Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Disagreeable people prefer aggressive dogs, study suggests

Aggressive dog ownership is not always a sign of attempted dominance or actual delinquency. A new study finds that younger people who are disagreeable are more likely to prefer aggressive dogs, confirming the conventional wisdom that dogs match the personality of their owners.

Photo By Tim Hart Next Level Photography

Researchers found that low Agreeableness was the best predictor of a preference for those dogs seen as more aggressive, such as bull terriers or boxers. Individuals low in Agreeableness are typically less concerned with others' well-being and may be suspicious, unfriendly and competitive.

However, the study found no link between liking an aggressive dog and delinquent behaviour, or the possibility that liking an aggressive dog is an act of 'status display' to show off or attract romantic partners.

Dr Vincent Egan, lead researcher on the study, said: "This type of study is important, as it shows assumptions are not the whole picture. It is assumed owners of aggressive dogs (or dogs perceived as aggressive) are antisocial show-offs. But we did not find persons who expressed a preference for aggressive dogs had committed more delinquent acts, or reported showing off more.

"However, we did find a preference for a dog with an aggressive reputation was related to being younger and being lower in Agreeableness (i.e., being less concerned with the needs of others, and being quicker to become hostile)."

The study looked at the reasons why some people prefer aggressive dog breeds. Professor Egan explained :

"A lot of human behaviour involves status display and dominance, and evolutionarily this helps with finding mates. Basic personality also influences a lot of our behaviour. By measuring both at the same time, we could see whether they each had an influence on liking aggressive dogs, or whether one was due to another.

"We were surprised mating effort did not have an influence here, but think it might be because we looked at a wider age range. A preference for a non-aggressive dog may also make a statement about a person; liking a pedigree Labrador or a clipped Poodle may be as much a statement as having a pit-bull with a studded collar."

In the study, participants indicated their preference for different types of dogs, and filled in personality tests. The dogs were independently rated according to how aggressive people perceived them to be. Bull terriers were rated as most aggressive, followed by boxers; retrievers and cocker spaniels were seen as least aggressive.

Analysing the findings, the research team found that certain personality factors indicated a preference for dogs perceived to be more aggressive. Low agreeableness and higher conscientiousness were related to a preference for aggressive dog breeds. Younger people were also more likely to prefer the aggressive breeds.

Surprisingly, the results indicated a small effect suggesting that those who liked aggressive dogs showed signs of conscientiousness - being careful, reliable and thoughtful about their actions. This contradicts the perception that owners of aggressive dogs are always irresponsible.

Dr Egan said: "These results with conscientiousness were unexpected, but the effect is a small one, and needs to be repeated in a different group of people. Studies of this kind tend to only look at a restricted age ranges, which may exaggerate findings which do not occur across the entire lifespan, so we believe a stereotype is always true, whereas it may only be true under certain conditions. Our study employed a broader age range.

"We were surprised to find a small association between a preference for aggressive dogs and greater Conscientiousness (i.e., valuing and following rules). However, dogs also prefer rules and firm boundaries themselves. We speculate that cheap dog-training classes would be enjoyable and beneficial for both dog and owner."

The findings were published in the journal Anthrozoos.

Source : The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

DNA studies reveal that shelter workers often mislabel dogs as 'pit bulls'

DNA results show that shelter workers are often mistaken when they label a dog as a pit bull, with potentially devastating consequences for the dogs, a new study has found.

“Animal shelter staff and veterinarians are frequently expected to guess the breed of dogs based on appearance alone,” said Julie Levy, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor of shelter medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the lead author of a study published recently in The Veterinary Journal.

“Unlike many other things people can’t quite define but ‘know when they see it,’ identification of dogs as pit bulls can trigger an array of negative consequences, from the loss of housing, to being seized by animal control, to the taking of the dog’s life,” she said. “In the high-stakes world of animal shelters, a dog’s life might depend on a potential adopter’s momentary glimpse and assumptions about its suitability as a pet. If the shelter staff has labeled the dog as a pit bull, its chances for adoption automatically go down in many shelters.”

Dr. Julie Levy holds a dog currently up for adoption at the Alachua County Animal Services facility in Gainesville.

The past few decades have brought an increase in ownership restrictions on breeds including pit bulls and dogs that resemble them. The restrictions are based on assumptions that certain breeds are inherently dangerous, that such dogs can be reliably identified and that the restrictions will improve public safety, the study states.

The study focused on how accurately shelter staff identified dogs believed to be pit bulls. ‘Pit bull’ is not a recognized breed, but a term applied to dogs derived from the heritage breeds American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier. The purebred American pit bull terrier is also derived from these breeds and is often included in the loose definition of ‘pit bull.’

The research team evaluated breed assessments of 120 dogs made by 16 shelter staff members, including four veterinarians, at four shelters. These staff members all had at least three years of experience working in a shelter environment. The researchers then took blood samples from the dogs, developed DNA profiles for each animal and compared the DNA findings against the staff’s initial assessments.

“We found that different shelter staffers who evaluated the same dogs at the same time had only a moderate level of agreement among themselves,” Levy said. Results of the study also showed that while limitations in available DNA profiles make absolute breed identification problematic, when visual identification was compared with DNA test results, the assessors in the study fared even worse.

Dogs with pit bull heritage breed DNA were identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time, depending on which of the staff members was judging them. Conversely, dogs lacking any genetic evidence of relevant breeds were labeled as pit bull-type dogs from 0 to 48 percent of the time, the researchers reported.

“Essentially we found that the marked lack of agreement observed among shelter staff members in categorizing the breeds of shelter dogs illustrates that reliable inclusion or exclusion of dogs as ‘pit bulls’ is not possible, even by experts,” Levy said. “These results raise difficult questions because shelter workers and veterinarians are expected to determine the breeds of dogs in their facilities on a daily basis.

Additionally, they are often called on as experts as to whether a dog’s breed will trigger confiscation or regulatory action. The stakes for these dogs and their owners are in many cases very high.” Dog breeds contain many genetic traits and variants, and the behavior of any individual dog is impossible to predict based on possible combinations.

“A dog’s physical appearance cannot tell observers anything about its behavior. Even dogs of similar appearance and the same breed often have diverse behavioral traits in the same way that human siblings often have very different personalities,”Levy said.

Even though most pet dogs are of unknown mixed breeds, there is a natural inclination among pet owners to speculate on what their dog’s breed heritage might be, the authors said.

“This has fueled an entire industry of pet dog DNA analysis,” Levy said. “These tests are fun, but they won’t help predict behavior or health traits. Shelters and veterinary clinics are better off entering ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’ in their records unless the actual pedigrees are available.”

As for legal restrictions on dogs based on their appearance, Levy said public safety would be better served by reducing risk factors for dog bites, such as supervising children, recognizing canine body language, avoiding an unfamiliar dog in its territory, neutering dogs and raising puppies to be social companions.

The study was funded by Maddie’s Fund and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program and was co-authored by UF veterinary medical student Kimberly Olson and Bo Norby, C.V.M., Ph.D., of Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Also contributing to the research were Michael Crandall, of UF; Jennifer Broadhurst, D.V.M., of the Jacksonville Humane Society; Stephanie Jacks, D.V.M., of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services; Rachel Barton, D.V.M., of Tallahassee Animal Services; and Martha Zimmerman, D.V.M., of Marion County Animal Services.

Source : University of Florida.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Cesar Millan Will Not Train My Dog

Dog Training

I find that there are many different methods of dog training and there are some methods that work better than others, all of which depend on the individual dog and the dog owner. I have found that some dogs work wonders with clicker training, but others just can't get the grasp of it even with a super slow introduction. 

When training dogs, it's best to find a training method that works for each dog not use the same method for all dogs. 

People do not all learn the same, and neither do animals, so you have to find the right method for training your dog that works for both you and the dog.

As for Cesar Millan, I will admit at first I was amazed by the stories that I had heard, so I had to get his books. The books are good and have good tips in them, but at the same time there are many flaws in Cesar's way of training. 

His dog training methods are very outdated, and there are a number of more effective means of training a dog. Now, I will admit that if done correctly under the supervision of a well qualified dog behaviorist, Cesar's dog training methods can be proven effective at re-training bad behaviors, but the average dog owner is generally not able to carry out these techniques without flaws. 

Personally, I love my dogs too much to listen to Cesar Millan's way of training. I will not use adverse training on my dogs by any means. Positive reinforcement is a much more efficient and reliable way to train a dog, and to the dog it is a much more fun way to train. And, there are more than one ways to skin a cat, meaning there are more than one way to positively train your dog. 

Generally, you will find that adversive dog training is focused around fear and intimidation, and if you ask the top behaviorists, veterinarians, and specialists, you'll find that they will generally all agree that there are better means of training than negative dog training.

Cesar Millan Dog Training Methods

Cesar Millan uses more negative training than anything else, which is the old school method of animal training. You'll find the Cesar is known for his aversive training techniques, using flooding and punishment, which lead to more temporary behavior changes versus a permanent change. 

You'll should note that Cesar Millan is known for using assertive touch, leash correction, alpha rolls, and energy draining exercises, as a form of dog training. He has been criticized greatly for his use of dominant and aggressive training techniques. Cesar has used choke collar and pinch collars on dogs with severe fears, and he has forcefully confronted aggressive dogs ; both of these acts can potentially enhance the fear or aggression in the dog. 

His show has even been threatened to cease airing by the American Humane Association because of his forceful training techniques. "The Dog Whisperer" is a mediocre show for adults to watch, and while Cesar Millan is attempting to give you tips at training your dog his way, he is also telling children, and adults, that it is ok to try these tactics with their own dog, potentially leading unsafe situations that they are not prepared to handle. I.E. never use punishment or correction on a dog who is already scared because fearful dogs have a high risk of biting. 

Even if Cesar flat out says, "Do not try these methods without a professional," people will still try them on their own. In a way, he does give his disclaimer notice, but that is not enough to stop anyone from forcefully alpha rolling their dog or running their young pup on a dog treadmill for an hour or more.

Cesar Millan Aversive Training Techniques

Remember that aversive training is not a permanent and long-term solution for dog training. You will find that punishment-style training is a temporary fix of a solution. The dog will eventually find means to continue the behavior; he will just find a different method of doing so, in order not to get caught.

Assertive Touch : 

Essentially, this is what it is, assertively, and many times aggressively, touching and manually maneuvering the dog. Typically, this tactic is used to re-focus a dog from his target to you at the moment he starts to show interest, but in most cases it is a matter of timing in order to catch the dog before you lose control of him.

There are many different solutions to re-directing your dog's attention, and properly training him not to be aggressive or overly excited to whatever object he is prone to showing extreme emotion toward. Most other methods are more effective long-term. 

Generally, you'll find that assertive touch can cause a dog to lose trust in you and potentially develop other behavioral concerns, especially if you do not time it properly or if your touch is too assertive for the particular behavior (IE the punishment must equal the bad behavior).

Leash Jerks :

Again, just like it sounds, you are giving a quick snap of the leash as soon as the dog shows signs of bad behavior. This is a very hard tactic to learn, and the average pet owner will more than likely not be successful with it, since there is an exact moment to which the leash jerk is actually effective and at any other moment it will not work. You must use the proper amount of force at the proper angle in order to even do any good. Overall, leash jerks can cause your dog to lose trust in you, as well as develop other behavioral problems.

Alpha Rolls :

Who's doing the alpha roll here?
Alpha rolls are a common aversive tactic that is supposed to show submission of the dog and your dominance over him. Well, when performed by the average pet owner, it can cause detachment and an increase of bad behaviors and canine dominance. You can cause your dog to lose trust in you if you overuse and abuse alpha roll overs.

Alpha rolls should onlybe used by very experienced dog trainers and typically only as a last resort. Cesar Millan has popularized this tactic without telling anyone of the potential side effects; he basically says any time your dog misbehaves, even for a minor offense, roll him. Alpha rolls can emphasize violence with your violence tot he dog; you may cause physical and mental damage to the dog.

Alpha rolls can be very dangerous if you do them at the wrong time and on the wrong dog. You can see additional behavioral problems than what initially started. You may even see that your dog skips the natural dog behaviors that you've been punishing him for (IE alpha roll him for growling, and he may just skip to biting without the warning).

Aversive Tactics that Increase Agression

- Hitting or kicking the dog- increases in 41% of dogs 
- Growling at the dog- 41% 
- Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth- 38% 
- Alpha roll (force dog on its back) - 31% 
- Dominance down (force the dog on its side)- 29% 
- Grabbing the jowls or scruff- 26% 
- Staring the dog down until it looks away- 30% 
- Spraying the dog with spray bottle- 20% 
- Yelling “no”- 15% 
- Forced exposure/ flooding techniques - 12%

Positive counterpart that may lead to aggression:

- Exchange an item for an item that's in his mouth instead of forcing the item out- 6% 
- Training the dog to sit for everything it wants- 2% 
- Rewarding the dog for eye contact- 2% Reward the dog for “watch me”- 0%