Dogs’ Emotions

When I was little I always wondered what animals are thinking and feeling but we were told that animals are not like humans and all they have is just instinct. That was 30 plus years ago and research has delivered new and interesting discoveries about dogs, their brains and how they work.

While a humans brain is larger in relative size, has more folds and a larger frontal cortex, a dogs brain is not that different to a human brain. They share the same brain structure that produce emotions and the same hormone production and chemical changes occur in both dogs and humans in emotional states. Just like in us humans, dogs have oxytocin release which is involved in feeling love and affection.

Sharing the same neurology and brain chemistry  suggests that dogs basic emotions are similar to that of humans of around 2-5 year old; joy, fear, anger, disgust, love & affection.

The scientific consensus seems to agree on dogs not being able to feel guilt, pride and shame but there still needs to be more research done.

What may be different though is how emotions are processed since humans larger frontal cortex gives us the advance of higher level processing, thoughts, judgement, empathy etc. This is which gives us humans the ability not just to feel emotions but to analyze them and then judge whether to share them or inhibit showing them to avoid causing hurt or shame in another human or ourselfs for example.

In dogs however, brain sections associated with smell use larger size brain area to analyze scents. Their olfactory system is extremly sensitive and can have effects on emotions as well just like in us humans.

It is what is sometimes forgotten in the training world, that conditioning methods may train away a behaviour the dog is showing during and emotion / feeling but training has not changed the emotion itself. If a dog is fearful or depressed for example, we have to find the reason of why the dog feels that way. By obeservation and communication with the owner, vet and the dog we can detect whether your dogs emotional behaviours are down to physical or behavioural problems. Anxiety and depression can in many cases be due to the dog being in pain due to an undiagnosed physical issue.

It might be more likely that changes to the environment and/or lifestyle need to be made before any desensitation or counter conditioning processes start, if at all. And just like with human beings, any modification program can take a lot of effort and time.

That said, that fact we know that dogs are emotional and feeling beings should inspire us to ensure our furry friends are as happy and content with their individual life as we are everyday.

When to adopt the puppy

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  • A summary of parts of:

“Haqihanas’ Puppies”….

Lately I have been doing a few consultations with young adult dogs with fear issues. Why is this related to ‘when to adopt a puppy’?

It seems to be a common practice these days for breeders to let puppies be adopted at week 8, sometimes even week 6 or 7.

I am not at all keen on this practice and let me share with you how I learnt “why”:

Just like with little baby-humans, the early development stage is a crucial learning time for puppies. While in their newborn stage of weeks 1 and 2, still blind and without hearing, they already have the ability to smell. They need the warmth and love of their mother and littermates, food, calmness, rest and lots of sleep. In the wild, the dog mum would have her young in the den and let no one in. The father dog will hunt food and leave some in front of the den for the mother to eat.

In week 3, the young begin to see and hear. They are starting to take in the world with all the senses. They get more active, start playing and moving about trying out their signs and sounds with their mum and mates.

In the wild this would be the time when socialization with the other family members begins. One by one the mother would let a pack member in to meet the new furry additions.

From week 4 or 5 onwards the puppies now learn to move their bodies around outside, go exploring but more impotantly they start learning their language – signs, sounds.

They learn from their mother to respect others’ properties; that when she has something they can’t take it off her and if they have something she can’t take it of them. They also learn redirective behaviour.

More importantly, from around week 6, 7 and 8 onwards, the puppies learn bite inhibition and aggression inhibition. This is the most impotant time for puppies, learning about their social behaviour within a group. To learn inhibition is to learn to keep the family pack save. Fights within a pack are dangerous. If a pack member is hurt this could actually be destructive to the family. It is the equivalent of a child learning the social right and wrongs to be able to function in the family and in society.

To take a puppy at 8 weeks or younger is a rather bad time to adopt and take it away from the litter because it has not fully learned to inhibit its bite and inhibit its aggression.

There is another reason to wait until after around week 10 to take your bundle of joy home with you:

At exactly 8 weeks old, puppies have their first ‘fear period’. It only lasts for a few days but the puppy needs to be with its mum and mates in a calm, familiar and safe environment. Taking a puppy during this fear period in week 8 can have a very negative impact leading to fear behaviour problems later on.

In a consultation with a young dog my first question is always: ‘how old was the puppy when you adopted him?’

Some may say; fear behaviour is just that, we can use the same techniques to conquer the problem and lead the dog to success.

That would be like saying; it doesn’t matter what trauma an adult human experienced as a child, we just use conditioning techniquest for the adult to overcome his/her issues.

The “why” is always very important because you become to understand the dog or in the human world, the person. It can give you ideas of how this dog will approach the surroundings with a more timmid or fearful apporach and how to work with him in the least stressful way possible. We don’t just modify a behviour, we are actually trying to change an emotion. A lot of training techniques change the behaviour the dogs show but not the emotion. That is treating the symptom but not the cause.

During the development time from puppyhood to adult dog there are more fear periods:

41/2 months

around 9 – 10 months

between 13 – 14 months, which is hormon related

around 17 months, seldom

Just as the first fear period, it only lasts a few days. Your dog may suddely show fear behaviour towards an object or being it was fine with before. During these days there should be no changes in the home and no new scary additions or training. Stay calm around the object or being and by being calm and interact as normal you show the puppy that all is safe and fine.

There is always people who have a ‘yes, but…’ story.

There is no ‘but’- healthy dog mothers show us how to bring up healthy, well balanced pups. It is “us” humans who are the ones creating the problems.

A great example is, how we change what the pup has learnt about respecting others properties. They learnt from mum to respect whats hers and she’ll respect whats theirs and then we humans come along and take things from the pup all the time. We don’t need to do that, we can use their redirective behaviour and curiosity to get them away from something their chewing on that is not safe, like a power cord for example.

Be clever and safe rather then sorry later on, and ask the breeder to let the pup be with its mother a couple weeks longer


Turid Rugaas: Puppies

Haqihans: Puppies

Alpie and Rosie
Alpie and Rosie

Haqihana Harness


I came across the Haqihana harness when I attended my first Turid Rugaas seminar in Perth in May 2014. I had previously used all different models dog harnesses on my dogs. One of my hounds, Cash, managed to get out of every single one with two simple moves.

So when i was told how great the Haqihana harness is, naturally I was a little suspicious. But I was asured that if this harness wasn’t the best fitting harness I had bought I would get my money back. I proceeded to buy 2. A medium and a large.

Upon my return home I tried the harnesses on my dogs. I was amazed!! They moved so freely and were less reactive. I was still worried that Cash would get out of his harness but to this day he was never able to escape through the straps. One of the doggie clients of mine, Lokie, who is very reactive to other dogs was much calmer when she was walked on the Haqihana harness.

Why is the Haqihana harness so good?

Firstly, it is one of the most adjustable harnesses on todays market with ajustment buckles on both front straps, both back straps and the belly strap. They are handmade in many overlapping sizes from XXXS to XL. Haqihana even make harnesses with longer top straps for dogs with long and lean body shapes and the “Double-H” for the ‘Canine-Hudinis’.

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Tui wearing the “double-h” in size S

It makes it the perfect fit for any shape dog.

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This is my hound Loren. She is wearing a steal coloured, medium size Haqihana harness. The red arrows point at the 5 ajustment buckles. You can see that her neck and throat are totally free from any pressure so is her shoulder area, including the shoulder blade and ‘arm-pits’. The straps are made with low friction Nylon which means even short haired dogs wont feel any rubbing and chuffing like with many other harness modles with heavy felt padding or thick Nylon.

The Effect:

The effect on the dog wearing a Haqihana harness is that he wont feel any discomfort or pain because there is no pressure to the dogs throat, neck, shoulder or belly area. The pressure from a dog pulling forward is distributed through the dogs sternum by the right adjustment on the front and back straps, while the adjustment on the belly strap provides sufficient clearance behind the shoulder area.

From a behaviour point of view, this harness is great to avoid any negative association created by pain.

The Dogs Shoulder Area

What most of us dog owners don’t understand is how the dog moves. It was common to think the dogs front limbs are moved by the shoulder joint, however a recent study by Professor Dr. Martin Fischer and Karin E. Lilje has found that the dogs front limbs are moved by the dogs shoulder blade like a pendalum. The shoulder blade in turn is moved by the muscles attached to the blade making it a force driven joint.

This is relevant because, if there is pressure on the muscles or blade while they move, either by a strap or big padding, it actually hinders free movement and becomes very uncomfortable if not painful.

The Throat & Neck:

On the other hand, most owners these days know or should know how important it is to keep any form of pressure of the dogs throat and neck area.

Any type of pressure, even just for a fraction of time can cause injury to the dogs throat organs, nerves, spinal cord, vertebrae & discs, trachea, larynx, oesophagus even the dogs tongue bone.

The most undiagnosed injury is to the dogs thyroid. The thyroid is a very important hormone secreating organ that controls such things as heart beat, blood pressure, temperature regulation, digestion etc.

Now, one might say I am biased because I sell the Haqihana harness here in New Zealand and this is just another marketing technique. It isn’t! I truly believe this is the best walking tool alongside a long leash that every loveing dog owner should supply to his or her canine friend; your dog will love you even more


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“Harness vs Collars” by Els Vidth

“Dogs in Motion” by Prof. Dr. Martin Fischer & Karin E. Lilje

The Walking Dog on Scent


I remember the first time I took a dog for a walk. I was only 4 or 5 years old. We had hiked up a popular hill near the town i was born. When i say “we”, I meant my family; and by “we hiked”, I mean my parents and sisters walked and I most probably was mainly carried on my dads shoulders during the steep bits!

The best thing about a hike is a sit down in a hut for a Swiss Coffee or a lemonade and a “Nussgipfel” (a puffpastry treat with almond filling). It was there, where it was the first time I was allowed to take a little Dachshound for a walk around the hut.

Looking back, it might not have been that great of an experience for the dog. On a short leash and collar being “lead” around the small hut by a 5 year old.

In those days that was what a walk was. A dog being taken for an outing on a short leash and collar. In many instances the collar was not a leather one but a chain chocker. It was the days of “Alpha” this and “Alpha” that with a bit of “Rolling”.

Times have changed though. A lot more in depth research has pointed to the fact that even in wolf packs it is not about power and status but about a breeding pair of wolves bringing up their young with help of their siblings – a family

Therefore, one would think we have moved on from using the linear hirachy theory on our dogs? We haven’t.

Every day I see owners pulling and pushing their dogs around on a walk and make them sit in “submission”. A walk that should really be for the dog to enjoy; a walk where the dog can experience the world through their eyes – or should I point out – through their amazing noses!

How amazing the dogs noses are deserves a post alone, so stay tuned for that. But lets just say, with our petty 5 million scent receptors, our noses are amateurs compared to the nose of a dog with 250 million + receptors.

So if we imagine how a healthy human eye sees colour and how what we see can please and excite us imagine how scent excites and pleases a dog. A canines olfactory system is also bigger relative to ours and our brain. When a dog smells he doesnt just detect a scent he can see the past, the present and future. How?

The past: who or what has been here

The present: who or what is here

The future: who or what is coming

When your dog sniffs that poo or pee of another dog, which humans think is so discusting, the dog can smell not just the “who” but the sex, health, emotional state, etc the other dog was in when it pooed or peed. That alone takes brain power to do.

If you ever followed your dog off leash, sniffing, imagine the amount of brain used to understand and debunk each of these scents the dog sniffs on.

You will also have observed that your dog didn’t sniff along in straight lines, he was walking sometimes probably even racing with his nose close to the ground all over the place. Sometimes he may stop raising his nose sniffing the air….


So why do we still walk our dogs heel, on a chocker and short leash?

Because it makes us look in control!

Some dogs can’t be off leash as they have high prey drive. I have 3 of these hounds. If I would let them off they’d be gone. No!, not because they are disobedient but because they’d be off hunting that prey. So I walk them on a harness and long leash and follow them. We always end up finding something. Lately a lot of illegally dumped rubbish or dead animal carcasses.  The thing is, when we return home the dogs are relaxed and ready to chill. This behaviour hasn’t come about suddenly. It took a while with each dog I added to our canine family, wether as a permanent member or foster dog and no matter of breed. The difference is, you will not catch me throwing a tennis ball. But I might teach the dog to retrieve a lost tennis ball or other item; or let him search treats or track a person or sausage. The difference is: when the dog uses his nose he uses his brain constructively. He concentrates on the scents and what they are about. This is especially good for fearful dogs. Why? Because if a fearful being concentrates on something else than the fear it is able to function. I am sure you have experienced that before!

So why don’t I play fetch?

When the dog chases that ball, he reacts instinctively which means he is filled with adrenalin and that takes a while to leave the dogs body. Because he is on “hunting-mode” his brain will have shut off everything NOT needed to proceed to a successful outcome. This means your dog has tunnel-vision and cannot hear you.

So next time you return home and get frustrated your dog is not ready to chill, ask yourself “why”.

And take that chocker and short leash, put it in the rubbish, buy a long leash (at least 3 m) and a H-shaped harness to keep neck and shoulders free from pressure and start following your dog on a smiffing adventure






Bono & The Hounds

The Sniffer-Zone

There is nothing dogs like more than sniffing around their environment…. well apart from snoozing on the couch.

Before the big earthquakes in 2010 & 2011 you would have found me and the dog (only had one at the time called: Sam) somewhere up the Porthills or down Spencers Beach. Since then, the Christchurch surroundings have changed distinctively and sometimes I get lost.

However, the dogs and other animals have deffinately gained from those “rocking” events.

Today I ended up missing a turn-off to a residential “red zone” area near Travis Wetland. I ended up on the other side of the Wetlands in lush green and yellow fields. The resent rainfall had turned many of the previous residential sections into natural ponds again; after a long dry spell. The ducks, gease, pukekos’, and other wildlife including rabbits where bathing in the warmth of the sun when I arrived with my hounds. The birdlife soon chattered their displeasure at our invasion of their tranquility; the rabbits so much so that their “flight or fight” instinct took over and sent them in a nearby hole.

That created some excitement!…


Not to worry! All hounds and rabbits are well and alife.

We soon got back to doing what we were there to do: “SNIFFING”

What the earthquakes took from us humans in form of houses and lifes, nature returned with life. Christchurchs’ residential red zone has, unknowingly to many, become the biggest “schnuffel-garden” at least New Zealand wide and of course with an uninterrupted lovely view of the Porthills.

Succomb with peaceful emotions of the surrounding beauty one is also slightly overcome by a hint of melancholy, realizing you are actually walking where someones backyard was… where people built memories in the save heaven of their home and garden. That, which now had become the Sniffer-Zone enjoyed by so many canines.

The hounds and I dearly hope that doesn’t change!






Reviews page now active

A very intense day working on the website and the new SpeakingDog Blog

I now added a page to this Blog where clients can leave their reviews as it is not possible within the web-hosting of the SpeakingDog Webpage

You can click on the “Review SpeakingDog” in the Menu and leave a review in the comment box



Bono & The Hounds