Cynophobia – Fear of Dogs

Cynophobia – “An Irrational Fear of Dogs”

Many people out there think dogs are undoubtedly the best pets in the world, they cannot understand why people could not love them. But their are people out there who are more than afraid of dogs, they have a real fear of them.

The definition above is really rather off putting, it is not usually an “irrational” fear of dogs, but one based on experience. Having a negative reaction with dogs at a young age can put you off for life, with the increase in dog bites on children their is no doubt that their will be children growing up with a fear of dogs, so much so that they cannot be near them at all.

A fear of dogs can be based not on experience but on inexperience with them, some religions see dogs as dirty and do not interact with them. On the other hand those living in cities with low income might have no access to pets of any sort, and leave the children without experiencing dogs creating a fear out of ignorance.

The fear can also be influenced by the teaching of adults, often parents say not to touch dogs as they can be dangerous, they are not banning them from dogs but attempting to protect them from potential harm from that animal, this can lead to the child growing up having been told dogs are scary and dangerous, so they take it to heart and start to fear dogs based on pure comments.

The signs of fear include freezing, running away, shaking, sick feeling, as well as crying. The fear might be of only physical dogs, so watching Crufts doesn’t effect you but seeing a real dog on the street does. It can also be specific to a size of dog, usually large breeds.

Since dogs are so prevalent in society it can be difficult to avoid them, it might lead to being able to enjoy going to the park or visiting family. It can restrict routine and lead to depression from not being able to lead a normal life.

Their are two different methods that could be used, these are flooding and desensitization.

Flooding involves flooding the senses of the individual with the thing is fears, in this case dogs. This would mean making the person interact with dogs, to face their fears. It would also start with what they fear most. Making them confront the fear head on.

Desensitization would involve small steps, first interacting with a stuffed dog to learn how to control their behaviour and bodily changes learning coping strategies, then on to dogs at a distance decreasing the distance over several days or sessions. Then on to being near a calm and quiet dog, say in the same room. Eventually to being able to touch the dog, it will all climax into the loss of the fear of dogs. It is a long process but can aid most people in their fear of dogs. Their are more steps than described in this.

Other aids are therapy to understand the incident which caused the fear as well as addressing other emotional problems which could be adding to the stress of the situation. Medication could also be used to reduce stress and allow interactions to happen to aid in the recovery.

It is not to be mistake for breed specific fear, many people will cross the street if someone is walking a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, German Shepherd or Rottweiler, as they have been fed by media that they are dangerous and nasty dogs. This isn’t a fear of dogs, this is a reaction to media portrayal.

To fully deal with Cynophobia it needs to involvement of a behaviourist or dog handler and a therapist to be able to tackle the problem correctly.




Black Spot On Dog’s Tounge

Their is an old wives tale that a black spot on a dog’s tongue is a good thing, it is supposed to indicate that the dog is something special or different.

This girl has a rather large black spot on her tongue, I delved into the reason a black spot might appear on a dogs tongue.


Tasha has a black spot on her tongue, I know she is going to be something special.

There are many dog breeds that have fully black tongues, these include the Chow Chow, which is well known for its Blue-Black tongue, and Rhodesian Ridgeback or Shar Pei.

The black spot is created from extra pigment in that area, much like a birth mark in people, except in dogs its turns out black rather than a darker pink or red. This means these spots can also appear on the skin, but it is usually covered by fur.  Its all determined by genetics, so it can be passed on to any off-spring of that dog.

Many might think that the black spot could indicate the dog is not pure bred, as the pigment genetics could come from those breeds known for their black tongue, well as said above, its just like a birth mark, anyone can have a birth mark.

There are many breeds that have documented black spots on the tongue frequently:

Airedale, Akita, Akita Inu, Alaskan Malamute, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Bichon Frise, Black Russian Terrier, Border Collie, Bouvier de Flanders, Bull Mastiff, Cairn Terrier, Shar Pei, Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, English Setter, Eurasier, Fila Brasileiro, Flat Coat Retriever, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Great Pyrenees, Irish Setter, Kai Ken, Kesshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, Korean Jindo, Labrador Retriever, Maltese, Mastiff, Mountain Cur, Newfoundland, Pomeranian, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Shiba Inu, Shiloh Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Tibetan Mastiff.

The black colouring is nothing to worry about unless it starts to change shape, colour or becomes raised, it could then indicate cancer. A change in a birth mark or mole can indicate skin cancer in people, it is the same for dogs – Melanoma.

At the end of the day, it is an old wives tale that the black spot indicates anything, but it also nothing to worry about as it is perfectly normal in many breeds and could be seen in any dogs, the same as any owner could have a birth mark.

Chow Image:


Prey Drive in Dogs

The training of any dog can include prey drive, which is in layman’s terms playing with a ball or tug. Something that moves like prey, something that wiggle and moves fast.

This prey harness can be used to teach a dog anything, for obedience dogs it is used as a reward for getting the correct position, it is the same for security dogs tugs or balls are used as a reward for the behaviour we want, such as barking. The only thing that security training is different to any other prey drive training in dogs is the that the dog learns to demand the tug or ball, we harness this to make them desperately want it. This desperation leads to frustration creating a keen dog that will bark at anyone as they think they are withholding the bar or ball from them.

Prey drive taps into the dogs natural instincts to chase and bite anything that moves as it could be a potential food source, in domestic dogs this has turned into biting and chasing anything due to selective breeding of working dogs. This type of chase behaviour is not seen as much is breeds which are pets such as Maltese. But it is very prevalent in the Border Collie and German Shepherd, both dogs originally selected for working with stock and guarding. Most breed have been bred with a inhibited kill section of the normal prey drive, which is Sight-Chase-Catch-Kill, the only breeds that still maintain this kill section are hunting breeds such as Terriers, which are used as vermin control.


Tasha gets her tug and a game when she barks on command. The positive play reinforces the desired behaviour so she is more likely to do it again. This reinforcement will set her up for life, she will soon learn to bark on command as a reward may come in the form of the tug, tapping into her prey drive.

This type of training works well for security dogs as they bond with their handler, as well as avoiding food treating which can cause accidents as well as lead to the dog taking food from strangers, this could be potentially fatal for the dog. Prey drive could also be used for any pet dog, as well as accompanied by treat reward and verbal praise in the home.

It might seem that this type of training is only for larger breeds or security training for patrol dogs, but it the same training for any dog. This includes the training of drugs dogs, who primarily use tennis balls for a reward and to start their initial training. Spaniels especially have a high prey drive which is why they are used as gun dogs, their prey drive doesn’t go as far as killing as that has been bred out of them, it instead creates an instinct to chase and grab anything that moves, then bring it back to its owner. This is tapped in for drugs dogs as they want to chase the ball, and that behaviour in itself becomes the reward.

Remember to play with your dog, prey drive is usually untouched by pet dog trainers as with the right timing can be used to very quickly reinforce any behaviour. The dog isn’t working for a bribe it is wanting to work to get its reward, a reward that is suited to its personality be it a ball or a bite bar, or anything the dog will play with.

(Tip – Don’t use a tennis ball for larger breeds as they can cause accidents, instead use a rubber ball on a rope, it is good for pulling and the dog is less likely to accidentally swallow it or chew it up)

Review: Webinar – Fear of People

Fear of People, a Webinar hosted by The Centre for Shelter Dogs.

They have many webinars available to watch for free, the quality of the presentation is top notch. They are based in the US, but the information contained in the video is usable for anyone here in the UK.

I watched their video on fear of people in dogs, often a big problem for dogs being abandoned after possibly being beaten or having no socialisation.

Many rescues will encounter this problem, but security dog training centres also encounter this when people bring in dogs with incomplete backgrounds knowledge or have had a traumatic experience with another trainer using overly harsh techniques such as electric collars or utilising fight drive.

The webinar covers the behaviour that can identify a fearful dog. It then goes on to explain how the people at rescue centres can do their part to help rehabilitate the dog so it can be adopted.

It is only an hour webinar so it doesn’t go into extreme detail about the real plan needed to help a dog overcome its fear of people. Often rescues will only get the dog happy with one or two people, then help they get used to the owner. It leaves it open to being fearful of many other people, fear of people can soon become fear aggression which can then cause accidents, when people get over confident in their expectations of the dogs.



The dogs I deal with often can be fearful of people, this can be harnessed in some cases to make them very good defence dogs for handlers,  but we often try to reduce their fear as it makes the dogs unpredictable and unsafe around anyone but the handler. We reduce fear by exposing them to as many people as possible cleaning the kennels or walking the dog, they learn no one is out to hurt them.

The fear drive is then turned into defence drive, but we also allow the dog to play as it should, the play lets the dog put down its guards and forget about the fear of people. It crates a bond with the handler and all those who do not try to push themselves on the dog, when working with the dog we don’t try to touch it all the time and give it cuddles, we let the dog come to us in its own time.

Overall the webinar was worth a watch and could give any rescues or owners of fearful dogs something to think about and work on.

Link to Webinar:

(Is the last link on the page)

Image Link:

Dogs Understand Human Vocalisations

Dog in scanner

A paper published confirms that dogs have and use the same part of the brain humans do to understand speech, this is the first proof that dogs do understand what we are on about.

This comes as no surprise to any dog owner, we all know they usually know what we are on about when we tell them to do something, with the condition that it something they have learned to understand such as a the word “walk” or our general tone when talking to them.

I think of it as the same as learning a new language, you know someone is talking to you and you can understand their insinuations from tone or gestures but you don’t know the words, so therefore don’t know the true meaning of what they are talking about. This new evidence can now suggest this is the same for dogs, they understand words, phrases and tones but don’t fully speak our language, we understand them in a similar way as well. We learn what a certain bark means or their messages encoded in body language.

This sort of brain usage has only been seen in Humans and our Primate relatives, which can understand sign language and hold conversation with their handlers in some extreme cases. Is it that if we could create a common language with dogs, could we also hold conversation with them and understand what they mean?

Since dogs are a product of human fancy and intervention, it is possible that the front brain developed like our own to accommodate the interaction with humans, this could be from selective breeding where those dogs that worked best with people were bred from, those which could not understand humans were culled or non bred from. This eventually could lead the evolution of the brain, that was been researched for this study.

The study taught dogs to lie in an MRI scanner to allow a comparison between dogs and humans to noises, these ranged from whistles and other environmental sounds as well as human sounds (no words) and dog vocalisations.

It was found that the temporal pole, the furthest forward (anterior) part of the temporal lobe which activated when both humans and dogs herd human voices.

Dogs had a stronger reaction to the vocalisations of other dogs, but seemed to less able to distinguish between environmental sounds.

Obviously this study is not the greatest research of all time, but it is a step in understanding the brain processes of humans and canines alike. It also confirms points that every dog owner knows, science once again sets out to prove what is known, it is research that will provide interesting results that will be striking in the zoology world for some time but sometimes it can be stating the obvious and become research for researches sake.

Now we have proved that dogs can understand tone of voice and sounds, which is fairly obvious that they do like most mammals we interact with. The next step as suggested by the research would be to see if dogs understand words,  something that would certainly put them on par with primates.

When the they suggest understand words, this means more than just the sound but the meaning of the word, such as colours, shape, size or connotations. This would be much like Alex the parrot (Search for it), who could understand and compare colours and shapes, as well as hold simple conversations.

Primates such as Koko the Gorilla who understood sign language, and could communicate her wants and thoughts to the keeper, as well as holding conversations, she could even assign blame, blaming her kitten for when she ripped the sink from the wall. Could dogs be proved to understand or do such acts?

Since dogs learn by association we know they can understand what a sound means such as “sit” or “ball”, to them they are not words just sounds that mean do or get a certain thing, it does not mean it understands you when you tell it it must pee outside instead of on the floor, it learns by association that it gets praise for going outside and get negative consequences for going inside or it is ignored, either way it is beneficial for to go outside then it becomes a habit, they want to defecate outside as they always do.

Some dogs know maybe 20 words, but the exceptional few can know up to 1000, Chaser is a Border Collie who knows the name of over 1000 objects and can generalise that stick or car can be several things, and that saying a new word and adding a new object, she then inferred it was that new thing.

Border Collies are known to be an intelligent breed, but it would be interesting to see if other breeds are just as capable of learning as many words, as well as other things that would put them with the same comparable intelligence as humans.

BBC Information and Images:

Alex the Parrot Image:

Koko the Gorilla Image:

Chaser the Dog:

Unable to access full journal due to subscription needed to Science Direct

Look up all the other suggestions, they are well worth a read.


The Police Dog: A Study Of The German Shepherd Dog (or Alsatian) : Review

The Police Dog: A Study Of The German Shepherd Dog (or Alsatian)

I read this book over a series of days, after seeing the title online. I found it an out of date yet informative book, it was published in 1924 when various methods and brands were used readily, these are mentioned in the book often and are now not used, or not considered when training. At the end of the day the old information is usually the stock information for all dog handler, breeders and trainers, they have just been tweeked for present use, it does not make them new ideas just tried and improved.

The books starts as many dog books do, with the origin of the dog, relating back to the evolution from the wolf.

Brilliant layout of the breed, including pointers that are still ignored by the Kennel Club, including stance and leg distance. It mentions line breeding which is still practised today but not in the severity that it was. A good quote is “Faults which prevent them from fulfilling their duties”, often the case that many GSD’s cannot fulfil any duties they were originally bred for. There is a trend for large dogs, which is effecting the breed greatly as their joints cannot support their weight.

The book covers more than just the breed, it has details on first aid, care from conception to old age, covering every stage of the dog. Their is a large section on training, but personally I would have liked to see an even larger section to fill the book with that rather than information on care. The title sells the book as being more on the GSD, it is more like a general overview book in its contents.

Overall a rather good read but not in-depth enough for my taste, not much has jumped out to me to remember specifically any parts for later.

Review: Webinar – Baby Noses: Introducing Scents to Neonate Puppies

Today I watched Baby Noses: Introducing Scents to Neonate Puppies, presented by Avidog International. Dr Gayle Watkins, breeds Golden Retrievers in the US, with many doing as their breed was created for, finding shot down birds, tracking and some end up doing search and rescue. She wanted to find out if introducing scents to neonatal puppies would effect them as adults, hopefully making them better at tracking, therefore smelling more.

Neonatal puppies are classed from birth to two week old. At this age they can only smell, feel and taste.

From 3 to 20 days old each puppy was introduced to a new scent daily, including natural and working items. Each puppy was exposed for only 5 seconds.

The puppies would ether like, hate or be indifferent to the smell.

After 9 years of research, the Dr found that those dogs which had had the scent introduction at the neonatal stage were above average compared to the norm. They were constantly achieving the top titles as well as achieving them young.

It is by no means proof that it can increase the dogs sense of smell but it is a stepping stone to more research to be carried out. If would need to include breeds which are not know for scent work, as well as those that are. It would also need to be controlled to avoid outside influence.

This is true then it could benefit any trainer or breeder for working dogs for scent work.