This GM-News edition examines four aspects of Canine Behaviour: Zoomies, Sniffing, Humping and Wagging, plus the role of emotion in behaviour. Enjoy!
Amanda, David, Rodna and Ruth
Gentle Modern School of Dog Training
Did you know . . . ?
The Zoomies are actually Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs)
Both cats and dogs are subject to FRAPs.
Little research has been done on the behaviour, but it's healthy and normal (and pretty joyful!).
Top Tip - Can you change your dog's emotion from negative to positive and influence behaviour?
"Don’t project your own emotions or intentions on the animal, but observe closely and think “is there an emotional state that could be involved in producing this behaviour?” "
Example: A behaviour that we find annoying - scratching at the door - could be the result of distress at being separated, or it could be boredom (etc.). If one of the following actions minimises door scratching, you might identify boredom as the main cause
a walk before going outside
a food scatter outside
a food puzzle toy
a special toy for independent play only available when outside alone
If you observe pacing or howling and a failure to eat even preferred foods left outside, the emotion could be separation distress. Your behaviour analysis and experimentation will make all the difference to the effectiveness of your strategies to address behaviour.
Sniffing - A Way of Being
I'm sure you've heard people say a dog is a four-legged nose. Dogs get enormous benefit from exploring their environment by sniffing. It's a huge part of how canines engage with the world. Sniffing is both relaxing and mentally stimulating for a dog. It is sort of like a creative hobby might be for us – our brain is happily whirring away whilst we are doing it.
Laura Donaldson is a certified dog behaviour consultant and trainer. Earlier this year, Laura was interviewed for the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy podcast, "Stop and Smell the Pee Mail" (audio and transcript available). Laura describes how she came to acknowledge and understand the critical importance of allowing and facilitating time just spent sniffing out and about.
"dogs who [can] spend 15 minutes sniffing one blade of grass, . . . And for an inpatient person, that is excruciating, right? . . . I could see that my dog was getting enormous pleasure from this . . . he was totally engaged in it. And so I decided, okay . . . I'm gonna have to change me. . . . this is a partnership. He loves to do this. I am gonna need to change the way I view it, how I enable it, how I think about it.
So I just decided to turn every sniffing opportunity on the walk into a mindfulness opportunity for me. And that led to such wonderful changes . . . in my relationship with my dog. Because we were no longer struggling. I was no longer showing him my watch and saying, okay, you sniff for 30 seconds, let's get going. No. And from there I was developing my slow thinking program, which emphasizes social processing and sniffing is the preeminent basic way that dogs process social information from their environments. And that is just a basic reality of canine life."
A wide-ranging overview of the humping behaviour may be found in How to Stop Dog Humping by Pat Miller, Whole Dog Journal
"Like many canine behaviors that we humans find annoying, inconvenient, or embarrassing, dog humping is perfectly normal behavior. And like other such annoying, inconvenient, and embarrassing behaviors, it’s perfectly reasonable for us to ask our dogs to stop, or to at least reserve the behavior for times or places that are considered more appropriate by the human family members."
So why do dogs hump?
Reproduction (Neutered dogs may still hump, but the behaviour generally diminishes.)
Medical causes - e.g. urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and allergies that cause itching of sensitive body parts.
Attention seeking - scolding, laughing, it's all attention!
Pat considers strategies for dog-to-dog mounting and dog-human mounting: "Be ready to intervene if you see the beginning signs of mounting behavior in your dog. This usually occurs as play escalates and arousal increases. . . . try subtle body-blocking. Every time your dog approaches . . . with obvious mounting body postures, step calmly in front of your dog to block him."
Identify the causes of humping for your dog and respond as appropriate
Address the causes of stress and anxiety
Intervene and move your dog away to give some quiet time to lower excitement
Visit the Vet
Respond in a low-key way to redirect your dog ("sit", "come", "fetch", etc.)
Seek help if the behaviour seems compulsive or your redirection results in aggression
Body Language - Tail Wagging
It's a common misconception that a wagging tail indicates a friendly dog but tail position and wagging speed convey a range of emotions. Check out Interpreting Tail Wags in Dogs by Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM