Behavior Tidbits


Professional Titles:

Animal Behaviorist (defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association): A person holding a PhD or DVM specializing in animal behavior.

Animal Behavior Counselor/Specialist: A person specializing in animal behavior studies and/or behavior modification. This person has usually received some type of formal training in animal behavior or another closely related field.

Animal (Dog/Cat) Trainer: A person who teaches commands and/or behaviors to an animal.

Obedience Instructor/Behavior Instructor: A person who teaches humans how to work with/train animals. These humans are generally the owners of the animals being trained.

Training Terms:

Dominance: A term used by animal scientists to identify the one who takes charge of a situation or leads in a relationship. Dominance DOES NOT MEAN FORCE,  just an individual's position in a relationship or given situation. This term has come to be associated with forceful training methods; but this usage is incorrect.  (reference: Dr Debra Horwitz DVM, DACVB)

Leadership: Leading/teaching with consistency, respect and enforcement of appropriate boundaries. Good leaders guide, teach, protect and encourage. A leader is in a position of dominance. 

Behavior Modification: Long-term alteration of behavior and/reactionary patterns. This alteration can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

Positive Reinforcement: The use of a reward (or varying forms) to encourage a specific behavior to continue/be repeated. (The addition of  something to reinforce/encourage a behavior). Example: Giving a dog a treat for sitting when told.

Negative Punishment: The removal of a pleasant experience (reward) to discourage a behavior from being repeated. Example: Pulling a treat away from a dog who is snapping at the treat (or hand holding the treat)

Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment are used together to accomplish behavior modification.

Positive Punishment: The addition of an unpleasant experience to discourage a behavior from continuing. Example: Anti-bark collars that spray citronella in a dog's face for barking.

Negative Reinforcement: The removal of an unpleasant experience to encourage a behavior to continue. Example: Anti-bark collars stop spraying citronella when the dog stops barking.

Positive Punishment and Negative Reinforcement are used together to accomplish behavior modification.

Please note that the above terms do not refer to the animal's emotional response to these techniques. Positive in this context does NOT mean "good" and negative does NOT mean "bad" or harmful. The terms only refer to the adding or removal of a reward for a specific purpose.

Desensitization: The gradual limited exposure of an animal to a "trigger" (one that causes a reaction such as barking or lunging) stimulus, while an alternative behavior is taught (redirection). Example: Playing the sound of fireworks for a few minutes at a time, while calming your dog.

Re-Directional Training: Providing an alternative behavior to replace one that is considered inappropriate in a given situation. Example: Teaching a dog to sit to greet humans, instead of jumping.

Alternative/Complimentary Medical Terms:

Alternative/Complementary Medicine: Treatments based on scientific research that are used in addition to or in place of traditional (Western or allopathic) medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Ancient medical philosophy based on the concept of energy channels running through the body. The blockage or overflowing of these channels result in illness (and behavioral changes).

Acupuncture: The use of needles placed in specific points along the body, to increase or decrease the flow of energy through TCM channels. An important note: Acupuncture in animals should only be preformed by a veterinarian specifically trained in acupuncture.

Acupressure: The use of pressure on designated acupuncture points to create energy balance (acupuncture without needles). The use of compression devices, such as Anxiety Wraps, and Thundershirts act on the theory of acupressure.

Aromatherapy: The use of scent, generally through the use of essential oils (derived from plants), to alter behavior and/or enhance healing.

Bach Flower Therapy: Use of specific flowers to restore harmony within the body; created by Dr. Edward Bach.

Dietary/Nutritional Management: The use of diet or foods to alter an animal's physical, mental or emotional state.

Herbal Therapy: The use of herbal, usually natural plant materials, to create a change in the body. An important note: Herbal treatment for animals should only be undertaken under the guidance of a veterinarian and properly trained herbalist. The misuse of herbs can be very dangerous.

Homeopathy: The use of minute quantities of a plant material, or other agent, to cause the body to react a certain way, generally to regain "normal" balance and function.

Holistic Therapy: Encompassing the whole animal, including meeting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Holistic theory states that behavior and/or physical condition are affected by many factors including environment, diet, and the mental and emotional state of the animal.

Massage: The use of hands to induce change in the body, usually by increasing blood flow to the area.

Other Behavior-Related Terms:

Aggression: A term with varied meaning in different contexts. For behavior purposes, the term means any action intended to create or increase conflict. This does not include normal warning signals such as barking, growling or snarling, which indicate a desire to avoid conflict. There are many triggers for and types of aggression. Not all are inappropriate.  

Anthrozoology: The study of the relationship between humans and non-human animals.

Anthropomorphism: The tendency to apply human perceptions and values unto non-human animals. 

Ethology: The study of how biology relates to behavior. 

Re-directed Aggression: Aggression targeted towards an "innocent" party because the animal can not directly engage, or escape from the source of its fear or defensiveness.  The "victim" is often the human handler or another dog in the family. Example: Leashed dogs are walking with a housemate, when a child runs up yelling. The leashed dogs are frightened, but are unable to escape and then begin to bite at one another. 

Dog Training Tidbits

Cat Behavior Tidbits

                                                 For more tidbits and thoughts, read Marie's blog

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