Do Wolves Cooperate, and Dogs Submit? A Dog Trainer’s Thoughts

Not a wolf, this dog is an Australian shepherd.
Not a wolf, this dog is an Australian shepherd.

Research from the American Behavior Society was noted this week in Science (22-August-2014). The title, “Wolves Cooperate but Dogs Submit, Study Suggests” caught my attention, perhaps because I was at work doing my job as a science writer/editor and the word “dog” appeared in something related to work. What could be more fun than dogs at work?

But my attention was sustained because this is yet another report comparing wolves and dogs, a natural and obvious comparison, but one that always puzzles me, for several reasons.

As a former graduate student and lab tech, I know that when doing research, results are everything. Wait: Correct interpretation and reporting of results is the ultimate.  But without the proper controls, one cannot correctly interpret or report results.
The control is the piece or part of the experiment that shows what happens when no treatment is applied; the sample or subject is in the same environment and has the same experience as the treated samples or group.

Full Disclosure
However, my experience is in biology research. The dog-wolf study discussed here is behavorial research. I have never (willingly and knowingly) participated in behavioral research.

But I know that controls are essential and that in behavioral research on live subjects, controls are probably very difficult to…control. Continue reading “Do Wolves Cooperate, and Dogs Submit? A Dog Trainer’s Thoughts”

Walking the Dog, Prefrontal Cortex Engaged

A favorite walk: the dog park.

A friend and I were recently at a local dog park, walking his Sheltie and Australian shepherd, and my two standard poodles. Our dogs are not daily visitors to the dog park, and while his dogs are well-behaved and subtle in their approach to other dogs, my poodles’ enthusiasm is not always in their best interest.

In addition, one of my dogs seems to take issue with certain of the protection dog breeds,  like German Shepherds, as well as some of the sled dog breeds. Generally, if a dog has pointed ears, I am on the alert for bad behavior.

For that matter, the protection dogs don’t seem to much care for fluffy, bouncy poodles. Annoying, you know? A dog’s trying to keep order and make the world safe, and here comes that poodle, bouncing along without a care in the world. There’s a lot of danger out there and the poodles are simply not paying attention. They jog along meeting people and dogs like they are running for mayor; darn poodles.

Occasionally it has seemed that the attitude problem is not exclusive to my dog.

People often say, “Oh, standard poodles are such smart dogs”. But you’d think a smart dog would not choose a big, guard dog breed with which to make trouble. Continue reading “Walking the Dog, Prefrontal Cortex Engaged”