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A little D.A.P.’ll do ‘ya.

Using D.A.P. can really help in addressing common, low-level behavior issues in dogs – especially when used with positive reinforcement.

It comes up frequently during my behavioral consultations and I’ve mentioned it before here on the blog, but I can’t say enough good things about D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone).

I won’t say that it’s the Holy Grail of resolving commonplace behavior problems but it’s no sippy cup, either.

Natural appeasing pheromones are produced by lactating females shortly after birthing a litter and give the young puppies a feeling of well-being and security when they’re near mom.

D.A.P. works by mimicking those natural pheromones and helps to give adult dogs a similar sense of calm and relaxation to what they would have felt as nursing puppies.

Many clinical trials of D.A.P. both in home and shelter situations have shown that it can help as a relaxing treatment when used in conjunction with positive reinforcement desensitizing and counter-conditioning (DS/CC).  My own anecdotal experience in the field has shown the same.

It really can help and – best of all – doesn’t have any of the negative side effects seen in many anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals such as deinhibition and others.

Additionally, D.A.P. can be used in concert with many psycho-pharmaceuticals (but please double-check with your veterinary behaviorist first.)

Keep in mind that D.A.P.’s effects are not dramatic and most folks know it’s working when the collar expires and the anxious behaviors return or the diffuser runs out and they wonder why the dog is pacing again – then they check the diffuser and experience a “D’oh!” moment.  It is designed to simply take the edge off gently and inconspicuously.  This allows us to better do our DS/CC work with your dog.

We can simply stop without the step-downs necessary with many anti-anxiety medications.

If your dog is a re-homed dog new to your home this can help them settle in faster.  If your dog is not fully comfortable with everyone in their home this can help them be a bit more at ease.  And, if it doesn’t work for your dog we can simply stop without the step-downs necessary with many anti-anxiety medications.

For our part, at home we plug in the D.A.P. diffuser.  Porthos is a pretty anxious dog and when he’s stressed it affects his diabetes so it is just a precaution to keep him on an even keel.

D.A.P.’s not meant to address out-of-control anxiety issues and like psycho-pharmaceuticals it needs to be used in conjunction with behavior modification.  So, if you’ve got a dog that exhibits low-level, occasional fears and anxiety related issues you might want to give a D.A.P. diffuser or D.A.P. collar more than just a look while you are contacting a behavioral professional.

Positively Confused

What is positive reinforcement and positive punishment and why positive reinforcement is the best and most effective way to train your dog.

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Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

[dropcap]Q[/dropcap]: What’s the difference between positive reinforcement and positive punishment?

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]: If Professor Boo had a time machine he would go back in time to find B.F. Skinner and his cohorts and have a stern talking to them about the naming of the four quadrants of Learning Theory.

Positive Reinforcement (shorthand for Positive Reinforcement is PR or R+) and Positive Punishment (shorthand for Positive Punishment is PP or P+.) are just two elements of the four quadrants of Learning Theory.

The other two elements are Negative Reinforcement and Negative Punishment – we will save those for another day.

Positive Reinforcement means that we are offering a timely reinforcer to the subject to insure the behavior is repeated – YIKES!

Okay let’s try again –

Positive Reinforcement allows us to build our bond with our dogs while we are teaching them good behaviors.

Positive Reinforcement is offering a reward (or something the dog likes) immediately after any behavior we want or like so we will get more of that behavior. When we reinforce the behavior by following it immediately with a reinforcing event like a food reward, a great game, the butt scratch of a life-time or anything that makes the dog vibrate with JOY the dog will repeat the action that earned him that great reward. Generally we also add in a praise word, or “marker word,” or clicker to mark the good behavior and predict the reward is coming for the dog. This eventually allows us to fade out the food (or other added reinforcer) so that we don’t always have to be strapped with hot dogs to take our dog for a walk.

Positive Reinforcement allows us to build our bond with our dogs while we are teaching them good behaviors. It helps the dog to enjoy and look forward to learning, and to be more creative and confident in general. Neurological studies have shown that all of us (human, dog, cat, etc.) learn better when our brains are bathed in the kids of neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions.

Positive Punishment means that we are offering a punisher to the subject to insure the behavior will stop. – YIKES again!

Okay let’s try another way –

Positive Punishment breaks our bond with our dog and our dog’s trust in us.

Positive Punishment is offering a punisher (or something the dog does not like) AS* the dog is producing a behavior we don’t like/want so that the dog will stop doing it. When we want to punish a behavior we must apply the punishing event AS* the dog is still in the act of the unwanted behavior (otherwise we run a big risk of actually punishing the dog for stopping). Traditional punishing events have included yelling, pulling on the choke collar or pinch collar, subjecting the dog to any kind of pain from a shock collar to the more severe methods of drowning, flipping, rolling, scruff shaking, or kicking, and worse. Studies have shown us that most of the time when punishers are faded the unwanted behavior returns because remember in PR – we are looking to have the animal repeat the behavior to EARN the reward. In PP we are simply looking for the animal to stop the behavior in the face of the punishment. This means you will always have to punish or at least threaten to punish if you choose this route.

*Note – because human timing in training is relatively slow in comparison to our dogs when using P+ one has to aim for “AS” in terms of the timing of the punisher so that one actually gets even closer to the event to be punished.  With R+ we have a little more wriggle room in terms of timing – maybe a quarter of a second, but that’s a lot in training terms.

Positive Punishment breaks our bond with our dog and our dog’s trust in us.  It teaches them that learning is at the very least no fun and at the worst painful. It does not build confidence – it breaks it. It all too often leads to more aggression from our dogs.  Neurological studies have shown that punishment acts quickly to suppress a behavior because of the survival instinct of avoiding pain and threats; but it comes with baggage in the nature of fears, re-directed and learned aggression, and shut down behaviors based in chronic stressors that can lead to a host of physical illnesses. In summary positive punishment not only carries a host of fallout, it has make you ask the following, “Did I get this dog so I could cause him or her pain and fear?”

When using Positive Reinforcement you must know what your dog likes and doesn’t like.

When using Positive Reinforcement you must know what your dog likes and doesn’t like.  If you have a dog who is head-shy then patting them on the head when they do something you like is a PUNISHMENT not a reinforcer.  If you have a dog with gastric issues then food rewards may not be a fun thing for your dog.  You have to know what your dog loves (remember: makes your dog vibrate with joy) in order to offer him/her that for a reward.

The biggest trick to Positive Punishment is TIMING and being ready to break your bond with your dog while you actually discourage your dog from wanting to learn.  Using Positive Punishment could shut your dog down leaving them living their lives like a hostage never knowing when the next scary thing will happen to them. Or you could make you dog more aggressive – studies have shown that one of the biggest contributing factors to aggression in dogs (and people, too) is using harsh (aggressive) correction on them. You might be told or be thinking that your dog is not feeling the pain from the shock collar because they are not responding, but in fact your dog is not responding because he/she is actually overwhelmed with stress and cannot comply.  All you will be doing is making their stress bigger.

Transport yourself back in time to when you were in school and answer this question: Would you learn better if someone smacked you in the head every time you misspelled a word or made a math mistake or would you learn better if someone showed you where you made your mistake and then rewarded you each time you overcame each one?

There is nothing that can be taught by positive punishment that cannot be taught by positive reinforcement. In fact, there is more that can be taught by positive reinforcement. The choice of how you wish to treat the animal in your care is up to you.

Boo prefers PR!

Leashes – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Good leash skills come with awareness, practice, patience and a solid understanding of what a leash is meant to do for you and your dog.

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Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

A leash is to the Dog-Human connection like a seat-belt is to the car-driver connection.  Both are safety devices and often mandated by law. Just as we never use a seat-belt to drive our car, we should not use a leash to “drive” our dogs.

A leash allows us a safe and effective connection to our dogs in case of surprises, emergencies, or situations where attention is hard to get or keep.

Once we have trained for attention and other skills a loose leash actually offers us the best control of our dog, and least frustration and stress for our dogs.

Just as we never use a seat-belt to drive our car, we should not use a leash to “drive” our dogs.

Your dog spends most of their time in the yard – Do you need to worry about a leash? There are many times when your dog needs to be on a leash – trips to veterinarians, groomers, walking adventures, classes, etc. Groomers and veterinarians are necessary for obvious reasons. Walking adventures outside their own backyard and classes are necessary too because dogs who don’t experience these things can be under-socialized which often leads to behavioral problems.

To use a leash properly we want to use the right tools wisely so we don’t do damage to our dogs or ourselves and we don’t want to inadvertently teach the wrong things:

The Good – Standard leash is a 6 foot nylon, cotton or leather leash (leather is easiest on human hands; avoid chains as someone usually gets hurt by these). Longer leashes are not standard walking leashes. They are used for training long distance commands.

The Bad – The Tight Leash – All too often the human-dog team becomes accustomed to constant tension on the leash = tight leash. A dog can be stressed and frustrated by a constant tight leash which can often lead to behavioral problems.

The Ugly– The Flexi Leash is almost always a constantly tight leash. In addition to stress and frustration for the dog it actually TEACHES the dog to pull. The Flexi Leash leaves the dog at risk for a variety of injuries and stress responses that can lead to behavioral problems. It also leaves the human at more risk of injury than any other leash.

Good leash skills come with awareness, practice, patience and a solid understanding of what a leash is meant to do for you and your dog.

Help us help Hunter

Hunter, an at-risk dog sheltered at ARF in Beacon, NY, needs your help to find his forever home!

Hunter has been waiting.

Hunter was brought to Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Beacon, NY in November 2008 by a woman who found him loose in Poughkeepsie.  He has won the hearts of all the ARF volunteers and is sweet and affectionate once he gets to know you.  He is worried if he does not know you; and while he may bark a bit, he has never shown any aggressive tendencies.

HunterHe gets along well with other dogs and is often the puppy “uncle” when a new doggie mom can’t take care of all her new pups because she is ill – or if we just want to expand the puppy’s social circle.  He does a great job of being the fun “uncle” to the new little tykes.

He loves cats and spends much of his days playing with them as they run loose in the back while they wait for the maid service to finish cleaning their “rooms.”

Hunter’s big problem is he has many fears.  He is sometimes afraid of the outside Hunter-looking-for-his-cat-buddiesbeyond his pen.  He is usually afraid of cars.  He will need someone to come and get to know him at ARF then begin to take him out regularly or maybe foster him.  We don’t know if he has known a home environment so he needs to get to know one slowly and happily.  He needs to learn that the world outside the shelter can be fun, including new places and even cars.  He needs a human to be his guardian angel either to come regularly to work with him or foster him to get him ready for his forever home – or to be his forever home.

If you are interested in being Hunter’s guardian angel, please come to our next training session at ARF (email me for the date) or email the shelter at arfbeacon@optonline.net

Hunter is a sweet soul who needs a safe home life to allow him to overcome his fears and become the wonderful companion he can be.  He will give his humans warm snuggles on a cold night, and fun bouncy times once he is comfortable with his environment.

 

Missing Trouble

Today we say goodbye to Trouble, who was taken far too soon by illness.

Trouble was anything but trouble.

She was always happy to see everyone and always game to try any of the crazy games and Troublechallenges of Distract O Doggie class.  As a regular attendee of Distract O Doggie for the last several years, Trouble always made us laugh since she was probably the only Golden on the planet who didn’t really care for treats or toys.  All she wanted was lovin’ and we were all more than happy to give her that.

Good with the other dogs and always friendly with people, Trouble was a joy.  Even when illness started to take hold of her she still shined and sparkled as you can see from her last snow-dog photo.  Although all of us who knew Trouble will miss her terribly it will pale in comparison to how much her family will miss her as they adjust to life without Trouble – better known in class as “Happy Girl.”

We join with her family in saying goodbye to a wonderful soul – Trouble is now pain-free and healthy as she joyfully waits with Maui for her family patiently as only dogs can do.