Dog Communication Skills

Dogs have clear ways of communicating. If you live with a dog or would like to, you’ll want to read this article. One of the primary skills we teach all our clients is how to communicate with and understand their dog.

The article Dogs Growl Honestly and Women Understand Better than Men by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. will give you excellent insight into dog behavior.

Dogs are vocal animals, and most of us at one time or another have heard a wide variety of sounds ranging from growls to barks, whines, and whimpers. But how good are we at determining the emotional state of a dog when she or he is growling? A new and very important study by Hungarian researchers T. Faragó, N. Takács, Á. Miklósi, and P. Pongrácz called “Dog growls express various contextual and affective content for human listeners” shows we’re pretty good at assigning context and emotional state to different growls, and that women are better than men at doing so. The abstract for this study (available online) reads as follows:… Click here to read Dr. Bekoff’s article.

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Help from the Girl Scouts

 

A California Girl Scout Troop working on their “Animal Helpers” badge sent us a new link for our resources page.  We’d like to say thank you and on your recommendation have added it to our resource page.  You can check it out by clicking here.

As part of our prison training program we offer the inmate handlers the opportunity to receive their First Aide/CPR certifications for dogs. Knowing how to care for those who depend on us is always an important part of the program.  These skills can be carried into the community for job opportunities as they are released to begin new lives.

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Research Shows Dogs Have a Secret Language at Play

photo credit: sonstroem Dogs Playing via photopin (license)

Nothing is more fun than watching dogs at play. Lucky Marc Bekoff spent decades researching playful dogs and says they send messages to each other with body movements.  We’ve all seen our own dogs do the most used, the play bow.  They use this pose to say, “I’m ready! let’s play!”

Dr. Bekoff, an ethologist, has written quite a few books on animals, their love of play and their morality.  After studying an enormous amount of video footage, Dr. Bekoff found several interesting behaviors when dogs interact.   Once of these behaviors is “self-handicapping”, in which bigger dogs will realize their size advantage when playing with smaller dogs and will allow them to jump on them or even roll over to give the smaller dog a better chance.  Dr. Bekoff says this behavior suggests dogs adhere to a sort of morality. His research as well as that of others supports the idea that dogs play fair which scientists had believed was a uniquely human trait.

Other studies have shown that dogs understand a wide range of emotions like empathy and inequality, which probably does not come as a surprise to those of us with dogs in our lives.  Tests have revealed that dogs will lick or nuzzle others that are crying to show support. Some dogs will not perform certain trained movements like shaking hands for a treat in front of other dogs due to feeling privileged.

For more interesting reading pick up Dr. Bekoff’s new book, Canine Confidential:  An Insider Guide to the Best Lives for Dogs and Us.

photo credit: sonstroem Dogs Playing via photopin (license)

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How can your dog become a therapy dog?

 

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) change lives but so can your dog by becoming a therapy dog.  There are many jobs a well trained family dog can perform that will help raise awareness of the importance of service dogs in general and Psychiatric Service Dogs in particular.  In addition to the basic training described below for therapy dogs a PSD requires specialized training to perform the specific duties required by their handlers. This can take many many months to complete.

Therapy dogs are trained to be good canine citizens as well as how to handle themselves in many situations.  Not everyone gets to see a PSD in action but, in many places, everyday people can see how therapy dogs relax and sooth those around them even in some of the most stressful situations, fostering a broader understanding of how dogs may help and in some cases heal those with mental illness.

therapy dog nteracting with the public“A therapy dog is someone’s pet that is highly trained, can be easily controlled around other dogs, is very social and enjoys interacting with all ages and types of people and has been tested and certified through a recognized therapy dog organization.”

That’s quite a mouthful but it’s not good enough to just have a sweet easy going dog. You must be able to trust how he/she will react in almost any situation. Dogs and other therapy animals can make a world of difference in nursing homes, classrooms (read to a dog), family shelters and other places where people find themselves in need of a soothing presence.

If you’d like to give it a try, read this article for more information and resources.

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Psychiatric Service Dogs Transforming Lives

Excerpt from the book, “Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs And Their Extraordinary Power To Transform Lives,” by Jane Miller – Introduction: How the Healing Journey Began

Jane Miller with her babiesSeveral years ago I discovered something powerful about the dogs who share many of our lives. While all dogs provide love, comfort, joy, and support, for some people, dogs actually have the ability to transform lives. Although I have been in clinical practice as a therapist for years, this isn’t something I learned through professional training. The catalyst was a tiny furball named Umaya who came home with me on Christmas Eve. Here’s how our journey began…

In our fast-paced world, doctors are often quick to advise patients suffering from traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional and psychological problems that their ills can be solved through the use of one medication or another. Too many people think the pill itself is a “magic bullet” that will make their lives happier, easier, and more secure. It isn’t. Medications must be taken under careful supervision, and many anti-depressant drugs carry the risk of negative side effects, including in extreme cases suicidal tendencies. While many individuals do require medication, which has helped countless people, there are other pill-free choices that are extremely beneficial and may not have been considered. For many people one choice that they may have never heard of, either by itself or in combination with drug therapy and psychotherapy, might make all the difference.

Service Dogs have been assisting the blind, the hearing-impaired, and those in wheelchairs and with other disabilities for a long time. There are also Therapy Dogs who help enhance quality of life for many people by visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions providing comfort and support. Umaya’s strength and calming influence were a revelation to me, and when I saw the way that my clients responded to her, I began to realize that having a dog could have a profound impact on some of my clients’ lives.

This is not just the story of our journey, however; it’s a window onto the world of Psychiatric Service Dogs for people with invisible disabilities, showing how the dogs can change and enhance the lives of their human companions. In the following chapters, we’ll meet some of these amazing dogs and see how they have helped a number of individuals improve their lives in profound and unexpected ways, allowing them to gain self-esteem, self-confidence, assertiveness, and so much more. These dogs provide emotional support, as all dogs do, but they are specifically trained to perform certain tasks unique to the individual’s needs. Through the stories of these dogs, I hope to show how you, a friend, or a family member how they might benefit from such a healing companion.

In addition to these remarkable stories, this book will also explain which dogs are the right candidates for the job, which dogs are not, and how to tell the difference. Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with the dog’s breed. Mixed breed dogs are very well suited to assist those with invisible disabilities. These dogs can be in-home companions or full-time Service Dogs who also accompany their companions out in public and to work. I’ll discuss how these dogs are trained, how the dog may impact other members of the family, and how to make life more comfortable and less stressful for the dogs while they are undertaking their essential tasks. I’ll also provide a helpful list of resources for further information, support, and services.

For anyone who may not know about the profound benefits that these service dogs may bring, as well as for anyone who loves dogs and enjoys learning more about their value to their companions, I hope this book will serve as an informative, practical, and inspirational guide.

Umaya started me on this extraordinary path. Now, share the journey of my clients and others who have opened their hearts to a service dog and found a healing beyond their expectations.

To learn more join us in our journey: Healing Companions’ benefit to our community is three-fold: a shelter dog’s life is saved; the trained psychiatric service dog provides a friend, family member, or neighbor who has mental illness with assistance that promotes a higher level of functioning and participation in society; and the inmate who has trained the dog gains both job skills and “soft skills” that help them obtain jobs and contribute to their communities upon release.

Click Here for a video about our organization.

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