Friday Schedule and
Therapeutic insights into
treating ex-breeder puppy mill dogs
Adopters of ex-breeder puppy mill dogs were contacted and asked to
participate in an online questionnaire about the behavioral, psychological,
and cognitive characteristics that have been anecdotally observed in this
group of dogs. Of 1169 people contacted, 858 responded. Results provided an
extensive look at the nature of this population of dogs, including the
percentage of the dogs that play versus those that do not, how many
eventually become fully housetrained versus how many do not, the number that
make eye contact with their human caregivers, and the breakdown of dogs that
show signs that the owners feel resemble human cognitive disorders, such as
autism and dementia. In addition, the questionnaire included numerous
questions about the methods each of these owners used to help rehabilitate
their dog, specifically, what they did that was most effective, least
effective, and what, if anything, caused a setback in their dog's progress.
Respondents were also asked what advice they would give to others who
adopted a puppy mill dog. The results offer a wealth of clinically useful
information for behavioral therapists who treat these dogs.
Dog Interrupted. The question of diagnostic labeling of
pets with behavioral problems.
At times dogs present with behavioral problems
that do not fit textbook categorical criteria, perhaps due to a lack of
vital background information from the owners, perhaps due to symptoms that
overlap categories, or perhaps due to symptoms appearing to not fit into any
category, the infamous idiopathic catchall grouping. As behaviorists we
feel obligated to our clients to give a specific diagnosis for the
behavioral problem at hand, forcing a label onto the pet that may not be
completely accurate. History with assigning diagnostic labels to humans
suffering from psychopathologies has been problematic and an issue of debate
for many years due to its affect on the treatment of the human subject.
There is no question that diagnoses, or the assignment of labels, can and
do aid in making treatment decisions when the symptoms fit the disorder, but
what happens when they do not? Might an inaccurate diagnostic label affect
the treatment of the individual? The past 10 years have been spent
reconstructing the DSM-IV, to be released as the DSM-V in 2013, to replace
its rigid categorical classifications towards a dimensional assessment
system for mental disorders. The severity of a mental disorder can then be
assessed along a quantitative continuum, in turn resulting in a more
accurate assessment of the effectiveness of the treatment. In this
presentation I will present two diagnostically difficult, if not impossible,
cases where a misdiagnosis could have resulted in euthanasia. I propose
that as behaviorists, perhaps it is time to reevaluate our categorical
diagnostic system and consider one that is more dimensional in nature to
better accommodate a continuum of behavioral symptomatology, and to lessen
the reliance on "labels."
Dominance Panel Discussion
Pam Reid and John Wright
Dominance in dogs is a highly controversial
topic, especially when it comes to understanding and managing dogs’
relationships with people. Many trainers and behaviorists believe we should
deny the concept of dominance in dogs because it encourages people to treat
dogs poorly. But is this warranted? Dominance is a pervasive construct in
animal behaviour. It has certainly proved to be a valuable heuristic for
describing relationships and predicting interactions in many group-living
species. An alternative perspective is to analyze groups according to roles.
Dyadic interactions take place within social roles, defined by “role
appropriate behaviors.” Although other role relationships exist
dominant/subordinate roles are defined by some constellation of assertive
behaviors (dominant role) and submissive behaviors (subordinate role). In
this discussion, we’ll contrast dominance and role theories in terms of
their descriptive, explanatory and predictive value.
integrate humans into their notion of a social group? Are our relationships
with dogs best described in terms of "pack dynamics"? Traditionally
this is how dog trainers viewed dog-human dyads - one individual is
dominant, the other subordinate. The direction of various interactions were
thought to reveal the true nature of the relationship; for instance, does
the dog lead the owner during walks?, does the dog lift his leg to urine
mark?, does the dog charge through doors ahead of the owner?, does the dog
guard prized objects from the owner?, and so forth. We propose to analyze
the relationship between a dog and his owner by examining the same measures
that ethologists use to gauge dominance-subordinate relations between
group-living animals of the same species. We will compare these data with
more traditional measures of dominance.
Aggression in Dogs
According to popular and scientific literature, dominance
aggression is a pervasive problem in dogs. However, it seems a slippery
diagnosis. Drawing conclusions about dominance status and its application to
the dog-owner relationship is no easy task. To further complicate matters,
differing opinions about diagnostic criteria make confident recognition of
the phenomenon labeled “dominance aggression” challenging. We will examine
the validity of these criteria and then tackle a second point of contention:
once you identify dominance aggression (if such a thing exists), what should
you do about it? There is much dissent among trainers and behaviorists
regarding appropriate treatment. Finally, we’ll discuss how an understanding
of canine social dynamics might inform the development of sensible treatment
Kids—It Doesn’t Always End Well
and Karen London
As behaviorists we are not all the same. We differ in our
education, background, experiences, personality and individual preferences
for treating behavior problems. We not only rely on our education and what
we have learned from our years in the field to help clients, but also our
personal experiences. Parenting is one of the many experiences that can't be
learned about from a book, and we have both found that parenting is NOT
What it looked like in the brochure. The degree to which
everything about our lives changed once we had kids has added a deeper
understanding of what it’s really like for our clients with kids.
A common behavior problem is aggression towards children. We have
both experienced this with our own dog and child and were affected not only
as parents but as behaviorists. We want to share our perspective as parents
during the group discussion of the treatment and management of these cases,
especially how we have changed with regard to assessing and working with
aggressive dogs and their families.
We all know, and use, the power of conditioning for behavior
change - effectively for unprepared (arbitrary) and more so for prepared S-R
sequences, and with less effect for contraprepared S-R sequences.
Counterconditioning and extinction work better on unprepared than prepared
S-R sequences. This trichotomy of ease of conditioning (Seligman) was
originally proposed to refer to the comparison of species-typical S-R
systems, but will just as easily relate to breed typical or individual
differences in the range of dog S-R sequences we encounter with dog behavior
problems. Dog behavior problems that condition and develop quickly and
easily, that often appear at maturity, and particularly those that come to
us with a long elicitation history and especially those that involve
emotional concomitants and well conditioned kinesthetic, proprioceptive and
muscle feedback, are particularly difficult to change (extinguish or
countercondition). It helps considerably to prevent the actual response,
within the eliciting stimulus context, to allow new, competing/incompatible
responses to be learned. I have previously discussed the use of halters for
this purpose (which I will do again and compare commercially available
halters) and will discuss the use of chest restraint v. back restraint
harnesses (and offer a small prize for the best terms to describe these
harnesses!) and modified basket and cone muzzles as response prevention
tools. I will show how to modify muzzles to best prevent bites and offer
more comfort to the dog, and describe a newly developed chest
restraint harness. I will add a few, perhaps critical, comments about design
and testing of animal products.
Creating a Pet Product
does it take to create and market pet product? It’s a lot more work than
most people imagine. I will be discussing the challenges of pet product
development and “myth busting” some of the common assumptions. From
conception to market there are multiple steps in between that must be taken
to ensure a safe and saleable pet product.
schedule and abstracts
Cats out of the Bag: New
ideas for kitty problems
owners often consult with a behaviorist on problems between their cats,
their cat and their dog, and aggression toward people. The most commonly
reported issues are aggression between the family cats, chasing of the cats
by the family dog, and owner-directed aggression. A number of protocols have
been designed involving desensitization and counter-conditioning to reduce
these problem behaviors. However, in many cases the protocols are too
difficult or too time-consuming for the owner to implement. Case histories
and videos will be used to demonstrate how a number of novel ideas were used
in order to successfully deal with these problems.
Case Report: Eliminating
Food-Stealing Behavior in Cats
report on a consultation about two cats, Violetta and Vito (brother/sister,
neutered/spayed, 3.5 years). Both were adopted at two months from a rescue
shelter after being found living along a lake “starving.” They live with
their two adult owners and a third, older cat (male, neutered, 12 years
old). Problem: they were “obsessed with food: would eat anything, bread,
beans, tomatoes, butternut squash soup, dried pasta, etc.” They jumped onto
kitchen counters, into the sink, onto kitchen table during human-meal times
to steal food, right in front of owners. They opened pantry doors and ripped
open food bags. Owners tried yelling, squirting with water, using a Scram
gun (high frequency noise - worked sometimes). Owners’ veterinarian said the
cats were “at a good weight,” so owners were feeding them the “right amount
of food" and should not increase it. Cats were eating so quickly, they would
throw up whole kibble. Presentation will discuss the combination strategy
used: changing diet, free feeding, gradual reduction of availability: the
success and failure of these. Discussion will include selection of diet
based on nutritional differences in brands for managing some behavior
problems. IFAAB participants are requested and encouraged to bring their own
examples of nutrition/herbal supplement management for behavior
Richard Polsky, PhD.
What kind of
information is needed to substantiate dog bite injury?
behaviorists are occasionally retained to render opinion in legal
proceedings involving dog behavior, particularly aggressive behavior which
results in injury to a person. In some cases it is uncertain whether a dog
was responsible for inflicting injury or if the injury to the victim was
caused by some other means. The applied animal behaviorist is in a unique
position to provide feedback in terms whether or not injury was actually
caused because of a bite from the suspect dog. This presentation will
address the kinds of discovery the applied animal behaviorist is qualified
to rely on, and therefore proffer as opinion, such as the physical
characteristics of dog bite wounds (photographs will be shown),
temperamental analysis of the suspected dog in question, and whether a dog
was physically able to inflict bite injury given the circumstances present
at the time of the incident.
Harmonease®Chewable Tablets reduces noise induced fear and
anxiety in a laboratory canine thunderstorm simulation: a blinded and
placebo controlled study
Introduction: Thunderstorm simulation in the
laboratory setting induces fearful and anxious behavior in Beagles, most
notably manifested by increased inactivity (“freezing”), which, in a
previous study, was ameliorated by the anxiolytic diazepam. Using this
protocol, this study assessed the efficacy of Harmonease® a chewable oral
anxiolytic botanical product containing a proprietary blend of extracts of
Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense.
Methodology: A balanced, placebo controlled,
blinded single crossover design was used utilizing 20 healthy adult Beagles.
Following a baseline thunderstorm test, subjects received Harmonease®
chewable tablets or placebo treatment daily and were re-assessed on the 7th
treatment day. Following a 7 day washout, the treatments were crossed over
and an identical design as the first phase was employed. The thunderstorm
test was performed in an open field arena and consisted of three 3 minute
phases: an anticipatory phase in which no stimulus was provided; the
thunderstorm phase in which a thunderstorm track was played over a loud
speaker; and a recovery phase in which no stimulus was presented. Inactivity
duration was considered the primary variable for assessing efficacy, was
measured by a trained observer, and was defined as an animal sitting, lying
down, or standing still, and not exhibiting any overt movement.
Results: Harmonease® significantly reduced
inactivity duration during the thunderstorm phase. Specifically, 12/20 (60%)
dogs improved from baseline under Harmonease® while only 5/20 (25%) improved
on placebo. Furthermore, 9/20 (45%) placebo dogs showed increased inactivity
duration (worsened), while only 4/20 (20%) treatment dogs worsened.
Difference in number of dogs improved versus worsened by treatment group was
significant at p<0.05.
Conclusions: Harmonease® reduced fear-related
inactivity or freezing in dogs in this thunderstorm simulation model. This
supports previous studies demonstrating that the combination of botanical
extracts in Harmonease® is effective for the management of stress related
Behaviorists and Trainers – Case Based
John Ciribassi and Laura
presentation will focus on a few cases in which myself and a trainer that I
collaborate with, Laura Monaco-Torelli, worked together on to help the
client and patient achieve better success in the management of the behavior
problem in question. Each case will presented as to signalment, history,
differential diagnosis, final diagnosis, treatment plan (both the behavior
modification plan and training protocol), progress updates and outcome to
date. In addition, I will present a brief description of a marketing
partnership that Laura and I have developed to increase accuracy of
referrals by veterinarians and the public such that training issues are
directed to competent trainers and behavior issues are directed to qualified
Differential Positive Reinforcement Techniques as Adjunct Treatments in
Decreasing Reactivity in Dogs
Lunging and alerting behavior in dogs can be
effectively controlled with a Gentle®Leader collar, but some dogs remain
emotionally reactive to other dogs or people. This study evaluated four
techniques for reducing this emotional behavior; differential reinforcement
of incompatible food pairing (SS-US); differential behavior (DRI);
sight-stimulus reinforcement of other behavior (DRO); non-contingent
reinforcement (NCR); and no adjunct reinforcement. Subjects included dogs
referred for problem lunging behavior by area (West Michigan) obedience
instructors as well as dogs from area animal shelters exhibiting lunging
problems while being exercised by staff. Efficacy in lunge reduction and
participant compliance in execution of the different techniques were
evaluated, and factor analysis was done to help identify which different
methods might be most beneficial and when.
would like to mediate a discussion on the use of Nothing in Life is Free in
dog training. There is much variation in the use of NILIF among dog
trainers and behaviorists. Some require all clients to interact with their
dogs by NILIF rules. Others use NILIF to address particular behavior
problems and still others don’t use NILIF at all. The particular rules that
are included in a NILIF program also vary by trainer. What are the best
practices for NILIF in dog training? When should NILIF be recommended to
clients? How does NILIF change dog behavior and dog-human relationships?
Can NILIF be misused? How do you use NILIF?
The Effects of Tian Wang Bu
Xin Dan on Situational & Generalized Anxiety in Dogs and Cats
Kathryn M. Wrubel & Beth
remedies hold a lot of promise in treating behavioral issues in pets, yet
more research is warranted to show their effectiveness. Several case
reports will be presented in which dogs and cats with anxiety conditions
were administered Shen Calmer™, traditionally known as Tian Wang Bu Xin
Dan. This formula has been used to treat human conditions such as insomnia,
neurasthenia, hypertension and hyperthyroidism. It has been shown to help
with restlessness, insomnia and various anxiety conditions. Veterinary
indications have more recently included situational and generalized
anxiety. The constituents of Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan have effects such as
sedation, analgesia, and a decrease in blood pressure and blood glucose.
Case outcomes will be discussed along with the potential benefits and uses
for Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan for anxiety issues in dogs and cats in conjunction
with behavior modification protocols.
For a while, it seemed that everyone wanted a
magic pill. Now, one pill is not enough. There are all manner of cocktails
floating about. Are they safe? Are they effective? How to choose? To further
complicate matters, homeopathic remedies abound.
This presentation will discuss a systematic
approach for answering the question: “one drug or two?” Medical concerns
will be briefly addressed. Also considered will be an appropriate way to
present these considerations to the referring veterinarian.
in the 21st Century: SNPs, GWAs and making the
phenotypes and genotypes.
and Stephen Zawistowski
long forgotten, mythic past, genetic analyses usually required that you
define a phenotype, breed animals and then follow the expression of the
phenotype in successive generations to elucidate the underlying genetic
architecture. These steps required substantial time and resources, even
when using a model species such as rats or Drosophila. Phenotypic fidelity
was provided by careful definition and measurement. Tryon’s selection for
maze performance in rats was based on reliable measures on individual
differences in speed and error count. Hirsch’s classic work on geotaxis in
D. melanogaster depended on unambiguous up/down choice point performance.
Canine work was vastly more difficult, and no individual or group has come
close to replicating the classic studies published by Scott and Fuller. Moon
and Ginsburg were able to dissect the components and inheritance patterns of
threat behaviors in coyotes and beagles using classic genetic breeding
designs, after careful description of the phenotypes.
current availability of molecular analyses that do not require expansive
breeding designs offers the promise of large data sets amenable to
sophisticated statistical models. We express concern however, that in the
rush to anoint the dog as the new model species, that scant attention is
being paid to fundamental questions of phenotype definition and measurement.
will provide a short review of past canine behavior-genetic research,
current methods of genomic analysis, examples of poor phenotype definition
and an example that provides a rigorous method of measurement and the
current results of ongoing genetic analysis.
relationship between owner attachment and reported dog behavior
An individual’s attachment style is a strong predictor of how one
manages relationships with other people and, apparently, with one’s pets as
well. We have discovered a connection between dog owners’ attachment styles
and their reports of their dogs’ behavior – and we wonder how this works.
Are owners with particular attachment styles selecting dogs with compatible
behavior patterns, or are owners with particular attachment styles somehow
molding the behavior of their dogs to meet their expectations? It may even
be a simple matter of perception, with dog owners selectively seeing and
remembering the things that they are looking for. The entire issue becomes
even more muddled in that we found that the effects of attachment style
occur only for owners of pure breed dogs, although it is not yet clear if it
is the breed of the dog or the amount that was paid for it that is the
critical variable. However, it is clear that the interaction between the
personality of the dog owner and the circumstances surrounding the dog’s
purchase plays an intriguing role in how the behavior of the dog is
Do you think I ate it?
Owner perceptions and behavioral assessment of the “guilty look” in dogs
questionnaire and experiment investigated an owner-reported anecdote: upon
an owner returning home, a dog sometimes greets the owner and sometimes
displays “guilty” behavior, thereby alerting the owner to a dog’s misdeed.
The questionnaire examined owners’ perceptions of dog “guilt”. The
experiment explored (1) whether dogs that were disobedient in owners’
absence show behaviors associated with “guilt” (ABs) upon owners’ return to
a room and (2) whether owners can determine dog disobedience based on dog
Owners reported (N=64): dogs display ABs in certain situations (87.5%);
dogs display ABs before owners have discovered a dog’s transgression (50%);
ABs imply dogs know that they have committed a misdeed (91%) and dog
presentation of ABs leads owners to scold dogs less (59%).
experiment took place at the Family Dog Project in Budapest, Hungary and
included pet dogs (N=58). The experiment established the social rule that
food placed on a table was for humans and not dogs. Dogs had the opportunity
to eat the food after the humans left the room. The owner returned to the
room, where a barrier blocked the owner’s view of the table and plate. The
owner observed the dog’s greeting behavior and reported whether they thought
the dog ate the food.
significant difference in greeting behavior was found between dogs that ate
in the owner’s absence and dogs that did not eat in the owner’s absence.
Additionally, based on dog behavior, owners seemed unable to determine
whether or not their dog ate in their absence.
Although ABs could not be observed in this context, owners do ascribe
"guilt" to dogs. The design of the present experiment and the adaptive
function of "guilty" displays will be discussed.
Dog Parks: What do we know
about what dogs do?
parks have become increasingly popular in North America, but there has been
little empirical research on the social behaviour of dogs in such a setting.
With our graduate students, my colleague Rita Anderson and I have collected
videotape of dogs freely interacting in a local dog park, over the course of
three summers (2007, 2009, and 2010). To date, this database involves more
than 300 dogs, with detailed behavioural analyses on approximately 100 focal
dogs. I will present data on what dogs (and, to a lesser extent, humans) do
in this dog park and, perhaps, more importantly, what they don’t do!
Although some owners and trainers don’t like or recommend dog parks due to
potential aggressive interactions, our data suggests that, for our dog study
population, aggressive behaviour is extremely rare (~1% of all coded dyadic
and group interactions). I will discuss whether our results can be
generalized to other dog park populations, and try to stimulate a discussion
of the following questions: Is social interaction with conspecifics a
welfare issue for dogs? How do we define dog-dog aggression (and what is
“play aggression”)? Do the potential benefits of social interaction in a dog
park setting outweigh potential risks?
Questions About the Welfare
of Un-owned Street Dogs and Cats
Daniel Q. Estep and Suzanne
Euthanasia as a means of pet population control for dogs and cats has long
been a controversial norm in the U.S. What has been unacceptable in this
country for at least the past 50 years is a large population of un-owned
“street dogs”, although such populations do exist in many other countries.
September of 2010, we were invited to speak in Turkey at a conference of
primarily veterinarians working with shelters in that country. The animal
welfare community in Turkey is struggling with the issue of “street” dogs
and cats. The condition of these animals is problematic, but conditions in
“shelters” are often worse, and there is not widespread support for
euthanasia of un-owned animals as one means of addressing the problem.
videos and pictures, in this presentation we will share our discussions with
the Turkish veterinarians, and our experiences with “street” animals we
encountered. This will provide a basis for discussion by the group about how
ethological knowledge can be brought to bear on questions of quality of life
for dogs and cats. Such questions include:
deciding whether to maintain these animals in shelters or adopt a policy
of spay/neuter and release, similar to what is being done with some feral
cat colonies in the U.S.,
could the “street habitats” be improved
euthanasia as a means of population control, and
whether or not North American approaches can be applicable to other