Emotion drives learning, it drives action, change, and behaviors. There are some emotions that are the same behavior from the canine … these are core emotions.
Anger or Rage = snarls, bites, escape physical restraint. The lower level of this is frustration, which is sparked by mental restraint.
Fear = freeze or run away, when survival is threatened in any way.
Social attachment/panic from abandonment = separation calls, basically “come back, don’t leave me” in barking, whining and howling.
Seeking or Anticipation = animal moves forward, sniffing and exploring to make sense of the world around us. Seeking is also wanting something good, and looking forward to getting something good, and curiosity.
There are three more positive emotion systems identified: Lust – description not needed, Care – maternal love and care-taking, and Play – the roughhousing all young animals do which is a sign of good welfare, because a dog that is depressed, frightened or angry doesn’t play.
Rule of thumb: Don’t trigger anger/rage, fear and/or panic from abandonment if you can help it; do trigger – seeking and play.
Exception to the rule of thumb: Do trigger frustration as a way to train impulse control … ie., stay, wait at doors, gates, crates; and as a way to build resilience and tolerance to failures (willingness to keep trying when not understanding a training goal). So we do want dogs to understand that they need to wait to get something they like (freedom, toys, food, fun), and we also want them to keep trying to figure out what we want from them and not just give up and go find something else to do.
The risk is that frustration if too much becomes anger and rage.
I have a new puppy named Signal. He is ten weeks old, has wavy black hair, black nose and essentially black eyes. He would like to run after our cat, Smokey (10 years old, brown tabby, dog-wise). I have been preventing him, Smokey has been preventing him and sometimes his X-pen fence is preventing him.
This frustration has built up some bouncing and some barking and even a little dodging and weaving. Picture tail high, play bow with intermittent sideways puppy leaps. I am offering food when he’s quiet and looking, I’ve removed him from the scene, and I’ve distracted him, all to make sure the mental frustration doesn’t get too high. I want a pleasant relationship between the two of them.
The cat, has meowed, in an irritated way at him. No hissing or batting and I want to keep it that way, this pup seems like he’d escalate if that were to happen.
This morning when Smokey was doing his jumping routine for treats next to the X-pen. Signal got rewards timed to keep him occupied while Smokey did his thing and got rewarded for it. Soon the two will not think of each other as so novel.
Frustrating, yes. Leads to learning. Anger, no.
(To learn more about puppy training join the Puppy Kindergarten class, next one scheduled Oct 15th. See fb for more information).