The Dog Vinci Code: Unlock the Secrets to Training Your Dog

The Dog Vinci Code: Unlock the Secrets to Training Your Dog

by John Rogerson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843583073
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,211,541
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Rogerson is a leading dog trainer and behaviorist who pioneered many of the techniques that are now standard practice in behavior therapy and training. He has run courses on training and behavior for organizations such as the U.S. Air Force Dog Section, The Blue Cross, Illinois State University, Washington State Vet School, and Miami Fire Department Search and Rescue Team.

Read an Excerpt

The Dog Vinci Code

Unlock the Secrets to Training Your Dog

By John Rogerson

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2011 John Rogerson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84358-521-3


The Background to a Philosophy

Picture the scene: a class where students have come to learn about training dogs. All are highly motivated because not only do they have a passion for working with dogs, for many it is their livelihood. Many of the students are already professional trainers. Each student has chosen a dog from a rescue kennel and is trying, under instruction, to train the dog to do various exercises. The dogs have been carefully selected as being moderately easy to train. All the students have exactly the same amount of training time available to them, and all are armed with various rewards that the dogs are prepared to put in some effort to obtain.

The instructor demonstrates how to get each dog to carry out a very specific behaviour and uses a logical, step-by-step approach. The instructor uses a word of command, gets the dog to respond in the correct manner and then rewards the dog. All the students watch and are given the opportunity to repeat the exercise. Their actions and timing are flawless and perfectly mirror what the instructor has shown them. The rewards used are the same and given at the same point in the training process. Several training sessions come and go but hardly any of the students seem to be able to get the dog to respond to their commands. So where are the students going wrong?

The answer lies in the way the instructor is able to read the dog's emotions and in the way a pathway of communication is opened up between the two of them, based on how the instructor uses emotions in voice, movement and facial expression. The instructor not only understands the dog but the dog understands the instructor.

Let's look at another scenario, this time in an animal shelter. A visitor to the kennels walks around to have a look at the dogs up for adoption. He is walking around with the manageress who has worked at the kennels for over ten years. As they walk around, the visitor remarks that the dog in the second kennel would not make a very good family pet because it would quickly over-bond with new owners and possibly become overprotective of them. At the third kennel the visitor mentions that this dog suffers from separation problems and would be difficult to leave by itself. Two kennels later the visitor observes that this dog has not been raised in a family home but has lived mostly by itself with little emotional contact with an owner. In the next kennel he identifies a dog that has quite definitely been raised with another dog, even though it is in a kennel by itself.

The manageress is astounded by how accurately the visitor has managed to describe the character and background of each of the dogs. The visitor, for his part, cannot comprehend why the manageress, who has worked there for over ten years, cannot see what he sees! The visitor happens to be someone who has been involved in training dogs to the very highest standard for more than 20 years, while the manageress has simply been taking care of the dogs without really taking much notice of them. All the dogs arrive at the shelter with amazing tales to tell but sadly no one seems to know how to listen to what they are saying.

Dogs are a product of their five senses and five basic emotions. Taking them in turn we have:



This is often said to be around a million times better than our own. From my own experience, I believe this to be a gross overestimate but even so, a dog's sense of smell is truly remarkable. A dog can very easily be trained to follow the path that a person has walked, without having to be given a whiff of their scent. It can follow this trail for miles, across changing terrain and in difficult weather conditions, even many hours after the person has left the scene. A dog's nose is often described as being able to detect individual molecules of scent that make up a compound. Give a dog a sniff of perfume and it could probably tell you not only what ingredients make up the perfume but in what proportions!


A dog can hear sound frequencies much higher and lower than we can, so it is possible to train a dog to respond to a whistle that a person cannot hear. Because of this remarkable sense they can detect the sound of a small prey, such as a mouse, from a dozen or more yards away and correctly pinpoint where it is. They can also detect even the minutest change in the emotions of the human voice. Look at the shape of your dog's ears and you will get a clue as to how their hearing memory works. Breeds with naturally erect ears usually hear sounds much better at all frequencies than dogs with drooped ears. A German Shepherd has an amazing sound memory and will easily identify its owner's car when it is still a couple of blocks away from home. Actually this is not quite true: many cars of the same make and model can drive past without the dog being able to link them to the presence of its owner. What the dog identifies is the way its owner drives this particular car as they approach home.


A dog's vision seems to be black, white, shades of grey and maybe some colour but a dog lacks the colour recognition associated with human eyesight. It does seem as though dogs can recognise colour, though maybe not by using their eyesight. When some of my students on dog-training courses work with shelter dogs at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London, it seems the dogs there can indeed pick out colours. Anyone walking past in a light-blue sweatshirt always attracts a lot of excitement from the dogs, while anyone in a green sweatshirt immediately produces avoidance behaviour. The kennel staff responsible for the day-to-day care and welfare of the dogs – the ones who feed and befriend the dogs – all wear light-blue sweatshirts, while the veterinary staff all wear green ones. Is it the colour or is it the smell? Certainly the veterinary staff will smell very different from the kennel staff to a dog, but this does not explain why a student who arrives wearing blue is greeted very differently from one who arrives wearing green. But maybe it is the smell: it is possible that the dogs smell the chemical used to dye the clothes and not the occupational smell that impregnates the cloth! This just serves to illustrate what a different world our dogs live in compared to the world that we see with our eyes.

Some breeds, notably some retrievers and spaniels, have the most amazing visual memory. Throw a ball into long grass and let your Springer Spaniel see it land 50 yards away. Then obscure the dog's eyes and wait for a while before releasing the dog to go and fetch it. Incredibly, some have been able to pinpoint the exact spot where they saw the ball land twenty minutes earlier. Border Collies, on the other hand, seem to have a really poor visual memory. Throw a ball into long grass and obscure its eyes for even a few seconds and when you release the dog it will run where it wants, not where the ball was thrown!

If you look at the way breeds have been developed, what you learn about their senses should be of little surprise, along with the fact that some dogs appear to have certain memories built into their genetic code. When out on a shoot, a Springer Spaniel is required to mark the spot where the shot bird has landed and then remember it until sent to retrieve by the handler. Maybe that is also why a Border Collie never takes its eyes off its sheep: its visual memory is so poor it will forget where it last saw them!


Some breeds have been developed to be very insensitive to being touched, which some believe makes them more suitable to have around young children who may be a little rough in the way they handle their pets. But the reason that they are insensitive to touch is because they were originally bred for fighting! A dog would not be a very efficient fighter if he screamed and gave in the minute he felt a tooth touch his skin! There are dogs, notably Bull Terriers, which continue to fight despite the most appalling injuries.


Taste and smell are undoubtedly linked, so it is surprising that many pet owners, seduced by the major pet food manufacturers, feed their dogs the same food every day for most of its life. Dogs can develop taste preferences in the same way that we can, so to deny a dog the opportunity to sample a varied diet would be the same as giving a child chicken and rice every day of its life. Building a repertoire of tastes in a dog also makes it so much easier to use food as a reward in training. There is a possibility that if you feed your dog the same diet day in and day out, when you offer it a new food it will eat too much and become ill. If this happens, the dog may reject this food in future. This works in the same way that it would if you ate something that made you ill – you would naturally build an aversion to this food.

There is no doubt that if a dog eats a varied diet then, all things being equal, it will outperform a dog fed the same food each day in exercises requiring discrimination in its sense of smell. A sniffer dog fed the same diet every day will never be as good as a sniffer dog given a very varied diet. Usually, however, the performance of the dog is dictated more by the quality of training it receives! A well -trained dog fed a repetitive diet will still perform its job better than a poorly trained one fed a varied diet.


The five basic emotions are sometimes difficult to describe but I think we would all agree that any dog raised in a human pack is capable of showing and understanding the following emotions:


Look at your dog wagging his tail when you arrive home and you cannot fail to recognise the expression of joy in his body language, facial expression and sometimes even in his vocalisations. Joy in a dog, like the other basic expressions of emotions, is a universal expression not tied to culture or upbringing. It seems to be an important inherited characteristic.


Many owners have seen this expression in their dogs when caught in the act, or when the owner turns up unexpectedly when the dog is engaged in some all-absorbing behaviour. The look on a dog's face is a mixture of bewilderment, sometimes accompanied by a freeze or temporary startled behaviour. Pretend to go out and leave the dog by itself in the house. Open the front door and then close it again without actually going out and get a friend to drive your car away. Wait for a few seconds as the car disappears down the road and then calmly walk back in to the room where your dog is and you should see a degree of surprise on his face.


Anger does not necessarily mean aggression but, like aggression, it is often the result of frustration. Aggression is the intention to do harm. Anger is an expression of emotion and not an expression of aggression. A young dog that is being teased may well become frustrated and angry with its antagonist, make a vocalisation and then simply walk away. Sometimes anger can build up to the point where the dog has a temper tantrum or even begins to exhibit aggression. Some breeds are good at expressing anger. Rottweilers will tell you when they are feeling angry because something may have upset them. The good thing about Rottweilers is that they are so expressive that they communicate their emotions really well compared to, say, the Japanese Akita.


I only have to mention two words – fireworks and thunderstorms – and every dog owner can visualise a dog expressing fear. When fear grips a dog there are many physiological symptoms that accompany the emotion. For more information on fear, please refer to Chapter 39, here.


Disgust is an emotional expression when something offends one or more of our senses. Bill Ryan, the husband of leading American dog behaviourist and trainer Terry Ryan, tells of the night he woke in the early hours to a really offensive smell. Suspecting the culprit was their Cocker Spaniel who needed to go out, he stepped out of bed and his bare foot squelched into a pile of very soft dog mess. To avoid treading this mess across the carpet, he decided to hop on one leg to the shower. One hop, two hops and then a third hop into another soft and still warm pile. Whenever Bill recounts this story, not only does the smile on his face fail to disguise the expression of disgust but his emotions are almost always reflected in the facial expressions of his audience! We can be disgusted by things we hear, feel, see, taste or smell and so can dogs.

These then are five of the fundamental expressions of emotion. Are there more? How about sorrow – do dogs understand this concept? Do they get sad when they are parted from a loved one? Are they able to comprehend their owner's sadness? Many owners believe that they are.

How about the emotion of guilt? Do dogs understand and express that emotion? How about the dog that has ripped up a book from the bookshelf when its owner is out of the house? When the owner returns and enters the room, even though the dog chewed up the book several hours ago, the owner still believes that because of the dog's expression of emotion, he looks guilty. Or is it just that the dog is reacting to the owner's expression of anger?

Is it possible that a dog feels the emotion of embarrassment when caught in the act of eating a biscuit it has stolen from the coffee table?

How about love? Is a dog capable of giving only companionship to its human partner, or is it also able to love its owner and receive love in return? And jealousy? Do dogs really get jealous when the owner tries to pet another dog, or is the dog merely protecting its own interests and the resources that the owner represents?

It is when discussing the emotions of a dog that the modern, science-based training and behaviour-modification specialists really do come unstuck. They simply fail to recognise that your pet dog can not only understand your emotions but also express many of its own.

Learning experiments where animals are trained under laboratory conditions, or marine mammals kept and trained in the most sensory -deprived environments, where both animal and trainer are devoid of emotions, teach us precious little other than how not to do it. A pet dog lives its life as part of the family. The owners cannot walk away at the end of a training session, leaving the animal in an emotionally and environmentally deprived state. Above all, both dog and owner will communicate with one another on a much higher emotional level.

So to understand the basic philosophy of the code, throw away any preconceived ideas you may have on how to train a dog using words of command, mechanical clickers, whistles and hand signals, and understand the universal language of emotions. It is your emotions, when coupled with the giving or withholding of rewards, that will enable you to communicate with your dog better than most academically trained behaviourists ever could. Welcome to the real world of dogs.


Dogs & Human Language

In writing about a philosophy, I need to use words to express ideas and emotions. Sometimes these words may be misinterpreted, giving a totally different meaning, so sometimes I have to use more than one word to describe an idea or action. The problem is that if you have already read a few books on dog-training or behaviour, you may think that some of my words are wrong. If you belong to a particular school of thought, you probably use a unique vocabulary to describe behaviour, and the more academically based the school, the greater number of letters your words will contain.


Excerpted from The Dog Vinci Code by John Rogerson. Copyright © 2011 John Rogerson. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 Raising and Training a Puppy You Will Want to Keep for Life 1

The Background to a Philosophy 3

Dogs & Human Language 11

Dog Behaviour: In the Beginning 13

Early Behavioural Development 18

Mother: The First Role Model 25

Questions for the Breeder 28

New Family Member or Temporary Lodger? 32

Early Training: The Basics 38

Training Specific Breeds 42

Socialisation and What It Means 61

Teaching Verbal Language: Name and Recall 64

Leaving the House 69

Housetraining 72

When Things Go Wrong 74

2 Training and Behaviour Theory 77

How Does My Dog Learn? 79

Positive & Negative Reinforcement 89

Learned Helplessness 93

3 Training an Adult Dog 97

Putting Theory into Practice 99

How to Get your Dog to Play 111

Walking on a Leash 120

Coming When Called 127

The Running Wait 144

Stay 149

Catch 156

Bark on Command 158

Go to Bed and Stay 160

4 Rescue Dogs 165

The Rescue Dog: A Special Case 167

How to Choose your Rescue Dog 171

Taking your Rescue Dog Home: The Honeymoon Period 179

Training your Rescue Dog 183

Problem Behaviour 187

5 Behaviour: Problems and Resolutions 191

Behaviour Counselling 193

Dogs Learn Only From Personal Experiences 199

Behaviour Modelling 206

Patterns of Behaviour 211

Separation Problems 213

Elimination Problems 224

Barking Problems 228

Fears and Phobias 232

Attention-Seeking Behaviours 240

Food Stealing 243

6 Aggression Towards Peoples 245

Understanding Aggression 247

Aggression Towards Family Members 252

Fear and Aggression 260

Territorial Aggression 269

Aggression Towards Children 276

Food Aggression 283

The Reversal 290

Possession Aggression 293

When Enough is Enough 297

7 Dog-to-dog Aggression 301

Aggression Towards Other Dogs: An Overview 303

Nervous Aggression 321

Leash Aggression 326

Territorial Aggression 329

Frustration and Intimidation 331

Aggression between Dogs Sharing the Same Household 336

Epilogue: A Vision for the Future 343

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