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Emotions in Canines and Humans

By Robin Tierney

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For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia B. McConnell (Ballantine 2006, hardcover, $24.95

McConnell is a certified applied animal behaviorist and is also trained as an ethologist who studies how behavior is affected by genetics and environment.

Brief book review, followed by extensive notes from the book. Bottom line: Buy the book; it is a exceptionally fresh account of the latest science on canines and people thought processes and emotions.

Brief book review:


Heart and Science: Reading Your Dog's Emotions

True or false:

Growling is the surest sign that a dog is going to bite.

Pups chew up their owners' stuff out of spite.

Hugging is good way to tell your dog you love him.

These common assumptions are debunked by Patricia B. McConnell in her new book, For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend (Ballantine 2006, hardcover, 332 pages, $24.95).

Learning to read our animal companions offers psychic and practical benefits, from avoiding bites to resolving problems that stress the human-canine bond. Weaving personal stories with the latest brain science, Dr. McConnell intriguingly reveals how psychology, biology, genetics, socialization and environment shape emotion.

So many dog-lovers are "virtually illiterate" in reading their pets' facial expressions and body language. Compounding that problem, humans send mixed signals. Among the certified applied animal behaviorist's insights:

* Why teaching the "down" cue can protect your dog from being attacked by another.

* Similarities and differences in facial expressions between humans and canines: the form, and the mood-shaping potential, of smiles and body posture; the function of yawns as calming signals; tongue-flicking to show stress level or deference to another dog or person.

* How misbehaviors commonly but mistakenly blamed on a dog's willfulness are actually taught and reinforced by their owners. She suggests alternatives for communicating desired behaviors.

* Thin-slicing – how to detect early-warning micro-expressions, such as closed mouth; wagging tail but stiffened body; and most ominous, the cold, hard stare.

* Learning proper, safe introductions from canines: "Dogs approach one another from the side, curving their line of approach and avoiding eye contact, while keeping their bodies loose and fluid. We do the opposite: we keep our bodies upright and relatively still, and make direct eye contact while reaching out with our paws before we've even so much as exchanged scents."

* Why dogs cock their heads ... what's "whale eye" and how to respond to it ... the canine wisdom of looking away ... and how dogs express disgust (Turned off by those doggie french kisses? That's how canines feel about being patted on the forehead.)

* Why touch and environmental stimulation are critical to the development of the brain.

* How the amazing mammalian brain mediates emotion ... the function of oxytocin (the warm, fuzzy hormone) and dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for eager anticipation) ... and other insights that can improve relations with humans and dogs.

Also addressed: how dogs read emotions in other animals and people. A tip: Be careful what your face says to a dog. And take off those sunglasses. Like humans, canines rely on facial expressions to gather information in social interactions.

Wearing her heart on the sleeve of her lab jacket in no way softens the content; Dr. McConnell tells us in plain English what our dogs can't. The book's rewards are more than psychic; they're practical. Learning to detect and diffuse anxiety will avoid bites; understanding brain circuitry hold keys to reinforcing good behavior.

When someone laments that their dog chews shoes to exact revenge, or "bit without warning," offer this book instead of sympathy.


Dogs and other animals do experience fear, anger, happiness, and pain, both physical and emotional.

Even the most callous scientists acknowledge dogs experience a board range of emotions from fear to joy, longing to love. Dog behavior expert Patricia McConnell elaborates on canine feelings, augmenting science with personal accounts. In short, she tells us in plain English what our dogs can't.

Dr. McConnell is a certified animal behaviorist respected for her training articles and prior book "The Other End of the Leash." In her new book, she untangles the web of genetics, biology, psychology, training and experience that shape the emotions and temperament of dogs. It's smart and crisply written.

McConnell supports her thesis that understanding how we respond to each other's emotions will transform your relationship with your animals.

Dogspeak involves body language and facial expressions. The author reveals how to catch the signals we're sending through posture, voice, facial expression and gestures. She contrasts dog and human brains and what drives our reactions and interactions. While we should not view dogs as furry people, there are many emotional and some reasoning capabilities we share in common.

This book is not about anthropomorphism – attributing human characteristics or complex mental processes to man's best friend ... even though there are some we share in common. Rather, the book is about learning to understand the very real and often subtle expressions to improve communication.

The rewards are more than psychic; they're practical, since understanding how emotions affect behavior enables people to resolve and avoid pooch problems from aggression to thunder fear to separation anxiety.

Other topics include analysis of the fears that lead to bites. She shows how yelling actually confuses the brain's circuitry and increases the chances for an undesirable response.

The author presents real-life case studies and tells of dog owners who love their dogs but are nearly clueless in reading signals of expressions and body language, such as the stiff body and hard stare that precedes a lunge or bite. McConnell weaves throughout the book heartbreaking and heart-lifting anecdotes, most about her own dogs on her sheep farm.

When chasing a cat or disobeying you, your dog is probably not testing you or showing dominance but rather, he does not know the proper behavior that you expect of him.

Dogs are good observers. They read our behavior.

Describe what you think your dog observes of your behavior. It might well look fickle. So much of what our dogs do is in response to our behavior.

Is growling the surest predictor of a bite?

Do dogs tear up their owners' things out of spite?

Is it a good idea to express affection by hugging a dog?

All breeds' emotional responses have similarities. And many have particular sensitivities. For example, do not shout GOOD DOG! to a cocker spaniel; the breed is sound-sensitive

Dogs can read facial expressions -- though they typically need help in learning how.

Humans are virtually illiterate in the language of dog.

Oxytocin, a hormone, is the chemical underlying warm feelings in people as well as dogs. As oxytocin levels rise, the stress hormone cortisol falls. Hearing the words "Go for walk" floods the dog brain with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that accounts for eager anticipation

Neuroscience technology. The fMRi reveals which areas of the brain are active while the brain is working to recognize people in photographs, or to answer a question, or having a hormone injected.

In the 1600s, Descartes displayed close-mindedness, and was proven wrong. Many accepted his unsubstantiated theory because it was easier to just dismiss the notion that nonhuman animals have feelings and thoughts...in order to use and even abuse them. Owners' observations are closer to fact than proclamations of scientists of the past.

Science has revealed animals have thoughts and emotions intertwined vs. separate tracks. Neuroscience is also showing that human decisions are much more dependent on chemical reactions, like instincts, than people previously wanted to accept. The neurochemical processes affects decisions profoundly.

"As much as any animal on earth, dogs express emotions as purely and clearly as a five-year-old child, and surely that's part of why we love them so much."

While McConnell wears her heart on the sleeve of her lab jacket, that does not diminish the immense knowledge she has collected on human and canine thought/emotional processes.

"Down" is an essential command; she cites a runaway guard dog and explains how a dog directed to a down position can have the moment to "think" before reacting in, say, a bite response. Plus a dog who gets in the down position is much less likely to be attacked by an oncoming aggressive dog.

Feelings, including fear, sadness, amusement, can be triggered by stimulating precise areas of the brain with a mild electrical current. You can even spark emotions by moving your dog's body into different positions."

Experiment on human subjects: raise or lower the corners of mouths. When mouth was moved into smile, they felt better, while frowners felt worse. Try it now: hold a pencil in your back teeth a few seconds and notice how you feel. For the opposite effect, remove the pencil, drop your shoulders, droop your head and slump down.

In another experiment, strangers were asked to stare into each another's eyes. After two minutes, they reported feelings of attachment and attraction to the other person.

Postural changes can affect your mood.

Ella Fitzgerald told doctors she had become so tired she couldn't get out of bed. She realized she was singing her hit "I'm So Tired" over and over again, changing her posture each time to match the emotion she was expressing. "The doctor prescribed eliminating the song from her repertoire, and Ella recovered in days."

Universally accepted now: body chemistry affects our emotions. SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – improve mood by changing the ratio of neurohormones in the brains.

Emotions serve as primitive links between brain and body.

Darwin noted in the 19th century that outward expression of emotions like disgust and fear are similar in many species.

There is a parallel brain structure.

The area of the brain that mediates emotion is called the limbic system. It's basic to the brains of both you and your dog. It's often called the mammalian brain. Nestled in the middle of your brain, it includes 3 vital structures: amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus. The amygdala attaches emotional significance to the information coming into the brain, and has been called the command center. It controls the emotions of surprise, rage and fear. It generates your own emotions and helps you read the emotions of others.


Fear is the most fundamental emotions. It's needed to warn of things from predators to poisonous plants.

There's a huge difference in how humans and canines interpret various actions. When some being violates canine social rules, often a growl or bite is issued. That's a problem since they live in a world controlled by humans, who while tolerating varying degrees of physical retribution/reactions from humans (spanking, slapping, hollering, sometimes more depending on the individual) do not tolerate such physical expressions from nonhuman animals.

Dogs do not experience spite. Pooping indoors means: the dog felt the urge to poop.

A dog jumps up not to be bad but out of excitement and lack of table manners, and/or because he associates the act with achieving something desirable like attention. It's like an adult fumbling at the table.

Fundamental attribution error: attributing an action to some underlying disposition rather than external influences.

Dogs some will sacrifice the self to save a pack member, they sense when another needs help, they go to get it. This is not just romanticism; this behavioral trait evolved to enable living in pack. They're smart social animals. It behooves the dog and his pack to go find help for an injured leader.

Fallacy: emotion is the enemy of reason.

Society tends to refer to nonhuman animals as "it." But they are thinking, feeling, sentient beings and not fuzzy machine driven wholly by instinct.

Observe dog's behavior. observation reveals they're not clich้s.

Empathy is an advanced mental ability. Many animal studies demonstrate animals feel and display empathy.

Unacceptable behavior, however, stems from not knowing the proper behavior and what's expected, vs. spite, which is an advanced think-based human trait.

Dogs are good observers and try to read our behavior. Describe what you think your dog observes of your behavior. fickle? So much of what our dogs do is in response to our behavior.

Facial expressions many similarities and similar principles to reading dogs and humans. The insincere smile involves the mouth and not eyes.

Thin-slicing is looking for tiny clues. (Blink by Gladwell contains studies). Eye-rolling in a couple signals that marriage is doomed.

Our facial muscles are connected to the emotional centers in our brain. *** That's why animal behaviorists need to see you and your dog face to face vs. attempting diagnoses over the internet.

Highly social animals such as dogs and people -- their faces evolved to express emotions. Solitary animals such as pandas in the wild don't need to actively express that way.

"Emotional expressions act like lubricants in social interactions, and the more important your behavior is to those around you, the more important it is that they are able to read your emotions from your expressions."

In cultures worldwide there is little variation in the meaning of facial expressions.

Open mouth is part of a "play face."

The book displays photos of open-mouth expressions on dogs that remarkably parallel happy human faces. Also, the warning signs of a stressed dog who may resort to a bite -- body stiffens, ear position, mouth close.

Meeting and Greeting:

Different responses of people and dogs to strangers. "The usual approach of all people. when greeting a human or dog, is basically the opposite of a polite approach in dog society. Dogs approach one another from the side, curving their line of approach and avoiding eye contract, while keeping their bodies loose and fluid. We do the opposite: we keep our bodies upright and relatively still, and make direct eye contact while reaching out with our paws before we've even so much as exchanged scents."

*** Greet dogs like a pro: learn to breathe deeply, keep bodies fluid and relaxed (even if, especially if, you feel afraid). If you go still, close your mouth and stop breathing, the dog you're with may decide that he had good reason to be on guard. Keep your mouth open slightly and relaxed, slowly wag your shoulders andy our hips back and forth just the tiniest bit, and move your head to the side as if you were cocking it.

Why dogs cock their heads: to gather more visual and acoustic information when they're curious about something. They do not cock heads when nervous.

Tail wag is not always a friendly signal. Wagging from the shoulders back means they are happy. But if "thin-slicing" reveals the body is still, tail base is stiff, and tail raised, watch out.

Exchanging business cards in dog society:

"If a dog's body is shifted forward and he's stiff and immobile, with his mouth closed shut and his tail wagging only from the tip, I'm going to stay where I am, and ease the tension by turning away, or pulling out a treat or ball. However , if the dog is close and begins to advance on me, mouth still shut, body still stiff, I'll turn my head quickly toward him (there's that "turn to face" I was talking about) and speak in a low, sharp voice. This is a dog who is on the offensive, and who needs to be stopped without adding to the tension; as soon as I can, I'll face him off, but then break the tension by saying ‘Wanna go on a walk" or "Dinner!""

Dog whose body is shifted backward on the defensive is scared. A dog on a leash or tie-out feels trapped.

*** "Polite dogs greet one another by approaching from the side, as if following a curved line toward the other dog's flanks, the rather than taking straight, head-on approach. Learn from dogs. "You can do the same things when you meet a new dog – just turn slightly sideways, and approach as if walking forward along a curved line."

Corners of mouth express sincerity level of smile. Commissure pulled back connotes different meaning than if pushed forward. Dogs and humans move them forward when on the offensive – the offensive pucker. Facial signals. Lip reading, one species to another.

Dogs raise the inner corners of their eyebrows as people do when they are sad.

Whale eye: rounded worried eye. That plus closed mouth signals "don't pet me."

Some signals resemble human's, other signals purely canine.

Tongue flicking: expressing either low-level anxiety or an appeasement gesture. Clue to submissiveness.

How far out the tongue extends reflects the intensity of emotion. Once know know this, you'll notice it everywhere. Cue: anxious. Get to know your dog's baseline of tongue flick frequency.

Similar expressions, different meaning:

Yawning: calming signal (Turid Rugaas book mentioned in Dog Tips).

Wrinkles: good squinty eyes surrounded by crow's feet connote happy, submission. Rounded eyes indicate alert, arousal sometimes fear.

Similar expression, same meaning:

Hardness, like in humans,s an presage attack. Eyes normally constant triangulating microscopic movements, indicating the brain is processing info. There's a micropause in body machinery right before acts on emotion of anger, rage.

Whale eye: dog's head and eyes are not pointing in the same direction. Connotes fear wants to turn head away but too afraid to take eyes off of object of fear. Horror movie.


Should, upon seeing signal, force a dog to confront fear? No. Can counter-condition, but not foist fearful trigger upon dog and expect the dog to realize while in state of high arousal and fear "oh maybe that won't hurt me." Beyond most dogs' reasoning...just as it's beyond a toddler's.

Looking away from others to diffuse tension and avoid conflict is typically a good sign of well-socialized dog. This can be part of establishing, acknowledging status when meeting others.

Frown wrinkle brows forward.

Are you all right?

Disgust: dogs feel it. Signal: pull down the corners of mouth, turn head and look disgusted. This may sound surprising for a species that will savor things such as bug carcasses and cat poop. Why it's important to recognize: an owner might wonder why dog is not responding to "come" command when training ... so look for disgust expression. It could be that the dog didn't see the intended positive reinforcement as an inducement. Such as a hug or pats on top of head are generally not welcome – just as little boys do not welcome them at soccer practice. Minty bone may be a turn-off.

Keep in mind to choose rewards that actually appeal to your dog.


Behavior modification. McConnell's book contains excellent guidance on this. She details problem-solving resources and how dogs read emotion an in other animals and people.

Combine classical conditioning to assuage fears, a program to help owner teach the dog new behaviors, and understanding that dogs need owners to be benevolent leaders.

*** Be careful of what your face may be saying to your dog.
How does the dog view sunglasses (and consider how people often use them to disguise their eyes and identity) – huge "eyes" with completely dilated pupils. They make it extremely hard to identify and read the person. We and dogs rely on facial expressions to gather information in social interactions.

How the brain creates emotions in humans and dogs:
The importance of touch and environmental stimulation development of the brain, beyond emotion, is explained.

FYI/new research: Psychiatrist Dan Stern: babies whose parents responded to them with expressions of delight formed more connections within the circuits that generate positive emotions. This applies to babies and canines. There's a "critical period for an individual to develop emotional software.

The brain edits perceptions to focus on needs.
In addition, individuals perceive stimuli differently.

Different interpretation: one dog welcomes a human's approach, another senses it as life-threatening.
Bees read petals

Olfactory, unlike other senses, feeds smell info direct to the limbic system.
Warn, associations, evoke memory.
Scents change body chemistry – such as lavender.

Freeze, then fight/flight

Fear and other emotions do not randomly occur. They result from genetic architecture in consort with environmental stimuli and past experience, AKA learned behavior.

Some fearful dogs, like autistic people, have higher levels of serotonin, so instead of the neurotransmitter calming the amygdala, it induces overstimulation. This leads to fear response. (In effect, behavior is reduced to chemical reactions. The latest bioscience has proven that. But our bodies are within our control...like a driverless car, we can take the wheel to some extent.)

Fear: the rational thinking parts of dog brains radically are smaller and less efficient than ours. Dogs simply can't think through all the complexities of human social interactions and talk themselves down from fear.

Like us, they have active defense reflex.

Fearful dogs can be outgoing and jumpy, and adventurous, but they act more frenetic than friendly dogs. 80% of people surveyed described selves as shy sometimes, 4% all the time.

Adoptive comparison studies in adult humans are termed cross-foster in animals. See if mother-to-child transfer is nurture or nature and in what proportion.

Bright dog/child not necessarily smarter but is more willing to explore. Maze dull. Shyness has a function in community/pack -- the shy ones are less likely to be eaten by hawk.

Fearfulness is the one trait predictable by temperament tests.

Border collie eye: drop to heat-seeking focus. This is an inherited breed trait. A pup's traits don't turn onto stock until adolescence or late adolescence. Some do display as pups, others not until 14 months when suddenly they focus on a sheep.

Dogs from nervous mothers are fearful no matter the temperament of who raised them.

Karen Overall: studied neurophysiology.

Fear of the unfamiliar enhances the chances of staying alive in wilderness.
Genetic-influenced personality traits.
Predisposition is not a sentence; a being is not a driverless car.

Introduce a pup to many individuals during the socialization window (which is YOUNG) so beings, things, places feel familiar. Control the experience so it's positive.

Enrich the environment, change toys.
Socialize during the sensitive period.
A good breeder introduces pups to many. Have people take shoes off and wash hands to avoid transmitting germs.

Pup kindergarten.

Sources of fear: genetic, undersocialization, combination, or less frequently, trauma.

McConnell explains the genesis of fear development, the biology of fear: the limbic system, especially the hippocampus, records the details of the event like a detective at a crime scene. but the individual does not always peg the one key detail. Sometimes wrong stimulus associated as the trigger. Mistake causation.

Emotional reaction to the sum of information and details. They, and we, can't usually sort out and distill the exact cause. The analytic part of the human brain might know there's a foolish association and resulting fear, but the limbic system remains on red alert.

This experience-imprinting can be primed by a soon-prior incident – physiological effects of an event take awhile to dissipate. When the body is still full of stress when the second incident occur, the body and mind make associations. Physiological arousal. There are many fewer connections from the rational cortex of the brain to the limbic system than vice versa.

Recovery time is contingent on prior experience. If attacked at first encounter with another dog, traumatic effects last longer than if the dog had previous good experiences with other dogs. Environment can add to effect.

PSTD in dogs: Like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) victims, a dog began to generalize the triggers associated with his fear. The fear came from one abusive boy, then was generalized to other boys of similar ages, and eventually to nearly all males. Effects are often not apparent right away.

Fears get generalized from one specific stimulus to wider categories of people/events.

Associative learning: an innate reaction to one thing, like fear of startling noise, can be transferred to another. Such as a benign object, such as a small furry animal, as shown in a human experiment from decades ago involving young child and mouse. John B. Watson, a behaviorist, slammed hammer each time an 11-month old child reached to pet a friendly white rat, and by week's end the child was afraid of anything furry, even a fur coat.

This heartless experiment is illuminating. (Unfortunately, heartless experiments are still standard with animal subjects; again, nonhuman animals including mice to think and feel, though more and more people are objecting to the cruelty imposed on lab animals.) We now know "Watson was permanently changing the function of Albert's brain and predisposing him to be far more reactive to trauma than he would have been before his unknowing mother brought him into the laboratory."

The abused dog started with an attraction to little boys, just as Albert started with an attraction to furry animals. But these benign things were paired with something frightening, and they eventually became frightening by themselves. Boy and dog generalized their fears.

This is a conditioned response.

Trauma can remain forever ingrained. "We know this is true of many species besides ourselves – rats who have been traumatized by inescapable shocks have long-lasting changes in their physiology, and deficits in their ability to learn. Traumatic events can change the performance of an individual's amygdala, which, paired with its partner the hippocampus, can carry memories of past dangers for a lifetime."

A common symptom of PTSD in people is increased level of reactivity to almost any stimulus that could possibly be associated with danger. Veterans...like dogs. Kids threw a firecracker on a dog who afterward responded to any loud, abrupt noise with panic. Hyper-reactivity result from "an overly efficient neural pathway" between the amygdala, the hippocampus and hypothalamus, and the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. In these cases, the brain lives in a state of chronic over-arousal, which can inhibit the ability of the cortex to help the body decide what's dangerous and what isn't. This ‘priming effect' can result in some surprising findings ... One researcher found that Beagles had higher levels of cortisol when taken back to an area where they'd been shocked one month before than they did immediately after they received the shocks." They were more stressed about being taken back to the location than they were right after the actual event. Trauma example "a single event can have pervasive effects on an animal's emotions, and after which, the fear worsens over time rather than improves."

Brain records and remembers things associated with fear or danger. Associations are often unconscious (ie, associate noise or song with an accident and danger) but they drive behavior in people and dogs. Understanding the biology of fear can help in developing ways to treat it.

Thunder, fear:
Never punish or scold.
Defensive aggression in both species. Aggression breeds aggression.
Most common fear is the fear of being hurt.
Evolution-based fears: being injured can prevent animals from passing on genes.

When it comes to "bad" behavior, people would do well to be more anthropomorphic: pain is a motivation for growls and snaps in dogs as in humans.

When seeing signs of aggression, take a deep breath, tell your limbic system to calm down, and think of the source of the problem source and then a solution. People tend to react on their own emotions, which is not helpful.

Would your performance improve if someone slapped you before you were to give a speech?

Classical conditioning:
Pavlov paired neutral stimulus with the one that naturally provoked a response, presenting it a half a second before the natural stimulus (dinner bowl, walk, visitors at the door). The neutral stimulus needs to come first for the association to be made. When a neutral event predicts something that causes an emotional response, it develops the ability to evoke the same emotion. Dog associates doorbell ring with visitors. Or as an example of an unwanted association: separation anxiety symptoms begin when you pick up keys in morning to leave the house.

Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink) noted that you are what you read. John Bargh's study participants who were shown groups of words embedded with "old" and "wrinkle" walked more slowly on the way out of the room.

Unconscious associations are made all of the time. Advertisers use classical conditioning (CC); consider the pairing of beer and sexy women in commercials.

The biggest problem people have when using classical conditioning, such as in amateur dog training, is underestimating it. You must get the timing and other aspects just right.

Classical conditioning can be used to prevent and alleviate fear in your dog, just like it can serve to cause fear. It's also the most effective way to treat a fear that has already developed.

Phobia is defined as persistent, extreme and irrational, but it's not so irrational. Fear spurs us to be aware of and to distance ourselves from threats.

CC plays role in thunder phobia: the dog associates the drop in atmospheric pressure that predicts a storm, just like a ringing doorbell predicts arrival of a visitor.

Nail clipping: avoid the conditioned effect elicited when cutting into the quick. Use classical conditioning effectively: hold the pup's paw gently, first a half-second then put it down, give a food treat, don't clip again just yet, instead go play ball or walk. Then upon return, pick up the paw, clip the tiniest piece of nail, give her a treat. Next, condition a verbal cue: "You want a manicure?"

Use classical conditioning to prevent separation anxiety:
First, condition the dog to love being in crate. Play a fun crate game, and let the pup sleep in the crate for naps, then at night. As early as day two, get her used to your departure: pick up keys, put on jacket, put pup in crate with a great, safe, interactive toy. Long before she finishes it, open the crate door and let her out Interrupt her play or kong-licking. Gradually leave her for a half-minute, then leave the house five minutes to get mail, then run out and do errands for a little longer. Over the days and weeks, increase the amount of time you leave the pup alone. Take off from work that Friday to have 3 days to settle pup in and practice this conditioning. Link good feelings with your departure. Yes, it takes some time up front, but then you have permanently created a sense of calm and confidence and avoided the development of separation anxiety.

Classical counter-conditioning: teach dogs to go into another room when visitors arrive.
Teach: Doorbell ringing is good because I get a treat!
Then create a safe way to have your dog out of the crate or room and in same room as a visitor.
Start building positive associations with the triggers – the signs of approach, like the car pulling into the driveway.

Do not let people approach the dog, but allow the dog to assess in his own schedule and then to approach if he'd like.

Consider Temple Grandin's experiment with cows. If the person stood in a pen with a white object, cows came up and investigated. But when the person approached them, they spooked and ran off.

Increments in counter-condition: build a solid success at one level before moving onto the next. Let people enter with the dog not seeing them, thus not setting off the perceived territorial boundary "violation."

*** When people insist on reaching to dog, explain: "This is not about you, it's about the dog. please do what I ask for the dog's sake."

Summary of process (p. 164):

1. Manage the situation so everyone is safe. Even lock the door so no one can walk into house or room unannounced.

2. Write a detailed list of everything that might be a trigger to dog's fears. Get good at closely observing and noticing subtle signs of tension. Do all you can to avoid eliciting the "wrong" emotion, and all that you can to elicit the one you want.

3. Figure out what your dog adores most and only let him have it right after the appearance of a trigger. Food works best for most dogs, but ball play can be a great tool in conditioning. Play ball with noise-sensitive dogs every time the sky darkens before a storm.

4. Link up the trigger with the treat, in that order, starting with the lowest possible intensity of whatever it is that scares your dog. Gradually increase the intensity. For example, link treats with a car driving up first, then with a person on couch, then for one walking through the doorway.

5. Don't go too far too fast, as most people do. McConnell didn't let the fearful dog near anyone but the owner for the first six weeks she had him, and then after, only with dog-training professionals she trusted.

6. Don't ever stop conditioning, whether for prevention or treatment. Dispense treats when workmen come, even when the dog has been good with workmen. Serious problems must be managed to some extent for the rest of a dog's life. This is the concept of maintenance.

7. Don't do this alone if dog has injured someone or might do so. Get an expert.


Biology of anger. We can work and learn to control anger, but it's not a totally learned behavior. Threatening and appeasing postures are seen in wolves, dogs' ancestors. The author regards dogs as juvenilized wolves. A dog who bit into her sheep didn't bite her when pulling him off although he was in a high state of arousal.

Micro-expressions sometimes precede feeling of anger.

Anger is distinct from spite. Dogs and other animals can feel anger; this is not anthropomorphism. Anger is a primitive emotion. Biochemical changes ready us for battle. Blood pressure rises, muscles tense, breathing speeds up, Neurotransmitters called catcholamines flush through our bodies producing a burst of energy. The rush compels us to physically act even when caution is the wiser choice. Stimulating hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline arouse the body ... thus, looking for a fight. We can't calm the body as quick as it ramps up.

Adrenaline lingers, so the body remains primed for action long after the initial stimulus incident occurred.

Dogs undergo same the physiological changes as people.

She asks people what happened before a dog exhibited anger/bite.

High-arousal chases by police lead to breakdown of discipline among a squad.

McEnroe v. Federer.
Which personality type do you want to spend the rest of your life with?

Frustration test: place pup on back.
Frustration tolerance: One clue is to investigate how dam, sire and relatives (siblings from other litters, aunt, etc.) respond to frustration.
Attend to hunches.

With a touch, a 5-week-old singleton growls at her like a 5-year-old child stabbing his mother with scissors. She launched a conditioning program dispensing treats to condition acceptance of touch. But one anecdote is not representative of the big picture.

Every owner needs to teach emotional control.

OOC out of control.

Spoiled behavior is seen in very young humans – and in adults at sporting events.

Emotion arousal interferes with the more rational parts of our brains for several reasons:
* The way the brain is designed. There are far more connections running from the amygdala to the cortex than vice versa. So it's easier for emotions to influence decision-making than for our intellect to influence emotions. Extreme emotions overtake decision-making.
* We have to practice keeping emotions in check. The best pack leaders among wolves use their position to influence the arousal level of the group, interfering when others begin to escalate in their arousal.

The simplest and most effective way to help a dog learn emotional control is to teach her to "stay" on cue. Train as game so the dog learns to associate controlling her impulses with feeling good. Realize a young dog [or an older dog, especially one not given the benefit of training when young] can't stay indefinitely as you welcome company into the house. It's like a child.

Also realize that one's arousal level (human or canine) isn't always under voluntary control (like when dentist looms overhead with needle).

Help your dog learn: by gradually increasing the difficulty of the exercise, at learning to control her impulses, rather than being set up to fail. Teach her that it's fun to stay. Also, that you're on her side while she's learning. Don't physical punish her for breaking a stay. This is a trick to help dog learn, not a test of your authority over your dog.

Wait before go out the door. Good things come to those who wait is always a good lesson to teach.

Study: being yelled at raises cortisol levels, and the resulting stress readies the body for danger, overwhelms body and brain, and interferes with rational thinking.

The more you understand dogs, the less frustrated you'll be. Plus you'll know it's futile to add your frustration to the emotional mix.

All animals tend to act in ways that make them feel good. Learn to tap into that. This is animal behavior's most basic, universal principle.


Be aware of emotional contagion. Smile and the world smiles with you.
Genetics influences. The number of serotonin receptors in the brain is a key factor. The fewer receptors, the lower the capacity for happiness. But still, a person's attitude and environmental influences matter. Lower serotonin receptors can make one prone to addiction.

There's a "seeking" circuit in brain which elicits eager anticipation – the expectation for a reward. This stimulates the brain's pleasure center. In one study, the highest level of dopamine was released right before food delivery to monkeys who were pressing a bar.

Gambling is about uncertainty.
If you develop a positive anticipatory association between 2 events, the dopamine level is twice as high if you reduce chances of the second event occurring to only 50%. Food drops into cage only half the times that the light goes on.
That's variable reinforcement.

*** Most novice trainers move to intermittent reinforcement before the dog is ready, not understanding that every change of context or increase in distraction makes the exercise more difficult for the dog and initially requires going back to 100 percent reinforcement.

Light in the monkey experiment is a bridge; so is a clicker click, or click of tongue. Or special cue word.

There are needs that serve as stimuli beside food: social companionship, physical exercise, mental exercise and stimulation.

Engage in 15 minutes of trick training and 15 minutes of fetch when come home. Best exercise/learning schedule is twice a day. If you do not have two 30-minute slots for training your dog, she suggests rethinking the idea of getting one.

*** A training session can be a "go find" game to play as you prepare dinner. You can teach down and stay during TV commercial breaks or on the phone.

*** Many behavioral problems are due to lack of exercise and stimulation.

Breed needs vary, and small dogs can require more exercise than some large breeds.


We say come but then face the dog with a direct stare and move toward him. In dog language, a direct stare and forward movement is a stopping signal.
*** He is more likely to come if you turn your body sideways and move backward a bit while you call Come!

Hugging can lead to a face bite. A prime example of miscommunication between dog and human.

*** Another sad common (and wholly avoidable) problem: punishing dogs for doing something they didn't understand and weren't taught was "wrong." Canines need coaching like humans.

*** Dogs don't like being petted when engaged in eating, greeting or other activity requiring concentration. Neither do humans. And they typically don't like head pats.

Touch is immensely important.

Create, engender a sense of security (again, dogs are juvenilized). Be a calm and confident leader. Acquire the knowledge to be good leader. Remember, dogs read people...their expressions and actions, but not their minds of course.

Love releases oxytocin. Dopamine is the cause of that sensation of the rush of infatuation. Oxytocin spurs parental behavior, the attachment of mother to children. It mediates love and attachment in all social relationships including romance.

Spraying oxytocin in the nose during a game in one human study doubled the tendency to trust in giving other players custody of money.

Dogs look to our faces for info. They might be better at decoding human expressions than chimps. They seek companionship; this has evolved as a biological urge.

John Archer, psychologist, argues dogs are social parasites.

Lightness of being when words are discarded, as can be with dogs.
It's not really unconditional love, but it's support beyond what humans give.

Puppy love is hardwired so that we nurture young helpless babies and other relatively big-eyed mammals.

Size and function of the cortex is bigger in humans. We have linguistic ability, but dogs and other non animals do think and feel. They also experience grief and feelings of loss.

Thinking involves manipulating abstract mental representations of things not directly in front of us. (Interplay between emotion and thought. Thinking about thinking like circular architecture of MC Escher prints.)
There's evidence that animals engage in this kind of reasoning, though not to the extent or obviousness of humans.

Animals from dogs to elephants to farm animals form profound social attachments.

Take duckling away from mother and he'll issue a distress cry. Panic circuits are not limited to humans.

Addiction studies: Morphine experiments: chemicals that reduce physical pain also provide at least temporarily the feelings of well-being elicited by healthy social relationships.

It's primarily the prefrontal cortex that communicates with the amygdala; together they create an integration of thoughts and emotions that results in the way we feel about any given thing.
*** Connections between thoughts and emotions are critical to how we experience the world.

Cortex which covers the 2 hemispheres is far larger in humans than rhesus monkeys, dogs, and autistic people. That's why they experience more fear. There is less interaction between thoughts and emotions to understand, think through, and make "rational" decisions. But they still form and manipulate mental abstractions.

Nonhuman animals have learned to count, to distinguish differences, and cardinality – the understanding that the last number counted among objects is the total number of objects.
Dogs can keep up to 7 objects counted in mind.

They can also learn problem-solving.
A border collie demonstrated understanding the "unfamiliar" when asked to find 7 familiar objects by name and one unfamiliar, which was a spoon. This concept/ability is called fast mapping.

Language: A parrot named Alex learned from Irene Pepperberg words for colors, shape, size. Looking in mirror, he was asked to identify a color. After being told it was gray, he then went on to identify various gray items.

Chimps were taught by Boyson quantity and numbers' names. They added peaches.
In an M&Ms experiment, chimps had trouble identifying bowls with fewer quantities until the researcher put the numbers of each in the bowl; this shows abstract reasoning.

Language is not required for thinking. Otherwise, Helen Keller wouldn't have been thinking early on. Language enables reflection.

Dolphins have learned to create new behaviors.

(Recently, monkeys were observed in the wild creating and using hunting tools.)

The power of suggestion: Human subjects were given phrases to unscramble. Those with "rude" and "intrude" in their lists interrupted much more and faster afterwards than those with the words "polite" and "considerate".

Animals have concepts of self.
They also can display jealousy. This is linked to the concept of self.

Self-awareness: an elephant notices and knows it's her own reflection in a mirror. A polar bear covers his black nose to stay camouflaged.
Chimps use hands to cover an erection from a dominant male passing by.

A 2-year-old human is asked to show a picture faces it toward himself. He's too young to have theory of mind.
Children don't become aware that others think like they do and have their own mental lives until age 4.
Dogs have imaginations?

Sarah the chimp was shown videos of a shivering man. When asked to pick photos that "fit", she chose photos of a blanket. She also chose a box to allow the pictured person step up to reach a banana. In contrast, three-and-a-half-year-old children did not make thoughtful choices, instead choosing photos of yellow flowers to "fit" the reaching-for-banana shot.

Empathy: it's not just emotion contagion when dog oblivious to common emotions.
Subordinate chimps pretend to search for food in places away from their food hideaways. Such deception is less likely to be displayed in dogs, though some dogs do try to trick others away from a bone by barking at a door as if there were visitors.

These actions indicate reasoning.
Theory of mind is not a matter of have or have not, but a continuum.

Arguing dogs don't have emotions is like arguing the world is flat, the author illustrates by the examples described in the boo.

It's unfortunate that scientist and others base much of their sense of self-worth on distancing humans from the influence of their own emotions and distancing humans from other species.
Putting the rational thinking part of ourselves on a pedestal, and presenting emotions as a distant relation, is a sign of insecurity.

It's ironic that many who deny animals have emotions also view emotions as animalistic and primitive. However, emotions have been proven very functional from biological/survival perspectives.

Nonhuman animals think, just not the way we do.
Dogs are different but we share connections, having co-evolved.

*** Teaching "stay" – start with microstays. This teaches an essential: emotional control. Use a release command: OK, or Free. Release the dog in a bored tone – because you want to teach the dog that the fun part is staying. Another achieving reliability at basic levels, then increase levels of distraction, duration and distance. But don't increase criteria at same time. Distraction is hardest, so start with duration.

Paul Ekman (referenced in Blink) studied subtle and micro facial expressions.

*** Another highly recommended book to read and keep in your library: Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin.

Photos in McConnell's book include:

Angry human and canine faces. Similarities include brows furrowed, commissure (mouth sides) moved forward, body stiff , forward stance indicating the individual is on the offense.

Faces worried: closed mouths upwardly raised inner eyebrows.

Concentration: closed mouths, commissure neutral.

Sad: eyes large, soft; raised inner corners of brows

Fear: retracted corner of the mouth, open mouth, rounded eyes.

Whale eye: nose turned away, eye fixed on subject and rounded, closed mouth, signaling "Don't pet me!"

An instructive picture: a grinning girl hugging a dog around neck; the dog's worried expression with closed mouth and whale eye clearly indicates feeling threatened.


Patricia McConnell's company, Dog's Best Friend, Ltd., Website: dogsbestfriendtraining.com
offers family dog training and behavior modification.


Robin's Dog Tips can be used only for nonprofit, educational use.
For more Dog Tips and Pet Tips, see http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport