The Senses and Behavior Problems for dogs

Dogs broblems

       Most people are aware that their dogs’ senses of hearing and smell are keener than those of humans. Not as commonly understood, though, is the dog’s deficiencies in some sensory processes. Whether this leads to problems often depends on the way people interact with the dog. The following information helps explain many canine behaviorisms, and canine reactions that owners don’t understand and/or respond to inappropriately, which create problems or diminish the positive quality of their relationships. When the way these facts pertain to their problem are appreciated, ownerattitudes and behavior can change dramatically for the better.  

       Visual Perception :

Dogs broblems

       Dogs don’t recognize details within an outline, such as noses, eyes, etc., on a human face, but are fairly keen at perceiving outlines. In a Pavlovian experiment they were trained to discriminate between perfect circles and egg-shaped outlines. They performed nicely.⁴ But, when the ellipse was gradually rounded until it was 8/9ths of a circle, the dogs failed to recognize the difference, a task most people perceive easily. If repeatedly asked to do this, the dog lost all its previously learned responses, even to the big differences between circles and ellipses. Many dogs became neurotic and had to be retired to kennels for a rehabilitation program of rest. This experiment shows the dog’s extreme sensitivity to visually perceived stimuli when they suddenly produce inconsistent feedback.

       In a real-life, the owner’s hands usually signal positive treatment, such as petting. When the same hands inflict punishment or pain, the dog usually displays a momentary, often subtle, ambivalent behavior, vacillating between affectionate and defensive (submissive, flight-preparaion or en-garde) responses. During initial interviews with clients, this reaction is clearly seen in dogs that have been punished by hand, so to speak. Further, when strangers reach to pet these dogs, the actions may trigger a full expression of submission or aggression, depending on the nervous makeup of the dog and its environmental history.

       Most owners are not aware that their puppy’s vision does not reach maturity until about 4 months of age. Until then, things appear in various degrees of fuzziness, which makes visual identification of objects and individuals difficult. This can cause some pups to bark or growl at family members. If punished, the pups become confused and the seeds are sewn for problems such as submissive wetting and biting.

       Imperfect ability to distinguish various shapes may explain why some dogs, in dim lighting, become unnerved, growl at or shy away from their owners. Though they can virtually “see in the dark” as compared with people, their poor ability to distinguish shapes may be impaired in reduced light. So, when they are approached in low light levels by the owner, they may growl. Rather than simply clear up the mystery by speaking the dog’s name, many owners punish or back away from the pet, reinforcing the behavior. From that point, the problem usually escalates and the relationship between owner and dog degenerates.

       To demonstrate this canine disability to skeptical clients, I have them leave, then re-enter the training area by a different door 20 feet or farther away, downwind, wearing a large-brimmed cowboy hat. They are instructed to stand still and remain silent immediately after entering. Even the calmest or happy-go-lucky dogs can become unnerved, while aggressive ones have charged the owner, who is instructed to cheerfully speak the dog’s name and take off the hat. I should warn that this demonstration should not be used if the dog has previously attacked or bitten anyone.

       Another situation occurs when someone very closely resembling an owner creates a visual dilemma, especially on the first meeting. Some dogs become unsettled and behave totally out of character, barking, running off or charging the person. This situation can usually be resolved by having the visitor sit quietly and allow the dog to investigate him or her by sniffing and hearing their voice. However, if punished, taken away, or physically forced to make contact with the visitor, many dogs behave worse with that person, and often with all other visitors, associating them with impending punishment.

       The dog’s exquisite ability to perceive a tiny movement so keen that it would have to be accentuated ten-fold for a human to detect. Problems directly stemming from this include growling or attacking when some subtle movement by a person is perceived as a preamble to punishment. I have also noted something of interest about people who, with no conscious intent or apparent provocation, tend to unnerve dogs. These individuals often move with slow deliberation and a certain tentativeness, or have an unusual gait. Several often-bitten children in our experience have been hyperactive or had visual-motor problems, which shows up sometimes in unnatural or jerky movements.  

       An easy-going, friendly dog who spent life as a mascot in a retail butcher shop, watched casually as a mother and her eldest son entered, but immediately attacked her younger son when he followed them into the room. The younger boy had visual-motor problems and even his own family dog had bitten him. This might be explained by a sort of once bittentwice shy syndrome in which a previously bitten person often freezes or acts cautious ( suspiciously, to the dog) before an attack. However, the principle doesn’t apply in this case; the boy did not see the dog lying in a corner before the attack.  

       Here is yet another aspect of canine behavior that certainly warrants further study.

       Auditory Perception :

Dogs broblems

       Dogs have a hearing range of about 20 hertz (cycles/second) up to over 50,000 hertz. We have informally tested over 100 dogs of various ages with a 3 8,000-hertz audio generator. They became alert and tried to detect the source of the low-level (about 60 decibels) ultrasonic sound. This sensitivity is used in some hightech training and behavioral devices, which will be reviewed in Chapter 15. Some ultrasonic burglar alarm sensors appear to agitate certain dogs, while other dogs in the same household are not bothered. Ultrasonic alarm sensors can be replaced with microwave sensors in the event of such problems.

       A dog’s keen sensitivity to lowvolume sound is usually troublesome. they will hear a faint sound at 75 feet, while most humans could only detect it at 17 feet. this means that a dog must learn to ignore myriad sounds that don't affect it, and accommodate to a veritable avalanche of sounds during a family household, like television,...

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