CAN WE TALK ABOUT GUILTY DOGS FOR A MINUTE?!
YouTube is full of ‘funny’ videos of guilty dogs. Full of them! It’s like people can’t get enough of dogs appearing to feel remorseful for a behaviour they carried out earlier in the day.
While I am NOT judging people for finding these videos funny when they don’t fully understand them, I AM here to explain these videos from the dogs point of view.
First and foremost, here comes one of the MOST important pieces of information that ALL dog owners need to know, but don’t. The THREE SECOND RULE.
There have been studies investigating how much time can pass between a dog doing a behaviour and the consequence of that behaviour occurring. We need to know this to know how to help dogs learn.
The studies have found that if the dog begins a behaviour and the instant they do it, a consequence happens then there is 100% association between ‘I put bum on floor so I got a treat’.
If the dog carries out a behaviour and 1 second later the consequence occurs there is a 60% association, “I put my bum on the floor and I think I got a treat for it”.
If the dog carries out a behaviour and 2 seconds later the consequence occurs there is 20% association “I think I might have gotten a treat for putting my bum on the floor”.
If the dog carried out a behaviour and 3 or more seconds later the consequence occurs there is NO association. “Hey, I just got a free treat!!”.
So, back to the videos. These videos of guilty dogs occur sometime after the behaviour. The owner returns home, dog says hi, then all of a sudden mum or dad has turned in to a scary monster for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.
The behaviours they carry out, explained below, do not show guilt, but instead are the dogs attempt to say ‘please don’t hurt me’. The dog is learning that the human is completely unpredictable, will sometimes turn and behave in a threatening manner, and cannot be fully trusted.
Besides the fact that this is extremely unfair on the dog (look at the below video and imagine that is a three year old child showing the behaviours the dog shows), the human safety element needs to be remembered too. As the dog begins to learn that the human can be a scary threat we are increasing the possibility that the dog will be pushed too far and may bite. Their trust in the humans ability to protect them is damaged and the dog may learn to rely on themselves for protection.
Also, the dog may be intimidated by the adult and decide I cannot fight back because they are big and scary. However, the child in the home may watch mum and dad do this to their dog, then copy the behaviour. As the dog is less likely to be intimidated by the child they may return the challenge and again, a bite could occur.
Have a read of the below explanations of the dogs communication and please take a moment to think about what the dog is learning in these videos – also – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME ;)
Head Turn – dog turns head away from stimulus it does not want to interact with – “I don’t see you”
Check In – Dog looks to the person with the camera for assistance. As dogs are an almost ‘manmade’ species they will look to humans for assistance when needed (hand reared wolves won’t)
Moon Crested Eyes – the whites of the dogs eyes are visible. This is a side effect of when dogs are in a heightened state. In this video it is likely to be due to attempting to turn its head away from the thing it is scared of (lady) while also trying to watch her actions in case she ‘attacks’.
Facial Tension – You can see that the muscles in the dogs head and face are tight, seen when dogs are stressed
Ears Back – Ears pinned back are a sign of avoidance and also a sign that they do not want to challenge or fight (often you will see ears back in a greeting too so the dog can communicate ‘hi, I’m not a threat’). In stressful experiences you will see ears back to show non challenging signals and also to listen for any potential additional threats approaching from behind.
Head lowered when turning toward lady. Attempting to appear small and vulnerable – “Please don’t hurt me”
Slow Movement. Dogs will do this when they want to be ‘invisible’ and not draw attention to themselves.
Tail Tuck. This dogs tail is not fully tucked, but hangs lower than normal carriage. This is a defensive sign, showing that the dog feels vulnerable.
Vigilance. The dog remains vigilant of the bread handler after it enters the bed – the dog will continue to watch anything that they perceive as a threat.
Gutted to hear that it is now assumed that Finn (Bring Finn Home) was shot by a farmer soon after he went missing.
This is devastating for his family.
It is vital to clarify the legislation here. Despite what people say it is NOT LEGAL for a farmer to shoot a dog, whether or not it is worrying livestock.
The legislation states that if a dog is worrying stock then the LEGAL option is to seize the dog and bring it to the guards / the guards can seize the dog.
The legislation states that if you ILLEGALLY shoot a dog then you can use the fact that the dog was worrying livestock as part of your defence.
However, the life of the livestock is equally as important as the dog, and if the dog is in fact a danger to the livestock and the farmer cannot safely seize the dog then I can see why they may see no option other than shooting the dog.
Perhaps a solution here may be rubber bullets for farmers?
The only solution is responsible ownership, not letting your dog off leash around livestock, ensuring your dog is secure and cannot escape (particularly if living near livestock) and, if you think your dog may be around livestock then it is VITAL to work on DESENSITISATION EXERCISES so that your dog has no desire to chase the livestock.
This video may help with teaching your dog to ignore livestock.
My thoughts go out to Finn's family.
Are you using the right dog trainer?
I had a client recently who had adopted a dog. The dog had seen a trainer pre-adoption, and to find out as much as I could about the trainer I asked about what kind of trainer, and what methods were used.
His response was 'a dog trainer, sure aren't all trainers the same?'.
This is an assumption that many have, and it's assumed that if someone is advertising as a dog trainer they must be skilled and qualified.
This sadly is not the case. Dog trainers vary to such extremes that in far too many cases dogs that come to me after seeing a trainer are in a much worse situation than they would be if they had never seen that trainer.
If you are handing over hard earned money, and putting your precious dog in the hands of another, then you need to be 100% sure that this is the right dog trainer.
Decent qualifications are essential.
Many have been 'working with dogs all their lives'. Unfortunately this is the response that scares me the most. Not always, but in most cases, this line is a clear indication that this trainer has not been paying attention to the gigantic leaps forward the dog behaviour industry has made in recent decades thanks to the dedication of many behavioural researchers. Dog trainers with qualifications who continue to upskill, attend seminars, and read up on new research are likely to be following the most up to date methods which are the most likely to succeed.
Certification is essential.
It’s one thing thinking that you are a competent, knowledgeable dog trainer. It is another thing if an independent body stands over you and, after assessment, deem you worthy of becoming a certified member (www.apdt.ie is the only Irish certifying body in the industry. I am also a certified dog trainer with CCPDT and a certified behaviourist with IAABC and AABP).
Methods are vital.
If a dog trainer uses any of the methods in the below video, then you MUST NOT USE THEM. Dog training has advanced so much in the past several decades that no educated trainer worth their salt would dream of using any techniques that upset, frighten or hurt the dog they are working with. We don’t need to. Such methods cause more harm than good, and we have more humane ways to train.
The video mentions ‘flooding’ several times. This is exposing the dog to something above their coping threshold. The dog is often then punished, or continue to be exposed to the thing until they stop the unwanted behaviour. This often results in a dog shutting down. They still hate the thing that causes the reaction (dogs / people / traffic and so on) but they have learned that their attempts to deal with this no longer work due to the flooding, so they just shut down, do nothing, and hope that it will end soon.
This may result in the end of the unwanted behaviour, but no doubt other fallout will occur. The dog may shut down when the trainer exposes them to other dogs, but when their elderly owner attempts the same methods the dog decides that no way will they allow the flooding to occur again and so on.
The moral of this video is to open your eyes. Just because the person in a position of power says this is how to train your dog it is vitally important that the public realise that these methods are wrong, there are better, safer and more humane ways to train if you find yourself a qualified, competent trainer!
Lots to share !