Dog Whispering in the 21st Century. A superb explanation why Cesar Millan’s methods instill fear and distrust in dogs, not to mention a misinterpretation of leadership.
Wow! When I saw the news about Mood Wings, I literally got goose bumps. I’m working on an article on how to understand dog communication by learning to read their subtle and not-so-subtle physical cues. Mary Czerwinski, Rosalind Picard, Asta Roseway and others are working on affective computing by developing machines that can detect and help us cope and understand our emotions. Emotions that we may not even be aware of.
Some of the early projects involved autistic children who had a difficult time expressing how they were feeling with cues that were obvious to their caretakers and teachers.
I can’t wait until the technology evolves to where we can embed the sensors in a dog’s collar. No more guessing whether a dog is mad or scared. No more missing the cues that a dog is going over threshold into emotional deep water. Way more fewer dog bites because the emotional signs were missed. Maybe we can even detect the subtle difference between rewarding with roast beef or chicken, and train accordingly.
Google: Mood Wings Czerwinski to find more articles and pictures of current technology.
Lola, a puppy in training, spied the trio before I did and let me and the owner know that we had approaching space invaders. Engrossed in their phones three teens were walking toward us on the other side of the street. The pup growled, her fur rose in a Mohawk as she stepped forward on her leash. The teens turned the corner and walked out of sight.
Yikes, I thought, this pup is not even 4 months old and already worried about people outside her family. Fortunately Lola’s young age will give us a good head start on improving her confidence, socialization and behavior in public. She will learn to accept people in her space by staying emotionally relaxed and polite.
Words demystifying dog behavior
In my first blog I introduced the word, DINOS(Dogs In Need Of Space), to describe a dog that stresses when her comfort zone feels violated. In this column I’ll introduce concepts and terms I use to understand what a dog’s behavior is telling me. I can help a DINOS stay in her comfort zone if I have a hint about her thoughts and emotions. At that point I can take advantage of an opportunity to prevent or change stressful emotional and behavioral reactions.
A trigger, or a triggering cue or action, helps us know what or who is causing a DINOS to react. A trigger might be the sight or sound of people or dogs, or both. Sometimes it’s certain types of people or dogs. DINOS may react in specific places or circumstances. Some dogs can’t handle being rushed by a dog at the dog park. Maybe it’s people reaching out to pet them at the veterinarian’s office. For Lola three unknown relatively silent humans walking nearby off her property triggered her concern.
Threshold is a useful term to understand when a DINOS will react. A threshold is the point at which your dog begins to respond to the triggers. By watching her responses at the moment she notices them, her behavior will tell you whether she is in her comfort zone, or under threshold. When you know what to look for and the point to intervene, you can be better prepared to help her through a stressful situation.
Finally, loading describes escalating emotional levels and behaviors. A dog that loads is moving out of its comfort zone and going over threshold. Once over threshold, a DINOS is fearful or forwardly reactive. Some DINOS load, i.e., go from under to over threshold in a split second. Others give you some time to engage your game plan to keep everyone focused and calm.
In my next column we’ll look at important behaviors using this helpful vocabulary.
I hope in this exploration of DINOS, whether you own one or know one, you will understand that DINOS are not bad dogs.They are loved by their owners and just need thoughtful help to make their lives comfortable and safe.
This is a go-away bark from a stressed dog over threshold, triggered by a photographer who walked too close.
Augusta Farley CPDT-KSA