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Is your dog aggressive? Do you want solution to your dog aggression? You are not alone in this situation. Here are the concerns of some dog owners and a study conducted in 1983 on how to deal with the problem of dog aggression.

Hi Shibashake.

I really enjoyed reading this, including all the comments. I also appreciate very much your inclusion of the Polski and Schalke studies. It is refreshing to see legitimate citations of actual controlled studies regarding a topic so incendiary as this one. I’m very curious as to why you didn’t find other studies, particularly the 1983 Tortora study, worth mentioning?

My 7yr old Bull Terrier has been my companion and my pride&joy for the past year. She is deaf, and she has some “instrumental” dog-aggression issues, as well as a prey-drive that can only be described as cartoonishly over-the-top. She doesn’t know the difference between a goat vs a cat vs a running valet vs a child on a tricycle vs a piece of trash blowing in the wind: if it looks like its running from her, she MUST get it… even straight into traffic. Deafness completely aside–there is no communicating with her when she goes into this “zone”. You may as well try to communicate with a cannonball en route.

I am concerned about her stress levels, and after reading your blog I am keenly aware of how difficult it must be to apply shock-training competently. I am also keenly aware of the unnecessary stress created by these behaviors (it is nerve-racking for her AND me). I’m trying to decide which outweighs the other. Her aggression issues seem to be diminishing over time as I learn more about pack-dynamics, but the intensity of the prey drive and tunnel-vision focus that accompany it remain overpowering.

After a year of deliberating, reading, and weeding out the namby-pamby appeals to emotion (“poor, poor dogs, evil, evil humans”) as well as the neanderthalic appeals to cowboy-complexes (“gotta show the dog who’s boss!”) I have decided that the vibration-signal feature is a must for us, but I’m still open to rational discourse regarding the shock feature. I would love to hear your thoughts on the Tortora study 🙂
~~[RUFTY]

Tortora’s 1983 Study

Tortora’s 1983 study consists of 3 experiments. The one most talked about in shock collar discussions is the “safety training” experiment (Exp 2). Some proponents of shock collars use Tortora’s study to claim that electronic collars are effective at reducing general aggression in dogs.

Based on my reading of Tortora’s paper, these claims are false. I will explain why below.

Tortora’s “safety training” experiment (Exp 2) consists of three phases:

Phase 1 – Pre-testing and Pre-training

36 dogs with avoidance motivated aggression were trained to perform 15 basic obedience commands using regular techniques. Training started with a continuous schedule of reinforcement, then moved on to variable. Both play and choke collars were used. No shocks.

Phase 2 – Conditioning

After a command was given, a warning buzz is presented, then the electrical stimulus is delivered. When a dog performs the command (correct escape behavior), a safety signal or tone was used right before the electrical stimulus was turned off.

Training of commands was conducted in progressively more challenging conditions, and the level of electrical stimulus was also increased during the training process. Ultimately, the dogs were trained to tolerate and perform under high levels of electrical stimulus. Once that was achieved, the dogs were trained without the shocks.

Phase 3 – Normalization

Subjects were tested for the absence of aggression under maximally stressful and aggression-inducing circumstances, for example, while the animal was roughly handled and beaten about the body with a rolled-up newspaper or switch.

If the dog failed to perform the command or responded with aggression then a full intensity electrical stimulus was delivered. Finally, the electrical stimulus was slowly phased out and training was transferred to the owner’s home.

Tortora reported that this procedure “resulted in complete and permanent elimination of aggression in all of the 36 dogs tested”. Note that this study specifically addresses cases of avoidance-motivated-aggression, which is different from pain elicited aggression and fear motivated aggression.

Tortora also showed (in Exp 1) that these other types of aggression and problem behaviors can be effectively addressed with established counter-conditioning techniques, and does not require such extreme measures.

What Is Avoidance Motivated Aggression?

It is important to note that Tortora’s experiment 2 deals specifically with avoidance motivated aggression. Therefore, we should understand exactly what avoidance motivated aggression is, and how it differs from other types of aggression.

Avoidance motivated aggression is an aversively motivated aggression in dogs. I.e. the dog is using aggression as a means to avoid an anticipated aversive event (e.g. expectation of pain).

Avoidance-motivated aggression in dogs involves biting attacks or threats of attack directed toward one or more of the dog’s human caretakers. As the name implies, these threats and bites are assumed to be avoidance responses that are acquired and maintained by the prevention of anticipated aversive events.
~~[Tortora 1983, pp176]

Some properties of avoidance motivated aggression that differentiate it from other aversively motivated aggression:

  1. It can appear to be unpredictable.

    Through higher order conditioning and generalization, a variety of apparently neutral and unrelated stimuli come to elicit the avoidance response of aggression.

  2. The dog does not produce any signals that may indicate the onset of aggression.
  3. It produces a much more serious attack than the other forms of aggression.

    Avoidance-motivated aggression usually involves multiple bites, a sustained attack, and is not self-terminating.

  4. Avoidance-motivated aggression develops over time and there is a clear escalation in the level of aggression as it develops. The aggressive episodes increase in duration, frequency, force/damage, and occur over a larger range of stimuli. I.e., there are many chances to fix the issue before it develops into an “instrumental avoidance response”.
  5. Counter conditioning techniques that are effective with other forms of aversively motivated aggression, have little effect on avoidance motivated aggression.

Tortora’s safety training is a complex 9 stage process that specifically addresses avoidance motivated aggression. Safety training using shock collars is very different from aversion therapy or aversive training using shock collars. Aversive training is how shock collars are commonly used today, i.e. shock the dog when he is performs an undesirable behavior. Continue delivering the shock until he stops that behavior.

In Exp 3, Tortora showed that when only “full-intensity signaled shock was used to punish aggression”, there was only a slight decrease in aggression. I.e., shock aversion therapy or simple shock aversive training is not an effective way to suppress aggression in our dogs.

Key Points from Tortora’s 1983 Study

Some salient points I derived from Tortora’s paper:

1. Timing and clear communication

Timing and clear communication are very important, especially in pain based aversive training. This was shown in Phase 2 where Tortora used a warning buzz and conditioned the dog to a safety signal. Using a unique tone also allows us to more consistently and accurately mark a behavior in time (the same type of thing is used in clicker training).

Accurate timing and clear communication is important because it lets the dog know how to stop or avoid the pain from an electrical stimulus. This was also shown in Schalke’s study, where the dogs that could make a clear association, i.e. knew how to stop the pain, did not experience elevated stress levels. This only occurred in the very simple aversion case and not on recall.

This is also why aversive techniques are risky because most of us, especially novice trainers, have far from perfect timing, and may not always communicate with our dogs in a precise and clear manner.

2. Pain is a strong but risky motivator

Using pain can produce more reliable compliance in our dogs, because pain is a strong motivator. However, pain and stress can elicit an aggressive reaction from our dogs. This was also present in Tortora’s study. In fact, in Exp 1, Tortora reports that of the 92 avoidance motivated aggression cases, 90% had prior pain based aversive experiences.

The dogs in this study initially behaved as if they “expected” aversive events and that the only way to prevent these events was through aggression.

3. Tortora’s experiment 2 is a very extreme and specialized process

Dogs can also get habituated to the pain, and subsequently require a stronger and stronger stimulus. For example, Tortora reported increasing the electrical stimulus to high and ultimately maximum levels during the study.

Avoidance motivated aggression can be suppressed with avoidance training and the use of full intensity shocks.

Conclusion

I am not sure why Tortora’s study is used to make the case for electronic collars or shock collars. As I understand it, his work is targeted at “dangerously aggressive dogs”, in particular those that did not respond to “established counter-conditioning treatments”, i.e., only cases of avoidance motivated aggression. It is clear that his procedure is very extreme, requires a lot of precision and knowledge, and is only meant for very limited situations. If anything, it is a cautionary tale of what could happen if we fail our dog in his management, care, and training.

Tortora shows that pain and stress can cause aggression (which is consistent with other studies), and that avoidance motivated aggression can be suppressed with avoidance training and full intensity shocks. To me, this underscores the risks of using pain based aversive techniques, and inadvertently creating a “dangerously aggressive dog”, who then has to undergo even more extreme treatment or face euthanasia. Tortora states

Behavior therapy for such dogs has always been the last step before euthanasia.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that safety training for dogs is not being recommended literally as a behavior therapy program for avoidance-motivated human psychopathologies. A substitute for electrical stimulation may have to be found.

If you are considering using shock collars because of Tortora’s study, please read it carefully and in full first. Unfortunately, inaccurate claims abound on the internet.

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Dog first aid can save the life of your companion! Specific training for pets is increasing among dog owners today; they are ideal for knowing how to respond without panic when your dog is in danger. While you are waiting to register, do you know what to do in case of an accident?

The most common accidents that requires dog first aid

With a dog or cat you have to be prepared for the following emergencies:

  • Hyperthermia / hypothermia: the rectal temperature rises above 39 ° or falls below 38 °. The situation must be taken seriously if the animal is very young or the temperature is very high, or vice versa.
  • Choking: Usually the animal coughs and then automatically removes the foreign body. If this is not the case, you have to go get it out yourself from his mouth, or you perform a Heimlich maneuver.
  • Cardio-respiratory problems: often after a shock they must be treated with absolute urgency. If your pet is equipped with a GPS tracker with real time tracking you can be quickly alerted.
  • Ingestion of toxic products: Make your pet to vomit it.

Read More: Dog Crate Training Tips

Dog First aid kit

A well-filled medicine kit is essential to prevent accidents; What should it contain?

  • Specific dressings and dressings of all sizes, compresses and veterinary antiseptic wipes;
  • A muzzle to prevent your dog from bite
  • A pillow cover to control your dog with gentleness
  • A rectal thermometer and petrolatum
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • A solution of hydrogen peroxide dosed at 3% maximum , to induce vomiting from your prt
  • A blanket of survival and towels
  • Disposable gloves
  • A veterinary emergency number and / or that of a clinic

Focus on: The Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver does not only work for man, it applies to animals too.

  • Dog First Aid: stand behind your dog, standing or squatting, depending on the size of the animal. Put an arm around the stomach (3 or 4 fingers of the hand if it is a small dog) and practice 5 short but powerful pressing on the stomach. Repeat until he spits out the object
  • Cat: Place one hand on his back to hold it firmly and the other hand on the belly at the base of the rib cage. Perform series of 4 presses that are directed inwards and upwards. You can help your cat by knocking him twice in the nose between each series of pressures.

Focus on: Taking Pulse

Sometimes, after a shock or a fall, no lesion is visible on your animal. However, he may be injured and / or startled. Checking the pulse is a good way to assess his general condition: put your pet on his side. Search with the index finger and the middle finger for pulsations on the inside of the thigh at the level of the groin. Count the number of beats over a period of 20 seconds and then multiply the number by 3 to get the number of beats / minute. The average for a dog varies from 60 (for a large animal) to 160 bpm for a small breed.

Prepare to help your pet with a problem or accident: contact a rescue training organization. Your veterinarian can also teach you some simple dog first aid techniques that can save his life. Think about it!

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Heat management in dogs: Some essential reminders

The dog is an endothermic animal, that is to say it has a thermoregulation system and its internal heat must be constant. In view of this, there must be a constant balance between heat production (thermogenesis) and heat dissipation (thermolysis), just as it is happening to man. The temperature of the dog is around 38.5 ° C and the variations are very poorly tolerated by their body!

How panting Helps in Heat Management

The peculiarity of dogs, compared to human beings, is that they possess very little sweat glands; housed at the pads, their surface is not enough to regulate the temperature of the dog. This is why they are panting continuously or almost all the time in order to stabilize their metabolism.

It can be stated that the more dry the  air is, the more effective the panting is, and the more humid the air, the lower the transfer.rate.

The Role of Conduction and Radiation in Heat Management

Conduction and radiation maximize heat loss via the epidermis, this is less effective but nevertheless necessary, . It is not sweat but simply a loss of energy by contact or radiation. Apparently during hot weather, the dog’s blood system promotes blood transfers via peripheral channels rather than internal networks to maximize losses.

Heat Management in Dogs: Behavior

Be that as it may, the best solution developed by dogs lies in obvious behavioral mechanisms. Looking for shade, cool, feeding in the warmest hours, higher drink intake, etc.

Helping your dog manage the heat

It’s all about common sense … But since it’s especially when you’re not suspicious that accidents happen, stay alert!

REMINDER: If your dog is brachycephalic, black, sick, overweight, elderly or unaccustomed to heat, be especially on your guard.

Here are some points to observe (this is not exhaustive):

1. Try to give him water to drink. (No ice water)

Wet your dog if you can, with water at room temperature and / or bathe it wherever possible. For those who do not have this opportunity , there are refreshing blankets and coats for dogs that are sensitive or obliged to withstand the heat (apartments, vacations, etc.)

2. Take your dog out at times when the the sun is not at its peak (before 10 am and after 5 pm)

3. Make your dog stay in shaded areas as much as possible.

4. Avoid bituminous soils that can be very hot.

 

The heat stroke.

Heat stroke can cause serious brain damage and even death of your dog, if you fail to quickly recognize it, and give it the required attention. If your dog has the following symptoms, he may be a victim from a heat stroke:

Rising heart rate and breathing: Excessive gasping, foam, drool

Rising body temperature, or  hot body

Unusual: search for freshness

Appearance of involuntary movements: convulsions, tremors

Loss of consciousness: dizziness, fainting

Blue / gray mucous membranes

In the case of heat stroke – What to do?

Stay calm but do not waste time to respond. .

Do not force your dog to get up. Place him in the shade.

Moisten or cover him with a damp cloth.

Try to give him water to drink, but not to excess.

Ventilate the air around him if possible.

Call your veterinarian re or the nearest veterinarian.

Conclusion

Heat management is essential in the summer season and is mainly based on common sense. Be extremely vigilant if your dog is in his first days of heat. Follow these simple rules, and if your dog does not return to normal consult a veterinarian urgently.


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Rex is a five-month-old German Shepherd Dog breed, born to a mother of the show line and a dad of a working line. A good size for his age. Rex will certainly be out of standard, that is to say that its size will be larger than what is written in the standard of its breed. His voice is powerful, not to talk about the solid frame. He will surely become a fine specimen . The owner who adores him could sense the rejection and criticism of his peers.

Rex is scary, aggressive, and imposing. He barks all the time! In short, Rex does not enjoy the acceptance of the people around him. The owner of the breeding house  from which he came made a serious mistake for his psychological development since he was weaned too early, and adopted from the age of 6 weeks. Knowing that a puppy needs his mother and siblings up to the minimum age of 7 weeks, Rex missed the boat. He created a hyper attachment to his adopted mother.

Rex barks immediately he is left alone, feeling abandoned by her adopted mother. and always react to the slightest noise by a well punctuated bark. Despite the indisputable efforts of his owner to make him socialize, Rex remains hesitant with strangers, but with dogs, he wants to play.

Sometimes using his voice with exaggerated enthusiasm, some dogs are afraid of his big clumsy frame. Their fear may spawn a response from Rex, but without any serious aggressive reaction. Rex is a clumsy teenager who only thinks of playing with whatever he finds comfortable with, just like all young people do. The patience of those around him is put to the test all the time, but Rex learns and matures slowly. He needs stability, calmness, and general friendly disposition, and not screaming, frustration or threatening people, and other dogs around.

Good things come to those who wait for it. A dog, especially an exuberant and active puppy like Rex, does not reach maturity in 3 days. It takes months of patience and grooming to arrive at a more acceptable result. Too many dogs are abandoned at this stage every year, simply because the owners are tired of this canine adolescence.

To raise a german shepherd dog, just like any other breed from puppy to adulthood requires a good investment, time and patience, but in the case of Rex, the family circle and the neighborhood are not ready to give this, practically they lack patience and understanding for this growing adolescent. It’s sad to say this, but today many people are generally not very tolerant of dogs. These people only like to caress dogs in exhibitions and breeders’ shows.

They see them beautiful and fine, but immediately a neighbor or family member brings a new dog that barks they develop an attitude towards the poor creature. They quickly call to the owner to shut him up. As a result, dog owners are always under pressure and frustration from their peers. The dog is not a human that can be reason, hence he will always see hostility in these “no to pets” neighbors, and then react more with barking and snarling.

From a purely emotional and psychological point of view, the dog can be compared to a child of about age 4 to 5 years, who still needs lot of supports and care from their parents. He acts and reacts emotionally as a child. He is conscious of hatred and abandonment, experiences joy, pleasure and a whole range of emotions that can also cause stress. This stress triggers anxiety. Anxiety damages the well-being of the dog, as well as his physical and psychological health.

To be balanced, the dog needs clear instructions, guidance, and respect in a stable and consist manner. This should be given by all, so that a dog can always feel warm, acceptable, and confortable with people. If dogs can talk, they will tell you that they are also afraid of most people, just as humans are afraid of them.

Rex is an example like so many other dogs I have seen over the years with bittr experiences which they do not deserve.

The story of this unfortunate german sherperd dog, Rex is teaching us something, and that is, any dog can be educated, and this education begins before birth by choosing balanced parents. The breeder is then responsible for contributing to the optimal development of his puppies by beginning their socialization and respecting their psychological and emotional needs of daily contact with their mother and the siblings until the minimum age of 7 weeks.

Then, the owner has the duty to continue this socialization and education throughout the first year of the dog’s life, and all the years that he will share with him thereafter. “You are responsible forever for what you have tamed. The question is, do you want to breed? Do you want to have a pet or work dog? Then you must be ready to take responsibility to socialize and educate them.

That’s the way it should be, and the only way that we can make sure that dogs like Rex are no longer a majority in our neighborhood, but a minority. Behavioral problems, especially those leading to aggressive demonstrations and extreme fears, often have their source programmed from early childhood through improper breeding. Before buying a dog, make sure that the breeder knows this, and that your puppy is well prepared for his future pet dog life.

Avoid overprotecting and cuddling a dog like a baby. A puppy will become what you do with him. The more you treat him as a baby, the less balanced he will be. A dog remains a dog.

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