dog play, Dog Training, dogs, Mixed breed, puppy, Rescue dog, Uncategorized

Predicting Good Dog/Bad Dog (Truman/Bear)

I admit, I hadn’t read the scientific research papers. When I learned about the connection between behavior and left/right handedness in dogs, I was delightfully shocked. How had I missed that?

As it turns out, there are predictors of a dog’s propensity to be a more easily trained, and less troublesome. The predictors are based on observable physical characteristics that are associated with left or right paw preference.

On the left you can see Truman and Bear playing. Bear has a definite preference of using his left paw to whack Truman. He doesn’t just “paw” at him, he actually whacks him, like a–well–bear would. Bear usually steps off to a walk with his left foot first. He was too “playful” for me to get a snapshot of the whorl on his chest, the whorl being another predictor. I tried several times.

On the other hand, the right-hand photo shows the whorl on Truman’s chest. This is the first and only picture I took because Truman was so cooperative. The whorl goes counterclockwise. A sign that the dog is more trainable. I’d put money on Bear’s whorl going clockwise. Truman generally steps off with his right foot.

Truman is the easiest dog I have ever dealt with. He loves to please. He listens to everything I say. He listens and learns so quickly that he seems like a dog genius. Bear, on the other hand, while sweet as he can be, seems head strong, persistent. He is fearful of odd things even though I have worked on desensitization. (Nutcracker cracking pecans at a distance). Bear runs out of the room if he sees the nail clippers. Truman offers me his paw to get nails trimmed.

Below is an over simplification of right and left brain functions in humans (which is comparable to dogs with obvious differences). Possible dog behaviors in italics

Right side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: left side of body (left dominant)
  • Thinking: attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving
    • “Squirrel!!!!!”
    • Escapes from fence
    • Helps themselves to food on the countertop
  • Feeling: alertness, determination, disgust, avoidance, fear
    • Digs the whole yard trying to get a mole
    • Hates going to the vet
    • Stubborn

Left side of the brain controls:

  • Physical: right side of body (right dominant)
  • Thinking: language, number skills, reasoning, scientific skills, spoken language
    • Quickly associates words or signals with actions
    • Good at solving “dog puzzles”
    • Watches you to try to understand what you want them to do
  • Feeling: comfortable approaching and engaging with the world, happiness, pride, anger
    • Good therapy or service dog
    • Easy to get along with
    • Dignified

Bear isn’t really a bad dog. He does have different behavior than Truman. That doesn’t make him bad, it does make him more challenging.

Of course, selective breeding pre-determines many behavioral characteristics. But within each breed, there are differences. The moral of the story is, as a general rule, if you want a dog that is more tractable, and less worrisome, pick a pooch that is right-pawed and has a counterclockwise chest whorl.

dog play, dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, puppy, Rescue dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

Truman’s New Friend: Out of this World

Truman’s best buddy, our new shelter pup Bear, has some aberrant behaviors. He is preoccupied with putting toys in certain arrangements.

After reviewing Bear’s toy alignments, I am convinced it contains a message to his home planet. I am in need of help from an astrophysicist. Being a tree hugger, I know angles are important in astrophysics, but I don’t know how to calculate or interpret the small angle approximation. I am certain this arrangement is a signal indicating an impending invasion of aliens from Bear’s home planet. I suspect the planet is in the Sirius solar system, in the Canis Major Constellation. Please help, or we may be overrun, by playful puppers!

Cozy mystery, dog play, dogs, Labrador Retriever, Mixed breed, puppy, Therapy Dog, Truman Blue Mysteries

A Mystery Bear – A Rescue Story

Truman Blue has a new little brother, Bear. Like all the other critter’s in Truman’s household, Bear is a rescue. Adopted from the local shelter, Bear is a “Labradog”, mostly Labrador and maybe something else thrown in. Or maybe not, it’s hard to tell. Do I see a DNA test in Bear’s future?

Why Bear? A year ago, Truman’s adopted mom, 14-year-old Labrador Sunny, trotted over the Rainbow Bridge. The Hu-Man missed having a busy, affectionate dog. For several months, the family tried to find a special Labrador who needed a home. The dog had to get along with cats, and other dogs, and had to be happy being fenced in an acre yard.

Bear had been in the local non-kill shelter for nearly two months. Being a sensitive pupper, he was stressed by the raucous atmosphere filled with barking pits and pit mixes. Bear sat at the back of his sparkling clean kennel run, head hung, stress panting. But he came right up to say hello when Truman’s Hu-mom called him. He wanted to be petted.

Bear has been Truman’s little brother for 10 days and still has some minor adjusting to do. He is happy to be the Hu-man’s special dog because the Hu-man pets Bear, and throws toys for Bear to chase. Truman loves to run and play with Bear. Bear is mostly respectful when he plays but when he’s not, Truman only needs to woof in Bear’s face, and Bear gets the message. Truman is boss-dog.

Yesterday, Bear, Truman, Hu-mom & Hu-man, went on their first family outing to a plant nursery, and then the pet store. Bear did great for any 9-month old pupper. His worst offense was tugging on the leash a little. After the breezy atmosphere of the plant nursery, the sensory overload of pet store was a little overwhelming, and Bear stress panted a little. The family didn’t stay long. At the checkout counter, Truman showed Bear how to put his paws on the counter to get a treat. Bear is learning quickly.

How such a sweet dog as Bear ended up as a stray, is a mystery. The question is, will Bear make and appearance as Truman’s buddy in a future Truman Blue Mystery?

Bear with Dexter and Truman keeping an eye on the new guy.

Cozy mystery, dog play, dogs, Mixed breed, Nose work, old dogs, Scent work

Dogs Love to Play Scent Work (nose work)

Scent work (AKA nose work) is a fun, easy game to play with your dog. You probably have the items needed, right there in your home. You can do this inside or outside. We do both.

What you Need Besides a Dog (I bet this works with cats too)

  • Treats
  • Something smelly (something you have at your house OR what needed for AKC training)
    • Around the house (make sure the odor isn’t offensive to you dog)
      • Baking flavor extract (example – mint extract)
      • Strong smelling spice (example – cloves)
    • AKC Scent Work
      • Birch essential oil – first level
      • Anise essential oil – second level (Pimpinella anisum – NOT star anise Illicium verum)
  • Something cottonish if you are using oils (consider the dog might eat the scented piece, so make it small enough to pass through)
    • 100% cotton ball (cut in half or quarters)
    • 100% cotton swab (with paper stems cut in half)
    • small scrap of cotton cloth (1″ square)
  • A SCENT container that fits inside the glass storage container (odor free)
    • used pill bottle (I drill 5 largish holes in the tops)
    • any small container (the lid will need to be open, or have holes drilled into it)
  • A glass container with a tight lid for storing the scent container (odor free)

Step-by-step Training

Preparation

  • For each step, the scent container must be open at top, or have holes in it, and contain scented a cotton ball, swab, or scrap.
  • Scent the cotton with 3-5 drops of scent (around once a week).  (Less as dog progresses) OR put a tablespoon of spice in the container
  • Think of a word to use to send the dog after the scent container, a word such as “search” “find” “buscar” chercher” “stinky”. It doesn’t make any difference what word you use as long as it doesn’t sound like another command the dog knows.

Hints

  • MAKE IT FUN!!
  • Treats must be provided within 1 1/2 seconds of the dog finding the container.
  • Do not move to next step until the first one is solid. (The first few steps may be learned quickly but do them each at least 5 times) Go back to previous step whenever necessary.
  • (I have three dogs. I was only training Truman. After Truman was at Step 5, I allowed the other two to accompany him and everyone got treats. A second dog learned how to do this by watching)
  • DO NOT punish or scold your dog! This is for FUN! Be a cheerleader and encourager.
  • MAKE IT FUN!

Steps

Step 1: Let the dog sniff the container, give the treat when the dog puts its nose on the container out of curiosity. You can start using your “word command”.

Step 2: Making the dog wait, place container on floor with a treat on top. Say “search” (or find, or whatever you want) and let the dog get the treat. Encourage the dog with words. This is supposed to be fun.

Step 3: Keep moving the container with the treat on top farther away from you and send the dog to search.  (Most dogs seem to find containers on the ground more easily. Start there.)

Step 4: With the dog watching, hide the container/treat behind something. Send the dog to search. It is fine to use the same or nearby places repeatedly in the beginning. Use a different hiding place in each room.  The scent may linger in a spot and confuse the dog.

Step 5: Take the dog out of the room. Hide the container/with a treat in a “regular” hiding place. Bring the dog in and send it to search.

Step 6: Take the dog out of the room. Hide the container/NO treat. Bring the dog in and send it to search. When the dog finds the container give treat AT the location of the container. You can drop it next to the container if you want. (In competitions, the dog must ALERT the owner, but if you are just playing, don’t worry about that.)

Step 7: Complicate the playing by moving the container to high and low positions. Hide under pillows, etc with a route where the scent can escape. Always reward with a treat as quickly as you can (within 1 1/2 seconds).