CH: 6 Canine Communication

How To Avoid Behavior Myopia!

Steinker and Anderson (2014) refer to this as “behavior myopia” of which the “most damaging aspect…is the complete disregard for [the dog’s] emotional state.” They cite disregard or ignorance of canine body language as a key cause of behavior myopia: “In order to interpret subtle behaviors, dog trainers need to understand canine body language. Some dogs are just hard to read, no matter how experienced the trainer. Certain breeds are stoic and simply ‘quiet’ in their nonverbal communication. Sometimes a dog’s behavior can be globally suppressed from the use of punishment and/or negative reinforcement. Such dogs can be particularly dangerous and difficult to work with.” (Steinker & Anderson, 2014).

Another cause of behavior myopia cited by Steinker and Anderson (2014) is a lack of consideration of a dog’s emotions and their subtle indicators: “If a dog is barking and lunging at a stimulus then he is usually fearful or angry. If the behavior modification protocol does not address the dog’s emotional state then it is flawed…Often, trainers are only aware of obvious, reactive behaviors and unaware of the small changes that occur as a stimulus becomes gradually more aversive to the animal.” They state that dog trainers have an “ethical obligation” to do everything they can to improve the quality of life for both the dog and owner, and that having completed a behavior modification program, “dogs should feel safer and happier. Similarly, the process should create dogs who are more resilient because of the improved baseline regarding joy and happiness – which also leads to a more desirable result for the owner. (Steinker & Anderson, 2014). Read this chapter in full by fetching your own copy of this book here