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?

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

Choosing Kindly – An Excerpt

This week's Science Dog essay is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of  "Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog". I introduced the previous chapter with a story about starting each orientation class at AutumnGold with a version of the training game. While I emphasized that our students are usually impressed by these demonstrations and … Continue reading Choosing Kindly – An Excerpt

Get Help! Pony is in Trouble!

This year, for her birthday, Alice got a pony. She named him......Pony. Pony has rapidly become Alice's favorite toy. She carries him everywhere, wrestles with him, wrangles him, growls at him, and generally treats Pony quite badly. (Apparently, Ally has not yet been convinced of the benefits of reward-based pony training). Regardless, Pony and Ally have become inseparable. Until … Continue reading Get Help! Pony is in Trouble!

The Smell of the Blue Ball

A favorite activity of the Case dogs is the "Find It" game. We play this out in the training building and begin by asking the dogs "What's Hiding Today?". We all visit the giant toy bin and select a toy for the day's game. I show the toy to everyone, making sure that each dog gets a good … Continue reading The Smell of the Blue Ball

Becoming Dog Smart

This week's blog is an excerpt from Linda Case's newest Science Dog book, "Dog Smart: Evidence-based Training with The Science Dog." I grew up in an animal-loving family. As a young child, I had an auspicious start to pet ownership with Beany the Bird, a parakeet who I trained to fly from his cage to land … Continue reading Becoming Dog Smart