Lay people have acknowledged for hundreds of years that animals have consciousness. We see it when a dog or cat is trying to figure out a new stimulus. We see it when they dream. When a dog sleeps, he may rapidly move his paws, he may whimper, you see his eyes rapidly moving back and forth and we can see that he is in the deep stages of REM. We know that he is dreaming, but we may not know what he is dreaming about. The very fact that he is dreaming proves his sentience. If you have no consciousness, then you can’t dream.
Over the last hundred years or so, science has begun catching up to what most people already knew. Animals are sentient beings. It seems absurd to the average dog owner, but scientists are uncomfortable with the idea of consciousness in animals. If an animal is aware of his surroundings and can feel pain, then blinding him with cosmetics in test studies suddenly seems more cruel. Accepting that animals are conscious beings went against previously held beliefs and conventional wisdom at the time. Realizing that animals are conscious beings meant developing and testing new theories. However, science is now accepting the fact that animals have feelings. According to Dr Jaak Panskepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University, animals are capable of these core emotions;
1 December 2009 was a big day for European animals!
Harnesses and Collars
Choke, or strangle collars (sometimes called chain collars) are metal collars with interlocking links. People who use these collars correctly apply pressure to the base of the dogs neck to check the dogs behaviour. This is a popular method of punishment based training. Used properly, these collars can bring a 96% chance of tracheal, and by extension, esophageal damage.(1) Unfortunately, most people who use these, use them wrong. This makes the chance of injury much higher. Other injuries can include, but are not limited to; vertebrae damage, Spinal cord injuries, hind leg ataxia, transient foreleg paralysis, whiplash, (2) organ damage, blindness, bruising of the larynx, fainting and laryngeal nerve paralysis. (3)
Prong, or Pinch Collars
A prong collar is a metal chain collar with metal points that point inward to the dog’s neck. If the dog pulls against the collar or if you pop the collar, considerable pressure is placed on the dogs neck. Prong collars are popular with punishment based trainers. These collars are preferable to choke collars as the metal points keep the bulk of the pressure off the trachea. However, this product is not without health risks. Though the prong collar only boasts a 16% chance of tracheal damage, the risk is still there. There has been at least one case, a Weimeraner in Germany, where the prong actually punctured the trachea! (4) Additionally, the pressure caused by the prong collar can cause esophageal and spinal damage as well. Unfortunately, due to the route a dog’s optical nerves travel, Prong collars may also cause blindness in a dog.(5) They’ve also proven to cause thin corneas, glaucoma, and corneal lacerations. (6)
Dogs trained on prong collars exhibit greater levels of stress while on walks. Moreover, that stress extends to later walks, even when the prong collar is not present.(7) After just one use, the dog learns that the presence of the owner on walks means pain. Pretty tragic considering we are supposed to be their protectors. There is also increased risk of aggression using prong collars. Some dogs associate the pain they feel with whatever is present in their surroundings. If you popped the collar near a child, for instance, that dog may learn that children cause pain. This could lead to a dog becoming child aggressive. There is a 40% chance of aggression using prong collars. (8)
Also called electronic collars or e-collars (not to be confused with Elizabethan collars, the funnel type collar used to keep a dog from licking his wounds). Shock collars are used to train dogs to hunt, prevent them from pulling, keep them confined, prevent them from barking, and some people have attempted to use them to teach a dog not to pull, jump, or engage in other nuisance behaviours.
Shock collars can cause heightened fear and aggressive response in dogs. There is a 40% chance that a dog trained with a shock collar will become aggressive. Advocates of shock collars claim they do not hurt. This is false, in order to work it has to hurt. It has to hurt badly enough that the dog will think twice before engaging in the behaviour that caused the shock. Unfortunately, dogs do not always know what caused the shock, often it seems random to them. In fact shock collars cause enough pain and controversy that they have been banned in 13 countries! This is because it meets all the criteria for abuse.(9)
There is a well known study done by Richard Polsky in 2000 that showed dogs kept in invisible fences showed a high risk of aggression towards humans. Psychologically, electric fences are no different to a dog than being tied to a tree. Dogs are subject to stimulation, but they can’t reach it. This sets off their frustration drive which is tied to the rage function in the brain. Additionally, since there is no visible fence to protect the dog, the dog has only himself for protection. There is nothing stopping another animal or a person from coming in and harming your dog. There have been cases of dogs killed by birds of prey or other dogs when they were trapped in the fences with nowhere to go.
Other studies (10) have found a rise in stress hormones in dogs who have been trained on shock collars. Dogs associate their owners with pain, this association lasts even when the dog is not wearing the collar. This study found that dogs have higher stress even then dogs who were abused.
Physical risks of shock collars include third degree burns, elevated heart rate and a risk of seizures.
In 2012, an experiment was conducted in Switzerland that tested shock collars on people. You can find an outline of it here.
1.Neurologist Jean Zuniga, MD. PhD
Among the millions of dogs in shelters, 25% of them are purebred dogs. This prompted some AKC breed organizations to begin to form their own breed-specific rescues. Most of the dogs in these groups are placed in foster homes, rather than kennel-lined shelters, the dogs there have been temperament tested, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated.
The life you save from a shelter could turn out to be your best friend.
If your dog is guarding you, remove the dog. If you are holding him, set him down. If you are not holding him and he is near you cue him to sit. If that fails put him in a “puppy time out” (another room) for a few minutes and then let him try again. Repeat as necessary.
- Akita. The Akita is a very large and powerful Japanese dog. They are known to be loyal to their humans. As loyalty is valued in Japanese society, there is a spiritual significance to Akitas in Japan. When a child is born, the family will receive an Akita statue to promote health, happiness and longevity. This breed may be very loyal and affectionate to his people, but he does need lots of early socialisation, particularly to other dogs. The ATTS rates this dog a 76%. 534 Akitas were tested, 406 passed.
- Alaskan Malamute. This gentle giant makes a playful pet for active people. Malamutes tend to get along well with other dogs, children and adults, however, they get bored easily and need constant mental and physical stimulation. The ATTS ranks the malamute at 85.3% with 224 tested and 191 passed.
- American Staffordshire Terrier. The Am Staff is one of a number of breeds that make up the dog commonly known as a ‘pit bull’. The Am Staff is a high energy dog, who needs physical and mental stimulation every day. Do not get this breed if you do not have time to devote to giving him the proper care, exercise and affection that this dog thrives on. This breed is very people oriented.Some people, with evil intent, took advantage of this breeds eagerness to please and turned her into a fighting dog. This same group of people sometimes breed for aggressive tendencies. Should you choose to buy this breed from a breeder it is very important to do your research and make sure it is one of a number of reputable breeders and not an irresponsible one. Early socialisation, particularly to other dogs is very important. The ATTS ranks this breed at 84.2% 627tested, 528 passed.
- American Pit Bull Terrier. The American Pit Bull Terrier (pit bull, or APBT) is a fun loving, energetic, strong and confident breed. It is very friendly towards people and they are especially good with children. At the beginning of the 20th century these were known as “Nanny Dogs” because of their reputation of being naturally affectionate towards children. They are adaptable to city or country life, but these are not kennel dogs. Their eagerness to please makes them much better suited to sharing their lives indoors with their people. In the nineteenth century, blood-thirsty men developed this breed for fighting other dogs. They needed to be able to safely handle them, so they bred them to be eager to please and easy to train, but brutal to other dogs. Early socialisation, particularly to other dogs, is very important to this breed. The ATTS ranks the APBT at 86.4% 627 tested 528 passed.
- Australian Cattle Dog. This working dog is agile, energetic, strong, courageous and has great stamina.These dogs bond very closely to their family, but they need a job to do. Early socialisation to people is very important for this breed so they don’t become distrustful of strangers. ATTS 79.1% 187 tested 148 passed.
- Beagle. This popular hunting dog is often known for their happy personality, their eagerness to please, their powerful nose and their distinctive bay. These dogs’ brains are in their noses and once on the scent it can be difficult to break their concentration. The ATTS ranks them at 80.6% with 72 tested and 58 passed.
- Belgian Malinois. Belgian Malinois, Sheepdog and Terveren are all part of the Belgian shepherd family. Belgian Malinois are highly tractable dogs with a strong work ethic. They are very affectionate with their humans, but can be reserved with strangers. They are high energy, one man dogs. Early socialisation is very important with this breed. Due to their loyalty and work ethic, they are often used as security dogs. The ATTS ranks them at 91.9% with 298 tested 274 passed
- Belgian Sheepdog.The Belgian Sheepdog is a courageous, strong and dignified dog. They are indispensable on the battle field where they work as couriers, ambulance dogs and draft dogs. They have found work as search and rescue dogs, they’ve herded livestock, they’ve been guide dogs and therapy dogs. This energetic breed is steadfastly devoted to his human and can be over protective. Early socialisation is very important for this breed. The ATTS ranks these guys at 80.5%, 486 tested and 391 passed.
- Belgian Terveren. This versatile working dog has been known to excel at herding livestock, obedience trials, therapy dogs, guide dogs and security dogs. Like all Belgian Shepherds, they are loyal, one man dogs. Early socialisation is very important. The ATTS ranks Tervs at 79.9%, 472 tested, 377 passed.
- Boxer. The boxer is an energetic, fun loving breed. These dogs respond well to positive training and are great dogs for active people. Their ease of training has provided them with jobs from everything to war dogs, guardians, and seeing eye-dogs. Their affectionate personalities have led to a surge in popularity, they are one of the most popular breeds in America. The ATTS ranks them at 83.7% 424 tested and 355 passed.
- Bull Terrier. This breed is a friendly, playful, affectionate clown. It was bred in England to bait bulls and fight dogs. Because of this, early socialisation to other dogs is very important. He generally will not start a fight, but he will finish one. The ATTS ranks Bull Terriers at 90.9% 77 tested, 70 passed.
- Chihuahua.This diminutive breed is growing in popularity. Their low maintenance makes them a favorite among apartment dwellers and people with active lifestyles. They tend to be one-man dogs and can be fiercely loyal to their humans. Because of their small size people and dogs can sometimes seem more threatening than they really are, so early socialization is a must. The ATTS rates them at 71.1% 38 tested 27 passed.
- Cane Corso. The Cane Corso is an even-tempered, highly tractable dog that is loyal and affectionate with their family, but can be shy and distrustful around strangers. Early socialisation to humans and dogs is a must with this breed. The ATTS ranks the Cane Corso at 83.0% with 106 tested 88 passed.
- Chinese Shar-pei. The Chinese Shar pei is a serious, independent and dignified dog. It is a one man dog, loyal and affectionate to his family. They need early socialization to people and especially to other dogs. The ATTS ranks the Shar pei at 70.6%. 211 tested, 149 passed.
- Chow Chow. The chow chow is a dignified breed. He is a loyal, independent, one man dog. With early socialisation they can be quite good with strangers and children, but socialisation to humans and other animals is important. The ATTS ranks them at 71.4% 98 were tested, 70 passed.
- Cocker Spaniel. The “merry little cocker” was originally a hunting dog, but quickly found his way into the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. The cocker spaniel is a high energy, fun loving and friendly dog. The ATTS ranks the cocker spaniel at 81.9%, 227 tested, 186 passed.
- Collie. The collie is a family oriented working dog. They get along with adults, children and animals. They can be overprotective, so early socialisation is important. This is an active breed that needs daily mental and physical stimulation. The ATTS ranks them 79.9% with 856 tested and 684 passed.
- Dachshund. An April 2011 study by the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, rated the Dachshund the most aggressive dog breed. With 1 in 5 biters, it may seem that they earned that ranking. This high raking underscores the need for early socialisation in dogs. Well socialised dachshunds tend to be friendly, playful, good natured, fun loving dogs. There are many different types of dachshunds, but temperamentally, they vary little. The ATTS ranks the smooth, miniature (the most common) at 80.0% with 35 tested, 28 passed.
- Dalmatian. The Dalmatian is an active, lively dog that loves to run. It is friendly and affectionate, but needs early socialisation so as not to be distrustful around strangers. It has a strong work ethic and responds well to positive training. The ATTS ranks the Dal at 82.4% with 330 tested, 272 passed
- Doberman. The dobie is a loyal, active, devoted dog. Their ease of training makes them popular working dogs and their alertness makes them great guard dogs. They are great with children and other dogs. Dobies need mental and physical simulation every day in order to thrive. The ATTS ranks them 77.7% with 1,592 tested and 1237 passed.
- English Springer Spaniel. The English Springer Spaniel is out going, friendly, hard working and full of enthusiasm. It is very affectionate with their people and very good with children, but may be too active for small children. This breed is very adaptable to most environments provided they get daily exercise. The ATTS ranks them 83.8% with 28 tested 23 passed.
- German Shepherd Dog. The GSD is a stable, confident, versatile, hard working dog. They have worked as war dogs, police dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs and they are very popular as seeing -eye dogs. She is warm and playful to family, but may be wary of strangers. Early socialisation is a must. GSD’s are generally good with children and other pets. Their ATTS rank is 84.4 with 3,078 tested 2,597 passed.
- Great Dane. The Great Dane is an even -tempered, good-natured gentle giant, that does well with children and other dogs. They are easy to train, but because of their massive size, early training is important. The ATTS ranks the Dane at 79.9% with 278 tested and 222 passed.
- Jack Russell Terrier. This is an energetic, affectionate, loyal breed that needs daily, mental and physical stimulation. Despite rating number 3 on the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science list of 33 most aggressive dog breeds, Jack Russells generally do well with people, though early socialisation is preferred. Early socialisation to other dogs, however, is crucial as this breed can be scrappy. The ATTS rates the JRT at 84.1% with 63 tested and 53 passed.
- Mastiff. The mastiff is an affectionate, calm, loyal, patient breed. They are stead-fast and generally good with children and adults. They do need early socialisation and because of their size, early training is also important. The ATTS ranks them at 85.1%, 188 tested, 169 passed.
- Old English Sheepdog. The Old English Sheepdog is a high-energy, spirited, friendly dog. The OES, gets along well with children, adults and other dogs. With abundant exercise, they make excellent house dogs, but they do tend to shed quite a bit. The ATTS rates the OES at 76.6%, 47 tested, 36 passed.
- Pekingese. The pekingese is an independent, dignified dog who seems very aware of their royal past. They are good natured and playful with people they know, but need early socialisation to children and other dogs. They respond well to positive training, but shut down with punishment based training. The ATTS ranking is 93.3% with 15 tested and 14 passed.
- Presa Canario. The Presa Canario is a calm, alert, confident dog. They need moderate exercise and early socialisation to humans and other dogs. They are affectionate and gentle with their family and children but can be wary of strangers. Their ranking in the ATTS is 90.9% with 33 tested and 30 passed.
- Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Rhodesian ridgeback is a good-natured, easy going dog, devoted to his family. They are independent dogs, who need firm, yet positive training. They are generally good with people, but need early socialisation. They have a high prey drive so special attention is needed if you have other small pets. The ATTS ranks them at 84.4% with 455 tested and 384 passed.
- Rottweiler. The rottie is a calm, courageous, gentle, hard working dog. They started out as draft dogs, but have been used as military dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, guard dogs and companions. Rottie’s respond well to training and need moderate exercise and early socialisation. The ATTS rank is 83.7%, 5,446 tested, 4,558 passed.
- Siberian Husky. The husky is an active, friendly, out-going dog. He is an independent dog that needs aerobic exercise every day. This breed responds well to positive training and makes a great dog for an active family. The ATTS ranks them at 86.8% with 296 tested and 257 passed
- Toy Poodle. Poodles are affectionate, sensitive, easy to train dogs. They are active, but due to their size, can live easily in a house or apartment. They thrive on human companionship and are playful and loving to their families. Toy poodles need early socialisation to dogs and children. Their rank in the ATTS is 82.7%, 52 tested, 43 passed.
A special note on Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds.
These dogs are often demonized by the press. Several years ago, I personally witnessed an intact lab mix bite and kill a schnauzer puppy at a grooming salon. The schnauzers owner, (who was more interested in going to the bar with his friends then taking the puppy to the vet) was on the news that night claiming that a pit bull had killed his dog after first charging his young son. The story was a fabrication; the son was in no danger and the man lied about the breed involved, but the press ate it up. Pit bulls, Rottweilers and other allegedly aggressive breeds are a hot button topic, guaranteed to sell papers. These dogs get a bad rap, and are some of the most feared dogs, but most are friendly and gentle. In the hands of criminals any dog can become dangerous, with improper handling or lack of socialisation, any dog can bite. (Again, that’s not to say they will bite.)The Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science ranks these breeds as average risk for bites. Cities like London, Denver and Miami that have breed bans in place, see no drop in actual bite statistics.The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that no single breed is genetically more predisposed to bite than any other.