Naturally Fearful Dogs

Posted by: Randi Case, DC, CCSP

Not all scared dogs are abused…

“She must have been abused,” is a comment I hear with alarming regularity. When a dog cowers and shakes or barks and growls at a person wearing a hat, it’s natural to think that the strong reaction is proof of previous harsh treatment by someone wearing a hat. It’s easy to conclude that a dog who’s scared of children was teased by the neighborhood Dennis the Menace. Similarly, it’s logical to assume that a dog would only react aversely to a broom after having had terrifying experiences with one.

Without a doubt, far too many dogs suffer abuse, but not all dogs who seem to have been abused have been treated badly. Some are fearful because they were inadequately socialized, or have a genetic tendency to be fearful, or both. As often as not, a history of abuse is not a factor.

The most common scenario that leads people to conclude that a dog has been abused is the dog who’s fine with women but scared of men. In these cases, while it’s possible that a man abused the dog, the fact that a dog is afraid of men doesn’t prove the theory. Typically, dogs who have fearful tendencies are more scared of men than of women. I’ve met hundreds of dogs who were only scared of men, but exactly two who feared women more. The fact is, dogs who are fearful have a natural propensity to be more afraid of men. Nobody knows for sure why this is, but it’s likely that men’s larger size, broader shoulders, deeper voices and facial hair make them more intimidating.

Another reason that dogs might be more afraid of men was suggested by a study reported in Current Biology,“Correlated changes in perceptions of the gender and orientation of ambiguous biological motion figures.” When motion was detected only on pointlight displays*, observers perceived an interesting difference between male and female movement. Figures considered masculine in gait seemed to be approaching, while both feminine and gender-neutral gaits were seen as heading away. Fearful dogs are typically most frightened when something scary moves toward them—no wonder they find men more alarming than women.

Scent may also be a factor. A recent experiment, “Olfactory exposure to males, including men, causes stress and related analgesia in rodents,” reported in Nature Methods, showed that mice and rats react differently to male and female experimenters because of differences in the way that they smell. That means that all studies of these rodents’ behavior may have been influenced by the gender of the people conducting the study. The test animals became highly stressed and exhibited decreased pain responses in the presence of human males; even T-shirts worn by men (but not those worn by women) caused this reaction.

The rodents were similarly stressed by odors from males of a range of species, including dogs, cats, guinea pigs and even other rodents. Males release certain pheromones in larger concentrations than females, and these fearinducing chemicals are shared among mammals, which means that dogs could also be affected by them. Scent differences could very likely affect dogs and cause them to be more frightened around men.

The assumption that fear of men indicates a history of abuse by a man is not the only one that may be erroneous. Many people are sure that dogs who react negatively to people with hats or backpacks proves past abuse by a person sporting those same objects. While again, this is possible, it’s more likely that the dog is simply unfamiliar with the objects themselves and the way that they change people’s appearance. Many react fearfully to a changed silhouette, becoming frightened, for example, by the sight of someone they know and love wearing a hat. Once the person removes the hat, the dog switches to happy greeting behavior.

Another commonly misunderstood area relates to the fear of children. Many dogs are skittish around children because of their erratic behavior, especially if they were not well socialized to them at an early age. After all, from a dog’s perspective, kids behave in peculiar and unexpected ways. They change direction suddenly, roll on the ground, move at variable speeds, make weird noises and are generally high-energy, bipedal whirling dervishes. Dogs who are naturally fearful may find excitable, loud humans in motion to be unpredictable, which is frightening. (On the flip side, there are fearful dogs who do fine with kids, but are terrified of adults. Usually, such dogs have had positive experiences with children and are used to their erratic behavior.)

If a dog’s fearfulness toward specific types of people or certain everyday items doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog has been abused, how can you tell if your dog suffered from abuse in the past? The honest answer is that— unless you have the dog’s full backstory— you can never know for certain. However, some clues may help you make an educated guess. Abuse is less likely as an explanation for a dog’s fearfulness if the dog’s reactions fit the pattern associated with dogs who are naturally fearful. The most common pattern is for such dogs to be cautious around strangers, especially men, and to be worse around tall, deep-voiced men with beards, or anyone carrying things—garden implements, brooms or mops, or a clipboard, or wearing sunglasses, a backpack or a hat. Dogs with a generally fearful approach to the world often react most vigorously when unfamiliar people approach, look directly at them, stand up from a sitting position or reach down to pet them.

If the dog has sustained multiple injuries, such as broken bones or teeth, or has scars on the face and body, abuse is more likely. Of course, those injuries could be a result of accidents, and some forms of abuse leave no scars. Still, a dog with unexplained evidence of physical trauma is more likely to have been a victim of abuse than a dog without it.

If a dog’s fear is highly specific, it is more likely to be based on trauma, which could have come in the form of abuse. So, if a dog is afraid of freckled, redheaded children with glasses in the age range of 10 to 12 years, but fine with all other kids, it’s more likely that a negative experience with a child of that description caused the fear. On the other hand, if a dog is only okay with children who are older than about 16, my bet would be that the dog lacks experience with a wide range of children and is only comfortable with children who are more adult-like in size and behavior. Similarly, if the dog is okay with men unless they are wearing loafers with a buckle, I would be inclined to suspect abuse. Specificity of fears is more likely to indicate abuse, because dogs who are generally fearful are usually set off by a wider range of triggers.

Even in the case of a specific fear, we have to be careful about assuming that abuse was the cause. For example, I had a client whose dog was fearful of and aggressive toward only one person. Sounds like that person might have beaten the dog, right? Not in this case. The man the dog was afraid of was the neighbor who had saved the dog’s life during a house fire; the wonderful man went into the house and carried the dog out before the firefighters arrived. Until then, the dog liked this man, but was terrified of him after the fire, presumably because he associated the man with the horrible experience.

While anyone who loves dogs wants to know if a particular dog has been abused, the same process is used to help a dog overcome fears of any origin. Classical conditioning, desensitization and patience will serve people and dogs equally well. It’s critical not to force a frightened dog into situations that provoke fear, but instead, to protect the dog from scary circumstances. Be gentle and kind and refrain from using punishment. Feel free to comfort any dog who is scared without worrying about the common (but misplaced) warning that this will reinforce the fear. Accept that many fearful dogs never become gregarious, go-with-the-flow types, and love them for who they are rather than who you think they should be.

Some people seem relieved when I tell them that their dog may not have been abused, while others seem disappointed to give up the “feel good” story of adopting a dog who was mistreated. I empathize with both groups.

I can understand the relief, and I can also understand how gratifying it feels to give a loving home to a dog who only knew cruelty before. And while I certainly can’t say definitively which dogs with unknown histories have been abused and which haven’t, I agree with other progressive trainers and behaviorists that abused dogs are not as common as one might think.

Many wonderful clients whose dogs are fearful and reactive have said to me, “People are going to think we’ve abused her, but I swear we’ve never hurt her.” It’s a pleasure when I can reassure them that I do believe them, and for very good reason.

Written by: Karen B. London, PhD for The Bark Magazine

Where Do Dog Breed Names Come From?

I thought this was really interesting…

What’s in a name? We’re exploring the origins and names of your favorite breeds. 

By 

posted to Blog by Randi Case, DC  CCSP

A dog breed’s name may reveal something about his origins, his intended work, or perhaps the person instrumental in developing the breed. Other times, a breed’s name is just a name… and occasionally a confusing one at that.

Australian Shepherds

For centuries, dog breeds have been named after geographical areas, the dog’s working purposes, or his appearance. For example, a Pointer points, a Shetland Sheepdog hails from the Shetland Islands, and the Curly Coated Retreiver has (surprise!): a curly coat. Other correlations between breeds and their names aren’t quite so straightforward. But what’s in a name after all. Wouldn’t a breed — by any other name, smell as sweet?

Affenpinscher: The name Affenpinscher loosely translates to Monkey Terrier. Let’s leave it up in the air if Affenpinschers look like monkeys. Suffice it to say, owners concur that the dogs are as clever and impish as monkeys.

American Eskimo Dog: Descending from European Spitz breeds, the American Eskimos Dog was developed for attractiveness and liveliness. Despite the name, the dog was not bred by northern Native Americans, but rather by German immigrants. (Maybe we Americans simply like to lay claim to lovely breeds!)

Anatolian Shepherd: The Anatolian Shepherd originated in the ancient land of Anatolia, now known as Turkey. Anatolia derives from the Greek word “anatole,” or “the East” or “sunrise.” The breed’s serious name corresponds to his serious purpose: shepherding and protecting in Anatolia. They certainly weren’t developed as a sporty playmate; their guardian/frontline defense role was critical to the survival of the shepherds, their families, and their livestock.

Australian Cattle Dog: Similarly accurately named, the ACD was developed in Australia to control cattle. The breed is sometimes referred to as a Blue (or Red) Heeler, because they move reluctant cattle by nipping at their heels, and because their coat coloring gives the overall appearance of red or blue.

Australian Shepherd: Now, just when we’re on an Australian accuracy roll, we move to the confusion. The Aussie was developed for herding livestock and all around ranch work, but not in the land down under. In fact, the Aussie is Made in America. Gobsmacked by this news? Your astonishment is justifiable. (well, history does suggest that the Australian title is connected to sheep herds brought in from Australia).

Australian Terrier: Bred to accompany Australian settlers on chores and keep their barns clear of rodents and snakes, the agile hard working Australian Terrier is both from Australia and a Terrier. So two for two with name accuracy.

Beagle: A lovable scent hound and popular companion, the Beagle’s name may derive from the French “begueule,” meaning open throat/mouth, or a Gaelic blend of the word “beag,” meaning little. Since we can’t pinpoint the exact derivation of the word Beagle, let’s talk instead about one of the world’s most famous Beagles, Snoopy. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’ Snoopy character was based on his beloved childhood dog, Spike. Now that’s a beguiling Beagle derivation tale to share.

Boston Terrier:  Often deemed the American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier was indeed bred in the stables of Boston. But he’s not in the Terrier Group, so the name Terrier is perhaps confusing. Developed from bully breeds and Terriers, the Boston Terrier is in the American Kennel Club’s Non-Sporting group. {Let’s concede the name “Boston Non Sporting” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like “Boston Terrier” does!}

Catahoula Leopard Dog: We need to wander deep into the swamps of Louisiana to track down the origins of the Catahoula Leopard Dog. If you’re looking for Leopards, though, you’re off trail. The name Catahoula itself (possibly a mispronunciation of “Couthaougoula”) – is of Choctaw Indian origin, and loosely translates to “sacred lake.” The leopard in the name refers to the color patterns. The tough and adaptable Catahoula did, however, take on large animals such as wild hogs.

Chow Chow: An ancient breed with a lion-like scowl, the Chow Chow was developed in China as an all-around working dog. Presumably sailors bringing the dogs back to England gave the breed the Chow Chow name — as slang for cargo items, including the dogs.  Other explanations concerning the possible origin of the name seem more respectful, especially for such a confident, capable, and ancient breed of dog. We may never have the mystery altogether solved.

Dalmatian: The early Dalmatian worked sentinel duty on the Dalmatia border, the area on the eastern coast of Adriatic Sea. The name Dalmatia came from an ancient people called the Dalmatae. But today the breed is typically more recognized for either his spots or for running alongside fire-equipment carriages. And I’m guessing more of us can sing some of Cruella de Ville from Disney’s 101 Dalmatians than point to the ancient Dalmatia border on a map.

Dachshund:Merging the scrappiness of terriers and the tracking skills of hound breeds, the Germans developed the Dachshund centuries ago to hunt badgers. The dog’s development may have been complicated (their long bodies aided hunting in burrows), but the Germans stuck to a simple name. The dog breed that hunted badgers was called, most appropriately, a Badger Dog (aka, a Dachshund).

Doberman Pinscher: One of only a few breeds named for a person, the Doberman was named after Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a late 19th century German tax collector bothered by robbers. Dobermann developed the breed for both protection and companionship. The second “N” got dropped along the way.

Glen of Imaal Terrier: This spunky Irish-born Terrier was developed as an all-around farm dog, ratter, and (fact or legend, it makes a great story!) a turnspit dog to keep the kitchen rotisserie turning. The breed originated in the remote Glen (valley) of Imaal in the Wicklow Mountains. The name Imaal links to an Irish dynasty, the Uí Máil, who dominated the kingship of Leinster in the 7th century — until the Uí Dunlainge toppled them. Confused by all the Uí’s? Well, they do make for fun names for the little Glen Terriers….if you can learn to pronounce them.

Great Dane: Danes as we know them today were developed in Germany to hunt boar and protect estates. Despite the name, the Great Dane wasn’t developed in Denmark. In fact, the breed name comes apparently from a French naturalist, who saw the dogs in Denmark and called them Great Danish dogs. Note that Germans today call the breed Deutsche Dogge, or “German Dog.” Sounds like the Germans are spot-on with accuracy in this case!

Irish Setter: Renowned for his brilliant red coat, the Irish Setter was certainly bred in Ireland, and undoubtedly bred as a bird dog for setting. Name correctness? Check!

Parson Russell Terrier: The Parson Russell is a fox hunting terrier, aptly named for the Rev. John Russell. Who was this sporty Parson? He was the vicar of Swimbridge in 19th century England, but he’s more famous for developing Terriers than doctrine. Whether fact or fiction, it makes a good story that his sermons were short because he was eager to head off on the day’s hunt.

Plott Hound: The German Plott family of North Carolina bred hound dogs in the mountains to hunt bear. Since the dogs were Plott’s hounds, the breed became known as the Plott Hound. Not highly original, but as direct a correlation as it gets.

Pomeranian: The Pomeranian takes its name from Pomerania, where it was believed to have been developed from larger Nordic breeds to the size recognized today. Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. To learn more about it on the web, stay clear of distracting yet delicious-sounding Pomeranian Gingerbread recipes you’ll find (and I succumbed to!).

Rhodesian Ridgeback:  Developed in South Africa to hunt and guard, the courageous Rhodesian Ridgeback was later used (yes, in Rhodesia) to harass lions out of the bush, allowing big game hunters to take aim. The Ridgeback portion of the name stems from the distinct ridge of hair that grows backward on his back.

Rottweiler: Although the breed has origins with ancient Roman drover dogs, the Rottie hails from the areas of Rottweil, Germany. Rottweilers worked as all-around farm dogs and pulled carts for farmers who couldn’t afford horses or cows. A hard-working breed with a spot-on accurate name.

Saint Bernard: An 11th century monk named Bernard de Menthon founded a hospice in the Alps. The monks developed the Saint Bernard dogs in later centuries from local alpine mastiffs to work as watch and rescue dogs. As for the famous depiction of the dogs carrying casks of brandy….well, it may well be a creation of literature and art, but the image is too wonderful to toss out lightly.

Tosa Inu: So now we head to Japan to decipher the breed name Tosa Inu. Let’s start with the easy part: Inu means dog. Now pull out a map. Tosa is the name of the prefecture (state) on the smallest of Japanese islands, Shikoku. The Tosa, revered in Japan, has been around for many centuries. Plus he’s a dog with a history of strength, cultural ritual, and athleticism – loosely a parallel wrestling dog (complete with processions) to Japanese sumo wrestlers.

Xoloitzcuintli: An ancient Mexican breed, the revered Xoloitzcuintli chose their own unpronounceable name to keep humans humble. An alternative explanation is that they were named after an Aztec god associated with fire, lighting, and illness. Either way, the breed arguably wins for the most misspelled and hard-to-say dog name.

That Digging Dog…

Dealing With a Dog that Digs
Written on 06/27/2014 by Brandy Arnold in Behavior Mod.

Posted by: Randi Case, DC, CCSP

Some dogs seem to just enjoy getting down and dirty by non-stop digging. Meanwhile, their owners are helpless as they watch their yard turn into a minefield. The solution for this unwarranted dog behavior depends on the reason behind why your dog scoops up soil in the first

Causative Factors

A lot of dogs dig relentlessly because of numerous factors. First is due to their strong urge to find comfort during hot days. By digging up into the moist soil and lying there, they get to provide themselves summer relief. Some dig because they are preying on small animals or following the odor of buried food. Other breeds dig just for the fun of it, to escape, or due to boredom or frustration.

How to Discourage Digging

1. If your dog digs because he is looking for a cool spot to nest, give him a sand pit or a small children’s pool somewhere in a shady area. Alternatively, you can provide a shelter under a deck or in an insulated doghouse for use during hot days. Do not forget that all outdoor dogs have to gain access to shade as well as water all the time. Of course, most of us prefer to keep our dogs indoors, with us, where there’s no risk of overheating and lots of snuggle-time.

2. If your dog digs because she wants to escape from the yard, find out why she is so eager to leave. If she is leaving to look for a mate, spaying or neutering may be considered. If she is leaving to raid the garbage can next door, give your neighbor a garbage receptacle that is dog-proof. If your well-meaning neighbor feeds your dog, ask him to stop.

3. Pay attention to improving your containment structure. Adding a fence that extends far beneath the ground level could be the only way you can contain your skillful escape artist.

4. If your dog digs just to have fun, try to show him some other ways to play. Give your dog plenty of exercise to keep him busy at the same time mentally stimulated. Play “fetch” with him, or chase each other around the yard! Playing with your dog will not only give him an outlet for his pent-up energy, but the pair of you will bond as well.

5. Now, if there is one specific spot that your dog loves to dig, temporarily cover the area with wood or plastic. You may also change the soil texture such as by pouring water, putting large stones, or planting grasses in it as these could put off the undesirable behavior. Some folks swear by burying the dog’s own poop in that spot they like to dig, to prevent them from returning. (While this might work great, consider first that your dog might venture off for a new spot to dig once he’s no longer interested in this one… maybe having him dig only in one little area isn’t so bad after all!)

6. Finally, you may consider providing a special area in the yard where your dog can dig freely. Teach him that one particular spot is acceptable to dig, but definitely not in the rest of the yard. Well-placed or buried treats would greatly help in directing your pet to dig only in a suitable area. If digging up your landscaping is a problem, consider adding a doggy sandbox, just for Fido.

Got Food?

by Randi Case (originally published on mendhamchester-online.com)

One thing that dogs are good at is sniffing out a good meal.  Often, however, that meal is the sandwich that is sitting on the counter or the leftovers on the dinner table.  Eating “scraps” is a bad habit that is all too common.  Here are a few tips to keep the paws on the floor and off the counters…

First, “exercise is a ‘quick fix’ for many annoying dog habits”, says Justine Shuurman, owner of The Family Dog.  She recommends twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a day “until his tongue is hanging out of the side of his mouth.”  This will leave the dog tired and less likely to look for mischief in the kitchen.

Second, don’t give him the opportunity to find anything yummy where he snoops.  If the dog is rewarded by a tasty morsel, he’ll be back for more.  Best practice, Justine recommends, “If the food is THERE, the dog is AWAY.  If the food is AWAY, the dog can be THERE.”

Third, have the dog work for their food.  Pet stores often have ‘Dog Puzzles’ that keep the dogs engaged.  A kong, a kibble nibble, or a tug-a-jug give the dog a mission.  Dogs love this!  It also tires them out.

Finally, if you have a persistent pincher with years of food hijacking, it may be time to call in a PRO.  Go to the CCPT.ORG website to find a certified dog trainer near you.  Persistence, consistency, and a good trainer will help both you and your dog live happy, healthy lives…  Woof!