo sapiens evolved with wolves, but Neanderthals did not.  Neanderthals did not survive.
  62. These are the things Homo sapiens learned to do from wolves:
    • Develop complex social structures,
    • Hunt in groups,
    • Develop loyal same sex and non-kin friendships, and
    • Develop territories.
  63. In the last 10,000 years, humans specialized in organization and planning using the frontal lobe. At the same time they lost brain areas devoted to smell and other senses. In contrast, wolves specialized in using their senses, a midbrain function.
This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to be a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise and professional judgment of your veterinarian. The information is NOT to be used for diagnosis or treatment of your pet. You should always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the treatment of your pet.

The information about medications is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, allergic reactions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is safe, appropriate or effective for your pet. It is not a substitute for a veterinary exam, and it does not replace the need for services provided by your veterinarian.

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