Dog Sense (McGreevy)

This post is part of the McGreevy seminar series. Click here for the index.


McGreevy mentioned various dog sensory capacity stats throughout his seminar.  This is only a brief post, but still interesting!

Sense of Smell

Dogs sense of smell is 100 times stronger than people’s.  As dog owners and trainers, we need to understand how ‘smelly’ the world is for dogs, and what that means for dogs when they’re trying to concentrate on us!

Smelling is a key skill for dogs, but there is no decent way to test the olfaction of dogs.  McGreevy suggested that cognitive function may be linked to sense of smell.




Dogs have better hearing than us.  In particular, they can hear stuff that is higher in frequency than humans can hear.  The distance between a dog’s ears predict how much they can hear (but I don’t remember the equation, sorry!).


Dog Sight

Dogs are quite attuned to picking up visual signals.  Different dog breeds have different retinas, and so see in different ways.


Of course, there is a lot more that could be said about dog senses, but these are just what McGreevy mentioned over the course of the seminar.


This post is part of the McGreevy seminar series. Click here for the index.


Dog Memory

My first border terrier was a dog called MacDogald, and he now lives with my parents. However, he has come back for a week as my parents are overseas. Mac is dog aggressive, and one of the reasons he moved to my parents house is because I didn’t feel it was fair on him to have foster dogs through the house.

Mac has met Winona, the 14 week puppy, numerous times. Mac is good with puppies – he seems to understand that they’re ‘special’.  When he met Winona at my house, that was fine. He tells her off when she gets annoying, and that is quite okay in my household.

Mac met Mr Chip through the fence, and Mac did not like Mr Chip on first sight. Mr Chip was quite happy to make friends despite the growling (Mr Chip is not very clever).

The interesting case was Mac meeting Clover.  Clover grew up with Mac, but Mac moved out when she was about 2 years old.  She has visited Mac at his house several times, but due to pregnancy and puppies, Clover hasn’t seen Mac for 5 months. Clover hasn’t seen Mac at our house for about a year.

Mac and Clover were very good friends when they were here. There is only one serious tiff I can remember of there 2.5 years or so that they lived together.  They played well together.  Mac has separation anxiety, and Clover was a comfort to him when he was otherwise home alone.

A young Clover cuddling Mac.

That being said, since Mac has gone, a lot has changed. Clover has grown up, matured, had her first litter of puppies… And otherwise, become a bitch.

So I introduced the two of them with caution. I first allowed them to meet through the fence.

Clover’s reaction was phenomenal. It cannot be described as anything but ‘remembering’. Continue reading


McGreevy: General Dog Training Thoughts

This post is part of the McGreevy seminar series. Click here for the index.


McGreevy described animal training as “a bit of an art and a bit of a science”. ‘Training’ animals means changing the frequency to which animals show certain behaviours. Learning theory is a universal language that clarifies the nature of training, explaining what will work and will not work, and its general principles apply regardless of the species being trained.

Training often seeks to establish connections between two or more events, and does so by using operant conditioning (i.e. rewards and punishments) and classical conditioning, and often these two work together.  ‘Conditioning’ is any relatively permanent response that occurs as a result of exercise (that is, any responses formed by maturation or debility are not from conditioning).

Trainers often have exquisite timing, and have the ability to self reflect on their progress.



Photos © Ruthless Photos

“Life coaches”

McGreevy prefers to use the term ‘life coach’ to describe the relationship between a dog and a person.  Life coaches have opportunities for the dog to have success, but also rules.  (The concept of ‘alpha’ asks for people to adopt an unrealistic, pseudo dog role that is not very useful for dog training.)  How dogs and people interact is relevant to the dog’s success.  The handler of a dog needs to be relevant to the dog – a boring or passive life coach is irrelevant for the dog, and the dog will not work.  Dogs will form a bond with their owners, and a trust, but this trust is not generalisable to all situations or to different people.

‘Trust’, itself, is an interesting concept.  It is difficult to measure, and is built on consistency.  During training, trust is built be trainers being caregivers and companions rather than ‘leaders’ or ‘dominant’.

Generally in dog training, we seek dogs that will respond to cues (e.g. the word ‘sit’) with appropriate behaviours.  It is an ongoing process that requires maintenance in many contexts and environments.


Dog social order

Dogs with one another have a social order, but it’s not so much a hierarchy. Dog social order is built on difference, not dominance.  This ‘difference’ is a different desire for different resources, meaning some dogs are more inclined to seek some resources than others.  The ideas of social order shouldn’t be ‘thrown out’ with dominance theory.  In short, dogs have evolved to compete with one another.  Excellent coaches tap into the resources that dogs compete over, and use them in training (as rewards).


This concludes our section on training dogs, but we will continue to investigate more McGreevy topics in posts to come.


In the meantime, I wonder:

What do you think are the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ bits of dog training?

How does your self-reflection as a trainer go?

How would you measure trust with your dogs?


This post is part of the McGreevy seminar series. Click here for the index.


Pet Blogs United Feature

You may have noticed our little button on the side bar for a while now.


Well, we are very happy to be the current featured blogger on Pet Blogs United. This great blog seeks, as its name suggests, to unite pet bloggers.  They feature a pet blogger weekly, and I try to write comments on these featured blogs where possible.  I’ve added some of the good value ones to my Google Reader, too.

They also frequently feature give aways (and many global!) that are all pet related. Another good reason to check out and follow Pet Blogs United.

We are very grateful for the help from Pam and Oskar in getting our blog featured, and a big welcome to all those bloggers who are stopping by for the first time. I hope you find this blog of interest and you stick around. Your comments are appreciated.

Happy blogging!


Buddy the Foster Dog

I just shared a moment with my newest foster dog. He flew to my state yesterday so I could foster him and find a new home.

He was hanging out with me in the kitchen, and somehow I ended up on the floor with him on my lap, giving him a cuddle.

I know dogs generally object to cuddles, and so I was rather attentive to his body language for feedback on this interaction. If you took a picture of this dog, in my arms, from a distance, he probably looked somewhat tense. However, his face revealed how relaxed he was: His eyes were closed.

Here was this dog, on my lap, tucked up to my chest, my arms supporting him, and my head over him – and this dog, totally at my mercy and relaxed, after knowing me for about 30 hours.

Buddy having a cuddle in the sunshine.

And I got to thinking, aren’t dogs amazing? Continue reading