Tag Archives: dog

10 Surprising And Secret Ways Your Dog Says ‘I Love You’

I have always fantasized about having the same powers as Doctor Dolittle — mostly because knowing exactly what animals are thinking and feeling would be some really valuable information to have.

For instance, why does my dog bark at the vacuum cleaner or hide in a corner whenever the lightest bit of rain starts to fall?

I don’t think I’ll ever know the answers to those questions, but thanks to new developments in the science of dog communication, I now know whether or not my dog loves me.

Much like studies that have found that dogs have certain “powers” or enhanced physical senses, scientists have also uncovered that because dogs and humans have been so deeply intertwined through history, dogs have developed unique ways to expressing their love for humans.

The signs are very subtle and they’re not always obvious, but as we break down in this exclusive, all you need to know are the tiny signs that prove your dog’s love for you…
1. Staring directly into your eyes.

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On a 60 Minutes segment, Anderson Cooper met with Brian Hare, a well-known dog expert, to discuss how dogs express love. According to Hare, when your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes.”

When a dog looks at you while the two of you are playing with one another or just cuddling, oxytocin is released. It’s the same hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies. If you want to test this out with your dog, don’t go home and a have a staring contest with your pooch. He will sense something is off, and look away because he feels awkward.

Instead, try to naturally maintain eye contact with him during your normal routines and see how he responds.
2. Yawning when you yawn.

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Yawning is contagious. But did you know this impulse isn’t limited to just humans?

Dogs, because they’ve been bred to read humans, also yawn when someone they love yawns.

A study found that when humans echo another’s yawn, it’s because they’re empathetic, like sympathy pains. It’s impossible to measure if dogs are empathetic, but it’s possible that a dog yawning the same time as a human happens because the dog has bonded with that person.

The study also found that dogs were more likely to yawn when their owners yawned, as opposed to a stranger.
3. Leaning on you.

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The song “Lean on Me” is all about offering support and dogs crave that same kind of security.

Sometimes a dog will lean on a human because he is anxious, wants you to do something, or take him somewhere. But leaning is also a symbol of affection.

Even if your dog is leaning on you out of pure nervousness, he is still doing it because he thinks of you as someone who can protect him and keep him safe.
4. Cuddling with you after a meal.

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In his book, How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns, if your dog cuddles with your after eating, it’s a strong sign that they do indeed love you.

Most dogs lovers (or even people who don’t like dogs) know that pups are motivated by food. But according to Berns, once a dog eats all its food, his next action can signify what’s most important to him besides eating.

Sometimes your dog may have to do his “business” right after a meal, but watch how he reacts in the morning and at night. If he’s snuggling up with you after one of these meals, then there’s some definite puppy love on his end.
5. Lifting and wiggling eyebrows.

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We think we can read a dog by its tail, but its facial expressions are a way more powerful indicator.
In a recent study in Japan, dogs were introduced to their parent, a stranger, a dog toy, and an item they didn’t like.

When seeing their parent, the dogs immediately lifted their eyebrows (especially their left), and when they saw a stranger there was a lot less facial movement, except for movement of the right brow.

Yet, when they saw an item they knew and had bonded with, the dogs shifted their left ear back. But if it was an item they didn’t like, their right ear shifted. According to the study, this suggests the dog is more reserved when they are engaging someone they don’t know or something they disapprove of.
6. Watching you leave calmly.

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Some people think that if a dog panics when they leave that it’s a sign that they love them.

That’s not necessarily true, according to Gregory Berns.

If your dog panics when you leave, it’s more of a sign that they have separation anxiety than that they love you.

If a dog goes into his crate or is accepting of you leaving, i.e. they’re calm when you leave, it means your dog loves and trusts you and is confident that you will return.
7. Freaking out when you return.

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We all feel special when we come home and we’re greeted by our dog with his tail wagging, a favorite toy in tow, and he’s jumping all over the place like a crazy kangaroo.

And it’s a good thing we like it, because it’s a very distinctive way a dog shows you his love for you — and it’s love in its truest form.
8. Sleeping in your room.

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Another way to figure out whether your dog loves you is observing where he likes to sleep.

It’s part of a big controversy, but if your dog wants to sleep in your bed — even if you don’t allow it — he definitely loves you.

According to Gregory Berns, if a dog wants to sleep on your bed, it’s a good test of his loyalty because he doesn’t want to be separated from the pack.
9. Bringing you his favorite toy.

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If your pup brings you his favorite, most coveted toy, it doesn’t just mean your dog wants to play.

Although wanting to play with you is a sign of affection in itself, when your dog brings you his favorite ball, it may also mean he thinks of you as his pack leader.

Because of this, he wants to please you by offering you his finest possession, be it a squeaky toy or well-worn Frisbee. He thinks you’ll like it as much as he does, and as they say: “sharing is caring!”

10. Enjoying your love.

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Do you love your dog? According to Gregory Berns, dogs can actually innately sense whether or not you love them.

So if you don’t love them, you’re not getting it back in return!

How does your beloved pup most often show you their love? Let us know in the comments below!

Please SHARE if you believe dogs truly are man’s best friend!

The Way Animals Learn is not Breed-Specific

*This is a repost of an article originally written for StubbyDog in August, 2013.*

Ever heard that a penny dropped from the Empire State Building will kill someone if it lands on his or her head? Or that Albert Einstein failed Math? Or that bats are blind? What about the claim that pit bull dogs (and other “strong” breeds) can’t be trained using positive reinforcement? That they require harsher methods to be “brought into line”?

These seemingly-unrelated contentions all have one thing in common: They’re myths. Baseless fallacies. Dreamed up by some person, for one reason or another, to describe a phenomenon that he or she didn’t fully understand. And, as it happens, these claims are not merely unfounded, but there is remarkable evidence to the contrary.

The truth is that pit bulls are, above anything else, dogs. The truth is that all dogs (and all animals, for that matter) learn the same way. The truth is that we can effectively train dogs, of all breeds, without hurting or scaring them. The truth is that all dogs learn via consequences and associations. And the truth is that (given the right motivation), these consequences and associations needn’t be painful or frightening. And if they needn’t be, they shouldn’t be.

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The foundation of animal learning is actually pretty simple: Animals learn via consequences and associations. But how do we apply these theories in real-world settings, when a squirrel or an enticing smell is far more interesting to our dogs than we are? The answer is just as simple: we find the right motivation, and adjust criteria accordingly. So, let’s break this down.

Learning via Consequences

The techie term for this type of learning is operant conditioning. Dogs learn by the immediate consequences of their actions. In their view, there are good consequences and bad consequences, and they’re constantly trying to start or keep the good stuff, and avoid or end the bad stuff.

Those of us who elect to train without force or fear leverage the good stuff, i.e. rewards. We reward the dog for performing behaviors that we’d like to see more of (aka positive reinforcement) and remove rewards for behaviors we’d like to see less of (aka negative punishment).

Dogs repeat behaviors that are reinforced; they learn, remarkably quickly, that’s how they get the good stuff. If the dog sits, he gets a cookie. If he walks on a loose leash, he gets to continue moving forward. If he comes when we call him out of play at the dog park, he gets to go back and romp around with his buddies. It’s important to remember that this law still applies regardless of our intent in changing the dog’s behavior. So for example, if the dog jumps to greet us when we come home at the end of the day, and we pet him and tell him how much we’ve missed him, we are rewarding jumping. Similarly, if we leave our dinner on the countertop, and the dog gets a hold of it, counter-surfing has been reinforced, and we’re likely to see more of it. Dogs do what works for them.

In the same way, dogs cease behaviors that are punished; they learn that those behaviors terminate the good stuff. If the dog jumps to greet, he is ignored. If he pulls on-leash, he can no longer move forward. If he mouths us when he’s over-excited during play, he gets a time-out. With repetition and consistency, the dog learns that unwanted behaviors don’t work for him, and he offers those behaviors less and less.

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Training that incorporates the reward and reward-removal methods discussed above yields behaviors that are more reliable than those achieved through traditional methods, which focus heavily on the “bad stuff.” Apart from simply not having the stomach to knowingly inflict pain on or instill fear in a dog, I choose reward-based methods because they don’t have the same negative side effects (exacerbating reactivity, aggression, learned helplessness, etc.) as traditional methods. When we incorporate bad stuff into our training repertoire, we run the risk of creating negative associations with any number of things. Actually, let’s talk more associations.

Learning via Associations

The techie term for this type of learning is classical conditioning. Remember Pavlov’s dog? He learned that the sound of a bell meant that food was coming, and eventually, the bell elicited the same response (salivating) as the food itself. The dog made an association: Bell predicts food. Pavlov is always on our shoulder, in all of our interactions with our dogs.

What does your dog do when you pull out his leash? Chances are, he perks up, or wags his tail, or does a little happy dance. He has learned that the leash predicts a walk. What about when you open the pantry and rattle his favorite bag of treats? He probably runs up to you and gazes into your eyes expectantly. He has learned that this action predict treats.

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But associations can be negative, too. How does your dog react when you break out the nail clippers? If you’ve taken the time to properly condition him to grooming, he may respond happily, but many dogs become fearful at the mere sight of nail clippers. They have learned that they predict restraint, or other scary stuff—like you accidently clipping past what doesn’t hurt.

It’s important to make a distinction between behaviors (like sitting, staying, jumping, or demand barking), which animals use to produce consequences; and displays of emotions (like wagging tails, twirling in delight when you come home at the end of the day, growling or baring teeth), which are responses to various stimuli. The key difference is the dog’s ability to influence outcomes. Most dogs will happily sit for a cookie; they use the behavior of sitting to produce desired consequences. But what about a dog that bolts to the front door every time the doorbell rings? He does so because he’s learned that the doorbell predicts visitors. He can’t influence the outcome of visitors arriving, but he anticipates their arrival when the doorbell tips him off.

This distinction may seem trivial, but in reality, it’s gargantuan. Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t pat your dog when he’s fearful? That it will “reinforce” his fear? Or that you should never feed your dog when he’s barking and lunging at other dogs, as you’d be rewarding “bad” behaviors? Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Imagine that you have a deathly fear of spiders. And while you’re out on a leisurely stroll, a giant, hairy spider lands right in front you. You scream in fear, run in circles, and cause a huge scene. But what if someone handed you a hundred dollar bill in the midst of your panic? And what if this happened ten times throughout the course of your walk? Do you think that, by eleventh time, you might be a wee bit less fearful the next time you see a spider? You absolutely would. In fact, you might even learn to enjoy seeing them, since they predict hundreds.

But what if each time you saw a spider, someone strangled you, forced you to sit on the ground, and yelled at you? By the eleventh encounter, do you think you’d feel any better about spiders? Absolutely not. In fact, you’d probably become more fearful of them, since they predict abuse. This sounds barbaric, but it’s precisely what we do to our dogs every time we “correct” them for reacting towards other dogs, or skateboards, or old ladies with canes. In our attempts to teach them that barking and lunging is unacceptable, we’re proving them right. We’re telling them that there is a reason to be upset.

Emotional responses cannot be “reinforced.” They can be modified, however, for better or for worse. In the world of dog training, we’re (hopefully) trying to replace negative associations with positive associations, so that our dogs are no longer motivated to react. We do this by teaching them that fear-evoking stimuli predict good things.

Motivation

But learning cannot happen without motivation. As noted above, there are four ways to motivate dogs. They will work to avoid and/or terminate bad stuff (leash jerks, electric shock, squirts from a water bottle, etc.) or to continue and/or initiate good stuff (food, play, access to comfortable resting places, etc.). Luckily, we don’t need to exploit the bad stuff to motivate dogs. They, like all properly functioning animals, are motivated by food. They wouldn’t be alive otherwise.

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“But my dog has no interest in food when there are distractions!” To be 100% honest, I cringe every time I hear this from one of my students (even though I used to say the same exact thing). The reality is that something else in the environment is more motivating than our food rewards. This is where value comes into play.

Let’s revisit our spider example. What if every time you saw a spider, someone offered you a dollar bill? Would that be potent enough to change your deep-seated fear of spiders? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that you’re not motivated by money; it means that a dollar isn’t valuable enough to trump your fear.

The doggie equivalent of a dollar bill might be a piece of kibble or a dried food treat. That might be valuable enough to get some sits or down-stays in your living room, but in a high-distraction environment, it probably won’t cut it. So that’s when we break out the good stuff—the doggie equivalent of a hundred dollar bill. This might be tiny bits of boiled chicken, steak, or tripe. For dogs with strong prey drive, it might be a game of tug. It might also mean that we need to create distance, or lessen the intensity of the distraction. Going back to the spider example, a twenty dollar bill might get the job done if the spider were twenty feet away. When training, always consider what competing motivators you’re up against, and make adjustments accordingly.

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But What about Pit Bulls?

So we’ve managed to boil down the basic principles behind animal learning without once using the word “pit bull.” And that’s kind of the point. Pit bulls are just dogs. They, like all other breeds, are motivated by rewards. In fact, they’re a pleasure to train with the “good stuff.” Generally speaking, positive reinforcement trainers love them. Of course there are exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of pit bulls I’ve worked with are highly food-motivated, driven, clever and delighted to work for rewards. And when it comes time to do demonstrations in the all-breed classes I teach, I invariably scan the room for pit bulls to use. They make me look good.

What exactly is a pitbull anyway?

If you wouldn’t know a pitbull if you saw one, you’re not alone. Pit
bull is actually not a breed of dog. Instead, the term “pit bull”
refers to not one, but three dog breeds. Add to that, the fact that
there are over twenty different dog breeds that are regularly mistaken
as being pit bull and you can see how easy it becomes to mis-identify
them.

The three breeds that fall under the pit bull umbrella are the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. One quick way to keep them straight is to think “small, medium and large” in the order listed above. Some people feel that the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are essentially the same breed. And indeed, many
owners are now getting dual registrations on the same dog. Registering the dog as an APBT with the United Kennel Club and as an Amstaff with the American Kennel Club. Here is a picture of each type of pitbull dog grouped together for comparison.

 

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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American Bull Terrier

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American Staffordshire Terrier

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So what do you think? Are the APBT and the Amstaff essentially the same breed or not? My point is not really to debate that here. After all, if the experts can’t agree, why should you or I lose sleep over it? But, if you ever find yourself locked in a room with a pitbull aficionado, at least now you can perhaps hold your own. Aside from the pretty obvious differences in sizes, there are some very striking physical similarities. And the ancestries of all three breeds are very much intertwin. The pitbull head is often described as being wedged-shaped. But, I think spud-shaped is really more descriptive. The eyes are wide-set. There’s the signature strong jawline and muscular body. The ears when left natural (as they are in the above photos) are either rose or half pricked. Some breeders do still like to crop the ears. It’s a matter of personal preference.
And, personally I prefer natural for two reasons.First, I just think natural ears look better. They look so militant with their ears cropped. Secondly, the cropped ears and docked tail are vestiges of the breed’s fighting days when cropping and docking had practical value because it gave an opponent less to grab on to. Now that dogfighting has finally been outlawed in most countries, there’s just no need to do it.So, do you think you’d be able to recognize a pitbull now? If you want to test your mettle, you can play

Find the Pitbull.

But, a word of caution–don’t get discouraged. Few people get it
right the first time. Here’s a hint: the pit bull you are looking for
in this game is an American Pit Bull Terrier. Good luck!

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