The Best Dog Owner Tips from 9 Experts


Our team at Petminded loves to attend nerdy dog science events and then share what we learn with you! We recently attended the Animal Behavior Society Conference Public Day and have gathered up all the best tips and ideas to help you improve your relationship with your dog.

1) Improve Your Relationship With Your Dog: Simple things to do that make a big difference

Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA
What we learned:
  • Love, not intelligence, is at the core of our bond with dogs. “It's not their smarts but their hearts that are responsible for the biological miracle of this connection across species.”- Clive Wynne
  • Spending time together and making soft eye contact can enhance social bonds by increasing oxytocin, the social-bonding or “love hormone.” However, eye contact can be perceived as threatening to unfamiliar dogs.
  • Letting them go on “sniffaris,” or unstructured walks where you let your dog lead and sniff where they please is a great way to give them some freedom and increase happiness.

2. Why is it so important to study dog emotions?

Natalia Albuquerque, MSc, DSc

What we learned:
  • Emotions can be found in most societies regardless of cultural background.
  • Most people think they know everything about their dog, but we often misunderstand their behavior. This can have negative impacts on quality of life. For example, the “guilty dog look” is not actually a result of feeling guilty, but anticipating fear or punishment.
  • Dogs express their emotions through body language, vocalization, tail wagging, and smells.
  • Dogs are capable of discriminating human facial expressions.
  • Having a better understanding of dog emotions can promote more functional relationships and better quality of life for both dogs and humans.


3. Dominance theory and our relationship with dogs

Janet Cutler, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA -

What we learned:

  • Dominance theory emerged from studies done on captive, unrelated wolves. Researchers found that these wolves displayed a dominance hierarchy in which the alpha dog controls the rest of the pack through acts of aggression such as pinning submissive dogs down, eating first, claiming the best locations for sleep, and having the ability to mate.
  • However, captive wolves are not the same as wild packs of family wolves and do not display a dominance hierarchy. They act as a family unit, where parents and older siblings guide and lead younger pups until they are ready to leave the pack and start their own families. They do not compete for higher rank among the family.
  • Furthermore, wild wolves are not the same as domesticated dogs, and the use of dominance theory in training can lead to increased behavioral problems, fear, and aggression, while reward-based training promotes relationship building and improves welfare.

4. Using interactive activities when building relationships with our dogs

Edith Katsnelson Ilan, PhD, CAAB

What we learned:

  • “Watch me” is a basic cue trainers use when working with dogs that pet parents can use too. Eye contact is important for safety and promotes the habit of paying attention. It also increases oxytocin and strengthens our bond with our dogs.
  • Dogs are social learners and can mimic our behavior. “Do as I do” is a social learning method to train dogs. Dogs are good at perceiving visual cues, so it helps to demonstrate the behavior you want your dog to do.
  • Promote teamwork and bonding by giving your dog a job to do, like bringing things.

5. A discussion of the impact of a behaviorally compromised pet on the human animal bond (HAB)

Jessica Lockhart, MS, PhD, CAAB

What we learned:

  • Behaviorally compromised dogs may suffer from anxiety and fear issues like separation anxiety, fear of strangers, and general anxiety in the home. They may also be aggressive towards people or other animals.
  • This can take a toll on the lives of the owners. Some feel like they can't leave their home, have people over, and even cause strain on the relationships of the humans.
  • It’s important to provide the parents with support. They may feel a sense of relief to know that they are not alone and that it is not necessarily their fault that their dog is struggling with behavioral issues.

6. Canine Compulsive Behavior: Behavioral Disorder Challenges Dog-Owner Relationship

Alice Moon-Fanelli, PhD, CAAB

What we learned:

  • Canine Compulsive Disorder is similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in humans. Both present repetitive, consistent behaviors that are performed out of a normal context and do not appear to serve a purpose. These behaviors can cause physical injuries and disrupt daily life and relationships.
  • Some canine compulsive behaviors are acral lick dermatitis (repetitive licking of the lower limbs), shadow/light chasing, blanket sucking, flank sucking, tail chasing, bull terrier spinning, fly snapping, and, bull terrier trancing.
  • Most of these behaviors seem harmless, or even cute like tail chasing, but they are far from cute if done obsessively. Some dogs can’t even eat or drink because they are completely consumed by these repetitive behaviors, and physical injuries can occur from repetitive licking.


7. Relationship Building between Dogs in Multiple Dog Households: Setting Dogs Up for Success

Camille Ward, PhD, CAAB

What we learned:

  • There are different types of fighting between dogs. Ritualized aggression involves aggressive displays, postures, and body language in order to intimidate or maintain status. There is little to no injury with ritualized aggression. Real aggression, on the other hand, is much more serious and can cause injuries or even death.
  • Some ways to encourage healthy relationships between household dogs are picking a dog that is likely to be a good fit with your dog. Size, age, sex, and energy level are all important things to consider before bringing a new dog home.
  • Making a good first impression by introducing on neutral ground, teaching your dog that good and fun things can happen when the other dog is around, teaching your dog that food dropping on the floor is not a big deal in order to avoid fights, and developing a language with your dogs are all great ways to create an atmosphere of cooperation.

8. Could our dogs ‘perceived age’ tell us anything about their ageing?

Luísa Mascarenhas Ladeia Dutra, PhD

What we learned:

  • Some dogs look older or younger than they actually are.
  • A dog’s perceived age might be able to give us some clues about their health and biological outcomes. For example, a young dog that is perceived as a senior dog is a potential indicator of poor welfare, while a senior dog that is perceived as a young dog is a potential indicator of good welfare.
  • This is a good tool for parents and shelters to detect accelerated aging because it is convenient and less costly.


Instagram: @meditapets

Twitter: @lulumascarenhas

9. Did COVID-19 lockdown change our (perception of the) relationship with pets? The case of Uruguay

Alejandra Feld, DVM, Esp.

What we learned:

  • The human-animal bond is a close, mutually beneficial relationship involving emotional, psychological, and physical interactions.
  • During lockdown, humans spent more time than ever with their pets. This was a good opportunity to survey people’s quality of life and emotional state with their pets.
  • People who lived in the city during lockdown reported worsened behavior and emotional state of their pets than people who lived in the suburbs. This could be because of lack of space.
  • Overall, 98.1% of people reported an improved emotional bond with their pets during quarantine.



These snippets of information provide tips for interactions with our dogs. Is there a subject you want to learn more about? Dive deeper by watching the full presenation on the Animal Behavior Society Conference Public Day's webite.

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