Enrichment Activities

(Are Not All Created Equal) Enrichment is a popular term these days in the dog training and dog care world. And for good reason. At its most basic, environmental enrichment refers to a variety of techniques and interventions that are intended to enhance the physical and emotional well being of animals who live under human … Continue reading Enrichment Activities

Did Lassie Love Her Job?

One of the many ways that the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is unique is in how many different roles that dogs have in human society. Most who read this blog share their lives with dogs who are well cared for and who are deeply loved. However, around the world, some dogs lack homes altogether and … Continue reading Did Lassie Love Her Job?

The Eeyore Effect

Measuring the Emotional Toll of Aversive Training Methods The tension between dog trainers who use primarily reward-based methods (positive reinforcement) and those who rely more on aversive methods (positive punishment/negative reinforcement) is not new. Many trainers (myself included) believe that not only are reward-based methods more humane than methods that rely heavily upon aversives, but … Continue reading The Eeyore Effect

Wait. Should I like that?

A number of studies have shown that dogs possess the ability to learn new behaviors and even problem solve by observing the actions of other dogs or humans. Several forms of social (aka observational) learning are defined by researchers. Discussions regarding dogs' proficiency, the types of tasks that can be learned, and the relative cognitive … Continue reading Wait. Should I like that?

Wait. You Can Eat THAT?

Poop eating.  Lots of dogs do it. Many are quite proud of it. Owners? Generally not so enthusiastic. What do they eat? The technical term for poop-eating, of any type, is coprophagy. Many dogs readily consume the feces of other animal species - rabbit, deer, horse, possum and raccoon. Additionally, dogs who share their home … Continue reading Wait. You Can Eat THAT?

Taste Tests with Your Dog’s Food Toys

The taste preferences of dogs are a big deal to pet food manufacturers. After all, a food may contain quality ingredients and be highly nutritious, but it cannot benefit dogs if they refuse to eat it. Traditional Palatability Tests All pet food companies are concerned with their food's tastiness (aka palatability) and they all measure … Continue reading Taste Tests with Your Dog’s Food Toys

Treat Tips for Trainers

I have written previously about research examining the value that training treats have for our dogs and the importance of considering "high level vs. low level" treats when we train (see "Treat Please" and "Speaking of Treats"). A second, and equally important consideration for reward-based trainers is the quality of the treats that we select … Continue reading Treat Tips for Trainers

Still Be There……Once it is Safe

The Question: Are dogs less stressed when their owners are present during routine veterinary examinations or do they fare better when examined in the owners' absence? I have written about this issue before (see "Be There"). The study reviewed in that piece reported that having a dog's owner speak softly to and pet their dog … Continue reading Still Be There……Once it is Safe

Does Your Dog Play with His Food?

Most people have heard the admonition "Stop playing with your food!" at some point during their childhood. It is rare to hear the dog version of this rebuke, however, especially if you live with Golden Retrievers (or Labs......). When the food is only in the bowl for 30 seconds, there is little time for playing … Continue reading Does Your Dog Play with His Food?

Reward-Based Training and Relationship

Trainers who use reward-based training methods (aka positive reinforcement training) often expound about its benefits to dogs and likewise caution about potential risks associated with punishment-based training. Although not extensive, there are a few studies that support the behavioral and emotional benefits of reward-based training and several others showing that the use of aversive stimuli … Continue reading Reward-Based Training and Relationship

The Emotional Life of Puppy Stanley

I am happy to introduce the newest member of the Case family. Meet Stanley (aka Stan the Man, Stanley Manley, Stanley Pants). Mike and I love having a new puppy in the house (lack of sleep and reduced writing time aside). One of the many things that we enjoy is sharing a new puppy's excitement … Continue reading The Emotional Life of Puppy Stanley

The Nose Knows Bias

Despite the presumed superiority of our brains, humans are susceptible to a wide range of mental mistakes. These are collectively called "cognitive errors" and they impinge upon our judgement and can lead our decision-making astray. I have written about several of these previously in The Science Dog (attribution error, the availability heuristic and negativity bias), … Continue reading The Nose Knows Bias

You Say Tomato, I Say……..

One of the benefits of offering puppy classes is that we often have the opportunity to follow dogs from the early stages of puppyhood through adolescence and adulthood. An example of this is a young dog named Sassy, who attended class with her owners, June and Mark. They completed our 5-week puppy course and then, … Continue reading You Say Tomato, I Say……..

Science Says: “Nose Work is Good for Your Dog!”

We started training nose work games with our dogs about 8 years ago. One of the many neat things about this activity is observing the different search styles of each dog. For example, Chippy, our Toller, was very focused and methodical. He stopped and thoroughly sniffed each box before moving on to the next, finally … Continue reading Science Says: “Nose Work is Good for Your Dog!”

Clown Fear

Like many dog training schools, AutumnGold includes an orientation night each session. Owners attend without dogs to learn about our training philosophy and methods.  Because it is not unusual for young dogs to react with a bit of anxiety on the first night of class, we teach students how to reduce their dogs' stress and provide methods for helping dogs to feel secure and … Continue reading Clown Fear