Strap line

It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Pet sounds

Hi Mia, 

Your last post opened an entirely new can of worms -- dog poo as a source of electricity. Yes, you went there, and your post was equipped with a lamp shaped like a dog taking a poo as well as the phrase, “I’m not talking crap (well, I am).” Extraordinary.

Since one of our goals at DYBID is to discuss topics that are important to dogs, it was inevitable that we’d arrive at poo. And while dogs probably don’t care what we do with their poo after they’re done with it (maybe that’s an incorrect assumption), it’s an area relished by many dogs, and I hope we revisit it.


WOOF WOOF WOOF!
Another area that many dogs give a crap about is barking. I just covered the topic of barking and growling (common pet sounds) for the Spring 2013 issue of The Bark, now on newsstands. 

Barking Decoded in The Bark
The Sounds of Dogs investigates what all the noise is about. Research finds that humans are pretty good at recognizing the context and emotional content of barks. Barks in an “alone” situation sound different from a “go away stranger” or “asking for a ball.” 

 
The NOVA special, Dogs Decoded, highlights barking at the 8:30 mark  
 
As a city dweller living in a first floor apartment facing the street, I hear a lot of different barks outside my window. Some barks I ignore, and others make me rush out of the apartment to investigate -- those are usually the high-pitched distress barks. Sometimes I bring treats, just in case.

The Sounds of Dogs also covers the various theories behind why dogs bark much more than wolves. Could barking have some relationship with communicating with humans? Or perhaps dogs often find themselves in conflicted situations, and then out pops a bark.  


SHUT UP!!!
But barking is not only about dogs, it’s also about managing human perceptions. Since some dog owners are apt to perceive barking as, “so annoying,” the article also discusses how to manage barking... within reasonable expectations. Additionally, it's important that barking not hinder the human-dog bond. From The Sounds of Dogs:

Susan Friedman, PhD, a pioneer in the application of applied behavior analysis to captive and companion animals and a psychology professor at Utah State University, explains, “For dogs, barking is a functional behavior, meaning it is maintained, increased or decreased due to consequences. Once this is [understood], it opens the door to changing the duration, intensity and frequency of the behavior by changing the consequences.” In other words, dogs can learn to be quieter.

Laura Monaco Torelli, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, director of training at Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago also weighs in:

Owners should focus not on eliminating barking altogether, but on reducing it to levels they find appropriate and livable. When she meets with clients to discuss their dogs’ barking issues, Monaco Torelli, asks questions such as, “How many barks is okay? What’s excessive to you?” This, she says, gives the trainer a good starting point from which to develop a plan to teach the client how to reshape a dog’s barking behavior. Trainers and owners discuss acceptable barking, and then implement techniques to achieve desired levels in each context.


For people who assume barking is just something on a dog's checklist, "Go to the bathroom, sniff another dog's butt, bark..." The Sounds of Dogs could be a good read.

Now! Rock out at your RSPCA talk, and then tell us all about the conference!


Julie 

References
Hecht, J. The Sounds of Dogs. The Bark, Spring 2013.

© Julie Hecht 2013