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Actions Speak Louder than Barks


This Thursday’s class kicked off with another tail-wagging good time! Special guest lecturer Brad Pattison and instructor Kari Lesick led students on a fast-paced romp of a field trip at the Richter Dog Park. The Veterinary Hospital Assistant students brought their pooches and had an opportunity to observe a wide variety of dog-to-dog interactions. This particular class in the Pet Psychology Course is focused on teaching students how to maintain safety and awareness for clients, animals, and themselves, in a clinical setting. It was a must-see crash course in managing dogs of all sizes!

First off, Brad gave some pointers on the difference between play behaviours and aggressive behaviours and modeled for the group a series of safe and effective ways of separating dogs when interactions become aggressive. He emphasized the importance of posture and making big, clear, and assertive actions to help students understand how to take control of animals in a busy setting.

Students learned to train their powers of observation to pick up on the subtleties of how dogs communicate through body language as well as through barks and other noises. It was fascinating to watch the incredible speed at which the dogs communicated dominance, play, warnings, and other behaviors to each other through the smallest movements. The students became particularly attuned to watching for changes in hackles (erectile hairs along an animal’s back, which rise when it is angry or alarmed), tail movements, and tone of “voice” displayed by the dogs through their barks or growls.

The group, with their pooches in tow, returned to the Kelowna Campus for the second half of class. Here, they had a chance to review slow-motion footage to get an even clearer picture of how dogs communicate with each other and with people. Again, Brad and Kari emphasized the need for constant situational awareness and quick responses, as changes in dog interaction can be lightning-quick. The importance of touch, posture, and leash and collar management was illustrated through a variety of scenarios students worked through with their dogs. It was amazing to see how quickly the students absorbed the guidance from Brad and Kari and right away the dogs began responding to their movements and commands far more readily with the desired behaviors.

Looking for a few tips on how to instill better leash behavior in your own pooch? Want to know what your pup is really trying to tell you with that “yowwwwl” sound? Check out this video from the class and be sure to take a peek at our photo album on Facebook for some amazing snaps from the field trip.

Stay tuned! Next week’s class will delve in into the positive aspects of the animal/human bond. We have a feeling things are going to get more than just a little heart-warming. You won’t want to miss it!