Dog IQs

“If you’ve ever wondered whether dogs can count, try hiding three treats in your pocket, and then give your dog two.” 

Dog intelligence is something that is often taken for granted, in that many people never consider the overall intelligence of a given breed they’re considering. Recently, Study published in ScienceDirect.com took an in-depth look at the native intelligence of dogs.

That study found that, generally:
1) The structure of cognitive abilities in dogs is similar to that found in people;
2) Dogs that solved problems more quickly were also more accurate;
3) Dogs’ cognitive abilities can be tested quickly, like those of people;
4) Larger individual differences studies on dog cognition could contribute to cognitive epidemiology

It’s been my experience that different breeds do, indeed, have vastly different intelligence levels. Oftentimes, a pet’s natural IQ is indicative of the work they’ve been bred to do.

Dog IQOne of the smartest breeds we know is the German Shepherd Dog. Bred as a herding animal, and now used widely for guard duties and protection, it is one of the most loyal and intelligent dogs. Likewise, is the Chow Chow. Bred in China and Mongolia as a hunting and – later – a royal guard dog, they are incredibly intelligent and uber loyal to their family. Other dogs that we see in the clinic that I would characterize as highly intelligent include:

  • Border Collie
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Most of the terriers, including Yorkies
  • Rottweiler

Other dogs are bred for purposes that do not require the same level of intelligence. Most of my clients know my golden retriever, Ava. Like the Labrador and Chessie, the Golden Retriever was bred as a gun dog, used in the field to retrieve downed waterfowl. The retrievers and pointers have been described as having medium intelligence, and being very trainable. However, their level of intelligence does not rise to the level of those dogs listed above, although the Chesapeake seems to be a notch above the others when it comes to IQ.

Other pets have evolved away from their original intent so far that they no longer show the intelligence that was originally bred into them. Nonetheless, given the right motivation and consistent training, all pets can learn and assimilate knowledge on a scale to make them great pets. The key is persistent and consistent work, and positive reinforcement.

TTouch for Cats: Calming Your Pet and Eliminating Negative Behavior

TTouch for catsNot all cats are going to be patient and sit still long enough for their owners or other people who come into contact with them to perform Tellington Touch (TTouch) on them. According to the research, though, this method of massage is worth a try for felines. More research has been conducted on horses and dogs regarding TTouch, however, it has been said that this method is “universal for all species”.

More About TTouch

TTouch-CatThe TTouch technique was created and perfected by Linda Tellington-Jones. It requires performing various, yet specific, methods of circular “touches”, or massage techniques, to the animal. TTouch has been proven to help with dogs, horses, and even humans to improve the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of the person or pet receiving it, as well as increase communication between the human who is massaging the pet.

Shelter Animals – Creating More Adoptable Cats

According to this study, cats in shelters can benefit from TTouch in many ways. One of the most important benefits of TTouch is the increase in communication between humans and cats. The study reinforced why Linda Tellington-Jones promoted her method; it concluded that TTouch helped to build and deepen the bond between the shelter worker and the cat that they were massaging. More importantly, though, this massage method worked with the nervous system to help to release any fear or tension that the cats may have been experiencing in the shelter. This alone could be the key to making shelter cats more adoptable.

TTouch for Arthritis, Self-Confidence, and Altering Behavior

This case study used TTouch on several different cats with varying issues; however it uses TTouch by a different name. TTEAM (The Tellington Touch Every Animal Method) is the acronym that was developed because Linda Tellington-Touch originally called her technique the Tellington Jones Equine Awareness Method, and it was eventually found to work for all other animals. In the TTEAM for Cats – Communication Through Touch publication, Barbara Janelle outlined in detail how this method worked on cats in these case studies.

Wimsey, a cat with arthritis, was treated with the TTEAM technique and went from being unable to jump to climbing stairs and jumping on counters to running around the living room and becoming more active. After a few sessions, Wimsey was back to jumping on counters again. This elderly cat remained active throughout her life as she continued to receive TTEAM until she passed away.

Fudge, a rescued male wild cat, was reluctant of letting people touch him and would hide if anyone other than his rescuer and her son would try to pat him. He seemed to enjoy TTEAM, lying quietly and calmly while it was performed by his owner. The day after the TTEAM was performed; the owner took Fudge to a show-and-tell at her son’s third grade class, and was shocked to see him socializing with the children.

Magic Bailey did not have a lot of human contact as a kitten and was rescued at about 2 months old, as a very aggressive cat toward other cats, as well as humans. He would attack people’s ankles and chase the other household cat around. Additionally, his body was rigid and he was unable to jump on furniture, which added more fuel to his frustration and aggressive behavior. It took several sessions of TTEAM before Magic Bailey was jumping on a four foot tall bureau, the sink, the bed and the kitchen table.

Magic Bailey’s behavior started to change toward humans as his rescuer continued TTEAM work on him. His body started to become less rigid. He even sat quietly, right next to the other cat he had been chasing immediately after a joint TTEAM session where the rescuer and a friend performed TTEAM on both cats in the same room, close to each other.

Case after case, each study shows phenomenal changes in cats who are treated with TTouch or TTEAM. Cat owners who have been searching for a holistic treatment for their cats to improve their cat’s behavior, health, overall well-being and their relationship with their cat should check into TTEAM, the TTouch method for cats. The techniques for cats, including Clouded Leopard Circles, Raccoon Circles, and Tarantulas Pulling the Plow” are outlined here.

What to do About Begging

A dog begging at the tableWe all know that feeding table scraps to dogs is not a good idea, but it is likely that most pet parents do it at least once in a while. Table food is almost always not the best choice for dogs, but most of owners seem to have missed the message. Surveys indicate that begging at the table is one of the chief owner complaints, and is both charming and endearing and annoying and sometimes embarrassing, all at the same time.

Most people find that begging, if allowed to get started, is very hard to change or extinguish, partly because dogs are to some degree genetically programmed to seek food from people, partly because sharing food or trying to is part of the close connection between dogs and people, and in large part begging eventually works and dogs learn that persistence pays.

We Get More of Any Behavior We Reward

Most animals will naturally be drawn to the smell of food on the table, and dogs are famously good at determining and persisting in behavior that achieves the desired result. Dogs are also very skillful at interpreting human body language, and they can usually tell when a particular behavior is even partially rewarded, and are more likely to persevere with it. Even a morsel now and again, or for that matter expression of affection and implied approval of hovering around the table, is reinforcing. It’s classic operant conditioning: we get more of that which we reward.

But the behavior will lose strength if the dog concludes that the payoff of shadowing humans who are eating or about to eat is going to be zero. Dog behaviorists recommend attention, praise and petting for dogs in places away from the table, but not in locations where eating is taking place or is about to.

Even if not reinforced, there is an innate tendency to acquire food from humans that is part of the dog’s evolution from the wolf. Long ago, some of the more intrepid wolves began to scavenge people’s food in human settlements, and in the process became tamer and more accustomed to getting food from people. Physical and behavioral changes accompanied this increasingly close relationship.

The most successful dogs were those who most effectively prompted human nurturing and care-giving, and they in turn were reinforced in seeking it. These were often dogs with the most infantile appearance, as humans have instinctively sought to care for such dogs as they do for human infants. The most-domesticated and best-cared for dogs have generally been those with shorter skulls, larger eyes, floppier ears and curlier tails, which gave them more of a newborn appearance.

How to Break the Begging Habit

Defusing the urge to seek food from people and not reinforcing behavior that does this is not hard, but requires consistency and more determination than the dog has. Food should not be shared directly from the table, partly for behavioral reasons but also because people food is often not good for dogs, and is associated with allergic reactions and sometimes serious pancreatitis, particularly from high-fat foods.

Highly caloric human foods containing fat and sugar may also be the reason that as many as 50 per cent of dogs are overweight or obese according to some studies. This does not mean that human food must never be shared with dogs, because food is love in most human cultures and most dogs see it that way, too. As a healthy treat we strongly recommend fresh vegetables and fruits (in that order). Carrots and green beans are the go-to staples of healthy treat giving, but broccoli, peas, sweet potato (but not white potatoes due to their high glycemic index), and the occasional slice of apple or banana are all much healthier than store-bought treats.

It is important for all family members to avoid rewarding begging behavior all the time, and to communicate this to guests, as even one success in a hundred attempts will be enough to reinforce begging.  Some family members, such as young children, may not be able to follow the rule, and the dog is best kept away from them at mealtimes. Attention, even looking  at or scolding the dog, has been suggested as a reinforcement of  begging; withholding attention can be hard to do, especially if begging behavior gets worse before getting better as it sometimes does.

The behaviors can also be channeled in other directions, such as feeding the dog in a separate area at the time of human meals, or giving dry food or a healthy snack inside a toy or puzzle from which the dog will have to work to get the food. Long-lasting chewing treats will also occupy the canine attention while people eat. Training in some behavior other than the actions of begging is another option, and encouraging the dog to lie down on a bed or mat instead of begging, then rewarding the lying down with a food treat will tend to suppress the begging behavior. A word like “bed” or “crate” or “kennel” can be used to initiate the alternative behavior, and a reward for the desired response to this will over time convince the dog that lying down is worth doing and begging at the table is not.

This training may take discipline for pet parent and families, and may not be easy for the dog, particularly if meal-related bad habits have already been established. If as much perseverance is put into the training as most dogs will inherently put into begging, however, the result will be a calmer human mealtime and a calmer and healthier dog.

Canine Pheromones – Do They Work?

Canine pheromones, otherwise known as dog appeasing pheromones, have been suggested to treat separation related disorders, stress, fear, anxiety and other issues that may cause undesirable behaviors in dogs. A dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) is basically a synthetic chemical equivalent of the hormone that canine nursing mothers produce. This hormone is said to encourage behaviors that are tranquil and provide a feeling of security to dogs, as well as support the necessary bond between mother and pup.

More About DAP

DAP products are manufactured synthetically, and although the actual ingredients are not necessarily considered “natural” or “holistic”, the concept of the products is natural, as opposed to other treatment choices, like prescription drugs. Dog appeasing pheromones mimic the pheromones that a mother dog produces naturally in her milk. The natural response that canine pheromones stimulate in dogs is what makes this treatment method valuable to holistic-type dog owners.

DAP comes in several different formulations. There are DAP sprays that can be sprayed in your pet’s crate or even in kennels at the veterinarian hospital when a pet is staying over for surgery. There are DAP collars that can be worn by dogs who exhibit stress or fear on a regular basis or when certain circumstances occur that could create anxiety, such as thunderstorms or fireworks. There are even electric diffusers that can be plugged into a room and moved from one room to another in your house, when necessary.

Studies on Dog Appeasing Pheromone

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a review in June, 2010 that evaluated using pheromones in both felines and canines to treat undesirable behavior. The study encompassed a systematic review of various pieces of scientific literature ranging from January 1998 to December 2008. Results concluded there was only one study, out of the seven which focused on canines, which indicated evidence that fear and anxiety were decreased in canines when the dog appeasing pheromone was used.

However, canine pheromones have been researched widely, and many of the studies have leaned more toward the efficacy of using canine pheromones to improve undesirable behaviors in dogs. For example, the Journal of the British Veterinary Association published another study on 67 dogs that exhibited separation-related disorders. The dog appeasing pheromone was given to one group and clomipramine (a prescription tricyclic antidepressant drug used to treat panic disorder, OCD, depression, chronic pain, and sleep disorders) was administered to the other group. In both groups, the undesirable behavior seemed to decrease nearly the same amount, although owners did report fewer unwanted behaviors in the pheromone group. Additionally, owners found the pheromone to be more convenient to administer.

Dog hiding under chairApplied Animal Behaviour Science published a study that assessed the efficacy of DAP on the behavior of shelter dogs. The evaluation lasted a period of 7 days, wherein 37 dogs were administered the dog appeasing pheromone and 17 dogs were in a control group in a public animal shelter. The amplitude and frequency of barking, as well as two temperament tests that gauged excitable behavior, fear and separation, were used as testing factors.

The dogs exposed to the dog appeasing pheromone for the entire seven days showed a significantly reduced amount and amplitude of barking. Additionally, there were significant differences in sniffing frequency when in contact with a friendly stranger, barking and resting. Regarding a stranger who was neutral, there seemed to be no difference between the DAP group and the control group. Overall, the tests in this particular study indicated that the pheromone was, in fact, useful in reducing fear and stress-related behaviors that shelter dogs exhibited.

Puppies & DAP

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a randomized, controlled clinical trial in December, 2008 that evaluated 45 puppies between the ages of 12 to 15 weeks. The puppies were separated into 4 different groups; there were two large breed groups and two small breed groups. Each size category was split up into a placebo group and a group that was given the dog appeasing pheromone throughout the duration of 8 week long puppy classes. Owners were asked to fill out questionnaires before the lessons started and after each lesson was completed pertaining to a measurement of fear and anxiety and the total amount of learning, as well as participate in follow-up telephone surveys.

The puppies in the DAP groups showed significantly better results than the puppies in the placebo group. For example, the puppies in the DAP group played longer and had more positive interactions than the puppies in the placebo groups. After the classes were fully completed, the puppies in the DAP groups also appeared to have adapted faster in their new environments and new situations and were better socialized in comparison to the puppies in the placebo groups.

More studies could certainly be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of dog appeasing pheromones and whether they reduce specific undesirable canine behaviors. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of various studies that were not included in this article that also indicated DAP is a practical, palliative means to treating unwanted behaviors in canines. Take some time to discuss with your veterinarian which DAP product would be best for your dog’s behavioral, fear, anxiety or stress-related issues.

The Tellington Touch

Tellington Touch
Application of a TTouch technique on a dog’s head

Many of you have heard of the Tellington Touch (or the TTouch) being touted for assisting in training dogs, calming dogs, positively altering their unwanted behaviors, and ultimately improving their emotional and physical health. In Toni Shelbourne’s book, The Truth About Wolves and Dogs, Shelbourne says that she comes across many pet owners who have been advised to use punishment, harsh or inappropriate equipment, or other unsuitable methods to train their dogs or to eradicate unwanted behaviors.

While these methods may work immediately to stop the unwanted behavior, Shelbourne notes that the negative behavior will recur again at a later date. She advises that training that is proper and loving (such as TTouch) may take longer, but will be more effective and longer-lasting. While not many clinical trials have been conducted on this method to determine its effectiveness and ability to alter unwanted behaviors, this method has become quite popular in the U.K. and, more recently, in the U.S. for dogs.

What Is Tellington Touch (TTouch)?

TTouch for dogs includes specific types of touches and wraps that owners can apply to their dogs. This method was originated by Linda Tellington-Jones, who combined her wide-ranging knowledge of animals with the Feldenkrais Method (a somatic education system for humans). To watch a video of TTouch practitioners in action click here.

TTouch is broken down into two different categories: body work and ground work. The body work includes specific touches applied by the owner to the dog and body wraps. The body wraps aim to increase the dog’s consciousness and understanding of its body, as well as increase confidence in behavior and movement, while the touches are used to determine tension spots on the dog’s body, as well as relax the dog.

Tellington Touch wrap on a sheltie
Here is a sheltie with a caudal TTouch wrap

The ground work aspect of the TTouch method involves physical exercises, focusing on physically balancing the dog to increase self-control. Often, obstacle courses, which are also referred to as “confidence courses”, are created to specifically focus on building a dog’s confidence and coordination. Balance and focus are challenged with various obstacles that essentially require the dog to perform movements that are non-habitual; therefore they are encouraged to try different types of movements.

Dog Training – Puppies and Guide Dogs

TTouch has been incorporated into many puppy training and even guide dog training classes. In Integrating the Tellington TTouch Method into Guide Dog Training, the authors conclude that when this method is combined with traditional training for guide dogs, it not only helps the dogs learn their training better, it also assists in reducing stress that the dog might exhibit. Additionally, this method can also help owners to identify any potential problems and even prevent potential issues from occurring, consequently providing the owner and trainer a better understanding of the temperament and abilities of the particular dog.

Other Benefits of TTouch

In addition to the benefits already discussed, TTouch also provides a dog owner a delicate and loving way to build trust with their pet. Dogs enjoy being scratched and patted and touched, so what better way to increase trust but with loving, kind touch? This kind of touch creates a relationship that is harmonious between pet owner and dog, as opposed to scolding or punishing a dog. Beyond improving behavior, building confidence, reducing stress and establishing a bond, TTouch can also help to reduce pain and ultimately create emotional and physical balance for the dog.

TTouch for Sports and Agility Dogs

Dr. Farber talked about using TTouch for sports and agility dogs in her Sports Medicine for Dogs – Part 1: Prevention of Injury column. She says that her favorite way to start each session is to apply TTouch to the dog’s entire body, and that it gives competition dogs an advantage because it improves focus. She also notes that hyperactive dogs may be calmed with TTouch methods, but no matter what type of personality a dog has, the owner should be aware of how their touch is affecting the dog. Does he seem to be enjoying the massage? Is he moving away from the touch? Dr. Farber says that the key to successful outcomes with TTouch is to learn your dog by reading body language cues.

Some practitioners call the TTouch method “magical” because of the impact that it has on both the emotional and physical well-being of dogs. There are so many positive publications about Tellington Touch for dogs, and research has yet to turn up any negative conclusions about this method. Therefore, for dog owners who are interested in gaining a better understanding of their canine companion or increase their influence on the pet, TTouch may be worth a try.