Observation Explanation and Science

dog w duckRecently, our friend, colleague and fellow CAAB Dr. Karen London was lamenting the fact that ethological methods seem to be less and less used by those interested in explaining dog behavior. We think she was referring to the systematic, objective observation of dogs in their natural habitat, which was the method of choice in classical ethology.

We all loving watching dogs – just look at the numbers of videos of dogs posted on social media sites. But enjoying watching our pets perform lovable or humorous antics is different from observing them in a scientific way.

Dr. Phil Lehner, Suzanne’s major professor in graduate school, writes in his Handbook of Ethological Methods that:

“watching is a casual endeavor; observing is a rigorous process”. Lehner goes on to say that we can “receive pure enjoyment from watching animals…but obtaining answers to…questions requires careful observations. Observation may be as much a state of mind and awareness as it is a clearly defined technique”.

It’s that awareness when carefully observing animals that we take, and also teach, in our Canine Body Postures DVD. To paraphrase Lehner, observers take the time to describe intricate details of individual behaviors. That’s exactly what you’ll find in our DVD. We describe all the important physical features that dogs use to send visual communication signals – ears, tail, mouth, eyes, direction of gaze, body orientation, and body carriage –

and all the possible ways dogs use those physical features to communicate. Then we integrate those features and teach you how to observe the whole dog, and how the dog’s behavior can change based on what he is reacting to.

Here’s what just one professional has to say about our DVD:

“I have this DVD and consider it far and away the best dog body language resource I own. The organization of it is more systematic than anything else I’ve seen. Caroline W., AZ


Check out our recent articles we’ve sent you, in case your missed any emails, that are now posted on our websites:

How Babies Can Be Disruptive for Pets
Creating Good Relationships Among Family Dogs: The Importance of Carefully Managed Introductions
Is Your Pet Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

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