If you think you know everything about your dog’s needs, think again! In this episode you will learn:
1. The importance of emotional and social needs in dogs’ lives
2. The importance of a secure attachment between pet parent and puppy
3. The importance of being an advocate for your dog.
Author of Do No Harm Dog Training & Behavior Manual and The Hierarchy of Dog Needs®, Linda Michaels, uses her advanced training in psychology and neuroscience to help us do better for our doodles.
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Linda Michaels Michaels Michaels, author, speaker, and leading expert on Do No Harm force free dog training, created the internationally acclaimed Hierarchy of Dog Needs. With an advanced degree in psychology and five years of shelter rescue experience, Linda Michaels Michaels Michaels the gap between research dog trainers and pet parents. Her new book, The Do No Harm Dog Training and Behavior Handbook, featuring the Hierarchy of Dog Needs, is designed for both new and seasoned trainers, other animal related professionals, and pet parents, too. As an influencer and animal welfare advocacy, she speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. As she says, the heartbeats at our feet.
I would love to dive into your Hierarchy of Dog Needs if you could give us a brief walkthrough of the different components. And if you guys think back to school, it really does mirror Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. So it feels familiar, right? It is familiar. When all of our dogs needs are met, then our dogs can reach their optimal state of well being.
Just like us. We need to identify with those needs in our dogs so that we can empathize with our dogs. I have looked at the brain function and brain anatomy and comparative psychology. This is one of the reasons that I did what I did. And I do what I do is because I felt a responsibility to impart this knowledge to the general public and to create the Hierarchy of Dog Needs to try to make it easy to understand what is necessary to meet basic needs and the need for safety.
Here's my in color version. It's available in twelve languages. Now, if you go to my website, you can download it, and it's free to use the scientists right here. Dr. Mark Beckoff, who graciously wrote the forward to my book, he says dogs like us need to feel safe, at peace, and loved.
They depend on us to fill these needs, and we are obligated to do. Simon Gatwa, who is an ethiologist who works with wolves in the wild, he also endorsed the Hierarchy of Dog Knees, and I was so thrilled that they came on right away and said, this is good. This is derived from Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. As a psychology student, and most people are familiar with the pyramid in my decision making about how in the world can I present all of these concepts? Right?
One page. I thought that people could learn to empathize with their dogs more by putting themselves in their dog's paws, so to speak, dogs locked in or shoes or whatever you want to call it. But by recognizing that our needs are very similar to our dog's needs, and that starts with nutrition, we know how much focus there is on human nutrition. Oh my God. It's important and critical.
That's the first thing listed on the Hierarchy of Dog Needs and meeting the biological need for proper nutrition. And that means to feed a biologically appropriate, species specific and nutritionally balanced. What that means is really choosing a specifically named protein source. Just like we read the ingredients list on everything that we buy or at least I do like lots of people I see people in the grocery store read the ingredients list on the dog food you're buying. Your dog is your captive, really and they depending on you to provide good nutrition for them.
There are a lot of dehydrated foods out now freeze dried foods, healthy air dried options. So another thing is water. How basic is that? But look at how much energy humans put into making sure our water is purified with our dogs. We want to make sure that our dogs have purified water as well because what comes out of the tap may not be healthy.
And also you got to keep that bowl clean. Hopefully you have a stainless steel bowl, but it gathers bacteria. It needs to be cleaned regularly. We also need to give our dogs access to water all of the time. Yes.
Our dogs cannot go to the grocery store. They can't open the refrigerator. They are completely dependent upon our good grace to provide them with their needs. Also the need for exercise. Look how much humans you cannot turn anywhere without people talking about the importance of exercise.
Understanding your dog's need for exercise is just equally important, if not more so, because of who they are. Genetically we're primitively obsessed with getting sufficient exercise and it's vital to preventing disease. So often when we look at these categories in medical terms, people can relate more easily. I could talk about so much sufficient air that seems like a no brainer. Sufficient sleep.
How much do we hear about sleep? For humans, a lot. And understanding dog sleep cycles are different than human sleep cycles is important. So they typically sleep about 16 minutes and then they wake up for five minutes. So if you're wondering why having your dog sleep in your bed disruptive it's adaptive to your survival because come from the gray wolf it's adaptive to survival.
Do you not just be in a deep sleep for a long period of time? You have to check out your environment, what's going on? Is anybody coming? Or the threats in the environment okay, coast is clear or best to sleep. And this is repeated in many dogs over and over again throughout the night and that's normal for them.
But you have to make sure that your dog has full beds all over the house. Do they want to sleep in this room or in the sunshine over here or did any shade over here? You don't want to put your dog in bed in the middle of the kitchen where people are coming in and out all day, can never get any rest. What would that be like again for us? Because no, people don't put their bed in the middle of the room.
They put it up against the wall because again because of that need for safety. Feels deeper to sleep when you have some enclosure there. There's just so many things to think about. And we talk about dogs who are struggling with higher levels of anxiety that they're not able to fully access rest when they are constantly scanning and on alert for more than you are saying is typical of waking up and checking out their surroundings and then resting again. But if a dog isn't able to fully access that calmness and rest, then we're going back down to this base level of their biological need is not being met of them getting really restorative, sleep.
Yeah, that's so true. Stress plays such an important part in our dogs lives. So decreasing stress, especially when we look at behavior such as barking, want to start with decreasing the stress in your dog's life as a baseline and work from there. And there's so many different ways that we can do that with enrichment, by providing species specific behaviors that our dogs enjoy. I have a chapter and grazing games and enrichment in the book.
So using the natural behaviors to change emotions such as anxiety, that will then affect the ability to get, as you said, restorative, sleep, all of these things. And that's why the hierarchy, it's all interconnected. It's a puzzle. And it's a fascinating puzzle. Yes.
So if we were to go to emotional needs, which you talk a little bit about security, can you share what that looks like for dogs? Emotional needs have been known to be important. Darwin recognized that back in 48. I think that dogs have emotions very similar to humans, at least the basic emotions, creating an environment where just as the importance of our own emotions, our own emotional needs play such a large part in our lives and drive our behaviors, emotional state will drive their behavior as well. So that's why with barking, for example, which is a really good example, because so many people have a problem with that and don't understand where it's coming from or what to do about it.
But changing the underlying drive, changing the emotion, what we call a conditioned emotional response for the dog will then affect the barking. Emotional health is as important as physical health, in my opinion. So we want to avoid physical and emotional harm and we want to provide enrichment and circumstances where our dog does feel safe. For example, so many little things people don't really understand. The dog needs to be able to determine approach.
You don't want to walk into a dog space and just start touching them. How would we feel if somebody stranger just came up to you and just grabbed you? Like, most people would not be okay with that. But we take these liberties with our dogs as if they don't have ceilings. They're not stuffed animals.
Yes. Petting like not on the top of the head. If anything, if your dog lets you know with the body language that they are actually soliciting attention from you. They're soliciting affection and they want you to touch them. Then, you know, touching them in a place that does not feel threatening, leaning over them and walking them on ahead is important.
The emotional piece is for every dog. But poodles and poodle mixes like doodles on the scale of sensitivity are really up there. That means, what, another dog might just roll through and not even notice if there is yelling in the home and it's not at your dog, but the kids are arguing. Mom and dad, if there is tension in the home, if you are firmer than you meant to be, they feel it deeply. That is part of why they could be such wonderful service dogs, because they connect so easily.
But that also means that using pain or fear or force or just a really firm voice, sometimes you'll see them just pitdle like that's their physical way of showing their level of discomfort. If we could imagine how much fear it would be to make us urinate and humans do this. If you're really scared, we can just let loose. But that is such a good indicator of, okay, something's really wrong here with this environment. And just like you said, they are so sensitive.
And when we think again about ourselves, like how that environment was arguing or just somebody giving you a dirty look. And dogs are very good at reading humans facial expressions they have discovered in research, and this is all cited in my book, they really are good at reading our facial expressions, unlike wolves, because wolves are not as biddable as dogs are. So the doodles. Yes. It really behooves us to create a happy home.
Yes. Because only a happy home feels safe and secure. And that stress created by emotional negativity in the hell is going to spill over into every aspect of your dog's behavior. So we really need to try our best and even fake it until you make it, even if you're upset. Yes.
Try your best not to show that. Or if we do say something harsh to our dogs, immediately realize, oh, God, immediately turn it around and try to make up for it. Don't let that sit there and simmer because then it becomes predictive of fear for what you might do next. And you become unpredictable. Really?
You want to be predictable. This person is not going to hurt me. This person has my best interest at heart. I can relax. And we've all been there where we.
Accidentally were cooking or something, and we accidentally step on their little paw or tail and you hear them and we. All like, oh my God, I love you. I love you so much. I love you, I love you. We have all naturally tried to repair a misstep, literally with our dog.
Yeah. Because the refrigerator is right there in the kitchen. I would just go right to refrigerator? Yes. I'm so sorry about it.
We have all been why you stepped on their toe. No, they don't understand that was an accident. Again, like thinking about their cognitive ability they might be experiencing what's going on, really help you help your dog? Yes. If we're to go next into social needs, I work with Noodles every day, doing boarding and daycare, and a lot of times they'll hit adolescents and they've done a puppy class, but then they want to have seen another dog outside of their home or on a leash for months to years.
So if we're talking about social needs, can you share a little bit more about their needs there in your hierarchy? You know what, it used to be called a critical period of development. It's now called a sensitive period of development. It's like the language is changing. We don't call it obedience anymore, we call it manners training.
So it's important, the labeling, it's important that we start talking about bonding differently and we start talking about how we perceive our dogs differently because the language matters. Sensitive period of socialization is actually between four weeks and twelve weeks, which is, again, when you think about your childhood and how those memories from early childhood, they stick, they stay with us for a lifetime. You cannot just erase them and you can try to place other memories to overlay those childhood memories. But what happens in that critical period of that sensitive period of development is so important. Bonding with humans and even with the wolves, for example, wolf dogs can bond with humans, but it has to be at a very young age, much younger, even with puppies.
But when you think about the power that a breeder has been at four weeks of age, where that sensitive period comes in, your dog has already experienced or not experienced a lot of life skills or learned fears. By the time if you get your puppy at eight or ten weeks, there's already been a foundation laid, so you're not starting from playing slate. It's very important if you are going to purchase from a breeder that you really make sure that your breeder is progressive or socializing your dog, not just to the people in the house. Family raise doesn't mean all that you need. There are so many things to like tearing the puppy away from their siblings and from their mother.
So we need to be prepared for secure attachment, which is something that I talk about a lot in the separation anxiety treatment plan, which is a ceiling of abandonment. Developing a secure attachment with the new puppy to you, the new pet parents, is critical. It really needs to be safe. Don't need to teach, sit down, hear, come, all that stuff. What is more important is the love is care, all that stuff.
Just like I would teach the wolf dogs not to jump. That can be taught at any age. The emotional and social skills and feeling safe in social situations both with humans and with other dogs. That's why emotional and social needs come before training in the hierarchy. We don't really do any training until we feel confident that the emotional and social needs have been met.
Then there's always time to learn opera and conditioning. A dog of any age can learn. Tricks and part of the social piece is them learning that you have their back. And that looks like being your doodles advocate. So if somebody is rushing up to them or another dog coming up when you're on a walk, that you could say, stop, we're in training, or whatever my dog is in other shots.
Whatever you need to say socially to create a bubble around your dog so that you're able to read their cues and when they're uncomfortable, you're able to step in and they feel protected and safe with you. Oh, that is so true. We need to be proactive for our dogs and using that stop sign. I have just found out that when I do my body language and someone's, oh, dogs love me if I just. The hand signal outstretched.
Yes. And it's true. Our dogs look to us in videos and in research. They actually look to humans for just like a baby does in this Ainsworth Research. When they studied secure attachment, the child or the puppy or the dog in this case, they are looking to us for safety, to care for them, just as you said.
So it's our responsibility to provide that safety and to put aside what other people may think. Because actually your dog's behavior is not a reflection on your personality. It's not about us. I have a T shirt that I had just gotten in the mail and it said, hi, we're training, please give us space, or something like that. And my husband was folding the laundry and he was like, oh, you can't wear that shirt.
And he works with our dogs like every day. And I was like, no, one of the dogs really need space. And it's an easy way. I don't even have to verbally say anything. And he was like, but our neighbors will think you're rude.
I can talk to anybody. I can chat with my neighbors the next time I see them. When we get the mail, my priority on my walk is to give that dog that bubble because if I don't, they're left to their last resources. Barking, lunging, growling, hiding to create space. If I'm not making the space for them, those needs are not being met.
And then we're going to have problematic behaviors. That's all they have left. Exactly. That barking is one of the only ways that dogs have to communicate with us. That is so true about with your neighbors and putting your dog's knees as a priority.
They cannot take care of themselves. It's our responsibility to protect them. But also in public with strangers. You often find that if you wear that shirt and you say, we're in training, people will go home, they respect that. Yeah, I use that a lot.
Dog reactive dog, for example. Or I just need to slow people down. Rushing our dogs, doodle people. We're walking around with living teddy bears. Everybody wants to take pictures of your dog when you're out and about, and we're walking around with these, like, cuddle magnets.
So that is the instinct that everyone around has. But your dog needs to feel emotionally safe. Yes. One was such a big teddy bear. I wonder, is it the same with a high content wolf dog?
Do people just want to stand back and look, or do they want to touch them? Typically, they stand back. I always say the great story of people stand back and admire. But there are other individuals, such as myself, who would try to speak to the handler and find out if it's okay with the handler. But moreover, is it okay with the wolf dog if that wolf dog comes to me, not the other way around?
So, again, understanding that body language and that approach caveat that I mentioned, let the dog come to you. So we call that consent testing. Consent is on the hierarchy of dog needs and giving our dog choice. So consent test, for example, is we were talking about social needs. So one of the social needs is play.
So important that your dog have a safe place in which to play. This is how dogs learn skills. And play is adaptive to survival, but it teaches dogs self control and it teaches them empathy with other books. Yes, there are rules. There are rules of play.
I haven't highlighted some videos. I think I'm on YouTube where she can see these Rhodesian Ridge bags like an adult with a puppy. And what is appropriate play between an adult and a puppy? Do you want to see the adults handicapping themselves, getting down on the puppies level, letting the puppy win? Sometimes the big dog doesn't have to win.
The proper social relationship involves the adult dog letting the puppy get in some good ones. And again, if you're having behavioral problems going back to Linda Michaels Michaels's hierarchy, what's missing, what need isn't being met right now. We have a puppy stay with us. I want to say 1819 weeks old. And at home, she's really mouthy.
She's using her teeth a lot. They've got some younger elementary school kids here. She isn't using her teeth with the humans at all because she's able to get that outlet met with our dogs using her mouth in an appropriate way. And they're teaching her not by pinning and correcting her, but she's learning by the modeling really nicely how to play. One of my best teaching tools is working with wolf dogs.
I started having wolf dog pet parents call me for training. And I have made a video of Nova beautiful wolf dog. I'm telling you again, if you think your doodle is mouthy wolf dogs, they have really big teeth and strong jaws. They're trying to hurt you, but they are trying to grab you. They're open on I happened to capture.
A beautiful video of me teaching an alternate behavior, just like you mentioned just now and in the book I teach, and I think it's on my YouTube channel, I teach what I call Kiss, which is teaching the dog, the wolf dog or the doodle to lick you. Like you said to use the mouth instead of biting on you. So if you just put a tree inside your hand like this, they know they can't, like, bite your hand. They're going to lick. Right.
And as soon as they lick you, open your hand and give them the treatment. So training is just so fascinating. Whoa. That's right. An immediate reward for the behavior that I want.
And so then you can transfer the next time you feel mouthiness if you just extend your hand. You have to practice this so that they learn the sequence. And there's so many very kind ways to turn behavior around that used to baffle trainers, pet parents. So if you just hook up with the right person who really understands behavior, he will be amazed at what can be accomplished. It's just delightful.
And I'm still really surprised when something works.
It feels so easy, right? No, it should be harder. Exactly. Yes. It feels like magic.
It's just to say, oh, my God. So if we were to move on to above social needs, we have force free training needs, and we've touched on that a little bit earlier in our chat. But can you share any more management? As you mentioned, it's so underrated. We could solve problems easily just by managing them.
And with barking, for example, if you just put a field over the windows, if your dog is barking at passers by or have your couch block the window. Or just arrange the environment differently to eliminate the problem or to decrease the expression of the problem. So people should do that more. And it's the easiest thing to do. Reinforcement, of course, differential reinforcement, which is similar to the example that I gave you with teaching tickets.
It's an alternate and an incompatible behavior should be the unwanted, undesirable behavior. So you're teaching something that you're okay with if you're okay with your dog touching your hand. Some people really love it. There are a few as devoted as I am to doodles. I pass on the face licking.
I've just seen them lick their private regions. Yes.
We all have different tastes and relationships. Right. Endless variations that you can do using social learning where dogs model behavior with each other. And that's why, like, the adult Rhodesian Ridgeback is teaching the puppy how to play appropriately. And again, it feels like miraculous.
You can see the puppies. The puppy bites the adult dog too hard and the adult dog maybe gets up and walks away. Why did they do that? Oh, it has something to do with her ear. Yes.
Which is part of why their teeth are so sharp. So that feedback can be given right away. Yeah. There's so many of the premed principle, which is basically eat your needs before you have cake. So we can get behavior there's so many different ways we can get behavior by linking behaviors together.
When you look at agility trials that you can have dogs, that's one way they learn very well is to link behaviors and do what's called back chaining. We start with the last behavior first and reward that. And then we go back one step and have the second to the last and the last behavior first, last. And then your dog doesn't lose speed because they don't have speed. Whereas if you do it the other way, you're going to lose the motivation.
So there are so many different ways to use different learning principles. And once you get the hang of it, like I said, you can learn how to solve a lot of problems. That seemed insurmountable, that seemed difficult, that you thought, I'm going to have to get rough here because nothing's working. Something works. And there is no behavior that's not amenable to change.
We just need to better understand how to do it. And I think giving yourself permission to use management in your toolbox, it's just like having a toddler. One of mine used to just want to climb up the stairs and he had no like, ability to get back down and it would have just been a tumble. So while he was developmentally there, we just put a gate at the bottom of the stairs. My standard poodle hershey, we had a trash can that had a motion sensor, which was really cool for us humans.
We didn't have to do anything. It would just open. She was really smart, so her little nose would go over and now all the leftovers are right at her little pause. So for her it was, let's take the batteries out of the motion sensor. And I could have taught her, leave it.
We could have done more of a training plan with it. But I picked my battles. It wasn't that I was going to let her dig in the trash or let my kid fall down the stairs, but I don't have to train everything at once. I can choose management as a tool to make it easier on both of us sometimes. Exactly.
Baby gates are such a blessing. Greetings are such a problem for so many pet parents. But you don't want to have your dog come with you to the door and then ask your dog to sit and wait. That's really hard for them. And it may not work.
Your dog might bite someone because the dog is doing your job. The job is to protect the home. Yes. That's one of the reasons that humans domesticated wolves or wolves domesticated themselves is because they alert and they guard. We don't just live out in the open.
We live in little boxes. We lock our doors. We want that security. Just using simple management for visitors. Like you hear a knock at the door.
You pair that with running to the backyard and growing treats all over the sidewalk. And then you close the sliding glass door and then you go answer your door. You don't have to spend ten years on a different example, like training your dog not to leave the yard. You could do all this boundary training, but it will fail at some point when that rabbit runs by. It's okay to have a fence.
Yeah, make it easy. I wrote the book too. I wanted to try to make it easy for people. Comprehensive index where you can just go quickly to whatever is bothering you. I just find what pages that and.
The book has such depth that I know I read it cover to cover. But you wrote it as a handbook, so be it a trainer or a pet parent. Oh, we're having a problem with this. Let me go to that chapter. So you can just pop in and check that part of the handbook.
So I really like that because you drill down to so many great different topics that somebody doesn't need to be overwhelmed and always start on the first page.
Each chapter is self contained. There are principles in the first part of the book that you basically understand, but you can go anywhere in the book and learn techniques, how to problem solve whatever has come up, because it will change. The problems will change over that. Of course, if your dogs. Now for the tippy top of your hierarchy.
I have a saying doodles are lifelong learners that don't want to drop out after puppy kindergarten. And I think of that when I look at your pop need at the top of the pyramid of cognitive needs. Can you tell me what that looks like for our dogs? It was really little bit arbitrary what to put at the top, but I didn't want to put training at the top because that makes it appear that training is like the pinnacle, right. Higher cognitive functions such as problem solving and giving our dogs choices because they are captives.
We control everything about their lives so we can loosen up a little bit and give our dogs more joy and bring more joy to our lives by giving them choices when we can. We don't have to always take the walk we want to take. Letting dog decide where to walk. Safaris are very, very popular these days. Your dog may not want to go anywhere.
A large part of their brain is devoted to information processing of scent, which is more geared to visual stimuli. Your dog can actually. Read the past and the presents by Smell. They know who's been there and they know who's coming. I'm travelers.
They're getting all this information. So what your dog enjoys may be very different if you're taking a walk because you want to get exercise. But there's a lot of things that your dog may like to do in addition to getting sufficient exercise that you can let them make decisions and you can ask for consent. Asking for consent is so important. Is it okay with your dog?
And being willing to accept no for an answer? Sometimes before a walk, I check myself and say, who's this walk for? Is this for me to get my steps in and to clock a certain distance? Or is this walk for my dog nestle? And if it's for nestle, I'm going to let him take the lead.
And if he wants to sniff a mailbox for four minutes, I'll hang out for four minutes and he can get all the neighborhood news and find out all of it. And that'll actually likely exhaust him more than my higher pace. Stay on the sidewalk, go straight for. A longer distance, right? Yeah.
So it's important to allow make room for the joy and appears to not stress ourselves so much about regimented ideas, about training and behavior and just to be more free to really give ourselves the time and space to enjoy our dogs. We were talking about play. We often do incense tests and this is in cognitive section by separating the dogs this way. If you're wondering is that safe play? Dogs can play pretty rough.
Yeah. Vocal. Yeah.
It often scares us. Oh, my God, are we good?
They want to check if we're good. Yes. Separate down. And you let the one that seem to have been getting the short end of the stick, so to speak, and then let go and see if he actually he or she goes back to the other dog. Yes.
Or maybe she goes the other way. Ice behind you. That's that obvious behavior that tells you, no, my dog was not having fun. You gave opportunity for choice and they were able to tell you in their boss which way they went. Exactly.
One thing about emotions is that dogs wear their feelings on their sleeve on their boss. They're very honest about how they're feeling. Yeah. Especially if you're not suppressing the times they're trying to tell you. Oh, exactly.
If you suppress the bark, you may just get a bite instead. If you're not paying attention to, why is my dog barking? What can I do to alleviate that stress or to feel that need? The study of Das is just so fascinating and I hope that I was able to share today with your audience. I'm with you and I thank you so much for having me as a guest.
This is such a delight. I highly recommend this book by Linda Michaels Michaels Michaels. It is a fantastic read. I read it from cover to cover, but it is so rich that you don't need to. I recommend starting with the first chapter that outlines the basis and the reasons behind the approach in the book, and then use it as the handbook as it is, and pull out the pieces as you need them.
When addressing different areas of training with either your clients or your personal dog, you may find the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behavior Handbook on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles Online, and for booksellers through Ingrams Park. Catch Part Three Linda Michaels Michaels is going to discuss how to train your doodle to stop barking and, most importantly, undercover. The reasons why they're barking.