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Communication in Dogs
The social interaction between mother and offspring during weaning in German Shepherd dogs: Individual differences between mothers and their effects on offspring
Levels of maternal care in dogs affect adult offspring temperament
A review of maternal behavior in dogs and potential areas for further research
Weaning and Parent-Offspring Conflict in the Domestic Dog
Parent-Offspring Conflict in Feral Dogs: A Bioassay
The influence of maternal care on stress-related behaviors in domestic dogs: What can we learn from the rodent literature?
Sampling maternal care behavior in domestic dogs: What’s the best approach?
The importance of early life experiences for the development of behavioral disorders in domestic dogs
Canine Communication – Interpreting Dog Language (this is not a study, but this article contains a simple summary of dog communication that I thought would be helpful for some of you!)
34 Comments on “Dog Training Crisis: My Thoughts on Mother Dogs Correcting Their Puppies ￼”
I have a young high energy retriever, who seems entirely obsessed with pulling and people, which is understandable, she is at the stage where she is stronger than me, and pulled so hard its uncontrollable, ive been working with her for so long socialising, walking up the street – taking it step by step, I watched your video on excercising your dog before walking, but do you have any tips for how to manage this? ive really enjoyed your videos they help me learn to become a better dog trainer.
Hi Zac, I am getting my puppy February 21 and I started watching your videos in the beginning of January. I’ve learned so much I’m going to use all of your techniques I’d be leaving them with my whole heart and I have witnessed the success that you’ve had, and I just know I have the best advantage for my new baby
My dog is only been reprimanded twice in her entire life in a harsh way one when she ran out into the street I made it perfectly clear that that would never happen again, I verbally reprimanded her pretty harshly and I did smack her on her butt. She was about six months old since I never raised my voice to her she was shocked. The other time when she was a young dog and she growled at a person I made it very clear that her world would come to an end if she ever did that again. She’s 10 years old now and it’s never happened since then, because I have a powerful breed of German Shepherd I had to set clear boundaries and those two things are not acceptable we do not fight we do not growl, and we do not go into the street, to thus day if I throw a ball or frisbee, and it accidentally goes into a street, she will stop at the curb. She learned her lesson, we do not go into the street. Ever. She’s a very intuitive dog, and like I said I never even raise my voice to her so on those two occasions when I did she remembered and she hasn’t done it since. Not all dogs are the same, and you must have enough experience and be able to read and judge each situation independently
Glad everything worked out. I will say that growling is stigmatized. Growling is simply communication and we should take it as information rather than correcting it. However, I understand where you’re coming from as this is a commonly held belief.
@Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution I don’t think it was just communication she was showing her complete set of teeth at a human being which is not acceptable under any circumstances she was eight months old
Sounds like aversive methodes had there place. I have had similar situations with similar results.
Zac, I like how you are not averse to tackling difficult topics. I have learned a lot from your videos/app. I agree with you on this topic….especially since I am no scientist or great dog trainer! You know way more than I do about this, and I am in learning mode when I watch your videos! I do find your discussions persuasive. One thing I have not appreciated in the comments on your videos, which frustrates me, is how I’ve seen people say things like “don’t get a dog if you’re too lazy to use proper training techniques.” What I hear in that statement is “it’s better for a shelter dog to be put down than to be adopted by someone who isn’t a pro at dog training.” To those commenters I say, you are cruel and too self-important. (Of course, I’m not saying it’s better to be adopted by an abuser!) Learning more every day. Thanks, Zak!
You have already persuaded me. Your books were very enlightening. You have given me ways to interact and train without aversion
Young Marzieh sometimes attacks old Jasper. She has in the past done it over food but I have cured that by giving her bigger meals. But now she is attacking him when someone knocks at the door. I am using an “aversive” method to counteract that by making a big fuss of Jasper (while I check him for tooth marks) then I give him treats but none for Marzieh. I think it’s working. Twice today she ran to the door barking but ignored Jasper.
(Jasper has never attacked another dog and was very good at calming signals before he went deaf and nearly blind.)
Do you have data on how they are preforming this dogtraining research? How do they apply the scientific method to this? Do they have people in lab coats testing this? Who are the dogs they test on? What’s the size of the test pools? How old are the dogs and how do they test long term effect of both kind of training? Is it questions posted to dog owners? How is it done?
I hear what you say and, I get the gentle parenting, but it’s not my personality and not my way of being in this world. I don’t think it’s healthy to never be told No – for kids or dogs. My puppy mummy dog will teach her babies manners, she is not aggressive and she is not biting her kids, but she will warn them when they are overstepping and are impolite. They listen mostly first time. It is basically her stiffening up, escalated to a growl and that’s it – but they have been “told off” and corrected. You also talk about snapping the dog lead. What about when the dog runs to the end of the tether and gets yanked back by their neck? That must be very painful – how is that ok?
I’ve listed sources in the description of this video. Also, I have addressed your concerns regarding aversives in the “dog training crisis”video.
Wow, Zak this video really got through to me and I was all about that balanced lifestyle (while learning heavily toward positive only) thank you for really taking the time to nail in the idea and trying to explain it as many ways as you can. My 3 month old goldendoodle is like the talk of the town because of how well behaved she is- thanks to you and Bree ❤️
I really appreciate this feedback.
I follow both types of trainers bc I’m still trying to decide which methods to use to train my dog. Right now the non-aversive training you talk about makes more sense to me so I ordered your book and am looking forward to reading it!
I appreciate your open mind. I know dog trainers appear divided on the issue of how to train. But keep in mind that there is no controversy among veterinary behaviorists on this issue.
You’ll enjoy Zak’s book! I’ve read both and thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
There is nothing that erks me more than “allow the dogs to work it out”.
A perfect example was in my “positive” puppy class last week. The class allowed open play for way too long. My 9 week old border collie did fantastic for the first 20 minutes, playing gently with all breeds and sizes. At the 30 minute mark went way over threshold and started holding and eventually grabbing and shaking the smaller, fluffy dogs. He even had the Mal backed up in a corner! The pups tucked their tails, snapped and attempted to escape but my puppy misinterpreted this as engagement. My border collie, without a long established learning history around dog interaction, along with barely established coping mechanisms when he gets too aroused needed some extra help and guidance on when to disengage because he was too worked up to do it on his own. These appropriate interactions are learned behavior over time. I tried to intercept to give my dog a break and redirect him and the dog trainer came over and tried to tell me they “need to work it out”. By this time the other puppies were having a terrible time (while my dog was having the most reinforcing experience in his whole life, he was having a blast!) my little pup was twice the size of these toy breed puppies and could have potentially injured these dogs. I did not allow my puppy to continue play until he was calm again and afterward he played beautifully after some work on settling and calm training on his mat. If had not intervened not only would these puppies be more likely to have fear or aggression issues with other dogs later because of their early adverse experience with my overboard collie, but would also teach my dog to be less likely to disengage in the future when he gets too excitable. I couldn’t believe the ignorance and risk the trainer was taking.
Honestly I think I leaned a little more towards try and show them by their language but something that always bugged me with that is… we are HUMANS and they are dogs. So I didn’t think it would translate well. After this video I definitely agree with what you are saying. Positive reinforcement 100% for here on out.
Hey Zak! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these videos you have been making recently. I am just getting started in my career as a dog trainer, and I have a 9 month old terrier puppy. There are not many positive trainers in my area, and many of my fellow trainers see my commitment to force free as a sign of nativity and inexperience on my part. I watched your live stream where you emphasized over and over that it’s not about your skill as a trainer, it’s about how the science and the research speaks for itself. Thanks for being someone that dog parents and young trainers can look to for guidance!
Actually, I think it takes more skill (not less) to use positive methods to train dogs. Good luck with your career!
You are right on. It takes two or three years years to properly train a dog. Most people want instant results. Positive reinforcement takes time and doesn’t always feel like progress is being made. However, if they focus on the the small incremental progress their dog is making rather than where they want their dog to be in its trading they would realize positive reinforcement is far more effective. Keep up the good work.
It’s a good point. While aversives create the illusion of a immediate compliance, what is not immediately apparent to the average Joe are the other issues that are likely to pop up later on that are not obviously connected to aversion in training.
This is why I try to teach my dog that she doesn’t need to be aggressive if she’s in an uncomfortable situation. Just come to me, and I’ll fix it for you. I’ll block the other dog, or we just leave. Very good video again, Zak! Keep up the good work! This issue needs more attention!
How are you trying to teach her not to be aggressive? In some ways you’re reinforcing her aggression (you leave–that makes the scary thing go away–in her mind, her aggression works because it made the scary thing go away). Begin by backing way up to a point where your dog doesn’t react to the stimulus that makes her uncomfortable. Reinforce her for calm behavior. Take a step forward. Is she still calm? If so, reinforce her calm behavior. Maybe ask her to do something like “sit” or “watch me”. Reinforce liberally with treats and praise. If you take a step forward and she reacts in a manner you find objectionable, you’ve gotten too close too quickly. Try taking half a step forward. I’ve had some rescues where we had to start with the scary thing out of sight–the dog could smell the thing (a dog, a person, etc.), but couldn’t see the thing. Just work slowly. If you are out and suddenly something the dog is scared of appears, by all means, leave the situation–try to leave before your dog reacts (otherwise, you’re reinforcing the behavior you don’t like). Don’t make her “face her fears”. That’s called “flooding” and it is considered unethical by many. It often doesn’t work.
@Jan Hankins you can’t always control everything. Sometimes a dog seems nice and then she doesn’t like them anymore. I want her to know that she can just leave the situation rather than “fixing” it. Flooding is just awful, poor dogs who have to go through that. I’ve been into training dogs for 14 years (started when I was 13), always positive and little baby steps, and it takes a bit longer sometimes, but it works so much better!
Great video Zak! Unfortunately, we also live in a human society that constantly practices punishment as a means for “correcting” behavior (i.e., detention, time outs, spanking, etc..). As humans we don’t practice a lot positive reinforcement amongst ourselves. I use positive reinforcement with my dog and two small children. Using positive reinforcement is hard because you need to be intentional in your actions and communication. It forces you to reflect about how we learn. Keep the videos coming!
I don’t think many positive trainers would say you can’t use negative punishment (such as time outs). You shouldn’t rely on it as your main method of changing behavior, but you can use it. I think the issue with many positive trainers is positive punishment (the spanking, hitting with a rolled up newspaper, etc.). For example, my puppy thinks he should be first to get treats, he should get all the treats, etc. when I’m working with all three dogs. He has to learn that he isn’t always first and he doesn’t get them all. If I have him on a down stay and work with one of the other dogs and he breaks the down stay (running over for a treat or for my attention) he is “corrected” by going back into the down-stay and not getting a treat. That’s negative punishment. If he breaks his down stay, I physically lead him back to the place he was supposed to stay (I don’t drag him back, I just have him follow me back), tell him down/stay again and don’t give him a treat. When he stays for 3 seconds he gets a treat. I’ll work on making that a longer time, but we’ve just started him working with the other two dogs. So small baby steps. I can’t expect him to lay there and watch me with the other dogs for 5 minutes–first because of his age (he’s only 5 months old) and second because we’ve just begun working with other dogs present.
I agree that 100% force-free training is the by far the best way to train a dog, but I think it’s not fair to look at force-free vs balanced as black and white. Just like dog reactivity, balanced training is on a spectrum. Sometimes (in my case) force-free training requires time and resources that some people just don’t not have. However, that doesn’t mean I solely rely on aversives in my balanced training. I try to use positive reinforcement at least 95% of the time, while I use tools like slip leads and e-collars (for off leash work) for emergency situations. I don’t think it’s healthy to make this a “me versus them” issue by outright demonizing their methods but rather encourage people to move closer to force-free.
I love your channel though and always try and take what you teach back to my dog!
No intention of being divisive. I find it vital that the public understands the side effects that go along with using aversions in training. They are not necessary. They have been shown to carry with them welfare concerns. Every veterinary behavioral institution I am aware of states this. So it’s not an “us versus them” thing. It’s a science versus a non-science argument. However, I definitely agree that tailored approaches are required for every individual dog and that every dog is different. I find it helpful to use management when we temporally run out of ideas as to how to curve a non-desired behavior. Usually by managing and taking a step back we can come to a thoughtful solution that does not require the use of aversions. While immediate compliance is a property of aversions, there is a wealth of data showing us the side effects that are likely to pop up later on in ways that are not immediately obviously connected to prior aversions further adding confusion to this topic unfortunately.
Thank you so much for doing your part to set the record straight and advocate for humane treatment of dogs. I love your videos and I thank you for the work you do. <3
Listen, when humans can wag their tails and raise their hackles, I’ll start to believe that we can correct dogs in their own language.
PS I know she wasn’t in this video but I’ve been loving how present Bree is on the channel lately!
My first argument against using a mother dog’s method of correction is that we aren’t the dog’s mother dog. And the dog is smart enough to know we aren’t their mother. In addition, when we try to imitate what another dog does, our imitation is often quite poor and sloppy and doesn’t come close to what the other dog actually does. My second argument against this is just what Zak said. These interactions very, very, very seldom result in physical harm or pain to the dog who is on the receiving end. Our use of aversives is often painful and can result in physical harm to the dog (choke chains can result in tracheal collapse, shock collars can result in burns, prong collars can result in scratches to the skin, etc.). Whenever I find that positive training isn’t “working”, I find that if I go back and look at my training plan, I’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way. I made a step too big, I’m not communicating what I want clearly, I’m being impatient and not giving the dog enough time to work it out, etc. I’m not a professional trainer, so maybe I’m the only one here that goes back and realizes I’ve made a mistake. Or perhaps I’ve miscalculated the dog I’m dealing with. As I said before, what is aversive to one dog may or may not be aversive to another (just as what is reinforcing to one dog isn’t necessarily reinforcing to another–example, I was attending a puppy class where one of the puppies was not food motivated. What motivated this little guy was little wads of toilet paper. Whatever floats your boat, I guess). I may be used to a bold dog, a confident dog and can speak firmly. Then I come across a fearful dog and that doesn’t work–I end up scaring the dog, making the dog anxious, and removing the trust I’ve managed to gain from the dog. And how many of you actually sit down and write down a training plan–even you professional trainers? I thought a Functional Behavior Assessment was the norm among dog trainers. You figure out the “ABC” of the behavior. What’s the antecedent (what “triggers” the behavior?); what, exactly, is the behavior of interest (not “the dog is aggressive” but “the dog barks, lunges, and snaps at large dogs when comes close to them when out? Once you know that, you can figure out how to change the behavior. A written plan–one that may have to be changed as you go along. You may have to take smaller steps, you may be able to take bigger steps than you anticipated. But often the plan needs to be modified. If you aren’t willing to admit (even to yourself) that, perhaps, you made an error and you may need to modify your plan (if indeed you bothered to make one), then you should probably rethink your decision to work with animals. Your inability to look at your own actions may be causing harm to the animal.
This is such an interesting discussion/research topic! I’ve heard this as the case for prong collars not being “that bad” and, as you mentioned, leash corrections. It’s a bit baffling to me that a lot of people will only take the extreme, physically aversive aspects of dog communication into account and not try to learn about more subtle communication behaviors that are always happening between dogs.