BARKS from the Guild November 2021

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BARKS from the Guild Issue 51 / November 2021

BARKSfromtheGuild.com

RESCUE Thinking Outside the Shelter FELINE The Power of Choice CANINE Dog Parks: The Pros and Cons

BEHAVIOR The Art of Conversation TRAINING Reversing the Feedback Loop

© Can Stock Photo / buchsammy

AVIAN Bird vs. Human Expectations BUSINESS An All-InOne Solution

How Cats Are Made: Nature, Nurture, and the Now BEHAVIOR / PERSONALITY / LIFE IN THE HOME TM


GEEKWEEK.ROCKS


f r o m t h e e d i t o r

BARKS from the Guild Published by the Pet Professional Guild 2609 N Forest Ridge Blvd #179 Hernando, FL 34442, USA Tel: +1-844-462-6473 Pet Professional Guild BARKS from the Guild BARKS on Facebook Editor-in-Chief Susan Nilson Images © Can Stock Photo (unless otherwise credited; uncredited images belong to Pet Professional Guild) Pet Professional Guild Steering Committee Kelly Fahey, Paula Garber, Don Hanson, Judy Luther, Debra Millikan, Susan Nilson, Mary Richards, Dr. Pam Shultz, Louise Stapleton-Frappell BARKS from the Guild Published bi-monthly, BARKS from the Guild presents a collection of valuable business and technical articles as well as reviews and news stories pertinent to our industry. BARKS is the official publication of the Pet Professional Guild. Submissions BARKS encourages the submission of original written materials. Please see Submission Policy Procedures for detailed guidelines prior to sending manuscripts. Please submit all contributions to the Editor. Letters to the Editor To comment on an author’s work, or to let PPG know what topics you would like to see more of, contact the Editor via email putting BARKS in the subject line of your email. BARKS reserves the right to edit for length, grammar and clarity. Subscriptions and Distribution BARKS is a digital publication available to all subscribers free of charge. Print-on-demand copies are available to subscribers by special order. Subscribers can access all current and back issues, PDF downloads and the option to order print-on-demand copies in the Members’ Area. Subscribe here. Please contact the Editor for all subscription and distribution-related inquiries. Advertising Please contact Kelly Fahey to obtain a copy of rates, ad specifications, format requirements and deadlines. These are also available here. Pet Professional Guild does not endorse or guarantee any products, services or vendors mentioned in BARKS, nor can it be responsible for problems with vendors or their products and services. Pet Professional Guild reserves the right to reject, at its discretion, any advertising. To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild, all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild members understand force-free to mean that no pain, force or fear and no shock, choke or prong are ever employed to train or care for a pet. © All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the Pet Professional Guild, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please email the Editor.

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n our previous issue, September 2021, we celebrated our 50th issue of BARKS. It was quite the milestone and incorporated an enormous amount of input over the years from all the writers who so generously contributed and shared their knowledge and experiences to create the articles we all get to enjoy each issue. This issue we are celebrating a very different kind of milestone as, from January 2022, we are moving to a completely digital platform where you will be able to read articles directly online, without having to access or download the PDF files. We’re still working out the details but we’ll be announcing more information about the project in due course. Our goal is to provide a more user­friendly, interactive and accessible experience, and so it’s going to be a fun and interesting ride as we enter a new era for BARKS. But back to this issue for now. Our cover feature this month exam­ ines the many factors that are involved in a cat’s development and the influence these have on a cat’s behavior and personality. This is a topic close to my heart as, during my years living in the Middle East, I gath­ ered up many injured, malnourished, sick, or distressed cats and kittens off the street, rehabilitated them and then (sometimes!) rehomed them. Several of them ended up staying, of course, and some simply elected to move in with us of their own accord. It always fascinated me to watch them become more relaxed, trusting, and friendly over time, both with us and our other cats and dogs, and also the tremendous re­ lief they seemed to feel at having a safe, cool place to come to when­ ever they wanted to, to eat, sleep and generally just hang out. These cats did not have the benefit of early socialization to humans and yet, eventually, without exception, even the most wary and fearful amongst them, all ended up becoming wonderful pets. In her article, author and PPG Feline Committee chair Paula Garber asks the pertinent question, “What goes into making cats who are good pets and will live happily in our homes?” and discusses the issue of “friendliness,” a desired behavior by most cat owners and a trait that also increases cat welfare. Accordingly, Garber looks into ways we can help kittens learn social skills, highlighting the important of early han­ dling during the sensitive period (2­7 weeks of age) to try to prevent possible behavior problems arising in the future. Another salient point is the concept of choice and our Feline section this month examines a new study by Haywood et al. (2021), which found that giving cats choice about being petted not only resulted in less aggression — but actually made them more affectionate. Meanwhile, PPG has launched a number of new initiatives of late and we report on two of them in detail in our Advocacy section this month. First, we feature some of the highlights of the PPG Advocacy Panel’s first meeting which discussed how to advocate for positive rein­ forcement training, and second, we present the new PPG Equid Com­ mittee campaign, Horses with Voices, aimed at raising awareness of equine welfare issues and education that is accessible to all. Elsewhere, we discuss the good, the bad, and the reality of dog parks, and the importance of management and environmental change as part of any training or behavior change plan, highlighting a recent case of a dog struggling to adapt to his new home. We also expand on last month’s feature Building a Feline Behavior Volunteer Program…from Scratch and present a range of canine and feline case studies where shelter volunteers trained in animal behavior have played a key role in helping new owners address behavior issues, thereby keeping the ani­ mals in their homes – and out of the shelters. I’m pleased to say our Avian section is back, this month discussing anthropomorphism in the world of companion birds and the risks of ap­ plying inaccurate labels and reinforcing undesired behaviors through a lack of understanding behavior and body language. We also continue our ongoing discussion of body language and the importance of listen­ ing to what our animals tell us. Rounding it all out with more sage busi­ ness advice from PocketSuite and dogbiz, we hope you enjoy the read. Feedback is always welcome!

n Susan Nilso

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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contents 6

N EWS Geek Week presenters talk, latest Geek Week scholarships, two new PPG corporate partners, Project Trade, PPG Dog and Cat Lounges, workshops, webinars, podcasts, and more

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PPG A DVOCACY PANEL : M AKING E DUCATION M ORE A CCESSIBLE Susan Nilson reports on the highlights of the first PPG Advocacy Panel discussion where panelists deliberated on how to best advocate for positive reinforcement training

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H ORSES

WITH

V OICES : B E Y OUR E QUID ’ S A DVOCATE

The PPG Equid Committee has launched its Horses with Voices initiative to raise awareness of equine welfare issues and education that is accessible to all

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H OW C ATS A RE M ADE : N ATURE , N URTURE ,

AND THE

N OW

Paula Garber examines the many factors involved in a cat’s development and the influence they have on a cat’s behavior and personality, so that newly-adopted-cat owners can help their pets adapt to their new home life and prevent possible behavior problems arising

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C HOOSING C HOICE

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14

26

30

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42

44

46

52

Andrea Carne examines a new study that reveals the benefits of allowing cats choice in interaction

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T HINKING O UTSIDE

THE

S HELTER

Melissa Taylor presents some inspiring examples of case studies where volunteers trained in animal behavior have played a key role in helping new owners address behavior issues, thereby keeping the animals in their homes

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DOG PARKS: THE GOOD,

THE

BAD,

AND THE

REALITY

Rachel Brix looks into the pros and cons of dog parks, and sets out recommendations to ensure optimal safe and enjoyable use for all parties, as well as highlighting potential red flags

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M AKING L IFE

A

L ITTLE S IMPLER

Anna Bradley discusses the importance of management and making environmental changes as part of any training or behavior change plan, highlighting a recent case of a dog struggling to adapt to his new home

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J UST S AY N O

TO

S AYING N O

Daniel Antolec explains why dogs don’t understand what we mean when we say “no,” and presents an alternative strategy for optimal communication

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R EVERSING

THE

F EEDBACK L OOP

Sue McCabe explores the concept of clicking dogs for doing nothing or, rather, for the absence of a reaction

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E XAMINING B IRD

VS .

H UMAN E XPECTATIONS

Sheila S. Blanchette discusses anthropomorphism in the world of companion birds, highlighting the risks of inaccurate labels and reinforcing undesired behaviors through a lack of understanding behavior and body language

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T HE A RT

OF

C ONVERSATION

Kathie Gregory examines the importance of listening to what animals tell us through body language and vocalizations, as well as understanding when they are emotionally conflicted

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A N A LL -I N -O NE S OLUTION Chinwe Onyeagoro of PPG corporate partner PocketSuite explains how pet professionals and small business owners can use tech to solve their top seven dog business challenges

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A SK

THE

E XPERTS : A P ERSPECTIVE S HIFT

Veronica Boutelle of PPG corporate partner dogbiz explains the importance of taking small steps as a means to achieving larger goals

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P ROFILE : H EALING

THE

D ISCONNECT

BARKS features Hanne Grice of Hanne Grice Pet Training & Behaviour in Tring, UK

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021



n e w s Geek Week Presenters and Sponsors Are Talking!

Geek Week 2021 Awards Third Set of Scholarship Tickets

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ongratulations to Geek Week 2021 scholarship ticket recipients Chelsea Edwards, Christine Robertson, Melissa Trimble, Steven Cogswell, Amy Baker, Michelle Mercer, Patrícia Ramalho, Laura Cassiday, Elizabeth Altherr, Laura Miller, Natalia Muskina, and Antonia Goodfel­ low! Scholarship tickets are awarded by PPG’s Inclusivity Committee to the BIPOC community.

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PG president Niki Tudge has been talking to some of the Geek Week presenters to find out what they’re going to be talking about at the event, as well as some of the sponsors to find out more about the spe­ cial offers available. Check them out here, and don’t forget to register for this great online educational event taking place this month, on No­ vember 13­17, 2021! BARKS Podcast with Tasha Attwood, Dr. Jen Nesbitt­Hawes, Dr. Mindy Waite, Dr. Lisa Gunter and Dr. Melissa Starling

Geek Week 2021 Features:

BARKS Podcast with Sara McLoudrey, Gina Phairas, Revell Horsey and Malena DeMartini BARKS Podcast with Dr. Lisa Radosta, Melissa Taylor, Alexandra Santos and Louise Stapleton­Frappell BARKS Podcast with Dr. Eduardo Fernandez, Michelle Martiya, K. Holden Svirsky, Grisha Stewart and Jean Donaldson BARKS Podcast with Judy Luther, Leslie McDevitt, Veronica Sanchez and Dr. Karolina Westlund BARKS Podcast with Irith Bloom, Paula Garber, Julie Naismith, Suzanne Clothier, and Dr. Simon Gadbois BARKS Podcast with Emily Tronetti, Tracey Lee Davis, Michael Shikashio, Rain Jordan, and Nancy Tucker.

• • • • • • • • •

More than 90 events with live Q&A sessions. Educational content streaming 24 hours a day over 5 days. Academic, Behavior and Consulting tracks – Learn your ABCs. 70 top notch, internationally renowned speakers. 28 academics, 29 behavior experts and 13 consulting specialists. Virtual “Geeked­Up” Cocktail Party – Get fancy, network, and win prizes. Exhibitor sessions – meet live and face­to­face. Meet the authors – Get the details on what’s between the covers. Discounted tickets available for shelters and rescues.

Check out the Geek Week Schedule and Session Descriptions and Geek Week Presenter Bios.

BARKS Podcast with Dr. Laura Donaldson, Simone Mueller and Dr. Holly Tett.

It’s Not Too Late ­ Register for Geek Week Today!

Get Your Geek Week Apparel and Accessories

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t’s the PPG / Woof Cultr collab you've been waiting for! We are excited to announce these limited run T­shirt, mug and sticker designs just for Geek Week 2021. Hurry and place your order now because they'll be re­ moved from the Woof Cultr store after December 31, 2021. Already got your gear? Post your pix and tag @petprofessionalguild and @woofcultr on Instagram!

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021


n e w s PPG Welcomes Julie Naismith and Animal Training Academy as New Corporate Partners

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PG has welcomed two new corporate partners, Julie Naismith and Animal Training Academy. Both partners have extended a special introductory offer exclusively for PPG members.

Julie Naismith Julie Naismith helps dogs, guardians, and trainers around the world overcome separation anxiety, with online programs, cutting­edge tech­ nology, and science­backed, dog­friendly training methods. Special PPG Member Offer: $50 off the SA Pro Certification Program. You can find the discount code in the members' area of the PPG web­ site.

Project Trade Announces July, August, September Ambassadors

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ongratulations to Daniel Antolec of Happy Buddha Dog Training LLC in Wisconsin, USA for exchanging two shock collars, two prong col­ lars and one choke collar, and who was named Project Trade Ambassa­ dor for August 2021. Previously, Antolec also exchanged one prong collar and was named Project Trade Ambassador for July 2021. Congrat­ ulations, too, to Trista Miller of Polite Paws in Indiana, USA for exchang­ ing one prong collar in August 2021. Finally, congratulations to Brandi Schoenthaler of Cornerstone Dog Training LLC in Colorado, USA for exchanging two prong collars and one shock collar, and who has been named Project Trade Ambassador for September 2021. Project Trade is an international opt‐in advocacy program for PPG members that promotes the use of force‐free training equipment by asking pet guardians to trade choke, prong and shock collars (and any other aversive devices). Sign up today!

Animal Training Academy Animal Training Academy is an online learning platform where you will find content for all levels of your animal training journey from beginner through to advanced, presented by Ryan Cartlidge and some of the most renowned animal behavior and training geeks on the planet. You can also join the vast global network of 500+ members and past podcast guests that are active in the membership community areas (Facebook group and website forums). All of this helps you achieve your animal training & behavior goals based on the application of the best practice, ethical positive reinforce­ ment animal training & behavior management. Special PPG Member Offer: Have you wondered HOW to change the behavior of animals in your care? Whether you work with captive animals in a zoo setting, dogs at a daycare, or you simply want to change your pet goldfish’s behavior, our FREE Animal Training Fundamentals Course is for you. Sign up and learn the fundamentals of training any species ­ big or small! Get access im­ mediately.

Join PPG on Twitter, Instagram; All about Cats & Horses Facebook Groups

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PG members are invited to join the PPG All about Cats and PPG All about Horses Facebook groups to learn more about feline and equine behavior and ask questions on anything related to cats or horses. PPG also has an active Twitter account and often tweets about new scientific research studies, plus blogs and videos that are of interest to pet profes­ sionals, in addition to its own news, blog posts, educational handouts and articles. Join us there @PetGuild. And last but not least, head over to Instagram and connect with us there @PetProfessionalGuild too. © Can Stock Photo / verdateo

PPG Dog Lounge

PPG Cat Lounge

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he PPG Dog Lounge is a virtual get together to discuss and share ideas, and each session will have a different topic. Join the PPG Dog Lounge Facebook group for more details. Note: You will be asked for a passcode when you first join. You can find the passcode here in the PPG members’ Facebook group. The next PPG Dog Lounge will take place on Tuesday, November 23, 2021 and the discussion topic will be Adoles­ cent Tips and Tricks. Dog Lounges are held on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 2 p.m. ET.

© Can Stock Photo / websubstance

he Call­In Lounge hosted by the PPG Cat Committee takes place on a web­based platform once a month, in the middle of the month (whichever week includes the 15th and usually on a Wednesday or Thursday). Timings alternate between late afternoons and evenings at around 8 p.m. (ET) and topics include specific topics chosen by the group, case studies, and open discussions. Please check the PPG All about Cats Facebook group for further details.

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n e w s - Listen on the Anchor Platform

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ARKS Podcasts are available on the Anchor platform, from where you can select your preferred app to listen any time or download. Make sure you follow BARKS Podcasts on whichever app you choose so you can stay updated with new releases. In the most recent podcasts, join PPG president Niki Tudge as she hosts: BARKS Podcast with the PPG Advocacy Panel discussing Advocating to Let Dogs be Dogs, Cats be Cats, Equids Be Equids (October 22, 2021). BARKS Podcast with the PPG Advocacy Panel discussing How to Reach and Work with Your Local Veterinarians (September 24, 2021). BARKS Podcast Emily Wolf and Libby Felts of Summit Dog Rescue and the podcast, Pod to the Rescue. (September 17, 2021). BARKS Podcast with Lorna Winter of Zigzag Puppy Training App (Sep­ tember 3, 2021) BARKS Podcast with the PPG Advocacy Panel discussing How to Best Ad‐ vocate for Positive Reinforcement Training (August 27, 2021). BARKS Podcast with Dr. Zazie Todd, animal behavior expert and award­ winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, and creator of the Companion Animal Psychology about dog training, blog­ ging, and running a business (July 16, 2021). BARKS Podcast with Helen Philips and Jules Morgan of The Gun Dog Trainers Academy about positive gundog training and the increasing de­ mand for ethical gundog training, as well as all the great work they are doing in the UK (July 9, 2021). PPG’s monthly news update BARKS News is now available as a Podcast. Catch up on all your latest PPG news here:

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he Chat & Chuckle format for PPG’s BARKS Podcasts and PPG Face­ book Live sessions is purposely casual to create a free­flowing con­ versation between the host and the guest. There are no staged questions! This ensures we have a fun and nat­ ural dialogue to support the concept of Chatting & Chuckling. Host Niki Tudge simply guides the discussions around the guests, their areas of specialty, and their business interests.

BARKS News October 2021 / BARKS News September 2021 Join a BARKS Podcast: You too can share your knowledge and experience with PPG members and supporters! You can find older podcasts in the BARKS Podcasts Library and on PPG’s YouTube and Vimeo channels.

Apply to be a podcast guest here.

Earn Your CEUs via PPG’s Webinars, Workshops and Educational Summits! Webinars

PPG Advocacy Panel

Shaping Up Shaping Presented by Dr. Karolina Westlund Wednesday, November 3, 2021 / 2 p.m. (EDT)

"Being Nicer" While Advocating Friday, November 26, 2021 / 3 p.m. (EST)

It Takes a Village: Cases Presented by Dr. Lisa Radosta Monday, November 08, 2021 / 4 p.m. (EDT)

Your PORTL to Shaping Presented by Mary Hunter Saturday, April 9, 2022 ­ Sunday, April 10, 2022

Scent and the Assistance Dog Presented by Dr. Robert Hewings Monday, November 15, 2021 / 2 p.m. (EDT)

PPG Webinars On Demand Listen or watch any time!

Workshops

Educational Summits PPG Geek Week 2021 (Virtual) Saturday, November 13 ­ Wednesday, November 17, 2021 Note: All dates and times are correct at time of going to press but are subject to change. Please check the PPG website for an up‐ dated list of all events, workshops and webinars, as well as dis‐ counted and on‐demand webinars.

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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advocacy

PPG Advocacy Panel: Making Education More Accessible Susan Nilson reports on the highlights of the PPG Advocacy Panel’s first meeting where panelists deliberated on how to best advocate for positive reinforcement training

PPG launched its Advocacy Panel in August with the aim of supporting pet guardian education and making it accessible to a wider audience

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he PPG Advocacy Panel was launched in August and has already held its first three sessions, where the panel discussed How To Best Advocate for Positive Reinforcement Methods, How to Reach and Work with Your Local Veterinarians, and Your PPG Advocacy Panel at Work! Advocating to Let Dogs be Dogs, Cats be Cats, Equids Be Equids. Panel members to date include Beth Adelman, Kristi Benson, Dr. Laura Donaldson, Dr. Eduardo Fernandez, Dr. Robert Hewings, Aaron Jones, Judy Luther, Linda Michaels, Pat Miller, Helen Phillips, Kim Silver, Dr. Kristina Spaulding, Claire Staines, K. Holden Svirsky, Dr. Zazie Todd, Dr. Karolina Westlund, and Sam Wike. Sessions are moderated by Shock­Free Coalition chairman Don Hanson and PPG president Niki Tudge, with discussion top­ ics announced at least four weeks before the scheduled air date. Advocacy Panel discussions are streamed live on PPG’s public Face­ book page and are released afterwards as podcasts on the BARKS Pod­ casts platform. The sessions are designed to be free flowing, giving each participant the opportunity to answer key questions and supplement other panelists‘ responses. Audience members are encouraged to par­ ticipate with comments and questions, making it an interactive, educa­ tional and enjoyable experience all round. The Advocacy Panel’s key mission is to support pet guardian educa­

tion and make it accessible to a wider audience. We present here some of the many highlights from the first session, which discussed How To Best Advocate for Positive Reinforcement Methods amongst clients, pet professionals, social media, and the wider community.

Q: How Do We Advocate for Positive Reinforcement Training? Niki Tudge: How often do we hear that positive reinforcement training doesn't work, I’ve been to three trainers and they all failed? That's not positive reinforcement training not working, that's the application of positive reinforcement training. If you truly want to advocate for positive reinforcement training, get a good education because then you know what you are doing, you are doing it properly, and you are getting the results. And once people have got the competency, that is advocacy. Pat Miller: People care about their dogs. People who use aversive meth­ ods care about their dogs. They’re not doing it because they want to be mean to their dogs. The majority of my clients that have been using some sort of aversive method on their dog (because some other trainer

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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advocacy People who use aversive methods care about their dogs. They’re not doing it because they want to be mean to their dogs. - Pat Miller told them to), for the most part they're relieved that, not only do they not have to do that, but to learn that we can be very effective training their dog without doing that. When you assure people that you don't have to hurt your dog to train your dog, you can frequently get buy­in fairly quickly with that – especially when people see results. Dr. Eduardo Fernandez: I understand the purpose of LIMA and the Hu­ mane Hierarchy but I see them as being a bit divisive in a certain sense. There are some inherent problems I see with them turning people off, people that may otherwise be interested in rewards­based training meth­ ods – because they’re being told that they’re already doing it wrong. Sam Wike: When we're having conversations with people, if the first thing we do is put them on the defensive, then it's kind of like trying to reason with a drunk. It can't be done. It's one thing for us to understand the science behind things but if all we're doing is using the science and the jargon, no matter who we're talking to, for 99% of the population, professional or otherwise, they’re all of a sudden going to feel “less than.” I deal with a lot of severe cases and even then, I ask people, ‘What do you like about your dog?’ And we'll proceed from that.

Pat Miller: It's really important that we don't try to tell people that those old­fashioned aversive methods don't work. Because they do. They come with baggage and not the relationship we want to have with our dog, but if we say they don't work, we destroy our credibility when we are talking to a client who has used them in the past and used them successfully. Dr. Laura Donaldson: You're not going to change someone's mind with a position statement and I decided a long time ago that life is too short to argue on Facebook. I work with clients every day and I do not only work with people who agree with me. If you only work with people who agree with you, you'll have a pretty small client base. You probably wouldn't be sur­ prised at how many clients are desperate enough to use shock collars, prong colors, citronella, or whatever on their dog because that's the only way they tell me they can control the dog. So I'll ask them why. Ba­ sically, I want to know why they feel compelled to use this. Kim Silver: Often what I hear from people who have done aversive training with other trainers is that they are doing what they’ve been told they should do. I tell them that I’m not going to tell them what they should do, but help them decide what they would like to do next. So it's always from the client making that decision. Dr. Zazie Todd: One of the things we know from science communication is that positive messages really work and they can work to change peo­ ple's minds. One of the disadvantages of talking about what's wrong all the time is that you're not really talking about your own agenda, so you really want to focus on the positive message instead.

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

K. Holden Svirsky: When we come at this holistically, we have the aca­ demic levels, but we also need to have boots on the ground; there should be good representation so that we're not coming at someone from an ivory tower. It's been really helpful in my practice finding out what the guardians of the dog can do, today. What's a very simple activ­ ity they can do with their dog, while I'm with them, that creates instant behavior change? Not that we're going to overcome fear of strangers or separation anxiety in a single session but, can their dog pick up a piece of food off the ground and do a find it? Can their dog do a hand target? Something very simple in real time where they can enjoy themselves and not feel judged and actively interact with their dog. That's where I usually start. Helen Phillips: I don’t argue and I don’t say that what people are doing is wrong. What I do is show, so people can start to see and ask, ‘What method did you use then to get that?’ ‘How come your dog does that better than my dog?’ So if you can do that and just chip away a little bit at a time, then you are making headway. Pat Miller: Our discussions so far have really focused on one­on­one communication within our own community and I don't want us to over­ look the value of writing. If you're not up to writing books or articles, perhaps contact your local newspaper and maybe you can get a column where you're reaching people you would never actually see face­to­ face.

Dr. Robert Hewings: The UK police force banned the e­collar (and the spike color or pinch collar) in 1999. That's how far forward we were. It was banned on the understanding that we engaged in a police order and if we used that equipment, it would be the end of our career. So we didn't use them and it's as simple as that. It's easy in a uniformed hierar­ chy to say, ‘Don't do this,’ ‘Don't do that.’ But come out into the pet world and we can’t stamp down with that size 10 black boot. So you go into a conversation politely, and you understand the person you're deal­ ing with, and then you can turn around and walk out. If you go in ag­ gressively, you have to up the ante to win in the end. Any piece of education you pick up, you must go back to your com­ munity and share it, share it compassionately, share it with people who are going to listen and understand. Rather than tell them, ‘You will,’ or ‘You won't.’ If you're involved in a positive reinforcement entrenched community, you'll never break out of it and go and share some ideas with positive punishment entrenched communities. We've got to break up those communities and start talking to each other. Claire Staines: The first question we ask the client should actually be, ‘What do you want?’ Kristi Benson: In my mind all this comes together, so if you're a positive reinforcement trainer who, like me, sees things online and sees things on Facebook, and feels the need to argue by spending a lot of time and mental effort arguing on Facebook, I feel there's an opportunity – and we should all take this opportunity – to do a little self­anthropology and say, maybe this isn't wise from a human behavior change standpoint. Maybe I'm not making a difference. Maybe this is actually hard on me. We all only have so many hours in the day, so if we spend a lot of


advocacy Dogs aren't ethical. I actually say that at every first session. Dogs don't speak subjunctive, so there's no, ‘I should have done that,’ or ‘I shouldn't have eaten that pork tenderloin on the counter.’ It's bringing a dose of optimistic realism, but also recovering the relationship. Dr. Laura Donaldson time arguing, maybe it's not appropriate, maybe it's not the best use of our time. And it may not be helping dogs. It may even be hurting dogs. It may be turning people off our community. So maybe it's time to do something positive, for example, write a blog. People read. Dog owners are so in love with their dogs and they're hungry for good information. There's a lot of ways we can engage with pet owners that is probably going to be more useful and that is going to be more gentle to ourselves. Don Hanson: It's not just about educating pet owners, it's also about educating those other folks that influence them. Every Christmas I give all the vets in my community my favorite book of the year. I've gone through a wide variety of different books over the years. I often include shelters too. Sometimes the book is about training, sometimes it's about behavior, sometimes it's about animals having emotions. I explain my rationale in choosing that particular selection, and then I hear back that people passed them on to their staff and that they're starting to recommend them to other people. One of the youngest vets in our community told me 25 years ago that animals don't have emotions, and I went, ‘What?’ But that's how he was trained and that's what he learned in school. Giving the books is something I have found works really well. That same young vet who was so locked into animals not having emotions and dominance theory – after I gave him The Culture Clash (Donaldson, 1996), which was one of the first books I gave away, he called me up and we sat down and had a long conversation. He was basically saying, thank you for helping me learn what I should have learned in vet school. So that can be incredibly powerful and it's helped me change minds in a wide variety of subjects, but it involves being willing to have that conversation and also providing people with some really great tools to use.

Q: If You Have Five Minutes with a Client, What Is the Most Important Thing to Get Across? Kristi Benson: It's okay and it's acceptable to let our clients allow their dogs to be dogs. I think a lot of people don't have that messaging intrin­ sically. I think they feel they have to have the perfect dog with some sort of control, and they secretly want a dog who's just joyful and free and loose and doggish, but also think, ‘There’s a dog trainer in the room and she’s going to judge me.’ I just want to make it clear that I'm not going to judge them and I love it that they're letting their dog be a dog. Let's do that in a way that's going to be safe and make you happy. K. Holden Svirsky: I'm going to find something that the guardian is al­ ready doing right and I'm going to reinforce the heck out of it. Helen Phillips: Relationship and connection. Get them to see the dog for what the dog is and get them to enjoy the dog. Kim Silver: I focus on building a rapport with the dog and with their per­ son, I think that’s the most critical piece. So with the dog I’m capturing any good behavior I can find and I’m also managing expectations with the client that their dog feels safe, that they feel safe, and that their dog can do no wrong in my presence.

Pat Miller: A good percentage of my practice is with clients who have dogs who have aggressive behaviors, so one of the things I will fre­ quently say is, ‘You do not have an aggressive dog. Your dog is not a whole being described by the label “aggressive.” You have a wonderful dog who has some aggressive behaviors. I know that you care about your dog and I’m going to help you with that.’ Judy Luther: I try to teach people to have fun with their dogs and build that relationship where you have fun. It's not a big deal if the dog does something the client feels is inappropriate. One thing I also ask every sin­ gle pet parent I work with is, ‘Why did you name your dog what you named your dog?’ When you know that, it can be very eye opening. And when we can open our eyes to what people have inside themselves and how they feel about their dogs, we can approach it individually and it tells us a lot. Don Hanson: It may sound cliche but I ask them, ‘How can I help you?’ Because that's why they've called you. And also, ‘What do you like about your dog, what do you enjoy doing with your dog?’ You've got to make that connection with people and so I typically go there before I start. Sam Wike: Whatever happened in the past is information. Now let's move forward. Dr. Zazie Todd: It’s okay to use food to train your dog. It’s efficient, it works, it’s fun, and it builds up your relationship with your dog too. Dr. Laura Donaldson: One way or the other, I want to help that person recover their relationship with the dog. I want them to realize that the dog is a thinking, feeling partner; not a robot to be dominated, not a surrogate human, not a mini me. And that dogs aren't ethical. I actually say that at every first session: ‘Dogs don't speak subjunctive, so there's no, “I should have done that,” or “I shouldn't have eaten that pork ten­ derloin on the counter.”’ It's bringing a dose of optimistic realism, but also recovering the relationship. Dr. Karolina Westlund: I would try to find a way to connect with that person, to make that person curious and feel good, and that would give me an opportunity to keep that conversation going. And that would be different, depending on the person. n The PPG Advocacy Panel currently meets once a month. See PPG Advocacy Panel for details of upcoming discussion topics.

Catch Up with All the Advocacy Panel Discussions to Date: Advocacy Panel Discussion #1 (August 27, 2021): How To Best Advocate for Positive Reinforcement Methods Listen to the podcast / Watch the video Discussion #2 (September 24, 2021): How to Reach and Work with Your Local Veterinarians Listen to the podcast / Watch the video Discussion #3 (October 22, 2021): Your PPG Advocacy Panel at Work! Advocating to Let Dogs be Dogs, Cats be Cats, Equids Be Equids Listen to the podcast / Watch the video COMING UP: Discussion #4 (November 26, 2021): "Being Nicer" While Advocating Register to Listen Live

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advocacy

Horses with Voices: Be Your Equid’s Advocate The PPG Equid Committee has launched its Horses with Voices initiative to raise awareness of equine welfare issues and education that is accessible to all “The Horse. Here Is Nobility Without Conceit, Friendship Without Envy, Beauty Without Vanity. A Willing Servant, Yet Never A Slave.”— Ronald Duncan (1954)

P

PG has launched its Horses with Voices initiative, the primary aim of which is to improve companion equid* welfare by educating and empowering owners to commit to a higher standard of care for all species, from stabling practices to training practices and more. Horses with Voices takes the format of a seven­point pledge whereby owners, guardians and caretakers commit to advocating for their equid companions while striving to create a harmonious and equal partnership with them. Each individual point is then broken out into a supporting document that provides further details and guidance. Horses with Voices is a movement, a paradigm shift within the equid world, empowering equids by giving them a voice in their care and training; empowering equid enthusiasts worldwide to adopt more equid­considerate approaches in caring for their equids; and empower­ ing every equid guardian to embrace the science of equid emotion, learning, and behavior.

Evolving Science Why do we need to give horses and their equid friends a voice? Because the science of equid behavior and training continues to evolve. We have a broader understanding of the species­specific needs of our equids— needs that often remain unmet with current stabling and training prac­ tices. We have a growing body of knowledge proving that horses trained utilizing positive reinforcement learn faster, learn more complex skills, and are safer to work with than their counterparts trained using forceful methods. 14

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

By giving voice to equids—and the people who work with them— we open a door to the complex, rich emotional worlds our equids live within. We give them better lives. “Supporters sign the pledge to make a commitment to themselves and their equine(s) to be their best, learn, progress, and stand up for equines by advocating for their best interests,” explains PPG Equid Com­ mittee co­chair Mary Richards. “Broadly speaking, the topics we cover are education, relationships, and communication, so that we can under­ stand and communicate effectively with our equine partners, friends, and companions. All of the seven pledge items have support in the form of what this means for the individual and their equid, links to relevant information, and contact details of professionals who can answer ques­ tions and guide people further.” “With this program, we hope to raise awareness and improve edu­ cation in all areas of equid care, for all equid species,” adds PPG Equid Committee co­chair Michelle Martiya. “I’m excited about this program because I feel it gives all equid owners, from horses to donkeys, to mules and zebra, guidelines they can easily follow to improve the wel­ fare of their animals.” Join us in pledging and committing to the key principles which truly give our equid friends a voice in their care and training. n *Equid [definition]: Any of various mammals of the family Equidae, having a single hoofed digit on each foot, which includes horses, don‐ keys, and zebras. (Your Dictionary, 2021)


advocacy The Horses with Voices Pledge 1. Guardian Education – Be Committed to Ongoing Education • I will commit to continually learning more about equine be­ havior to help me better understand what my equid is com­ municating via their body language, vocalizations, and facial expressions. • I will commit to staying up to date on science­based behavior research and will be fully receptive to taking onboard new information. • I will commit to being informed by science, guided by empa­ thy, and governed by ethics.

2.

Equine Teaching - Methods, Approaches, and Philosophy

5.

• •

Methods • I will commit to only using teaching methods that promote the physical and emotional wellbeing of my equid. • I will train my equid based on the latest scientific behavioral research. • I will teach my equid to make their own choices and listen to what they voice – unless it may be unsafe for them to do so. Approach • I will work to combine an understanding of the equid species, their needs, and their perspective. • I will always consider my individual equid’s needs over the collective needs of equids. • I will create trust between myself and my equid to develop an equal partnership based on teamwork. Philosophy • I will not only seek to do no harm; I will seek to always do good. • I will empower my equid to have control and choice over ap­ propriate areas of their life. • I will promise to always treat my equid with empathy, dig­ nity, and respect.

3.

• • •

4.

• •

I will acknowledge and take appropriate action in response to my equid’s “yes” and “no” communications, and when they are conflicted.

Management - Environment and Meeting Species’ Needs I will always strive to fulfill my equid’s species­specific needs by focusing on the 3 F’s: • Freedom to graze, walk, play, and roll. • Physical access to other equids as Friends. • Continual access to Foraging which meets the design of the equid digestive tract. I will commit to providing my equid with fresh water, ade­ quate space, and access to clean, comfortable, safe shelter. I will always be considerate of my equid’s safety and comfort when caring, managing, and handling them in any manner.

6. Equine Communication and Social Behavior - Understanding Equid Species’ Behavior •

7.

• •

I will commit to understanding species­specific social behav­ ior and communication patterns in order to understand the individual communication topography of my equid. I will endeavor to understand how equine emotions drive behavior and their underlying impact on my equid’s observ­ able behavior.

Responsibility - Be Your Equid’s Advocate I will continually advocate for my equid from an environmen­ tal, physical, and emotional perspective. I will advocate for my equid in all life stages, ensuring their individual and unique needs are met.

Relationships – The Partnership Interaction I will respect my equid as a partner in all interactions. I will recognize that equids are sentient beings and that they form close bonds with their human partners. I will strive to treat my equid as family, as far as is practical and possible.

Empowerment - Preference and Consent Testing I will encourage my equids to express their emotions and preferences. I will diligently learn to understand and listen to what my equid is communicating.

Coming soon ‐ Pledge Implementation Support Tools – Watch this space! © Can Stock Photo / Virgonira

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c o v e r

How Cats Are Made: Nature, Nurture, and the Now

Paula Garber examines the many factors involved in a cat’s development and the influence they have on a cat’s behavior and personality, so that newlyadopted-cat owners can help their pets adapt to their new home life and prevent possible behavior problems arising © Can Stock Photo / dirkr

In contrast to dogs and other domesticated animals, the cats on our couches remain quite similar to their African wildcat ancestor, Felis sylvestris lybica

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question on my behavior consulting intake form asks, “What do you know about your cat’s early history?” More often than not, the client’s response is, “Nothing.” Sometimes, this is because the cat was taken in as a stray or was relinquished to a shelter or rescue group by an owner who didn’t know or didn’t share the information. Other times, the client didn’t ask about the cat’s history when the cat was acquired. I see this not only with clients who adopted their cats from a shelter or rescue, but also with clients who buy kittens from breeders. When adopting or purchasing a new puppy, breed and breed char­ acteristics are important factors that many potential dog owners con­ sider to help align their expectations for the size, appearance, and behavior of the puppy when it grows to be an adult (Karsh & Turner, 1988). While different breeds of dogs were developed primarily to serve specific purposes for humans and also exhibit certain behaviors, cat breeds were developed primarily to achieve certain physical characteris­ tics (Moffatt, 2020). In fact, “cats virtually never were selected to per­ form in a working role for humans” (Hart et al., 2014).

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Appearance Since cats have been primarily bred for their visual appeal to humans, it makes sense that the length, color, and pattern of the coat are some of the most important factors to adopters of kittens (Karsh & Turner, 1988). Actually, when choosing a cat of any age, it is not uncommon for adopters to base their decision primarily on the cat’s outward appear­ ance and be less interested, or not interested at all, in the cat’s socializa­ tion history, life experiences, and behavior. In Karsh’s study on placing adult cats, she found that “appearance of the cat, particularly the cat’s color, was usually the most important factor” to the person acquiring a cat (Karsh & Turner, 1988). The lack of interest in the behavioral history of cats could also be the result of the assumption (and the expectation) that all cats behave similarly. In other words, “a cat is a cat.” In particu­ lar, negative behaviors related to stress in cats (e.g., hissing, swatting, hiding) are often “normalized” (Delgado, 2020). Just look at all the memes on social media that portray cats as “mean,” “fractious,” or “spiteful” while also implying (or flat­out stating) that this is typical cat behavior.


c o v e r When choosing a cat of any age, it is not uncommon for adopters to base their decision primarily on the cat’s outward appearance and be less interested, or not interested at all, in the cat’s socialization history, life experiences, and behavior. Karsh also found that “people often seem to have a prototype or idealized image of what a cat should look like …often based on a cat they have known and liked” (Karsh & Turner, 1988). This idea of an “ideal” might also extend to cat behavior. How many times have we heard this type of comment from clients?: “I’ve never had a cat who [in­ sert cat behavior of your choice]. What’s wrong with him?!” It is well known among cat behavior professionals that cats are often misunder­ stood. On a daily basis, we see cats’ communication signals being misin­ terpreted, missed entirely, or ignored, and the cat often blamed when something goes wrong.

Domesticated Species? Some of the misunderstanding could be due to the cat’s unique domes­ tication history. Domestication of cats started 8,000 to 10,000 years ago around the time when humans changed their behavior from primarily hunting and gathering for food to farming and storing grains. Rodents soon invaded the grain stores, which attracted small wildcats. Eventu­ ally, many of these cats became household pets, and thus began the process of domestication (Hart et al., 2014). In contrast to dogs and other domesticated animals, the cats on our couches remain quite simi­ lar to their African wildcat ancestor, Felis sylvestris lybica. Our modern cats, even those that have been selectively bred, are considered not fully domesticated because of several retained “wildcat” behaviors: hunting, territoriality, and the ability of many cats to survive without di­ rect support from humans (Crowell­Davis, 2020). Domestic cats live among humans along a spectrum ranging from residing indoors with people to living outdoors with little to no human support.

Nature vs. Nurture At this point, I’d like to address the myth that cats are naturally “inde­ pendent” and inherently able to “survive on their own.” This myth is based in the “nature vs. nurture” debate, which is a false dichotomy. Cats are not automatically born with hunting skills or the ability to navi­ gate life outdoors (or indoors, for that matter). There are no 100% “ge­ netic” or “innate” behaviors, in cats or any other species. Nature (genes) and nurture (the environment) are both required to develop behavior, and different environments may cause the expression of different genes (Bateson, 2000). Cats are an altricial species, which means they are “born in a very immature and helpless condition so as to require care for some time.” (Merriam­Webster, 2021). At birth, kittens’ eyes and ears are closed, and they are entirely dependent on their mother for food (Crowell­ Davis, 2007). By contrast, the young of precocial species like deer and horses are born more developed and are “capable of a high degree of independent activity from birth.” (Merriam­Webster, 2021). The sensi­ tive period of socialization in altricial species increases their adaptability to a variety of environments and situations, which is helpful when the environment at birth is consistent with what the animal will experience as an adult. This enables individual members of a species to adapt to a variety of different environments into which they might be born and will remain through adulthood (Casey, 2009). The disadvantage is that, if the early environment differs from that experienced as an adult (typically as a result of human intervention), what’s called “phenotypic mismatch” occurs. An example is when kit­

Fig. 1

SPECTRUM OF FELINE SOCIABILITY TO HUMANS

House Cat

Semiferal Cat

Feral Cat

Raised and socialized by humans from a young age Lives in a home with one or more humans Lives indoors full time or with some outdoor access

Lives outside with human support Fearful of humans, but may become less afraid over time Often spayed or neutered as part of a TNR* program

Lives outside with minimal to no human support Fearful of humans and avoids them May breed freely or be spayed or neutered as part of a TNR* program

*TNR: trap-neuter-return

Adapted from Crowell-Davis, S. (2020). "Social butterflies: cats are not really solitary animals" in Decoding Your Cat, Herron, M.E., Horwitz, D.F. & Siracusa, C., eds. New York: American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 71-92.

© Paula Garber

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c o v e r Negative behaviors related to stress in cats (e.g., hissing, swatting, hiding) are often “normalized” (Delgado, 2020). Just look at all the memes on social media that portray cats as “mean,” “fractious,” or “spiteful” while also implying (or flat-out stating) that this is typical cat behavior.

Paternity and “Boldness”

tens are born and raised in an outdoor environment having limited con­ tact with humans, and then, near the end of the sensitive period of so­ cialization (7­8 weeks), the kittens are moved to an indoor environment in close proximity to humans. During the first 7 to 8 weeks of life, kittens learn what is normal and safe in their environment, and when they are then moved to an unfamiliar environment, they lack the behaviors nec­ essary to successfully navigate the environment and survive (Casey, 2009). Clearly, there are significant welfare implications for cats raised indoors among humans who are then abandoned outdoors, and for cats raised outdoors with limited human contact who are then brought into a shelter or human home. (See also Fig. 1, Spectrum of Feline Sociability to Humans, on previous page.) Friedman (2021) famously said that behavior is always a “study of one.” She also explained that the development of behaviors “starts with random movement, within the limits of biology, and is refined with the natural process of differential reinforcement.” In other words, an indi­ vidual’s behaviors are determined through learning. Consequences se­ lect or de­select for behaviors (Friedman, 2016). Imagine the variety of behaviors possible through the different combinations of genes, envi­ ronments, and endless learning opportunities. It’s mind blowing!

Studies done on cats living in colonies in the 1980s suggested that genes from the father cat have a positive effect on kitten friendliness toward humans. Because behavior is not directly inherited and the kittens had no contact with their fathers, the researchers inferred that friendly be­ havior likely develops through an indirect route linked to the father’s genes, for example, “by affecting growth rate which may in turn affect socialization to humans in a colony situation and thereby affect subse­ quent ‘friendliness’” (Turner et al., 1986). A study by McCune (1995) found that this effect extended beyond friendliness toward people to exploring a novel object. Two groups of kittens were studied: the “socialized” group was handled between 2 and 12 weeks of age, and the “unsocialized” group was not handled at all. Handling consisted of the kittens being placed onto the handler’s lap and having their “head and body petted while being spoken to gently” (McCune, 1995). The kittens were the offspring of a “friendly” father and an “unfriendly” father. At one year of age, the kittens were tested with regard to their (1) response to a familiar person, (2) response to a stranger, and (3) response to a novel object (an unfamiliar wooden box). Cats that were socialized and had friendly fathers were friendlier toward unfamiliar people than cats that were unsocialized and had unfriendly fathers. Both socialized and unsocialized cats had similar responses to the novel object, but the cats with friendly fathers approached and ex­ plored the object quicker than the cats with unfriendly fathers. McCune’s study showed that “[p]aternity influenced a general re­ sponse to unfamiliar or novel stimuli, irrespective of whether these were people or inanimate objects” (Mendl & Harcourt, 2000). In other words, the previously reported paternal effect on “friendliness” was re­ ally a more generalized effect on “boldness.” This discovery has impor­ tant implications for feline welfare, as the socialized cats with friendly fathers experienced better welfare than the unsocialized cats with un­ friendly fathers. When approached and handled by a stranger, the so­ cialized, friendly­fathered cats “were less likely to show behaviour associated with distress and more likely to show behaviour associated with being relaxed.” (McCune, 1995).

Friendliness

Breed and Gender

So, what goes into making cats who are good pets and will live happily in our homes? “Friendliness” is a desired behavior by most cat owners, and being friendly toward humans also increases cat welfare. McCune (1995) suggests that “appropriate breeding and rearing strategies” should be considered that “enable cats to be raised that are better able to meet the challenge of living alongside people.” Mendl and Harcourt (2000) devel­ oped a schema of factors that interact together with features of a cat’s current environment to help predict the degree of expression of “friend­ liness to humans.” These factors are “early social experience with mother and siblings, paternity, breed, coat color, maternal care, duration and quality of interaction with humans (and probably timing and context as well), and environmental complexity” (Bernstein, 2007). In this article, I’m first going to explore the research that has been done on how some of these factors impact feline behavior. I will then discuss how life experiences and current environmental conditions con­ tribute to a cat’s behavior, and I will conclude with guidance on how to set up cats for success as human companions.

Just how genes influence cat behavior is unknown (Mendl & Harcourt, 2000), but some studies have shown the effects of selective breeding on behavior in purebred cats. In a study by Turner (2000), data were col­ lected on cat owner perceptions and researcher observations of interac­ tions between cat owners and their cats in their homes, comparing purebred Persian and Siamese cats, and non­pedigreed domestic “mix” cats. Differences were identified between all the breeds, but fewer dif­ ferences were found between the Siamese and Persian cats, suggesting that social behaviors that appeal to cat owners (e.g., “affection to owner,” “proximity,” “friendliness to strangers”) were selectively bred. In 2013, Hart et al. published the results of their study on breed­ specific behaviors in cats in which they interviewed “80 feline veterinary practitioners who had seen many cats of all breeds and types and who had heard cat owners complain and boast about their pets” (Hart et al., 2014). Fifteen purebred cat breeds and the domestic short hair and do­ mestic long hair were ranked on 12 behavior characteristics. Again, the influence of selective breeding was seen in the results: For “activity

© Can Stock Photo / phbcz

Cats are an altricial species, meaning they are born in a immature and helpless state that requires care for some time: at birth, kittens’ eyes and ears are closed, and they are entirely dependent on their mother for food

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021


c o v e r level,” Bengal and Abyssinian ranked highest and Persian and Ragdoll ranked lowest; for “affection toward human family members,” Ragdoll ranked highest and Bengal ranked lowest; for “aggression toward human family members,” Bengal ranked highest and Ragdoll ranked low­ est (Hart et al., 2014). In the same study by Hart et al., prior to being asked to rank cat breeds, the 80 feline veterinary practitioners were asked to rank spayed female cats and neutered male cats on the same 12 behavior character­ istics, independent of breed. Their findings showed that for “outgoing and affectionate,” males significantly outranked females; for “aggres­ sion,” females significantly outranked males; and for “likelihood of urine marking in the house” males significantly outranked females (previous studies have found that roughly 10% of all neutered males will urine mark) (Hart et al., 2014).

Maternal Malnutrition and Stress Martin and Bateson (1988) summarized several studies on the effects of undernourished mother cats on the behavior and growth of their kit­ tens. Kittens of undernourished mothers showed lack of growth in certain parts of the brain and delays in the development of behaviors like suck­ ling, crawling, and opening their eyes. An overall reduction in learning ability and increase in fear and aggression was also seen. Even with ade­ quate nutrition after weaning, at 4 months of age kittens had more “ac­ cidents” during play, male kittens were more aggressive when playing with other kittens, and female kittens did less climbing and engaged in more random running. Some of these effects carried over to the next generation, though to a lesser degree. Malnutrition is only one of many stressors a mother cat might expe­ rience during her pregnancy. Stress triggers the production of stress hormones in the mother cat that can negatively impact the physical and behavioral development of her kittens. Other stressors include conflicts with other pets, environmental and social changes in the home, litter box setup that is inadequate, resting and safe hiding places not being easily accessible, sudden changes in temperature, and lack of control over the environment and social interactions (Atkinson, 2018). Separation of the mother from her kittens shortly after the birth also appears to increase stress for kittens. Lowell et al. (2020) studied the effect on orphaned neonatal kittens of being separated from their nest and siblings. As mentioned earlier, cats are altricial, so separation of kittens from their mother during the first several weeks of life is be­ lieved to be a significant stressor as it greatly reduces the likelihood of their survival. Stress was identified as increased activity and distress calls, which serve to help mother cats locate and return kittens to the nest or help kittens find the nest on their own. The researchers found that compared with kittens reared by their mothers, orphaned kittens showed increases in both activity and distress calls during separation from the nest, and these effects were long­lasting, which suggests that being separated from the mother cat results in long­term changes in kit­ tens’ responses to stress.

Fig. 2

SOCIALIZED VERSUS

UNSOCIALIZED Socialized Cat

Unsocialized Cat

(had positive experiences w/people at 2-7 weeks)

(had negative or limited experiences w/people at 2-7 weeks)

Quickly generalizes positive experiences to unfamiliar people (will exhibit social behaviors toward new person after a few positive interactions)

Repeated negative experiences with people are necessary to “undo” the positive early socialization effect

Quickly generalizes negative experiences to unfamiliar people (will exhibit fearful/ avoidance behaviors toward new people)

Repeated positive experiences with a person are necessary to “override” the cat’s negative or lack of experiences (exhibit social behaviors toward the person)

Does not generalize positive experiences with an unfamiliar person to other unfamiliar people (must learn to trust each new person it encounters)

Early and Abrupt Weaning Early weaning refers to the permanent separation of kittens from the mother cat prior to when it would naturally occur. According to Brad­ shaw et al. (2012), “[f]eral cats wean their kittens at four to eight weeks of age, but kittens usually stay with their mother for the first four months of their lives.” It was believed that cat behavior stabilized at 8 weeks following the socialization period (Bernstein, 2007), but a recent study found otherwise. Ahola et al. (2017) studied the effects of early weaning on the be­ havior of pet cats. They considered cats to have been early weaned if they were separated from their mother before 12 weeks of age. Their study included close to 6,000 cats representing 40 breeds. Their results

Adapted from Turner, D.C. (2000). The human-cat relationship. In The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, 2nd Ed. Turner, D.C. & Bateson, P. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 197.

Quickly and strongly generalizes even minor negative encounters with a person to other people

© Paula Garber

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c o v e r Modern cats, even those that have been selectively bred, are considered not fully domesticated because of several retained “wildcat” behaviors: hunting, territoriality, and the ability of many cats to survive without direct support from humans (Crowell-Davis, 2020). showed that cats who were weaned before 8 weeks were more likely to be aggressive, and cats weaned at 12 weeks were more likely to exhibit excessive grooming. Cats who were weaned after 14 weeks were less likely be aggressive toward strangers and also less likely to excessively groom than cats weaned at 12 weeks. Cats weaned as adults or not weaned at all were less likely to be aggressive, shy, and exhibit abnor­ mal behavior than all other weaned groups. The researchers concluded that the extended care kittens received from the mother cat up to and beyond 14 weeks resulted in a decrease in aggression and other abnor­ mal behaviors, and recommended that the weaning of kittens be de­ layed until 14 weeks to improve the welfare of pet cats. Another consideration is the abrupt weaning of kittens. Frustration experienced by kittens during the natural weaning process is important to teaching them predatory behaviors and how to cope with feelings of frustration. Cats who are unable to cope with frustration are more likely to be stressed and become aggressive when their expectations are not met or are delayed (Atkinson, 2018).

© Can Stock Photo / Virgonira

Kittens born and raised in an outdoor environment having limited contact with humans learn during their first 7 to 8 weeks what is normal and safe in their environment; when they are then moved to an unfamiliar environment, such as inside a home, they lack the behaviors necessary to successfully navigate the environment and survive

Why Early Learning Lasts Let’s get a little “brainy” and dig into the science behind the develop­ ment of the cat brain. Remember that cats are altricial, meaning they are born not fully developed and require a great deal of care when they are young. When a kitten is still in the womb, nerve cells start to rapidly generate, but nerve cell production peaks during the period shortly after birth. During the first few weeks of life, the new nerve cells grow quickly and produce large numbers of axons. The nerve cells whose axons connect with other neurons survive, and those that don’t, die. The surviving neural network consists of nerve cells that were active during the animal’s early development. The neural networks and con­ nections made in the brain during this time are very strong and long lasting, and set up cats for successful living in an environment similar to that in which they spent their first few weeks of life (Casey, 2009).

The Sensitive Period Since most cat owners prefer cats who are social and friendly, and these characteristics contribute to good welfare for pet cats, the sensitive pe­ riod of socialization is an extremely important time in the life of a cat destined to become a pet in a home environment. Cats are a social species and are born with the capacity to learn social skills, but they are not born with specific social skills (Crowell­Davis, 2007). The “socializa­ tion period” is the early period in life when kittens must be handled in order to remain socialized to humans in adulthood. A more encompass­ ing term is “sensitive period,” since it is a time when “plasticity to learn­ ing about [all] environmental stimuli is more pronounced,” of which socialization to humans is just one component (Casey, 2009). The sensitive period of socialization for cats begins at 2 weeks of age and significantly tapers off by 7 weeks (Karsh & Turner, 1988). Dur­ ing this time, kittens form strong social bonds and learn to generalize re­ sponses to stimuli with similar characteristics, and also to respond differently to (or discriminate) specific features of stimuli. This period ends by 8 weeks of age and may be signaled by the kitten’s cautious or fearful behavior in the presence of unfamiliar stimuli. If socialization to people began before the 8­week time point, kittens’ responses to hu­ mans will continue to develop and change for an additional 2 months,

and the amount and type of handling kittens receive during this time will be evident in their responses to handling at 4 months, but will re­ main consistent thereafter (Casey, 2009).

Early Handling Handling kittens during the sensitive period has lasting effects, resulting in cats that bond quite readily to other people. Karsh studied the effect of the amount of handling kittens received during the sensitive period on cat­human attachment using kittens raised in a laboratory and han­ dled for 15 minutes or 40 minutes per day and kittens raised in a home environment starting at 4 weeks of age. The laboratory kittens held for 40 minutes per day stayed longer during a holding test, approached a person faster, and stayed with the person a little longer than the labora­ tory kittens held for 15 minutes per day. But results for the home­raised kittens were significantly better than those for the laboratory kittens held for 40 minutes daily. Their mean holding test results were 111 sec­ onds (versus 73 seconds) and the mean time spent with a person was 127 seconds (versus 88 seconds). The home­reared kittens were at­ tended to (feeding and cleaning) and petted for an average of 86 min­ utes per day and had more opportunities to interact socially with people and in different ways, while the laboratory kittens’ environment was quite lacking in variety and richness (Karsh & Turner, 1988).

After the Sensitive Period As mentioned, the effects of positive and negative experiences with people during the sensitive period of socialization are long­lasting. (See Fig. 2, Socialized versus Unsocialized, on p.19 for the social and behav‐ ioral effects of a cat’s early experiences with humans.)

How to Make Pet Cats As you can see, there’s much more to a cat than his or her physical ap­ pearance, and expecting a cat to live up to an idealized prototype is un­ realistic, to say the least. Making cats who will be happy household pets can be a complex task, and many important factors are out of our con­ trol. In the United States alone, thousands (possibly millions) of kittens

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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c o v e r Fig. 3

Socializing Kittens to People SEE THE ACCOMPANYING TEXT FOR IMPORTANT HANDLING CONSIDERATIONS AND SAFETY TIPS

Under 2 weeks of age Minimal handling only by the person the mother cat is most comfortable with

Starting at 3 weeks Only people the mother cat knows and trusts should handle the kittens Talk to the kittens while stroking them in their nest Pick up one kitten at a time, hold kitten and stroke all over the body for 30-60 seconds, then return kitten to the nest If kitten or mother appears distressed, return kitten to the nest or allow kitten to sit on your lap instead of being held

Starting at 5 weeks Increase handling to 5+ minutes at a time Introduce play with a wand or similar type toy Repeat handling and interactive play several times a day with various people

At 7-9 weeks Increase length and frequency of play and handling sessions away from mother and littermates

Starting at 2 weeks Only people the mother cat knows and trusts should handle the kittens Talk to the kittens while stroking them in their nest Pick up one kitten at a time, cradle in hands for a few seconds, then return kitten to the nest

Starting at 4 weeks Allow other people to handle the kittens (strangers should interact with mother first) If mother cat is fearful or aggressive, allow time for her to acclimate to the person before handling her kittens If mother cat remains fearful or aggressive, handle the kittens away from the mother but with littermates present Gradually increase handling to 2-3 minutes at a time

Starting at 6 weeks While handling, occasionally (and briefly) carry kitten a short distance away from mother and littermates Increase play with interactive toys

Adapted from Atkinson, T. (2018) Practical Feline Behaviour: Understanding Cat Behaviour and Improving Welfare. Boston: CABI; 127-128.

© Paula Garber

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are born outdoors to unsocialized mothers, are orphaned due to the death of the mother or her neglect, or are separated from their mothers by well­meaning humans (Lowell et al., 2020). Cats and kittens are also frequently relinquished or abandoned due to a house move, the inabil­ ity to pay for food and veterinary care, cat allergies, conflict with other pets in the home, or other behavior issues (Campbell, 2017; Casey et al., 2009). The following sections provide tips and guidance to help set up kittens and cats for success as household pets.

Breeders Breeders of purebred cats have a distinct advantage, as they can control most of the factors that contribute to making cats who are good pets. In addition to being healthy, free from genetic defects, fully vaccinated, and mature (at least 1.5 to 2 years of age), both the mother and father cat should be friendly toward people, well socialized, confident (not fearful), and free of problematic behaviors. The mother cat especially should not exhibit any problem behaviors, as kittens are observational learners and might learn those unwanted behaviors from their mother (Atkinson, 2018).

Caregivers of Pregnant Moms Stress for the pregnant mom should be minimized, and she should have access to several different nest options, as it is normal for mother cats to move their kittens at least once before they are weaned. The nests should be in areas that are warm, dry, quiet, not drafty, and in perma­ nent semi­darkness, and mother cats should never be confined to a nest site (Atkinson, 2018).

Kitten Caregivers Preparing kittens for their future lives as pets in people’s homes is an important job for kitten caregivers. The work begins as soon as the kit­ tens are born. The mother and kittens should be disturbed as little as possible during the first week or so after birth. Don’t separate kittens from their mother or interrupt the weaning process unless absolutely necessary. The frustration kittens go through during natural weaning is normal and an important learning experience. It also is normal for mother cats to show some aggression toward their kittens during wean­ ing. Intervention is unnecessary unless the mother is hurting the kittens (Atkinson, 2018). If kittens are being hand raised and will not experience natural weaning, steps should be taken to help the kittens develop skills to cope with frustration and decrease the risk of frustration­related behaviors when they are adults (Atkinson, 2018): • Do not offer solid food by hand. Mix solid food with kitten for­ mula in a shallow dish, and gradually reduce the amount of for­ mula and increase the amount of solid food. • When weaning starts (at about 3 to 4 weeks of age), start making the feeding schedule more unpredictable, and do not feed on de­ mand. • When the kittens start eating solid food or solid food mixed with formula, end bottle­feeding sessions when there is still a little bit of formula left in the bottle. • Once the kittens are consistently eating solid food, start introduc­ ing easy food puzzles and treasure hunts with food. During the sensitive period (2 to 7 weeks of age), kittens should be exposed, in a positive way, to a variety of people, other animals, envi­ ronments, sounds, objects, and experiences that they will likely en­ counter in adulthood. The experiences kittens have during this brief “window” need to match as closely as possible what they are likely to experience later in life. Make your own list, and check items off as you expose the kittens to the different things. Remember that a normal rou­ tine for many cats will be spending time alone while family members


c o v e r are at work or are preoccupied at home, so too much interaction and excitement during the sensitive period will not likely match the kitten’s future home situation. Also keep in mind that aversive or scary experi­ ences during this time can have profound effects on a cat in adulthood (Casey, 2009). Fig. 3, Socializing Kittens to People (see opposite page), offers spe­ cific tips on when and how much to handle kittens during the socializa­ tion period. Following are some important handling tips to keep in mind (Atkinson, 2018): • Do not disturb the mother or her kittens if they are sleeping. • Allow the kittens plenty of time to play with their littermates and explore their environment. • After 2 to 3 weeks of age, the minimum total daily handling time for the kittens should be 30 to 60 minutes, broken up into short periods. • Starting at about 4 weeks, the kittens should be handled by sev­ eral people of different ages, genders, and appearance. • Before strangers handle the kittens they should wash their hands and also drape a clean blanket or towel, or one with familiar scents, over their lap to minimize the kitten’s contact with unfa­ miliar smells and provide comfort. • Always closely supervise handlers, especially children, to ensure that the kittens are being handled gently and that the kittens and mother cat do not appear stressed.

Matchmaking Shelters and rescue groups should try to learn as much as possible about the socialization history and life experiences of kittens and cats during intake and from foster caregivers, and keep this information in each animal’s record. Combined with data from observations of the cat’s behavior in various situations, the cat’s “behavioral style” or gen­ eral behavior patterns and distinguishing features, including interactions with people and other animals, can be determined (Mendl & Harcourt, 2000). This information can then be used to give potential adopters a more complete picture of a cat, beyond just physical appearance, so they can make a more educated decision about whether a particular cat will be a good fit for their family. The ASPCA has developed a tool to help match the personalities and lifestyles of adopters and cats (and dogs) called Meet Your Match (ASPCA, 2017). Adopters who are interested in a kitten should be encouraged to adopt a pair, as kittens raised singly are more likely to develop behavior problems as adults (Delgado, 2014). Also keep in mind that behavioral assessments of kittens before 7 weeks of age are unreliable and don’t accurately predict how kittens will behave as adults. As mentioned pre­ viously, feline personalities tend to stabilize after 4 to 5 months of age, so assessments of a cat’s behavior after this time point are more accu­ rate (Moffat, 2020).

© Can Stock Photo / famveldman

Handling kittens during the sensitive period of 2­7 weeks of age has lasting effects on their future friendliness, resulting in cats that bond quite readily to other people

• •

Considerations for Cat Guardians Bringing an animal into a home and providing them with care for their lifetime is a big responsibility. When behavior problems arise, the pet is often blamed, but it is primarily up to pet guardians to do what they can to prevent problems from developing in the first place. Many problems can be avoided by taking some steps before acquiring a new pet.

Tips When Acquiring a Kitten (Atkinson, 2018): •

Arrange to meet the mother cat (and father cat, if possible). Both should be healthy, full grown, friendly toward people, well social­ ized, and confident. Arrange to see where the kitten was raised. Kittens raised “under foot” or as an active member of a typical household are most suitable as pets. Interact with and handle the kitten. If you are not allowed to do

this, be wary. If you already have a cat, dog, or child, or plan to add to your family in the future, make sure the kitten has been around an adult cat (other than the mother), a dog, or children, and ask to observe the kitten’s interactions with them. Arrange to visit the kitten more than once. Kitten behavior does­ n’t stabilize until 4 months of age, and there can be a lot of be­ havioral variation during the first 2 to 3 months. Spending more time with the kitten can give you some insight into the kitten’s behavioral development. If the kitten will be an only cat, consider getting two kittens in­ stead of one (Delgado, 2014). Arrange for the kitten to stay with its mother and siblings until 14 weeks of age. If this isn’t possible, after the kitten has settled into your home, work on exposing the kitten to different people, other pets, sounds, objects, and places in a gradual and positive way (Moffat, 2020). Download International Cat Care’s The Kitten Checklist for addi‐ tional guidance.

Tips When Acquiring an Adult Cat or Older Kitten (Atkinson, 2018): •

Learn as much as you can about the cat’s social and behavioral history. A cat or older kitten who wasn’t well socialized in a home

Cats are a social species and are born with the capacity to learn social skills, but they are not born with specific social skills (Crowell-Davis, 2007). The “socialization period” is the early period in life when kittens must be handled in order to remain socialized to humans in adulthood.

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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c o v e r environment or has spent most of its life outdoors is not for everyone. Not only can it take a long time for the cat for form bonds with family members, living in a home among humans can be extremely stressful. • Interact with and handle the cat or older kitten. The cat should be friendly, confident, and rebound quickly if startled or initially shy. • Understand that shelters and some rescue situations are often very stressful environments for adult cats and older kittens, and the cat might behave differently in your home. • See International Cat Care tips on Choosing an Adult Cat for addi‐ tional guidance. If your kitten is a little shy or you adopted an adult cat and missed the socialization period, don’t despair! Cats are always learning, and they can learn new behaviors at any age. If your cat did not have positive early social experiences, she can still learn social skills—the process is just much slower and requires a lot of patience. If you and your cat are not making progress, consult the Pet Professional Guild’s member directory to find a cat behavior profes­ sional in your area who can help. n

References Ahola, M. K., Vapalahti, K., & Lohi, H. (2017). Early weaning increases aggression and stereotypic behaviour in cats. Scientific Reports 7: 10412, 109 ASPCA. (2017). Meet Your Match Atkinson, T. (2018). Practical feline behaviour: Understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare. Wallingford, UK: CABI Bateson, P. (2000). Behavioural development in the cat. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (2nd ed., pp. 9-22). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press Bernstein, P. L. (2007). The human-cat relationship. In I. Rochlitz (Ed.), The Welfare of Cats (Animal Welfare Series Vol. 3, pp. 47-89). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Bradshaw, J. W. S., Casey, R., & Brown, S. (2012). The behaviour of the domestic cat. Wallingford, UK: CABI Campbell, S. (2017, March 15). 4 common reasons cats & kittens are abandoned after a foreclosure. FixNation Casey, R. (2009, October 2-4). The science behind feline socialization. In Proceedings of the Southern European Veterinary Conference, Barcelona, Spain. IVIS Casey, R. A., Vandenbussche, S., Bradshaw, J. W. S., & Roberts, M. A. (2009). Reasons for relinquishment and return of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) to rescue shelters in the UK. Anthrozoös 22 (4) 347359 Crowell-Davis, S. L. (2007). Cat behaviour: social organization, communication and development. In I. Rochlitz (Ed.), The Welfare of Cats (Animal Welfare Series Vol. 3, pp. 1-22). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Crowell-Davis, S. L. (2020). Social butterflies: cats are not really solitary animals. In M. E. Herron, D. F. Horwitz, & C. Siracusa (Eds.), Decoding Your Cat (pp. 71-92). American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Delgado, M. (2014, June 2). Is early spay/neuter related to the development of behavior problems in kittens? What Your Cat Wants Delgado, M. (Presenter). (2020, October). [Webinar] Inter-cat aggression. Morris Animal Foundation Feline Behavior Webinar Series Friedman, S. (Presenter). (2016, June 4-5). Living and learning with animals. Dog Training Club of Chester County. Exton, PA Friedman, S. (2021). Behavior Works Hart, B. L., Lyons, L. A., & Hart, L. A. (2014). Breed and gender differ-

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Paula Garber is a cat behavior professional and owner of LIFELINE Cat Behavior Solutions in Westchester County, New York. She holds a master’s in education from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a diploma in feline behavior science and technology from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. She is also a certified animal training and enrichment professional and certified feline training and behavior specialist through the Animal Behavior Institute, a Fear Free certified animal trainer, and is certified in Low-Stress Handling for Dogs and Cats. She is chair of the Pet Professional Guild’s Feline Division and serves on PPG’s Steering Committee, and she recently joined the faculty of DogNostics Career Center. She is a proud member of the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals and the Animal Training Academy, and serves as president and cofounder of the Cat Protection Council of Westchester, a non-profit organization whose mission is to better the lives of community cats through advocacy, education, and community outreach. She resides in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and four rescued cats. ences: relation to the ancient history and origin of the domestic cat. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (3rd ed., pp. 155-165). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press Karsh, E. B., & Turner, D. C. (1988). The human-cat relationship. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (pp. 159-177). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press Lowell, K. J., Mederos, S. L., Delgado, M. M., & Bain, M. J. (2020). The effect of premature maternal separation on distress vocalizations and activity in kittens (Felis catus) during a brief nest separation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 232 1-5 Martin, P., & Bateson, P. (1988). Behavioral development in the cat. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (pp. 9-22). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press McCune, S. (1995). The impact of paternity and early socialisation on the development of cats' behaviour to people and novel objects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 45 109-124 Mendl, M., & Harcourt, R. (2000). Individuality in the domestic cat: origins, development, and stability. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (2nd ed., pp. 47-64). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2021, August). Altricial. In Merriam-Webster Dictionary Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2021, August). Precocial. In Merriam-Webster Dictionary Moffat, K. (2020). Welcoming your new best friend: setting up your new cat for a lifetime of health and happiness. In M. E. Herron, D. F. Horwitz, & C. Siracusa (Eds.), Decoding Your Cat (pp. 27-48). American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Turner, D. C. (2000). The human-cat relationship. In D. C. Turner & P. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour (2nd ed., pp. 193-206). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press Turner, D. C., Feaver, J., Mendl, M., & Bateson, P. (1986). Variations in domestic cat behaviour towards humans: a paternal effect. Animal Behaviour 34 1890-1892

Resources International Cat Care. (2018). Choosing an Adult Cat International Cat Care. (n.d.). The Kitten Checklist


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f e l i n e

Choosing Choice Andrea Carne examines a new study that reveals the benefits of allowing cats choice in interaction

© Can Stock Photo / Eillen1981

For cats who share their home with other cats, choice of resources is important so competition is reduced and antagonistic behaviors such as resource guarding are less able to be carried out effectively

C

hoice. Such a small word. Only six letters. And yet I can think of no other word that has more power when it comes to modifying and managing cat behavior. I speak to clients (and anyone else who’ll listen) A LOT about this lit­ tle word and how it can have so many positive effects on a cat’s well­ being, including their physical health and their bond with their humans. Cats that have choice are happy cats and happy cats are healthy cats. It’s a phrase I use often and I back it up with anecdotal evidence from the many cats I have helped over my time as a behavior consultant.

By providing a large variety of resources throughout the home, cats have more choice in where they carry out their essential routines of eating, drinking, toileting and sleeping. If they share their home with other cats, choice of resources becomes even more important.

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But it’s always gratifying to hear of some new scientific evidence that supports your belief in a particular aspect of this work, as it helps convince owners that there is real relevance to what you are saying. Imagine how thrilled I was, then, to read a new study by Haywood et al. (2021), which adds some scientific weight to my love of this word, ‘choice.’ Carried out by a team of researchers at Nottingham Trent Uni­ versity in the UK, the study found that giving cats choice about being petted not only resulted in less aggression but actually made cats more affectionate. It also concluded that being in tune with a cat’s behavior and body language, and taking care as to where a cat likes to be stroked, improved the relationship between human and feline. The team worked with 100 feline residents of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London and a group of human volunteers to test the effi­ cacy of a simple set of guidelines for petting cats. Using the acronym ‘CAT,’ the guidelines encourage people to provide Choice and Control for the cat, pay Attention to their behavior and body language, and con­ sider where best to Touch the cat when they get to that point. To break that down a little:


f e l i n e Providing Choice and Control: Allowing cats the choice to be petted (or not) provides them with a sense of comfort and control which in turn leads to happiness. This can be achieved by gently offering a hand to the cat and allowing it to decide to interact or not. If the cat moves into the hand and rubs against it, great! But if they move away, then that should be accepted.

Carried out by a team of researchers at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, the study by Haywood et al. (2021) found that giving cats choice about being petted not only resulted in less aggression but actually made cats more affectionate.

Paying Attention to Body Language and Behavioral Reactions: If, during the interaction, the cat displays behavior or body language change (such as turning their head away, rotating or flattening their ears, shaking their head, licking their nose, rippling their fur, swishing their tail), these are all signs they are no longer enjoying the interaction and it should cease. Other signs include if the cat becomes suddenly still, stops purring or rubbing, suddenly starts grooming, or sharply turns their head towards you.

Touching Only the Areas the Cat Is Okay with: Each cat will have individual preferences and these should be respected. Base of the ears, around the cheeks, and under the chin are generally preferred areas, whereas the tummy and base of tails should usually be avoided.

Behavior Human participants in the study each interacted with six cats at the shelter – three prior to receiving the ‘CAT’ guidelines and three after­ wards. What the researchers found was that cats petted using the ‘CAT’ guidelines were much less likely to show signs of discomfort or aggres­ sive behavior. All of the negative body language and behaviors listed above were measurably decreased when the human participants fol­ lowed the guidelines. In fact, the cats in the study were more likely to show friendly behaviors towards the human participants after the ‘CAT’ training. The cats rubbed against the humans, waved their tails and gen­ erally seemed more comfortable and relaxed with the interactions. State Haywood et al. (2021) “… not only did cats behave less aggres­ sively during the intervention condition, but they also performed fewer behaviors associated with conflict or negative affect, as well as more human­directed affiliative behaviors and those associated with positive affect.” None of this is a surprise to me, of course, but it is always good to have some science behind what I am constantly talking to clients about

and recommending as part of behavior modification and management plans. Having said all that, in my opinion, choice in interaction is only the beginning of the story. Choice is so very important on a number of lev­ els:

Choice in Resources: By providing a large variety of resources throughout the home, cats have more choice in where they carry out their essential routines of eating, drinking, toileting and sleeping. If they share their home with other cats, choice of resources becomes even more important so competition is reduced and antagonistic behaviors such as resource guarding are unable to be carried out effectively. There should be plenty of litter trays in a variety of locations throughout the home. Different cats will prefer different locations and the more choice you give, the less likely you will have toileting issues. Offering different types of litter (paper, clay, crystals) and litter trays (size, shape, depth) may also be good options. It’s also important to ensure food is provided in different forms and via different dispensers in different locations – let the cats choose if they want to eat from a bowl, from a puzzle feeder or via a treasure hunt throughout the house. See what appeals and cater to those prefer­ ences (which will change from time to time). Also ensure water is not only offered in different locations but in different ways. Let them choose what they prefer. Ensure numerous resting and hiding places are offered as cats will often move from one to another throughout the day and will change preferences depending on the season or other factors. It is particularly important that some are at ground level and some are up high with easy access. Provide different types of bedding from a blanket to an igloo to the humble cardboard box. If the cats have an outdoor cat enclosure, provide easy access to and from the space whenever they please, rather than placing them in it

© Can Stock Photo / bedo

© Can Stock Photo / Annebel146

If, during any interaction, the cat displays changes in behavior or body language, these are signs they are no longer enjoying the interaction and it should cease

Every cat will have individual preferences as to where they are ­ and are not ­ to be petted, and these should be respected

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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f e l i n e Ensure numerous resting and hiding places are offered as cats will often move from one to another throughout the day and will change preferences depending on the season or other factors.

© Can Stock Photo / AZALIA

Play sessions should be kept short and the cat able to disengage and leave at any time

and leaving them there all day with no choice. If the weather changes or they just want the comforts of indoors, they should have the choice to move inside. Ditto for when the house is too noisy or filled with strangers and they need to escape outside! And don’t forget opportunities to scratch – various scratching posts and mats, both vertical and horizontal and using different textures are essential.

Use play to allow cats to explore natural behaviors like hunting, but also allow them to say they’ve had enough and walk away. Think about the age, health status and general personality of each cat and adapt play sessions to suit. Not all cats want to participate in high­energy play and that should (and needs to be) accepted by the owner or caretaker. Now, I realize we can’t offer choice in every situation. We still need to make choices for our cats in terms of health care and we still need to make the overall choices of where they live, whether they have in­ door/outdoor access and who they share the home with. But where we CAN offer choice, we absolutely should. And, so, I applaud the new study from the team at Nottingham Trent University and I celebrate their use of a simple acronym like CAT to help get the message through. I’ve even been inspired to develop my own acronym for my cat behavior clients: CHOICE ­ Creating Harmony and Optional Interactions in Cats’ Environments. I may even get some T­shirts designed. Perhaps instead of the “Choose LIFE” T­shirts popular in the 80s, I could instead design “Choose CHOICE” versions for the many cat owners I work with. Such is my dedi­ cation to this word and all that it encompasses for the well­being of our feline friends. n

Reference Choice in Training: If training your cat to do certain behaviors or tricks, always start by inviting them to participate using a tasty treat. If they take the treat, you can start the session. Forcing them will get you nowhere. Keep training sessions short and fun – and allow the cat to leave at any time.

Choice in Play: As with training sessions, keep play sessions short and allow the cat to disengage and leave at any time. Give the cats a variety of toys to play with – both with and without you – and if they seem dis­ interested in one, try another. Change toys around frequently to add va­ riety. High­energy play sessions should be kept short – forced, lengthy sessions can end in overstimulation which can lead to scratches and bites.

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Haywood, C., Ripari, L., Puzzo, J., Foreman-Worsley, R., & Finka, L.R. (2021). Providing Humans With Practical, Best Practice Handling Guidelines During Human-Cat Interactions Increases Cats’ Affiliative Behaviour and Reduces Aggression and Signs of Conflict. Frontiers in Veterinary Science Andrea Carne is a graduate of the University of Southern Queensland, Australia where she majored in journalism and drama before, later in life, following her dream to work in the field of animal behavior. She is a qualified veterinary nurse and dog trainer and member of PPG Australia. Her special area of interest is cat behavior and her passion for it led to the establishment of her own cat behavior consultancy Cattitude, based in southern Tasmania, through which she offers private in-home consultations.


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r e s c u e

Thinking Outside the Shelter Melissa Taylor presents some inspiring examples of case studies where volunteers trained in animal behavior have played a key role in helping new owners address behavior issues, thereby keeping the animals in their homes – and out of the shelters

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ike many shelters, my shelter, Friends For Life Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas, relies heavily on volunteers to meet the needs of program animals. In 2019, our volunteers donated 21,046 hours – enough to replace 10 full­time employees. Every day, these generous individuals spend shifts walking dogs, playing with cats, and cleaning kennels, but they also devote much of their time to be­ havior­related duties. Behavioral services for companion animals can be so resource intensive that shelter administrators may consider in­house behavior programs to be a luxury rather than a necessity. When shelter lead­ ership does take a chance on starting up a behavior department, minimal funding is often allocated. Our shelter was no exception: Friends For Life’s (FFL) behavior program started out as a depart­ ment of one. Unsurprisingly, FFL had more behavior cases than one person could handle. The ability of the department to function ef­ fectively came to depend on the support of skilled volunteers. The previous issue of BARKS featured an article about the feline track of our tiered shelter behavior volunteer (BV) program, which provides participants with classroom and hands­on instruction (see Building a Feline Behavior Volunteer Program…from Scratch, BARKS from the Guild, September 2021, pp.38‐42). In exchange, our BVs use their newfound knowledge and ability to offer services to our pro­ gram animals, including enrichment, playdates, manners training, and behavior modification. The more senior BVs donate some of the most impactful hours of all, helping animals not enrolled in our adoption program.

Community Outreach FFL does its best to be more than an adoption and surrender center. Community outreach, including services related to companion animal behavior, is at the core of our vision. We are approached to help an av­ erage of 180 animals a year through the behavior branch of our Think­ ing Outside the Shelter (TOS) program, which is geared toward providing assistance to animals in underserved communities. Some come to us at immediate risk of surrender to shelters, others are enrolled at humane organizations without behavior departments, and many have caregivers unable to afford behavioral counseling. Taking into account our already intimidating in­program caseload at the shelter, there is no way our staff could also handle the TOS cases. Fortunately, our BVs lend us a hand, keeping these animals in homes and out of shelters. Let’s examine a few case studies.

Pepper was an extremely fearful 4-month-old puppy when she ended up at an overcrowded municipal shelter in spring 2020. She was picked up as a foster by Edith, whose young son could not resist Pepper’s vulnerability and shyness. Typically, Edith derived satisfaction from fostering, but caring for Pepper turned out to be an uphill battle.

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© Friends For Life

(Left to right) Owner Kate, Blake the dog, and behavior volunteer Laura practice cooperative vaccination, reducing stress associated with the procedure and making restraint unnecessary

Case Study #1 ‐ Harry and Jennifer: Harry the dog ended up at a municipal shelter at about 7 months old. He was so frightened he would not come out of his kennel when adopters Anna and Zach came to meet him and take him home. Harry gradually bonded with Anna, but took much longer with Zach. Although he eventually blossomed, becoming a confident and affectionate dog around them, he remained “aloof and avoidant” towards new people. He generally stayed away, occasionally sniffing or taking a treat from them. Keeping in mind how fearful Harry was, Anna and Zach made an ef­ fort to expose him to people at their apartment. They tried a few strate­ gies: asking visitors to meet Harry outside, look away from him throughout the visit, and toss treats from a distance. Instead of relaxing around strangers, Harry started staring and growling at them. When Harry bit a houseguest’s leg, Anna and Zach were horrified and at a loss. Harry had “seemed fine,” and, as far as they could tell, hadn’t shown any sign of stress. When they contacted FFL regarding his behavior, they felt Harry was unpredictable and his bites, while never breaking skin, happened at random. Anna and Zach were frustrated and thought he might not be compatible with their lives. They had an initial screening call, followed by a meeting at the shel­ ter with Jennifer Pallanich. Jennifer joined FFL as a volunteer in early


r e s c u e In 2019, our volunteers donated 21,046 hours – enough to replace 10 full-time employees. Every day, these generous individuals spend shifts walking dogs, playing with cats, and cleaning kennels, but they also devote much of their time to behavior-related duties. 2017 and, within weeks, signed up as a BV. Before the end of 2020, she earned her CPDT­KA through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. Even though she is now employed at FFL as a behavior technician, Jennifer continues to donate time as a level 4 BV by seeing TOS cases.

Fearful Behavior For Harry, Jennifer’s first priority was managing his fearful behavior around strangers. She coached Anna and Zach to avoid exposing him to unfamiliar people. Any necessary visitors were to be instructed to send a text message upon arrival, instead of ringing the doorbell, and Harry would stay in a separate, closed­off room with a tasty, long­lasting treat. Harry and his adopters practiced eye contact, sit, down on a mat, and nose­targeting a rubber disc around people in his “inner circle,” with whom he was most comfortable and affectionate. When Harry was proficient at carrying out these skills with familiar people and in a vari­ ety of situations, he began to meet novel people using these tasks. He took as many as four meetings to feel comfortable enough to play with and solicit affection from the first people he met through this sequence. Gradually, he required only one session to meet new friends success­ fully. Anna and Zach were amazed to see Harry showing his affectionate and bubbly personality around other people after just one meeting. Play was a big part of Harry’s ritualized introduction to new people. Now, when he’s feeling very comfortable, he punctuates play with what his adopters call the signature “Harry Howl,” which he used to save only for them. Now, he does it every time he’s reached the end of his stranger ritual. Where once Harry hid, stared, and froze around strangers, he now nuzzles them and bounds around playfully.

The biggest victory regarding Harry’s case was Anna and Zach’s real­ ization that Harry did not have to be a social butterfly for him, or them, to be happy. It was great that Harry had a safe and pleasant way to meet new friends, but if he wanted to sit out social gatherings, that was fine, too. While Jennifer helped Harry fit into his adopters’ lifestyle, they had also adapted their lives to fit him. (See also the video, Ritualized In‐ troduction to Unfamiliar People for Fearful Dogs to learn more about training a ritualized introduction to new people for dogs or cats who are fearful of strangers.)

Case Study #2 ‐ Blake and Laura: One advantage of including volun­ teers in the behavior team at FFL is that many members have useful professional skills outside of animal training: teacher BVs are great speakers for humane education events, writer BVs create informational materials, and veterinary professional BVs assist with cooperative care training for animals like dog Blake, who are uncomfortable with routine vaccinations, blood draws, and exams. Blake was 16 months old when he was displaced after Hurricane Harvey. A month later, he was adopted by Kate, Benn, and their two children. This sweet family adored Blake because he was patient, play­ ful, and tolerant towards their kids and their young friends who visited frequently for playdates. But, after settling into their relatively quiet home, Blake started barking vociferously in his yard, at adult guests to the house, and on neighborhood walks. Blake was also extremely diffi­ cult at vet visits, panicking for routine vaccinations and blood draws.

Crossroads When Kate contacted us, their family was at a crossroads. Blake was a wonderful dog for the family, but his challenges were such that they considered rehoming him. Again, our corps of BVs were there to help Blake overcome his issues, particularly where it came to providing him with veterinary care. Level two BV Laura Innis' knowledge melded especially well with her behavior interest: she is a veterinary technician with a passion for gen­ tle, animal­centered care. She helped Blake feel comfortable with vet­ erinary procedures, training him to initiate counterconditioning exercises by building an association between injections and salmon, his favorite treat. For example, he could automatically sit on a stationing

© Friends For Life

Initially, 4­month­old puppy Pepper was so fearful, she would barely come out of hiding

© Friends For Life

After behavioral counseling and lots of practice, Pepper was much more comfortable going on adventures with her family

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r e s c u e

© Friends For Life

© Friends For Life

Céline and Lynn conduct in a feline behavior consult on Zoom: It takes an average of 13 classroom hours to complete four levels of behavior volunteer training and the pair now co­lead upto 19 cat behavior consultations a month

Harry earns treats by lying down on a mat and making eye contact during the early stages of meeting Olivia Sisson (right) for the first time, overseen by behavior volunteer Jennifer Pallanich

mat and focus on his treats, which was the cue to proceed with the vac­ cination training. He also had the choice to opt out of these exercises by disengaging or moving away. It was so satisfying for our team to see Blake sitting calmly for vaccinations, without restraint or distress, for the first time! (See video, Blake the Dog Demonstrates Cooperative Vaccina‐ tion where Blake, previously a nightmare around needles, lies on a mat and rests his chin on Kate’s leg, so she can give him vaccinations her‐ self.)

She mostly stared at a wall and lay in her kennel. She only ate when Edith hand fed her, never on her own. When we received Edith’s request for help, we arranged for a con­ sultation with Katie Harnish, a level 4 BV who had earned her CPDT­KA in 2019. Katie was a regular at the shelter, walking and training our more difficult dogs and mentoring newer volunteers. She was an educa­ tor whose positive, patient demeanor never failed to bolster the spirits of those at the human end of the leash. Through her work with Edith, Katie quickly figured out that Pepper was much more comfortable outdoors than inside Edith’s home. This in­ spired Edith to patiently practice trust­building exercises starting from outside her home. Within two months, Pepper began eating more au­ tonomously, playing, and acting like a healthy, happy, lively puppy. After having overcome so much hardship together, Pepper’s fosters decided to make her a permanent addition to their family!

Case Study #3 ‐ Pepper and Katie: The whole point of the TOS pro­ gram is to support companion animal caregivers so they can keep their animals in their homes and out of the shelter system. To this end, we also help animals at the other end of the process: finding their way from the shelter into a home. Pepper was an extremely fearful 4­month­old puppy when she ended up at an overcrowded municipal shelter in spring 2020. She was picked up as a foster by Edith, whose young son could not resist Pep­ per’s vulnerability and shyness. Typically, Edith derived satisfaction from fostering, but caring for Pepper turned out to be an uphill battle.

Cowering in Fear Soon after bringing her home, Edith had to rush Pepper to an emer­ gency clinic. She was diagnosed with kennel cough, a variety of para­ sites, and an ear infection. But even once she was healthy again, Pepper cowered in fear from Edith and her family and wouldn’t look at them.

Behavioral services for companion animals can be so resource intensive that shelter administrators may consider in-house behavior programs to be a luxury rather than a necessity. When shelter leadership does take a chance on starting up a behavior department, minimal funding is often allocated.

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Case Study #4 ‐ Lynn and Céline: It takes an average of 13 classroom hours for each participant to complete four levels of BV training. While this may seem like a steep investment, it pays off in dividends as BVs apply their knowledge to shelter duties. Take Céline Germain and Lynn Hernandez, for example: they’ve recently completed BV4 together and co­lead as many as 19 cat behavior consultations a month. One such case involved feral kittens Stretchy, Snowball, and Butter­ beans, who had been found by fosterer Allan at seven weeks old. They weren’t thriving and he was concerned for their survival when a fourth littermate died of an eye infection, so he took them in.

Undersocialized After their health, Allan’s main concern was socializing the kittens, who had missed out on critical exposure to humans. He knew that underso­ cialized cats would not have the best chance at adoption. Allan was re­ tired, so he had plenty of time for training, but after spending over $1,000 on vet bills, behavior consultation fees seemed out of reach. Lynn and Céline responded to Allan’s TOS request and scheduled a Zoom consult, to avoid putting the kittens through the stress of a house call.


r e s c u e The kittens readily relaxed and played around Allan, but weren’t completely comfortable with much handling. Allan had been picking them up and petting them for as long as they tolerated it, but the kit­ tens had made limited progress over their three months in foster care. Lynn and Céline recommended pairing momentary noninvasive petting with the kittens’ favorite treats, starting with their neck and chest area, then gradually moving on to longer periods of contact and other parts of their bodies. They demonstrated these handling exercises with cats at the shelter and observed Allan practicing with the kittens to make sure that he could train them on his own. After six weeks of consultations, the kittens were able to wait patiently for a treat while being touched on their ears, tail, paws, and mouths. They were even relaxed while being picked up. Just in time to meet some potential adopters!

Community Resource The modern animal shelter is a community resource. It cares for pets long before they are relinquished and continues providing support once they are in homes to ensure that placements last. Similarly, the modern volunteer operates beyond the shelter. It’s not that BVs like Jennifer, Laura, Katie, Céline, and Lynn don’t also clean kennels, take dogs for walks, and feed our residents every day. But through our specialized training program, we have broadened our collective capacity for helping companion animals in need, including those outside our shelter walls. n The author would like to thank Jennifer Pallanich for her editing prowess.

Resources Behavior Team. (2020, August 30). Ritualized Introduction to Unfamiliar People for Fearful Dogs [Video File] Behavior Team. (2021, August 22). HarryEmily 2ndStrangerRitualHowl [Video File] Behavior Team. (2021). Blake the Dog Demonstrates Cooperative Vaccination [Video File] Taylor, M. & Zeman, A. (2021, September). Building a Feline Behavior Volunteer Program…from Scratch. BARKS from the Guild (50) 38-42 Melissa Taylor CBCC-KA is the behavior and training manager at Friends For Life Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas. She has logged more than 20 years in shelter animal behavior, starting with an internship at the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York City. She developed a lasting love for cooperative care from training livestock and wildlife as the coordinator of the behavior and training department at the Houston SPCA, and applies the same principles to the dogs, cats, exotics, and humans she works with now at Friends For Life. Over the course of her career, she has focused on the development of shelter humane education programs, particularly those for volunteers, with the intention of mentoring new companion animal trainers and behavior consultants with practices steeped in evidence and based on building trust, security, and partnership. Melissa has started several shelter behavior volunteer programs, and consults with other humane organizations on starting such initiatives of their own.

www.petdogambassador.com

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c a n i n e

Dog Parks: The Good, the Bad, and the Reality Rachel Brix looks into the pros and cons of dog parks, and sets out recommendations to ensure optimal safe and enjoyable use for all parties, as well as highlighting potential red flags

© Susan Nilson

© Rachel Brix

Not all dogs are dog park dogs: dog parks should be avoided by shy or fearful dogs, dog­selective, dog­reactive dogs and dog­aggressive dogs [sign translates from Finnish as “Large Dogs”]

Truly dog­social dogs are usually the best fit for dog parks and it is important for owners to objectively assess and make decisions based on what type of dogs they have whether or not they would be successful in that type of environment

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steadily increasing in larger cities, many suburban and rural areas are still in need of safe spaces for dogs to run and play although those num­ bers are increasing as well. Also according to TPL’s report (2019), the cities with the most dog parks include New York with a whopping 125! Portland and San Fran­ cisco are tied for second at 35 in each city, and Las Vegas and Chicago round out the top five cities with 25 each. Although the number of dog parks is consistently increasing due to need and popularity, not everyone thinks dog parks are a good idea. Un­ fortunately many of the horror stories about dog parks get the most press, and the smaller success stories often go unnoticed. For example, KGTV Channel 10 News (ABC) in San Diego ran a story with the headline, Beloved Family Dog Attacked and Killed at Santee Dog Park in 2019. Although clearly tragic, there was no separation in de­ sign of the park between the larger 70­pound shepherd mix and the much­smaller victim. Separation of small and large dogs is key in dog park design. Also troublesome was the presence of a 3­year­old girl who bore witness to the attack on her family’s dog. Most dog park rules prohibit small children from entering dog parks.

he Experimental Dog Park at Ohlone Park in Berkley, California, which is generally acknowledged as the first leash­free American dog park, was created in 1979. Since then dogs parks have grown exponentially in popularity. According to the most recent report issued by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) (2019), dog parks “are among the fastest growing park amenities in the combined parks systems of the 100 largest US cities. There are currently 810 dedicated dog parks in the 100 largest cities, an increase of 37 over last year [2018].” TPL (2019) also reports a 74% in­ crease in dog parks in from 2009 to 2019. While the numbers are

Not all dogs are “dog park dogs” so it’s important not only to know if your dog is a good fit, but also if the other dogs there are good fits for the park – and for your dog. Dog parks are most definitely not the place to teach a dog about socialization, or attempt to socialize a dog who is not socialized to other dogs or people.

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c a n i n e Bekoff writes: “As in all interactions between humans and dogs, we must take into account the dog's point of view—what they want and need— and listen to them very carefully. Let your dog tell you what they want to do and what they're feeling.”

Success Stories And then there are the positive stories which far outweigh the nega­ tives. Having spearheaded the committee that built Carroll County Arkansas’ first and only dog park, I’ve seen a lot of what dog parks can do for dogs and their humans. The small tourist town where the dog park is located has small lots, mountainous terrain, and fencing restric­ tions as a National Historic District, so a dog park is a much­needed amenity. Take a young local woman for instance, living in a small rental unit while her husband was on a work visa, who knew she needed a safe place to exercise their active and frustrated Siberian husky. She was relieved to learn of the dog park and decided to start making routine trips. Their dog became much calmer and more relaxed with regular visits. And there’s the middle­aged couple who were considering giving their terrier/border collie adolescent back to the shelter, but once they started visiting the dog park every day and saw a decrease in undesir­ able behaviors, they changed their minds. Or the shelter volunteer who brings a senior mixed breed who’d spent more than three years in the local shelter so he can get exercise and out of the confines of his kennel. Doing so also allows her to net­ work with other dog lovers to try and find him his forever home. On any given day there are many stories of love and success at our local dog park.

The Good Off­leash dog parks benefit both dogs and people by providing socializa­ tion opportunities and health benefits. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (n.d.), “With dogs as social lubricants encour­ aging conversations among strangers, people in the community get to know each other and share information about responsible pet ownership.” Dogs also get the opportunity to interact with other dogs and peo­ ple besides their immediate family. With pet and human obesity at record levels, dog parks provide the opportunity for exercise and well­ ness by encouraging people to spend quality time with their dogs. According to a recent Harvard Medical School study (2020), we can reduce our blood pressure and lose weight by having a dog because we are more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise each week. The Harvard report (2020) further shows dog parenting also can reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness. In 2013, the American Heart Association published a finding that dog ownership is linked with a de­ creased risk of heart disease (Levine et al., 2013). Dog parks also provide a great opportunity to promote and model responsible pet ownership by having a dedicated space with sensible rules that include manners (i.e., no excessive barking) and requirements pertaining to vaccinations, pet licenses and spay/ neuter.

The Bad The New York Times published an op ed piece last year that caused quite a stir. In her piece, Lowrey (2020) contends that “[t]here is nothing natural, however, about dogs that aren’t familiar with one another to be put in large groups and expected to play together.” She further points out, “[t]here is no shame in not surrendering your dog to what has be­ come the quintessential urban dog experience: running with dozens of strangers in a small, smelly pen as people stand by, looking at their phones or gossiping.” (Lowrey, 2020).

© Susan Nilson

Some dog parks may have equipment for dogs to climb on, through, over, or under, or water features, and/or water fountains

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c a n i n e General Guidelines for Dog Park Use

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roblems at the dog park are usually due to issues such as: • Dogs being there who should not be. • Owners not being versed in canine body language. • Owners not paying attention to their dogs’ behavior (i.e., socializing with other humans or on their phones). • Owners not removing their dogs prior to escalation of inappropriate behaviors. • Owners not removing their dogs when they are showing signs of discomfort such as fear, anxiety and stress (FAS). • Design and/or maintenance issues with the park itself.

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ince we have no control over what others do/don’t do, the best ways to avoid issues at the dog park is to: • Determine whether your dog is a good fit for dog parks. • Make sure you have a solid recall with your dog. • Assess the situation prior to entering. Come back later if necessary. • Read and follow all posted rules. • Monitor your dog for signs of FAS. • Monitor other dogs for FAS. • Exit the dog park quickly and calmly if necessary.

While most dog parks are self­policing and therefore much more likely to promote a lax environment, many experts were quick to pub­ licly respond to Lowrey’s column. These included Dr. Marc Bekoff, who said Lowrey’s article was “misleading” and pointed out that she “goes on to explain we need to be sure to listen to our dogs.” Bekoff writes: “As in all interactions between humans and dogs, we must take into ac­ count the dog's point of view—what they want and need—and listen to them very carefully. Let your dog tell you what they want to do and what they're feeling. Let them have a say about the situation at hand. And let them be dogs and engage in dog­appropriate behaviors as much as possible.” Not all dogs are “dog park dogs” so it’s important not only to know if your dog is a good fit, but also if the other dogs there are good fits for the park – and for your dog. Dog parks are most definitely not the place to teach a dog about socialization, or attempt to socialize a dog who is not socialized to other dogs or people – a common misconception and recipe for disaster. Since most dog parks aren’t staffed, it’s the responsi­ bility of the guardians to ensure their dogs are behaving appropriately and following the rules, which are usually posted at entrances. Unfortu­ nately, not everyone follows the rules, and things can happen. But this is the case in any park, whether it’s a child’s playground, a disc golf course at a public park, or a dog park. Each guardian must be aware of not only the body language of her dog, but also that of the other dogs in the park, which is why cell phones, books and lots of human­human social­ izing are discouraged. Anything that detracts from being able to actively supervise your dog is a big no­no at the dog park.

The Reality Again, not all dogs are dog park dogs. Dog parks should be avoided by shy or fearful dogs, dog­selective, dog­reactive dogs and dog­aggressive dogs. Dog­tolerant dogs may be a good fit for certain parks in certain sit­ uations, but owners would want to avoid flooding to prevent a dog­tol­ erant dog from becoming less­than­tolerant. Not to mention, if a dog is merely tolerating other dogs, that dog might have a lot more fun doing a solo­dog activity instead such as: scent work, trailing and locating or agility. Truly dog­social dogs are usually the best fit for dog parks. It’s im­ portant for owners to objectively assess what type of dogs they have and make decisions on dog park attendance based on whether or not their dog would be successful in that type of environment.

W • • • • • • • •

ell­designed dog parks should have at minimum: Secure fencing. Separate areas for small and large dogs. Easily accessible and double­gated entrances and exits. Sensible rules clearly posted. Ample shade. Dog waste stations. Trash receptacles. Parking.

© Can Stock Photo / Smitty411

Moreover, it’s important to consider that even though there are usually posted rules, not all guardians will follow them. Observe the sit­ uation before you go in. Are the dogs loose and playful with guardians engaged or tense and rough with a lack of supervision? If your dog is dog social but guards resources and one owner is playing ball or disc in­ side the park or another is scatter feeding, you might come back at a different time or day. Also, the dog park is no place for small children. Although many dogs may be socialized to children, many are not. Addi­ tionally, it’s unrealistic to expect that people would be vigilant about watching their dogs if they also must be watching their small children. It’s always better to leave before a situation goes south than to hang around and hope the other dog(s) leave. Confronting other dog guardians about their behavior (i.e., nose stuck in their kindle or smart­ phone) or their dogs’ behavior (your dog is humping my dog, your dog is growling) is ill­advised. First, that interaction detracts from both of you paying attention to what your dogs are doing and second, that conver­ sation could escalate quickly and turn ugly. Once inside, be sure to remain vigilant in watching not only your own dog for signs of discomfort and stress, but also that of other dogs. While a main point of going to dog parks is for appropriate play among dogs, many owners may not know what appropriate group play looks like. In short, dogs playing appropriately are loose and wiggly. Appropri­ ate play may include vocalizing, chasing and rolling around on the ground. However, watch to see that the chasing doesn’t become aggres­ sive or too one­sided or one dog doesn’t always keep pinning another to the ground. Dogs who are playing appropriately self­separate and re­en­ gage. A good way to tell if both dogs are enjoying the romp session is to perform a consent test. Call the dogs off: if they both re­engage appro­ priately they’re both into it. If not, they aren’t. Some parks may have equipment for dogs to climb on, through,

Although the number of dog parks is consistently increasing due to need and popularity, not everyone thinks dog parks are a good idea. Unfortunately many of the horror stories about dog parks get the most press, and the smaller success stories often go unnoticed.

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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c a n i n e over, under; water features and/or water fountains. While most dog parks have seating for humans, ideally sitting and congregating should be actively discouraged. Everybody should keep moving to help ensure active supervision.

Community Ultimately, dog parks are good for dogs, people and communities. But getting a dog park built can be a long process, oftentimes because of the challenge of securing property that is unrestricted and affordable. We were privileged our Parks Department already had a dog park in its Master Plan, just no one to lead the charge. There was opposition, though, so we had to make our case to the City Council, and we ulti­ mately prevailed. We were fortunate we ended up with three choices in our very dog­ friendly town: a vacant hillside inside an existing park area downtown, property contiguous to the local cemetery, or a sizeable parcel inside our main city park located a few miles from downtown. We ended up choosing the vacant hillside for many reasons. One, it was “free” in that Parks already had control over its usage. And this spot had two great things going for it from the outset: its own parking lot and a very central location to the hustle and bustle of our quaint tourist town, so it’s also very walkable. Our small grassroots committee of vol­ unteers was able to raise enough money to purchase all the fencing, waster stations, a few benches and signage; we erected all the fencing ourselves and opened the Eureka Springs Dog Park just 22 short months from our very first meeting. The Parks Department agreed to maintain the park and donations are still actively solicited for improvements. We added and dedicated a water fountain on the first anniversary. TPL’s Dog Parks 101 (2019) has extensive information and resources for building dog parks. But ultimately, whether or not we visit dog parks – and stay at any given dog park – should always be up to our dogs. n

References Bekoff, M. (2020). Let Your Dog Tell You If They Want to Go to a Dog Park. Psychology Today Harvard Medical School. (2020). Get Healthy, Get a Dog: The health benefits of canine companionship. Boston, MA: Harvard Health Publishing Levine, G.N., Allen, K., Braun, L.T., Christian, H.E., Friedmann, E., Taubert, K., Thomas, S.A., Wells, D.L. & Lange. R.A. (2013). Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation (127) 23 Lowrey, S. (2020). The Dog Park Is Bad, Actually. New York Times The Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). Dog Parks and Their Benefits Trust for Public Land. (2019). Dog park rankings for the 100 largest U.S. cities

Resources Chen, M. (2019). Beloved family dog attacked and killed at Santee dog park. ABC 10 News San Diego Eureka Springs Bark Park Experimental Dog Park Trust for Public Land. (2019). Dog Parks 101, 2019 Rachel Brix BSEd CPDT-KA is Fear Free certified and has been working with dogs and teaching people for over 20 years. Also a writer and speaker, she has spoken twice at the annual APDT Conference and has been nominated for several Dog Writers Association of America Awards. She and her husband own and operate Percy’s Playground Canine Enrichment Center, a boarding and training facility in Eagle Rock, Missouri.


training

Making Life a Little Simpler Anna Bradley discusses the importance of management and making environmental changes as part of any training or behavior change plan, highlighting a recent case of a dog struggling to adapt to his new home

© Can Stock Photo / vauvau

© Can Stock Photo / gabrielabertolini

It can be difficult for dogs to find grip on shiny or slippery floors, exacerbating any pain they may already feel in their muscles or joints

A dog may growl if he is in pain or does not want a person to approach him; growling is an important part of canine communication

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ciations involved. All of this is of course excellent, because successful resolution of behavior issues must involve a careful and strategic analy­ sis. However, we also need to bear in mind the use of preventative strategies. This is what I want to focus on in this article because I feel sometimes these can be overlooked as simplistic or overly obvious, or even associated with a feeling of failure or letting the dog win, so to speak. But in actual fact, environmental management is a huge part of successful training and behavior modification and a huge first step that none of us should overlook.

s professionals, when we talk about training or behavior change, we’re often talking in great depth about psychological techniques that will transform dogs’ emotional processes, thereby altering the way they think or feel about situations, triggers or events that might currently be, for example, anxiety provoking or stressful. We may look at scenarios that evoke feelings of frustration or excitement and then look at ways to slot in a newer and more appropriate way to behave and promote that rather than inadvertently reward symptoms we don’t want to continue. In fact, we often spend a great deal of time dealing with thought processes and strategies, some of which can be difficult to formulate and apply to individual circumstances. Even before we do this, we will have been working on unravelling the sometimes very complex reasons why dogs behave as they do and the chains of reinforcement and asso­

The owners found that he would growl quite a lot ‘for no reason’ when he walked across the hallway and kitchen floor towards them. Both areas were hard surfaces. It was obvious to me that the dog found it difficult to grip the floor and that this exacerbated the strain on his hips.

Environmental Adjustments Environmental management is a formative approach I include as part of every behavior modification plan. We want to be sure we are analyzing the exact situational context of each behavior or training concern, in­ cluding where it happens, what the features of the location are, who is present (people, other animals), sensory stimulation, equipment used, what the handler is doing etc. Essentially, we’re taking a snapshot frozen in time of what happened, when it happened and how it happened, and noting every aspect. Once we’ve done that and before we think about intervention in the form of behavior modification, we’re going to think about what we can do about all those factors in the dog’s immediate environment that might be contributing to the issue – and change them for the better.

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training We changed the bedding in his basket from a lovely blanket to a squashy mattress. The blanket was indeed comfy, but he found it difficult to extract himself when his rear legs got tangled in it. This likely increased his pain and so he would start growling again. Let’s look at an example I encountered just recently. A dog from overseas had been rehomed in the UK with a lovely couple and had begun to growl when the owners attempted to befriend him. There were questions over how good the dog’s hips were (possibly hip dyspla­ sia) and he had only been with the couple for three weeks when I was called to assist. This is a typical case and one that I am very familiar with. I see and assist with many overseas rescue dogs and know that, in many cases, they take some time to adapt, depending upon the circum­ stances of their adoption and their background. This particular little dog had been roaming the streets in Romania and had been seen to be quite badly abused. I spent a long time with the couple and, together, we devised a very intensive behavior change strategy. Environmental manipulation was also paramount because the way things were originally set up was simply intensifying the situation. In my opinion, if immediate steps were not taken prior to implementing our behavior change plan, this dog would have progressed from ‘red flagging’ (he was engaging in a lot of ‘please don’t come near me’ be­ havior) to a bite. I was very concerned about this because neither of his owners were reading his body language or understanding what he was trying to communicate.

Perceived Threat Our first and immediate step was to back off and allow the dog to de­stress, taking the pressure off him completely. By simply removing the constant perceived challenge and threat from the new owners’ attempts to be­ friend and coax the dog out of his basket, we could visibly see him relax during our two­hour session. His panting lessened, his wide/spatulate tongue decreased, his pupils were less dilated, and the harsh stare stopped. By the end of our consultation, he went to sleep, which, for

Dogs may feel unsafe when in their beds if they are not located in a quiet, safe area of the house

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

me, was superb. Having to consistently monitor ‘the threat’ and be sub­ jected to such an intense daily high arousal level was extremely stressful for him and it showed. The next step we took was to alter the setup in the kitchen. Our lit­ tle dog had entered an alien world! He barked consistently at strange shapes passing the window, noises outside, etc. So, we partially closed the blinds to the windows facing the road to give him some respite from passing traffic and pedestrians. We also rigged up some ‘white noise’ calming music to be played on a loop to help filter out some of that ex­ ternal stimulation. This had a really positive effect. I was definitely concerned about possible pain because, of course, if the dog was in pain, it would most certainly affect his behavior. The owners found that he would growl quite a lot ‘for no reason’ when he walked across the hallway and kitchen floor towards them. Both areas were hard surfaces. It was obvious to me that the dog found it difficult to grip the floor and that this exacerbated the strain on his hips. The simple management solution here was to install carpet runners. We also changed the bedding in his basket from a lovely blanket to a squashy mattress. The blanket was indeed comfy, but he found it difficult to ex­ tract himself when his rear legs got tangled in it. This likely increased his pain, and so he would start growling again. Again, with these simple changes (plus the inclusion of veterinarian­prescribed pain medication), the dog became increasingly more comfortable walking in and out of the hallway and getting out of his basket.

Safe Space During this time, one of the owners was becoming increasingly con­ cerned that the dog was guarding or protecting his basket. Indeed, if I or either of his owners walked past, he would growl and snap quite vi­ ciously. I could see, however, that this behavior was borne of anxiety and a simple relocation was in order. At that time, the dog basket was sited pretty much in the middle of the kitchen with a lot of passing traffic – if you wanted to go anywhere, you passed the dog bed! Obvi­ ously this wasn’t great for a dog who was already really uncertain about his new envi­ ronment. So we relocated this bed to a spare down­

© Can Stock Photo / jmpaget


training stairs room which was easily accessible. We also filled one corner of the room with lots of large squashy cushions, so that effectively became his ‘den.’ He ended up using this as his bed more than the basket and also any time he felt threatened or challenged. This was a case where we made lots of very simple but useful and effective environmental changes as a precursor to implementing our be­ havior change plan. There were several more adjustments, including eliminating the doorbell, turning the volume on the television to low, taping over the red buttons on household devices, and vacuuming only when the dog was outside. These changes were all extremely effective and you could almost see the dog breathe a sigh of relief when we im­ plemented them.

Management So if changes such as these are so useful and effective, why don’t we do them all the time? It’s a good question, but I do think that sometimes there is a feeling that if we don’t stick at it the way things are now, we’re giving in – I do certainly find that to be the case sometimes. Take, for example, a dog who constantly finds it fun to run to other dogs and play. It’s not ‘naughty.’ It’s perfectly normal for some dogs, but we do need to do some work to teach a more appropriate response, i.e. when it’s okay to play and when it’s not. A great way to do this is to go back to basics with some long line work. Or what about a dog who struggles to respond or pay attention and really doesn’t engage as the owner would like, or as he did when he was a little younger? Well, it would be good idea to drop the intensity a little in order to get a great response, then work our way back up again. In all these examples, we are not going back to square one or failing. It is quite the opposite – we are just making life a little easier for the dog so we can gradually and progressively build the success we want. In all

The owners found that he would growl quite a lot ‘for no reason’ when he walked across the hallway and kitchen floor towards them. Both areas were hard surfaces. It was obvious to me that the dog found it difficult to grip the floor and that this exacerbated the strain on his hips. cases, we’re manipulating the setting to the dog’s advantage. It is far better to set up dogs to succeed than consistently set them up to fail and experience feelings of frustration and stress. Yet this is exactly what will happen if a dog is, for example, continually allowed to run up to other dogs and then punished for that. In such cases, we are allowing our dogs to fail because we are not teaching them to respond appropri­ ately in environments where the competing distractions are too high. We are not being fair to them. Ultimately, if we are conscious of the very first steps to success, i.e. those aspects of a dog’s immediate environment that may be contribut­ ing to a training or behavior problem, and seek to alter them first as a precursor to implementing a behavior change plan, we can make a long and lasting positive impact on their emotional well­being. n Anna Francesca Bradley MSc BSc (Hons) is a United Kingdomebased provisional clinical, certified IAABC animal behavior consultant and ABTC accredited behavior consultant. She owns Perfect Pawz! Training and Behavior Practice in Hexham, Northumberland, where the aim is always to create and restore happy relationships between dog and guardian in a relaxed way, using methods based on sound scientific principles, which are both force-free and fun.

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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training

Just Say No to Saying No Daniel Antolec explains why dogs don’t understand what we mean when we say “no,” and presents an alternative strategy for optimal communication Can I say no to my dog?” is a question I often hear from new clients. My short answer is “Yes, you can use any word or sound you please in training.” Pavlov proved that long ago. The prob­ lem is in the way dog owners use “no” and whether it leads them closer to success. Owners usually approach dog training as a way to stop undesirable behavior and saying “no” seems a logical choice – to a human being. I begin reframing their goal by suggesting, “Let’s think about what you want your dog to do, rather than what not to do.” When we do that we can use language and methods that help your dog learn and succeed. To put things in context I explain how my wife and I adopted our two dogs at 2 years of age. Neither had training and both had separa­ tion anxiety. But they became well­mannered pets and registered ther­ apy dogs – who have never heard the word “no” in training. At this point most of my clients acquire a puzzled expression ex­ pressing a subtle hint of doubt. Many of them may have been saying “no” to their dogs from the start and it probably seems inconceivable to refrain from doing so. After all, they want their dogs to be well­behaved. I explain how the word “no” affords no utility as it fails to give in­ struction. Imagine the many situations in which a dog owner may say “no” to their pet and how the dog is expected to parse out the meaning. “No” may mean to stop barking at a squirrel, get off the sofa, stop beg­ ging food, stop pestering the family cat, to remain in position at the front door, or come when called when it is time to leave the dog park.

What Does “No!” Mean? Spoken language is not part of a dog’s natural communication, but it comes naturally to humans. So perhaps we can be forgiven for assuming all other life forms understand what we mean when we say “no.” To help a puzzled client, play a little training game. Put their dog on a leash and instruct the client to hold the leash, a clicker and treats. Ex­ plain their task is to start walking and whenever their dog is in the “re­ ward zone” by their side, to click (without moving their hand) and put the treat to their dog’s mouth within one second. Easy, right? As the trainer, your job is to tell the client when to begin walking, when to stop, which direction to turn, whether to speed up or slow down. Your only feedback in response to their job performance is to say “no” whenever they make a mistake. Be sure to use a soft voice so you do not stress the dog. Most clients are quickly undone by their fuzzy observation skill, poor timing and lack of hand­eye coordination. I have seen some clients put the clicker to their dog’s mouth and drop all of their treats, before throwing up their hands in surrender. Not so easy after all. In only a few steps they will understand the futility of only saying “no” and answer their own question. As trainers, we know how important it is to engage

© Can Stock Photo / yurmary

As human beings we have been conditioned to say “no,” but that does not help our dogs understand what we mean

the prefrontal cortex and let the learner figure things out. Dogs are smart; so are their owners. Now ask the client to try again and assure them that you will coach them through the process, just as you coach their dog when you are the handler. Use a perky upbeat voice, give them constructive and frequent feedback on every component of the overall exercise and celebrate their accomplishments. Tell them how wonderfully they are doing and how easy it will become with just a bit more practice. At this point you should see a broad smile on their face and may ask them which exercise was most helpful to them. Once again, let the client figure it out and enjoy that sense of accomplishment. I also explain that we have all likely been conditioned since child­ hood to hear the word “no” in a manner that is very often threatening. It is hard for most folks to say “no” without making it sound like “NO!” Primates yell at one another, after all, and dog owners often shout the word when they are frustrated or angry. Sometimes the dog is punished after hearing the word. Dogs want to feel safe and respond to tone of voice. Shouting “NO!” at a dog will likely impede the learning process and will agitate or excite the person as well.

Am I Safe? When I was growing up, hearing my father shout “NO!” was a pretty

I explain how the word “no” affords no utility as it fails to give instruction. Imagine the many situations in which a dog owner may say “no” to their pet and how the dog is expected to parse out the meaning. “No” may mean to stop barking at a squirrel, get off the sofa, stop begging food, stop pestering the family cat, to remain in position at the front door, or come when called when it is time to leave the dog park.

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training Owners usually approach dog training as a way to stop undesirable behavior and saying “no” seems a logical choice – to a human being. I begin reframing their goal by suggesting, “Let’s think about what you want your dog to do, rather than what not to do.

good predictor that the next thing I experienced was going to be very unpleasant – and sometimes unsafe. Pavlov’s work was unknown to me then, but I understood the principle of associative learning. We live in a punitive society and as human beings we have been conditioned to say “no,” but that does not help our dogs. As a trainer I empathize equally with the dog and the family. When the owners un­ derstand the learning process from the dog’s perspective they find it easier to say “yes,” or use a clicker as a clear path to accomplish their goals. With a little more coaching they can remember to apply the training skills you taught their dog. If their dog jumps up on visitors for attention, try using “Touch” to guide the eager dog to a space beside the visitor and “Sit.” A “Down” position works even better to prevent jumping and affords the dog a belly rub. Let’s just make sure our clients know to say no to “no” and help them learn instead how to say yes to success. n

YES!

© Can Stock Photo / ra2studio

Many owners are so used to saying “no” to their dogs it probably seems inconceivable for them to refrain from doing so

Daniel H. Antolec CPT-A CPDT-KA is the owner of Happy Buddha Dog Training in Brooklyn, Wisconsin. He is also former co-chair of the Pet Professional Guild Advocacy Committee and a former member of PPG’s steering committee.

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43


training

Reversing the Feedback Loop Sue McCabe explains the concept of clicking dogs for doing nothing or, rather, for the absence of a reaction

R

ecently, while out with my gang, two dogs rushed a fence, barking their hairy heads off as we passed. I clicked and rewarded my dogs even though they did nothing. Later on the walk, two horses passed us and my dogs looked at them. Again I clicked and rewarded them for doing nothing. Then, as Jellybean stopped to sniff a couple of doggy friends, I clicked and rewarded him doing nothing. Did I truly click the dogs for nothing? Of course not. There is never an absence of behavior. Clients often ask me, ‘What do I do when…?’ and the end of the sentence is typically a description of what the owner sees as inappropri­ ate behavior, sych as lunging, barking, growling, etc. My response to them is always, ‘What do you do on the occasions the dog doesn’t show these behaviors?’ And the answer is always, ‘We don’t do anything.’

Forming Habits We know that rewarded behavior gets repeated. We know that the things we click and feed become habit. The reason I click and reward my boys for apparently not reacting is precisely because the absence of re­ action deserves to be rewarded. Try reversing the feedback loop! Put all the focus on the behaviors you want to see more of and heavily reinforce these. Try to click/feed when your dog doesn’t react or before he reacts. This lack of reaction is what you will see more of. In other words, stop focusing on what he’s doing wrong and try clicking your dog for doing nothing for a change. The results may just surprise you! n

We know that the things we click and feed become habit. The reason I click and reward my boys for apparently not reacting is precisely because the absence of reaction deserves to be rewarded.

44

© Can Stock Photo / PavelShlykov

By rewarding our dogs for not reacting, or before they react, the non­reacting behavior will become more prevalent

Sue McCabe has provided behavioral advice and training for dogs across Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and North East England since 2005. Her business Muttamorphosis also offers puppy, clicker and Kennel Club Good Citizen training classes. Sue provides trained dogs for photo shoots, TV and film work. She also runs masterclasses including canine first aid courses, specialist seminars and workshops.


Ready to start you r journey in animal training & behaviour? Register for your free account today! Free courses Blog posts Podcast shows And more...

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a v i a n

Examining Bird vs. Human Expectations Sheila Blanchette discusses anthropomorphism in the world of companion birds, highlighting the risks of inaccurate labels and reinforcing undesired behaviors through a lack of understanding behavior and body language, as well as the potential advantages of anthropomorphism in terms of animal welfare

© Can Stock Photo / Vividrange

Building trust: the human­avian relationship goal should be creating a mutual trusting partnership

A

nthropomorphism is quite a mouthful of a word, defined by Lex­ ico (2021) as “the attribution of human characteristics or behav­ ior to a god, animal, or object.” Anthropomorphism is commonly seen in our day­to­day lives through social media, television, cartoons, movies, and also, maybe, when we are talking to our own animals. In the United States, one such example is Smokey Bear, “a campaign and advertising icon of the U.S. Forest Service.” (Wikipedia, 2021). Smokey is an upright black bear dressed in human clothing, including a hat, and carrying a shovel. He is an anthropomorphic image of a bear “to edu­ cate the public about the dangers of unplanned human­caused wild­ fires.” (Wikipedia, 2021). According to Butterfield et al. (2012), “[a]lthough individuals are un­

likely to truly believe that anthropomorphized animals are actually human, anthropomorphism may trigger innate tendencies to treat them as if they were. This possibility is consistent with a growing body of liter­ ature that suggests that anthropomorphism alters the ways in which people perceive, interact with, and respond to non­human entities.” With the example of Smokey Bear, if adults are camping in the woods, they certainly do not expect a wild bear to stop by and talk to them about campfire safety. But they may well remember the Smokey Bear campaign and be more likely to pay greater attention to making sure the fire is completely out before they leave the area. Obviously, they will be hoping to avoid any close encounter with a wild bear around their campfire!

According to Martin (2002): “Parrots have no natural inclination to form a dominance hierarchy with other parrots in the wild, or with humans in captivity. Parrots may be moved to show aggression for many different reasons when they are higher than human eye level. However, the desire to dominate should not be considered as one of those reasons.”

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021


a v i a n Animal Welfare By anthropomorphizing our animals to ‘human­like’ beings, it can help create greater compassion. This can lead to improved animal welfare: for example, in the discussion as to whether a pet is a property item or a sentient being with his or her own emotional life. Many of us with pet animals know how important they are to us. They provide companionship as well as mental and/or emotional sup­ port. Many of us want that deep connection with our animals. We may even refer to ourselves as “pet parents,” while those with companion birds may refer to their birds as “feathered kids” or “fids.” We may cele­ brate their birthdays, set a plate at the dinner table for them, or dress them up in human clothing. For many of us, our pets have become an integral part of the family and are included in family photos or family holiday cards. Pets do not just “substitute for human relationships. They complement and augment them. They add a new and unique dimension to human social life.” (Serpell, 1996). Anderson (2016) notes that “there is an assumption that our com­ panion animals’ interaction and perception of the world is compre­ hended the same way as a human.” Misinterpreted reasonings for behaviors are proliferated through social media with posts of “animal shaming,” memes, and videos of humans speculating about, often erro­ neously, the reason for an animal’s behavior. And the more something is seen on social media, the greater the likelihood that a confirmation bias will develop. Confirmation bias “happens when a person gives more weight to evidence that confirms their beliefs and undervalues evidence that could disprove it.” (Noor, 2020).

Undesired Behaviors Companion birds have become popular because of their ability to talk, as well as the specific behaviors they can perform. Many of those who share their lives with companion birds will talk about the connection they have with their bird(s). According to Burmeister et al. (2020), “[t]he owner­bird relationship was found to involve four dimensions: the ten­ dency of the owner to anthropomorphize the bird; the social support the owner receives from the bird; the empathy, attentiveness, and re­ spect of the owner toward the bird; and the relationship of the bird to­ ward the owner.” In the wild, a parrot’s environment is ever changing. Wild parrots are continuously searching for food, water, and safety. They can fly away from dangerous situations. Conversely, when looking at our companion birds’ environment, there may be minimal environment changes: food and water can easily be found in the same position in a cage or enclosed area, the bird may never see another member of the same species in their environment, and may never learn to forage for food. And our companion birds do not always have the ability to escape fearful situa­ tions. Unfortunately, such situations can lead to undesired behaviors such as opening the beak, charging, and biting. And when these types of behavior do occur, people may assign anthropomorphic labels, such as “vampire attack bird,” “bad bird,” “killer bird”, etc.

© Sheila Blanchette

Parrot owners may anthropomorphize certain behaviors, such as a bird preening their person’s hair or mounting their socks (above), which is, in fact, a mating behavior

In the wild, a parrot’s environment is ever changing. Wild parrots are continuously searching for food, water, and safety. They can fly away from dangerous situations. Conversely, when looking at our companion birds’ environment, there may be minimal environment changes. In some cases, when a companion bird engages in an undesired be­ havior, the recipient takes it personally. They may yell at the bird, or show their lack of understanding by saying something like: “I cannot add a new toy to the cage because I get the vampire attack bird. I have no idea what is wrong with him. I tell him to get over it, it’s just a new toy.” Such confirmation biases can lead people to believe that the bird is a problem and that there are no solutions. Sadly, anthropomorphic la­ bels assigned to such behaviors run the very real risk that a companion bird will be relinquished or rehomed. Anderson (2016) notes that “[s]ome key areas where anthropomorphizing parrots can be damaging to the human­parrot relationship and avian welfare include diet and be­ havior.” The following are some anthropomorphic labels that could con­ tribute to misunderstood behavior:

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a v i a n Dominance The concept of dominance in companion birds may have been picked up from an outdated term which, having been inaccurately incorporated into the dog training world of old, has also, unfortunately, been incor­ rectly incorporated into the bird world. The term appears to be associated with occasions when the com­ panion bird does not immediately respond to a cue, or when the bird is higher than the person’s head. According to Martin (2002): “Parrots have no natural inclination to form a dominance hierarchy with other parrots in the wild, or with humans in captivity. Parrots may be moved to show aggression for many different reasons when they are higher than human eye level. However, the desire to dominate should not be considered as one of those reasons.” Dominance is just a label that incorrectly attempts to “explain” why a companion bird is not doing a specific behavior. But just like dogs, our companion birds are not plotting to take over the world.

Aggression

© Sheila Blanchette

When a parrot feels threatened, for example by the approach of a hand into his cage, he may display aggressive behaviors such as an open beak (above), biting down, or charging; the recipient may label him as ‘aggressive’ and lose trust in him, a label that could stay with the bird for his entire lifetime, even if he never bites again

[A companion] bird may never see another member of the same species in their environment, and may never learn to forage for food. And our companion birds do not always have the ability to escape fearful situations.

The term aggression may refer to behaviors such as an open beak, biting down and breaking skin, or charging at a person while on the cage, in the cage, or on the floor. When they feel threatened or insecure in a situation, companion birds may step back, their eyes may dilate (pin), or they may move to the back of the cage to denote their apprehension. But without learning their bird’s comfort level and body motions, companion bird owners could be reinforcing undesired behaviors. Consider the situation when a human hand is introduced into a cage. The companion bird’s eyes may pin and the bird may move away from the hand, or vocalize. If the hand continues to be forced on the bird in the cage, and the bird has no opportunity to escape, he may try any behavior to have that hand removed from his safe environment. This could include showing an open beak or biting the hand. Once the first bite happens, the person removes their hand and the bird has learned that this behavior, aimed at removing the frightening object, works. Conversely, the person may start to label the bird ‘aggres­ sive’ and lose trust in him. This label could stay with the bird for a life­ time, even if he never bites again. Companion birds are not violent, but they are prey animals that can learn fear or phobias. As owners, we need to step back, review the envi­ ronmental conditions, and our own behavior. As with all animals, there is always a purpose to a companion birds’ behavior.

Anthropomorphism in the Media: An Example

I

n the video Turkey Halts Traffic on New Hampshire Road So Others Can Cross (Storyful Rights Management, 2019), a male turkey appears to stop traffic so his brood of female turkeys can safely cross the road (in an event simi‐ lar to that shown in the photo, right). The male turkey ap­ pears to be stopping traffic. There is an assumption that a male turkey knows what a road is, why he needs to stop the traffic, and that he has the power to do so. However, when video is broken down: 1) The stopping of traffic behavior is due to the person in the car. 2) The male turkey’s behavior is related to mating behavior to impress the female turkeys and pushing away the younger male turkeys. 3) The male turkey would do this same behavior in the woods along with other locations where female turkeys are located.

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© Can Stock Photo / snickerdoodle

People may anthropomorphize a picture such as this by assuming male turkey knows what a road is and, that he needs to — and has the ability to — stop the traffic, when, in fact, the behavior is related to mating behavior and impressing the female turkey

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021


a v i a n Love Love is an emotion and may not necessarily be thought of as an anthro­ pomorphic label. For humans, the term love has different degrees, such as: 1) Sexual attraction to a partner (significant other). 2) Strong care or warmth; non­sexual (family member or friend). 3) Warm attachment or excitement; non­sexual; non­living (a movie, a book, a food item). In the animal world, ‘love’ may exist as a covert behavior related purely to reproduction, i.e. animals pass on their genes to the next gen­ eration through mating success, mate choice and survival of young. States Bekoff (2001): “In many species, romantic love slowly develops between potential mates. It is as if one or both needs to prove their worth to the other before they consummate their relationship.” Many people have a close relationship with their companion ani­ mals, and sometimes feel the need for their animals to ‘love them back.’ “However, pet–human relationships are not always successful and dif­ ferences between human and animal behaviour can lead to lack of un­ derstanding and problems where animals do not to live up to human expectations of what a pet should be.” (Fox, 2006). Again, our good intentions may end up unintentionally creating un­ desired behavior: for example, immediately letting a newly added com­ panion bird out of the cage to free fly in the house. A good intention, but how is the bird going to be placed back into the cage? Chasing the bird and catching the bird is not a good starting situation. This scenario could end up causing stress for both parties. Another scenario is if a per­ son takes a newly added companion bird out from the cage and hugs him. In such situations the bird has no choice, and undesired outcomes like biting, or flying away from the person may occur. Certainly, having a companion bird can provide emotional and men­ tal support and being able to pet the bird can augment the bond even further. According to Anderson (2016), “[t]ouch is an important part of pair bonding and reproduction in conspecific avian relationships…Pet­ ting may be an important part of bonding with one’s parrot, inappropri­ ate touching of parrots can lead to reproductive issues.” We must be careful not to anthropomorphize certain behaviors, such as a bird preening their person’s hair or mounting their socks, as love in the human sense. Nor should our definition of love be consid­ ered an all­or­nothing condition, e.g. a person thinking that their bird does not love them because he will not take food from their hand.

Building Trust For many of us, our companion birds give us emotional and physical support and when speaking of anthropomorphism, this is not to dimin­ ish their character or our care for them. According to Bekoff (2001), “[u]sing anthropomorphic language does not have to discount the ani­ mals’ point of view.” We just need to remember that companion birds are not dogs, cats, or people. Our human­avian relationship goal should be creating a mutual trusting partnership. States Friedman (2012): “To get your relationship back in the black, reframe the way you think about problem behaviors. They really aren’t caused by dominance, stubborn­ ness or any other abstract concept. Problem behaviors arise when a par­ rot lacks the skills, the motivation or the positive practice to do the right behavior.” When a bird is not choosing to do a specific behavior, this is a train­ ing opportunity to review. For example, if the companion bird is not stepping up, or recalling, then we need to review the environment and create smaller incremental steps in the training sessions to help in­ crease consistent behavior and lead to success. We can change our be­ havior by taking the time to understand our bird’s behavior, and avoiding force or pushing him into a situation that is uncomfortable for him. If we take the time to train our birds using a force­free methodol­ ogy based on choice and train at our bird’s pace, a wonderful human­

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a v i a n References Anderson, P. (2016). The Human-Avian Bond. IAABC Journal (2) Bekoff, M. (2001). The Evolution of Animal Play, Emotions, and Social Morality: On Science, Theology, Spiritual, Personhood, and Love. Journal of Religion and Science 36(4) 615-655 Burmeister, A-K., Drasch, K., Rinder, M., Prechsl, S., Peschel, A., Korbel, R., & Saam, N.J. (2020). Development and Application of the Owner-Bird Relationship Scale (OBRS) to Assess the Relation of Humans to Their Pet Birds. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 10 Butterfield, M.E., Hill, S.E., & Lord, C.G. (2012). Mangy Mutt or furry friend? Anthropomorphism promotes Animal Welfare. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (48) 4 957-960 Fox, R. (2006). Animal behaviours, post-human lives: everyday negotiations of the animal–human divide in pet-keeping. Social and Cultural Geography (7) 4 Friedman, S. (2010). P-A-R-R-O-T Do Tell! Best Practices for Teaching Animals. PsittaScene Friedman, S. (2012). Back in the Black - Rebuild a Bankrupt Relationship. Bird Talk Lexico. (2021). Anthropomorphism. In Lexico Martin, S. (2002). The Anatomy of Parrot Behavior. Presented at the Association of Avian Trainers Conference Monterey, CA: August 2002 Noor, I. (2020, June). Confirmation Bias. Simply Psychology Serpell, J.A. (1996). In the Company of Animals: A Study of HumanAnimal Relationship, p.143. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press Storyful Rights Management. (2019). Turkey Halts Traffic on New Hampshire Road So Others Can Cross [Video File] Wikipedia. (2021). Smokey Bear

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avian bond and trust can be created. States Friedman (2010): “To understand behavior, our main focus should be on observable behavior, not vague labels or intangible con­ structs. Be aware that information is exchanged in every interaction we have with animals; thus, every interaction is a teaching opportunity. Next time you walk up to an animal, consider carefully what you want it to learn about you.” For owners who are having trouble understanding the purpose of their companion bird behavior, I recommend reaching out to those pro­ fessionals in the field: animal behaviorists, trainers, or certified parrot behavior consultants/trainers. When someone has a dog with a behav­ ior issue, they would, ideally, reach out to a dog trainer. Similarly, there are professional companion bird consultants out there who can offer as­ sistance, explain behavior and dissolve those anthropomorphic labels. n The author would like to dedicate this article to Dr. Patricia K. Anderson. Sheila Blanchette is an IAABC certified parrot behavior consultant/ trainer who has operated her own companion bird training company, Heart of Feathers Education & Training, in Haverhill, Massachusetts since 2015. She conducts in-home and online companion bird behavior consultations. Her love for birds began when she received her first red lory in 1995 and she joined the American Lory Society. She began volunteering at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and formulating her desire to improve the understanding and welfare of companion birds. She then began her study of avian behavior and applied behavior analysis and started reaching out to animal rescues in the New England to offer assistance with companion bird education and review companion bird cases. In 2017, she was named chair of the Quaker Parakeet Society Rehome and Placement Program, which includes coordinating the surrender and adoption of Quaker parakeets throughout the U.S., organizing and educating volunteers, and facilitating the foster program.

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b e h a v i o r

The Art of Conversation Kathie Gregory examines the importance of listening to what our animals are telling us through their body language and vocalizations, as well as understanding when they are emotionally conflicted, ensuring that they too have a voice

© Can Stock Photo / Antonio_Diaz

© Can Stock Photo / Dusan

Our emotional state can change the pitch of our voice and animals also pick up on this

Human emotions influence body language even when we try to hide how we feel, and this is usually very obvious to our animals

F

language and tone of voice, so even if communication is limited to iso­ lated words, those words can still be perceived in different ways. How­ ever, we are going to look further than simple conditioned responses to a particular word, and talk about our conversations when we have taught language to a higher level. We will assume that the animal we are having a conversation with knows the names of things, or cues, and the use of those words in dif­ ferent phrases. So why is what you think you are saying not necessarily what you are actually saying? Well, there are a few reasons. The most obvious one is that unless you have taught your animal to understand the words and phrases in different contexts, he is not going understand what you mean. It is not always easy to apply something you already know to a completely different situation. This is the first piece of mis­ communication. We assume that the animal has the ability to interpret our conversation in a different context. And animals are perfectly able to do this, but there are a couple of things that get in the way. For example, if an animal has had a limited education and has not had the freedom to think for himself, he will find this difficult to do. When an animal’s education has been based on doing exactly what he is told to do, being involved in a conversation where he has to interpret and apply phrases in different ways is going to be very difficult and

ollowing my recent series on the body language of horses, dogs and cats (see Resources), I hope you now have an even greater awareness of what your animal’s side of the conversation is. Every­ one has a voice, but sometimes we don’t hear it until it gets louder and the person or animal starts shouting, so to speak. The art of communication is not just about putting across your side of the conversation, but also about how you are perceived by the other party and whether you are really listening to them. If you are not, then you are going to continue with your side without understanding the ani­ mal’s perspective, or what he is actually saying/trying to say. This leads to an unequal conversation, where both of you can feel misunderstood and frustrated. We’ve looked in depth at body language and vocalizations of horses and dogs, so now let’s take a look at ourselves.

Mixed Messages What you say (or think you say) is not necessarily the same message that your horse, dog or other animal receives. Teaching animals to do something specific when they hear a particular word is how most peo­ ple teach. So, in that respect yes, what you say is what the animal re­ ceives. But there is more to it. Your emotions influence your body

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b e h a v i o r What you say (or think you say) is not necessarily the same message that your horse, dog or other animal receives...Your emotions influence your body language and tone of voice, so even if communication is limited to isolated words, those words can still be perceived in different ways. stressful. When we move over to a way of interacting that allows for the animal’s freedom of expression, it’s easy to forget that he may not know how to express himself. He can be wrongly labelled as not very clever when all he needs is teaching. We know that young animals need to be taught, but may sometimes forget with an older animal. Some animals find the concept of choice easy to understand. Some find it more difficult. Some find making choices stressful and they will become anxious. This may be due their background and previous experiences, but not necessarily. Some just find choice worrying. Identifying this as a reason for your animal not un­ derstanding you means you really have to listen and understand that he is telling you he is unable to make a choice, or he doesn’t know what to do to apply the phrases he knows in a different context. We also tend to talk casually when we are having a conversation. We are not usually as clear as we would be when we are instructing someone. I’m sure many of us have said something, received a reply, and thought, no that’s not what I meant! While you know what you mean when you say something, the words you choose and the way you say things may be interpreted in a different way by your animal. This means he may receive information differently to that which you in­ tended, leading you to believe he is not listening to you or paying atten­ tion. But going back over what you said and how you said it then looking at how that may have been interpreted can help you understand why your animal did something other than what you expected.

Body Language and Habits We also need to look at our body language and whether that supports what we are saying verbally. Again, this can be a case of not being clear, even though we think we are. We will often make gestures and certain facial expressions when we talk and unless we are concentrating on what we are doing, we may not even be aware of how our body is mov­ ing. Our body will move in a natural way for each of us, which also in­ cludes our habits and the preferred movements we all make. We don’t always notice them but others will say, yes, you do this when you are engaged, or that when you are not sure. The thing is, our body language is not always in tune with what we are saying. For example, I have a habit of folding my arms across my chest, usually when I am in a higher emotional state than usual, so I may do this when something has happened and I’m not sure what to do. I have also realized I do this when I am happy to see someone. Now, on the surface it looks like I am closed and maybe not interested, or not wanting to engage with the person, but this is not true. It’s a default po­ sition. And we all have them. My dog Remy also has one. He likes to stand between my legs when he is happy (and when really happy will keep walking through and around!), but he will also stand there on the odd occasion he is worried. I have not taught him this and it is not a trick we have trained. Remy has done this ever since he was a young puppy, and it turns out that his dad does it too. These are examples of how we all have posture habits, and preferred movements, regardless of if we are a person, horse, cat, or dog, and that they do not necessarily mean anything. But the person or animal on the receiving end may pick up on the fact that while we are saying one thing, our posture and movements don’t seem to match with that.

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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b e h a v i o r

© Can Stock Photo / PavelShlykov

© Can Stock Photo / remains

One of the best things we can do for our animals is to master the art of conversation

If we listen to our animal’s side of the conversation, we can see when body language and actions don’t add up, helping us identify when emotions are conflicted

Emotions and Feelings

Another aspect of how our emotions influence our body language is when we are trying to hide how we feel. This is usually very obvious to our animals. How many times have we been slow, quiet, and encourag­ ing because we want to shut a barn door or field gate when we need our horse to be in a certain place, perhaps for the vet? The moment we start, he knows something is up. We are not behaving naturally, and he can see it. From our perspective, we think we are being reassuring and this will help him stay where he is so we can get the door or gate closed before he decides to leave. We are also probably feeling anxious too, as we do need him to be in the right place. But from his perspective, we are behaving differently and this is not reassuring. Or, if we have done this before, he knows what we are trying to do and if he does not want to be shut in will leave the moment he sees us coming. If only we had walked into his area with our usual relaxed body language as if nothing was going on, we would be in a better position to get the job done. This situation also will have a knock­on effect on the horse, as if we are not behaving normally, then maybe there is something to worry about. Another situation where we try to hide our feelings is when we are angry or frustrated. We may try to carry on but there is no way we can hide those emotions and so, once again, our animal knows something is not right. This affects his actions and whether he is able to listen to our side of the conversation.

Another reason we do not necessarily say what we think we are saying is our emotional state at the time. When looking at the nuances of body language and vocalization (see Contradictions and Subtleties, BARKS from the Guild, September 2021, pp.50‐53), there is conflict more often than not. And this is because there are usually several emotions and feelings in play at the same time. We see the expression of these emo­ tions in different parts of communication, and in different intensities, which shows us that there is more going on than one simple response to a conversation. Sometimes we have one strong emotion that hides others and things are straightforward, but this is not often the case. We can be ex­ cited but nervous at the same time. We may be anxious and look hesi­ tant, but actually really do want to do something. We may feel anticipation of something good along with nervousness of it. We may feel anticipation of something we don’t want to do, but also feel sure we are going to do it. As you can imagine, these emotions are going to result in a few different signals being given that can cause confusion over what is actually meant. Animals are really good at reading signals and not just focusing on the words that are spoken, which is something we, as people, tend to do, so you can see how even though we think we are being clear, we might be some way from that.

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b e h a v i o r Tone of Voice We have the same issues with our tone of voice. Our emotional state can change the voice’s pitch and animals also pick up on this. So even if we are being careful with our body language to be calm and move in a relaxed manner, we can be tripped up by the fact that our voice does not match our movements. This makes animals wary and they are not likely to be listening to our words. Rather, they are assessing us as a whole and making the most sensible decision for themselves based on their interpretation. Finally, we come to the other half of the conversation. Remember, it is not all about us; it is equally about our animals. We are actually at a disadvantage compared to our animal, by dint of the fact that we are trying to achieve something. This means our mind is on the goal and be­ cause of this we often stop listening. As humans, we also take more no­ tice of the spoken word. We are not always very observant or aware of the rest of what someone is communicating, so unless our animal is vocal, we often don’t look for other signs of his side of the conversation. But everything we have discussed so far about ourselves and how we come across is the same for our animals. If we really listen to their side of the conversation, we can see when body language and actions don’t add up, and when tone of voice says one thing but the movement says another. We can see the conflict of emotions, and when a familiar movement or posture means one thing in one context and something else in another. One of the best things we can do for our animals is to master the art

of conversation. In doing so, we become aware of all of our side of the conversation, and listen to our animal so we are aware of all of his side of the conversation. This gives him a voice, a real voice that he knows we will listen to, take notice of and adjust for, so we are truly in partner­ ship with each other. n

Resources Gregory, K. (2021, September). Contradictions and Subtleties. BARKS from the Guild (50) 50-53 Gregory, K. (2021, July). Found in Translation. BARKS from the Guild (49) 46-49 Gregory, K. (2021, March). Understanding Animals. BARKS from the Guild (47) 50-51 Gregory, K. (2021, May). The Complete Picture. BARKS from the Guild (48) 48-51 Kathie Gregory is a qualified animal behavior consultant and author, specializing in advanced cognition and emotional intelligence. Passionate about raising standards and awareness in how we teach and work with animals, she has launched The Academy of Free Will Teaching, providing educational courses for professionals and those interested in learning more about dogs and horses. She has authored two books, A Tale of Two Horses: A Passion for Free Will Teaching, and A Puppy Called Wolfie: A Passion for Free Will Teaching.

The A-Z of Training and Behavior Brought to you by S is for... Salience: How noticeable or obvious a stimulus is. Discriminative Stimuli (cues) and Bridging Stimuli (behavior markers) need to be salient, standing out from other environmental stimuli. For example, a clicker is usually more salient than a verbal marker such as the word “yes.” Satiation: When repeated presentations of a reinforcer weaken the response then satiation has occurred. Ex: This can occur when a biological need has been met. Secondary Reinforcer: Conditioned reinforcers, referred to as secondary reinforcers, are dependent on an association with other reinforcers. They owe their effectiveness directly or indirectly to primary reinforcers. Secondary, conditioned reinforcers tend to be weaker than primary, unconditioned reinforcers but they are more durable, more easily available and less disruptive than primary reinforcements. They are susceptible to extinction though if you don’t follow them with unconditioned reinforcers.

Secondary Reinforcer: Conditioned reinforcers, referred to as secondary reinforcers, are dependent on an association with other reinforcers. They owe their effectiveness directly or indirectly to primary reinforcers. Secondary, conditioned reinforcers tend to be weaker than primary, unconditioned reinforcers but they are more durable, more easily available and less disruptive than primary reinforcements. They are susceptible to extinction though if you don’t follow them with unconditioned reinforcers. Setting Event: Setting events are general conditions that set the occasion for the behavior. Examples of setting events are medical problems, nutritional issues or lack of exercise. Setting events make the behavior in question more likely to occur. Setting events do not directly evoke the behavior but they provide a context in which the behavior is more likely to be evoked by the Stimulus.

Stimulus: Anything a being can perceive that incites action. From: A Lexicon of Practical Terms for Pet Trainers & Behavior Consultants: The language you need to know! by DogNostics Career Center. Available from: dognosticseducation.com/p/store

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

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business

An All-In-One Solution Chinwe Onyeagoro of PPG corporate partner PocketSuite explains how pet professionals and small business owners can use tech to solve their top seven dog business challenges

A

re you a pet­preneur? Gone are the days of managing a business with just pen and paper. While your innate fondness for writing may remain, organizing all of the many aspects of running a busi­ ness often requires a digital system. This need became all the more pressing during the pandemic when dog training went virtual. While the worst of the lockdown is behind us, many dog trainers have realized that a digital platform can be a force multiplier in growing revenues. If you’re a pet professional or dog trainer, you may be missing out on what busi­ ness technology can do to improve your top and bottom line. PocketSuite is a technological innovation for entrepreneurs, en­ abling anyone working for themself to make a good living, including the millions of talented people with clients – service professionals, free­ lancers, independent businesses, contractors, gigsters, part­time, and non­traditional workers. PocketSuite is a mobile first, business manage­ ment app that helps anyone with talent and time make money. We break down seven of the biggest challenges for dog businesses and how to solve them with technology. Hint: the challenge starts with the client, not the dog!

#1: Finding New Clients: Need security? Every business needs to be constantly attracting new clients. Retaining clients is proof that you are great at what you do, but finding new clients is how you drive revenue growth. Building a referral network is the secret to attracting new busi­ ness. Referrals are typically more loyal as clients and they don’t cost nearly as much as it costs to find new clients through Google or Face­ book advertising. Take a page from our PocketSuite Pros – dog trainers, pet groomers, dog walkers and pet sitters focused on their given craft and using the PocketSuite app with their clients. Nearly 10% of those clients share their Pro with a friend!

#2. Committing to Packages (and Follow‐Up): Another common hurdle is getting clients to commit to a package, and then the follow­ through and follow­up. Among dog trainers, it’s a common occurrence for clients to pay for a package of dog training sessions and then feel that they have succeeded in having a well­trained dog. Three months later, they’re discovering that many or all of the good behavior has been forgotten. What if there was the possibility in a package plan to incorpo­ rate an automatic follow­up every two or three months for a refresher session? This would certainly result in an incremental revenue stream. Better yet, it results in a happier client who feels that they got great value because their dog is the best­trained dog in the neighborhood.

The PocketSuite app breaks down seven of the biggest challenges for dog businesses and how they can be solved with technology

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

Retaining clients is proof that you are great at what you do, but finding new clients is how you drive revenue growth. Building a referral network is the secret to attracting new business. Referrals are typically more loyal as clients and they don’t cost nearly as much as it costs to find new clients through Google or Facebook advertising.


business #3. Scheduling Packages: Scheduling can be challenging for any busi­ ness, but when you introduce packages, you now have a whole new complexity to solve for. Once a client commits to a package, you now need to account for these different packages and schedule clients. For example, say Client 1 has 12 sessions that are 30 minutes each, two times per week. Client 2 has six sessions that are one hour each, one time per week. And Client 3 has a one­and­a­half hour consult and four sessions that are 30 minutes each, one time per week. This is enough to induce a migraine, best case, and worst case your schedule breaks down and you start losing revenue! Business scheduling software like Pocket­ Suite is vital to keeping track of the different programs and packages for your clients. The power of smart scheduling software is that you are able to design classes and packages that meet your clients needs while at the same time protecting your most precious commodity: your time.

#4. Proving Effectiveness of Virtual Training: Convincing clients that virtual training can be just as effective as in­person training has been the struggle of the 2020s. The pandemic has meant that normal activities have been continuously upended. With dog adoptions on the rise over the last year and a half, dog training is now more important than ever. Especially considering that many new dog parents will soon need to return back to work after spending every moment with their beloved pup. Even so, the world has changed and virtual interactions have become much more commonplace. We see some PocketSuite Pros are adopting a hybrid model. Using technology to develop on­demand classes fills a gap that many didn’t previously realize existed. With these pre­recorded classes and also a live class schedule, it provides broader coverage to reach more dog owners in a way that fits varying schedules. Better yet, virtual classes further mimic the real­life situation of client and dog in their home environment.

View Packages

Schedule Clients

Gone are the days of managing a business with just pen and paper. While your innate fondness for writing may remain, organizing all of the many aspects of running a business often requires a digital system. This need became all the more pressing during the pandemic when dog training went virtual. #5. Minimizing Free Advice: We often hear from dog trainers that they spend too long on the phone giving clients "free" advice. Time is money, and neither trainers nor other professionals have unlimited availability for no­cost communications. Here, technology like Pocket­ Suite can help you manage client relationships, as well as provide addi­ tional resources for clients to make the most of their experience as your client. Some dog trainers offer a file download for frequently asked questions behind a lead generation form. This is a win­win – dog owners get resources with the immediate answers they’re looking for, while dog trainers are getting new leads for potential long­term clients.

#6. Filling Group Classes: For some, group classes are a dreaded dilemma. PocketSuite’s open enrollment helps businesses host an event without a firm start and stop date for classes. PocketSuite provides clients flexibility to join your series class at any time. A series class is a recurring class with a set number of sessions. This is typically common in the dog training or fitness training industry. For dog trainers, this fea­ ture is particularly useful for programs like puppy socialization. Puppies will not need to wait for a new class to begin and instead can join as quickly as the next session or when it’s convenient for the owner. Each

Keep Track of Income

Over the last 18 months, both the speed of digital innovation and broad consumer adoption of technology has dramatically leveled the playing field for micro businesses: PocketSuite, offers pet professionals an all­ in­one solution to integrate technology with their business operations

BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

57


business class session is its own lesson, meaning information from one class is not necessary in order to take the next class. With open enrollment, clients are not required to start exactly on one date and time, allowing clients more flexibility to start at a time that’s convenient for them, while providing you an opportunity to accept new clients.

#7. Client Payments: Payments can be a tricky aspect for any busi­

(Left) A business overview as seen on the PocketSuite app: Convincing clients that virtual training can be just as effective as in­person training has been the struggle of the 2020s and with dog adoptions on the rise over the last year and a half, dog training is now more important than ever

ness. Ensuring that you are paid on time and accurately is crucial to the success of your business operations. So how do you ensure that pay­ ments come in as planned? Making payment as easy as possible in­ creases the likelihood of timely funds available to grow your business. Use PocketSuite to charge clients for any service or product at any time with a card swipe, or by inserting the chip into a POS card reader. If you don’t want any hardware, you can just scan the client’s credit card or type the card number directly into the PocketSuite app from your phone.

Investment You just invested in yourself and your business by reading about how seven business challenges for dog trainers and pet professionals can be addressed with technology. Over the last 18 months, both the speed of digital innovation and broad consumer adoption of technology has dra­ matically leveled the playing field for micro businesses. As an independ­ ent business owner, you have at your fingertips technology at a cost of $20 per month that would have cost $2,000 per month 10 years ago. You are your own boss, just like the 5K and growing PocketSuite Pros. With PocketSuite, you can manage and grow with our all­in­one solution to integrate technology with your business operations. There’s no time like the present! n See also PocketSuite ad on p.20 for further details.

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Chinwe Onyeagoro is the CEO of PocketSuite where she is responsible for strategy, customer success and growth. She served as president of Great Places to Work, and previously worked at McKinsey & Company, The Monitor Group and Pritzker Realty Group (under former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker).


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business

Ask the Experts: A Perspective Shift Veronica Boutelle of PPG corporate partner dogbiz explains the importance of taking small steps as a means to achieving larger goals

Q

: Veronica, this question is for you specifically. A few months ago I read your book, How To Run A Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is. Your point about working in my business versus on my business has been on a loop in my head ever since. I get the idea that I have to spend more time on the busi‐ ness itself, and not just training with clients and students. But I don’t know where the time comes from. I’m still working a part‐time job, which doesn’t help. I’m in my late 40s and am starting to think I’m never going to really make it. How do other trainers do it? A: If you’re worried other trainers have found a time machine or other­ wise figured out how to stretch or stop time, I can assure you there’s no secret you’re missing out on. We are all beholden to the same rules and limitations. And the older each of us gets, of course, the more time seems to speed up. That plus a part­time job certainly doesn’t help, as you said. In an ideal situation you’d be able to quit that part­time gig and de­ vote the extra free time to working on your business. But that sort of luxury is rare. Fortunately, large blocks of time aren’t the only way to move forward; it’s possible to make amazing progress by stacking up small steps using the time you do have. Here are two tips I hope you’ll find helpful for a breakthrough:

#1. Set Aside Anything That Is Non‐Essential: If you’re like most of our one­on­one consulting clients or THRIVE! group coaching members, this will sound uncomfortable at first. But if you really mean to train full time for a living, it’s critical. I’m absolutely certain there is nothing on your current to­do list or

© Can Stock Photo / Smit

Most often progress toward goals is made by stacking small steps upon each other until they add up to large accomplishments

HOST A WEBINAR FOR PPG! Want to Share your Knowledge and Expertise? Showcasing the best of the pet industry to chat, chuckle and share Join host Niki Tudge and guests discussing news and views on force-free training, behavior, and pet care!

Topics may include a particular aspect of training, ethology, learning theory, behavior specifics... anything at all your fellow pet professionals would find educational.

We’ll even do some practice runs with you to help you along (if you need them!)

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business in your schedule that isn’t important or worth doing. But I’m equally certain that some things are less important than others. Identify those things and set them down. You may choose to pick them back up later when you’ve reached your goal, but continuing to juggle all the things right now won’t help you get there.

2. Carve Out Specific Blocks of Time to Work on Your Business: Having gifted yourself time by setting down, deferring, or delegating lesser tasks and responsibilities not directly contributing to your goal, protect that newfound time. Dedicate it to your business. Even if it’s a small amount of time each week, using it consistently will move you forward. Sometimes we are fortunate to have the time necessary to tackle big projects and take large leaps all at once. But most often progress toward goals is made by stacking small steps upon each other until they add up to large accomplishments. I’m reminded as I write this of a win that Sarah, a THRIVE! member, shared recently: “I checked off 6 marketing tasks this week! I didn’t even try: It kinda just happened effortlessly. It’s a testament to putting in small bits of effort consistently over time so all the elements can come together when needed.” This is the power of small steps. In the absence of a time machine I hope these tips and the perspec­ tive shift they carry help carry you through, Gemma. I fully believe you can make it, and I know there are dogs out there who need you to! n THRIVE!, dogbiz’s group coaching program, is finally open to new mem‐ bers November 3‐9. Don’t miss your chance to join THRIVE! for 2022. Learn more and grab your spot here. (see also ad on p.10)‐ Ed.

I’m absolutely certain there is nothing on your current to-do list or in your schedule that isn’t important or worth doing. But I’m equally certain that some things are less important than others. Identify those things and set them down. You may choose to pick them back up later when you’ve reached your goal, but continuing to juggle all the things right now won’t help you get there. Veronica Boutelle MA Ed CTC is founder and co-president of dog*biz, and author of How to Run Your Dog Business and co-author of Minding Your Dog Business. dog*biz offers professionally designed positive reinforcement dog training class curricula, including Open-Enrollment Puppy, Open-Enrollment Basic Manners, and short Topics classes built for retention.

Do you have a question for the business experts at dog*biz? Submit your question for consideration to: barkseditor@petprofessionalguild.com

Learn how

can help your business:

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Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People Pet Training and Behavior Consulting: A Model for Raising the Bar to Protect Professionals, Pets and Their People is a newly published book in which the authors present their views on: • •

• • •

The need for a level and model of oversight in the fields of pet training and behavior consulting and for those choosing to practice within them. The prevalence of individuals who hold no credentials, formal education, knowledge or skills, yet who are today working across the nation with full responsibility for the well-being and welfare of their unknowing clients’ treasured pets. The lack of consumer protection and transparency across the marketing and operations platforms of many pet-related businesses. The inherent weakness in how pets are legally classified. How the current lack of reported and enforced animal cruelty laws means there is insufficient protection when it comes to holding pet professionals accountable for their methods, approach and philosophies toward their craft and the pets they serve.

The authors advise on the pertinence of all these issues to the development of an infrastructure for oversight to support the professional evolution of the pet training and behavior industry while providing a complete recommended implementation model from which to do so.

"I would urge anyone interested in the direction of the industry to get a copy. It has been invaluable for a project I am involved in, and identifies and clarifies really important aspects of the industry that desperately need addressing. Even as an individual practitioner it provides a great resource for identifying best practice." - Andrew Hale, chair of association of INTOdogs "Check out this groundbreaking new resource for the pet training and behavior consulting industry written by the best in the business." - Paula Garber, owner of LIFELINE Cat Behavior Solutions and chairwoman of the Pet Professional Guild Feline Committee "Reliable, scientifically accurate behavioral information from experts in the field." - Gallivan Burwell, owner of Upward Dog Training & Counseling

Available in Print and E‐Book Format from: DogNostics Education Available as a PDF from: PetIndustryRegulation.com

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p r o f i l e

Healing the Disconnect In our ongoing series of PPG member profiles, this month BARKS features Hanne Grice of Hanne Grice Pet Training & Behaviour in Tring, England

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aving grown up with a variety of species, Hanne Grice always wanted to work with animals and now runs her own pet train­ ing and behavior business.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, how you first got into animal behavior and training and what you are doing now? A: At school, the career options for working with animals at that time were limited to veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse. I knew this was not the direction I wanted to go as I had always been interested in behavior (human and animal). Working at one time as a producer on television and on film sets, I had the opportunity to meet several ani­ mal trainers as well as Dr. Ian Dunbar himself. It was through these ex­ periences that I was encouraged to pursue my interest in animal behavior and training. I studied and gained practical experience of handling a variety of companion animals by establishing a pet care business, as well as dog walking and volunteering. Now, 15 years on I have a master’s in ap­ plied animal behavior and training, am a sessional lecturer at master’s level in animal behavior consulting and human­animal interactions and psychology, have won several awards, and have a successful pet train­ ing and behavior business. Q: Why did you become a trainer/pet care provider? A: Training and behavior is a people­centric business and I feel the human­half of the relationship is often overlooked. I love working with owners and their pets, and am fascinated by both human and animal behavior. I get huge joy in helping nurture the pet­owner relationship, espe­ cially where this may have broken down due to undesirable pet be­ haviors. To me, seeing animals and their handlers reconnect is the best. © Hanne Grice

Q: Tell us a little bit about your own pets. A: Currently I have a rescue dog called Hattie who I have had for two years, and three rescue cats: Evie (16 years), Dougie and Fluffy (brothers aged 1½ years). Q: What do you consider to be your area of expertise? A: Puppies, as well as a special interest in owner­dog relationships pre­ and post­partum; the influence of new babies on this relationship. Q: Are you a crossover trainer or have you always been a force‐free trainer? A: I always practiced least invasive, minimally aversive methods. How­ ever, when I first set up in my local area in 2006, there were only a cou­ ple of other trainers in the 10­mile radius and because I advocated using positive reinforcement methods, I was deemed a "hippy" or "cookie pusher." Thankfully, there are now many force­free trainers in my area. I think the plethora of studies that have come out, particularly in the last decade, together with the establishment of organizations such as PPG has really helped raise greater awareness of the fallout of using punish­ ment­based methods and benefits of R+ based methods.

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BARKS from the Guild/November 2021

Hanne Grice with Howard the basset hound: Howard was the original stooge dog in Hanne’s training and behavior business and helped many puppies and young dogs as a dog mentor, teaching about sniffaris and mooching, as well as assisting his guardian with reactivity cases, and workshops; he was also the inspiration for her book Playing With Your Dog

Q: What drives you to be a force‐free professional and why is it impor‐ tant to you? A: It comes down to belief systems and experience. I grew up in a household where the belt or smacking was frequently used. I took sol­ ace with my animals. I knew I would never want to put any individual (human or non­human animal) under that sort of stress. Instead, whether it is my young children, clients, or pets I focus on excellent management in conjunction to reinforcing alternative or incompatible behaviors. Q: What is your favorite part of your job? A: Nothing beats a good giggle, whether that's with clients where ap­ propriate, the animals when they do something goofy, or with peers. The other day I was working on a separation­related case. The owner was attempting to train a settle but was rolling hot dog in his hands so


p r o f i l e “I once had a local hospital call me for help as a patient had a stroke but his parrot was trapped in his flat and been alone for a couple of days. I had to get permission to climb in via a second story window...I've also walked a client's cat down the aisle at their wedding, and trained a dog to wear a ring and perform a sustained sit/stay while I hid behind a fallen tree in the woods for a client's proposal.” - Hanne Grice the dog was focusing on that. I asked the client to "hide your sausage" prompting his wife to burst out laughing. We all ended up crying with laughter, something that was really needed at that moment. It's these little moments I find rewarding, even if it's at my expense! Q: What are some of your favorite positive reinforcement techniques for the most commonly encountered behavior issues? A: Capturing great behavior, whether that's a young dog settling on their mat or choosing to stay on all four paws as someone passes by. I always like to use targeting for a lot of behaviors, whether that's a hand target for recall or to keep a dog moving when there are triggers in the envi­ ronment, or for training a send­away with visitor arrivals. Q: What is the reward you get out of a day's training with people and their pets?: A: For me, it's the smiles on the owner's or their children's faces when they are working with their dog and the dog has successfully completed a behavior they’ve been attempting to get. Q: What is the funniest or craziest situation you have been in with a pet and their guardian? A: I once had a local hospital call me for help as a patient had a stroke but his parrot was trapped in his flat and been alone for a couple of days. I had to get permission to climb in via a second story window. I managed to prize it open (as the locksmith couldn't get in the door without causing significant damage) to get to the parrot. I looked after the parrot for a number of days but never got to meet the owner. I felt like the fourth emergency service that day. I've also walked a client's cat down the aisle at their wedding, and trained a dog to wear a ring and perform a sustained sit/stay while I hid behind a fallen tree in the woods for a client's proposal. The list goes on!

BARKS from the Guild

Q: What awards or competition placements have you and your pet(s) achieved using force‐free methods? A: There are a few of them so I’ll list them here: • Winner – Dog Trainer of the Year – Oxfordshire Prestige Awards 2021­22. • Winner – Dog Trainer of the Year – Oxfordshire Prestige Awards 2020­21. • Finalist – Best Business Women Awards 2015. • Winner – Scoot Headline Awards ‘Sole Trader – Regional Winner’ in April 2015. • Winner – EE Chief’s Choice Award – 2013. • Winner – Dacorum Business Excellence Award in October 2009. • Winner – ‘Special Merit Award’ – the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters (NARP) for dog behavior work and pet care services in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Q: Who has most influenced your career and how? A: Can I name more than one?! Ian Dunbar, with his focus on puppies, kick­started this journey for me. Ken Ramirez is an inspiration – when­ ever I hear him talk I feel energized. Finally, a friend and peer Lynda Tay­ lor. She is compassionate, highly knowledgeable, and simply one of the best trainers I know. Q: What advice would you give to a new trainer starting out? A: It's really easy to gain a snippet of knowledge then want to go out and change the world. However, take your time to absorb as much qual­ ity information and knowledge as possible, and hone your mechanical training skills. PPG is a fantastic resource to help with this. Q: How has PPG helped you to become a more complete trainer? A: The wealth of information PPG provides both trainers, behavior con­ sultants and the general public via BARKS from the Guild, webinars, and events is phenomenal. When I had my first baby in 2013, it was PPG's webinars that kept my baby­brain at bay, helping me keep my finger on the pulse during mat leave. The organization has grown from strength to strength and I am very proud to be a member and continue to learn thanks to PPG. n

Hanne Grice Pet Training & Behaviour is located in Tring, England, U.K.

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BARKS from the Guild is the 64-page bimonthly pet industry trade magazine published by the Pet Professional Guild, available internationally to Pet Professional Guild members, supporters and the general public via a free lifetime digital subscription. Widely read by pet industry professionals and pet guardians alike, BARKS covers a vast range of topics encompassing animal behavior, pet care, training, education, industry trends, business AND MUCH MORE! If you would like to reach your target audience, BARKS is the perfect vehicle to achieve that goal. To contribute an article, please contact the editor, Susan Nilson.

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