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

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

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 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!

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

Joe May Be Right (For Once)

Neighbor Joe (who happens to know a lot about dogs) popped by for a visit recently. He came over to tell me that he has a new dog. "Yup", Joe says, "Adopted him from our local shelter". (Good Boy, Joe!) "He's supposed to be part Australian Shepherd and part Catahoula Leopard Dog." (Yes, because we have … Continue reading Joe May Be Right (For Once)

Does this Smell Funny to You?

Are dogs self-aware? Do they recognize themselves as individuals, distinct from others?Other Animals Have It: Although rather tricky topics of study, animal self-recognition, self-awareness  and consciousness have been examined by scientists for decades. Animal consciousness is neither a new idea, nor is it a radical way of thinking. Lucky for us, we no longer live in the age … Continue reading Does this Smell Funny to You?

Do Dogs Have a Negativity Bias?

Negativity bias - We all suffer from it. This is the  phenomenon in which we naturally pay more attention to and give more weight to negative information and experiences compared with those that are positive. It is this particular cognitive bias that causes us to be more hurt or discouraged by insults or criticism than we are … Continue reading Do Dogs Have a Negativity Bias?

Missing the Point

Dogs are talented observers of human body language. Dog folks attest to this via boatloads of anecdotal stories and home videos that we are happy to share (and over-share) with others. But more importantly for the purposes of The Science Dog, it is the results of an additional boatload of controlled research studies that support our belief that dogs are paying attention to us. … Continue reading Missing the Point