Episode 7: Dr. Nicholas Dodman – Center for Canine Behavior Studies

Dr. Nicholas Dodman

Dr. Nicholas Dodman

Dr. Nicholas Dodman attended Glasgow University Veterinary School in Scotland where he received a BVMS (DVM equivalent). He is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. With years of experience in the field of veterinary anesthesia and eventually, animal behavior research, Dr. Nicholas Dodman co-founded the Center for Canine Behavior Studies alongside business and marketing expert, Chris Janelli.

By continuously diving deep into the cause and effect of dog behavior, the Center for Canine Behavior Studies aims to reduce the rate of owner surrender and euthanasia by making humane, research-based solutions to canine behavior problems more available to the general public.


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Visit the Center for Canine Behavior Studies website: dogstudies.org


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Hi. Welcome, everybody. My name is Nicholas Dodman. I’m a veterinarian and I’m the president of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, which you can reach through the website dog studies dot org And I’m here today on the Animal Innovations show to talk about some of the innovations were doing the studies were doing that will help dogs in a proactive way. You’ve tuned into the animal innovation show where we feature people, products, services and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them live better lives. If it’s innovative, and if it helps animals, you can find it here first, So get ready. Here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals. Welcome, Nick. I’m so glad to have you here with me today. My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. So talk to us about what you guys are doing because I really do think this is so innovative. Is trying to be proactive as you said, So tell us a little bit more about the work and the studies and how it’s actually having an impact. There are a lot of really good groups who are trying to get dogs out of shelters S P C. A, for example, and people are paying to get them out of shelters. And it’s a good work, and I’m not criticizing at all. We need that kind of service, but we’re at the other end of that spectrum. It was a focus for our entire veterinary school was preventive medicine when I was in Glasgow, and preventive medicine was what it’s all about. You don’t wait until it’s broken. You’re trying get in there ahead of time. So our studies are designed with our 6000 strong member group. We call citizen scientists, and we send them out surveys to ask them questions to answer questions that we have. So, for example, one of the earliest studies we did was we wanted to see how a person’s personality affected the dog’s behavior because you often see someone walking down the street and they’re tugging on the dog. And they say, You know that dogs anxious because their owners anxious and it’s like a telegraph wire to the owner. Is it or isn’t it? So it wasn’t as you might expect, a super clear answer, because there’s so many factors go into the behavior of adult but we did find that human personality which we judged using a validated human personality profile. People kind of feel in front. If you have certain traits that you will influence the behavior of your dog to the tune of about 10 or 15% well, some of it comes from genetics. Some of it comes from upbringing. Some of it comes from other things. You know, whether they’re walked enough for all kinds of factors come in. But human personality does influence the behavior of a dog the most powerful finding we got, which is kind of tricky to say, really. But it turns out that we had one of the questions was called the Back Depression industry. On the back depression industry, depressed people were far more likely to use punitive methods in dealing with their dog. Finally, enough not depressed women depressed men Because men and women handle depression differently, men tend to act out. Women tend to absorb and taking more internally. But that was a factor because I believe that if you treat a dog with a harsh methods, you know what I might consider sometimes even abusive, that actually that dog’s behavior will deteriorate. So that’s a lesson. But if you can’t help it if you’re a depressed person, but you can learn from that I should not be using these techniques. I should treat with kindness positive, and then maybe I won’t have the problems because this method isn’t going to solve them. So that was study number one to teach people about their influence on their dogs. Then we did a massive demographic study something like 5000 dogs, and we looked at the incidents. All the different behavior problems that they have from aggression split into about eight or nine different types of aggression. The various fears and phobias, from separation anxiety to thunderstorm phobia and beyond generalized anxiety. Yeah, we looked at compulsive disorders like repetitive disorders and even the more minor conditions. I’m not so minor, like house soiling, rolling and disgusting stuff. Corporal facia eating stool, that is. And we found out one surprising fact from that which I’m going to pass out in parcels to people over. Time is, 85% of dog owners say they have a behavior problem with their dog. That’s a pretty high percentage. And then, with this huge data set, we went ahead and we took out the dogs that had aggression only. And we sent those people another email and asking them, You know, if your dog has aggression, did you do anything about it, or did you just live with it? If you did something about it, who did you go to see? Was it a trainer? Was that trainer credentialed? Did you see a veterinarian? Did you see another specialist type of behaviorist or what do you do? What program did they use and how did it work out for you? And we’re medications used So from that study, which has been accepted with minor revisions to the Journal of General Behavior and will disseminate it widely. Once we have to go ahead from the journal, we hope to be able to develop like an information tree or algorithm, which we’ll get to vets and trainers or and two owners. So if you have, for example, a problem with feuding between dogs in the house so called sibling rivalry, you know it may be best to go to see a credential trainer, and it may be best if they employ this program and you can expect this kind of degree of success and medications aren’t helpful in this condition. So instead of just going to Dr Google and trying to figure it out on your own, many people make mistakes and end up with the wrong kind of training. We’re going to able to direct people much more accurately to solve problems back to the mission, to keep the dog in the home, to prevent surrender. And, you know, some of the dogs that surrender euthanized, so also to prevent them from being put down. Then we got another study after that about fearful and anxious conditions. You know how they dealt with who do you see? You know, same paradigm, and then the compulsive disorders. And then the more minor conditions, including the house, soiling Who did you see what worked? What didn’t work? And then we’ve got some other studies that we called many studies, but they ain’t many. They would have to be huge, you know, one of them was to answer the question. You know, there’s a sort of an idiom going around these days, just like sort of common factoid says that the American Medical Association, you’re better to take your puppy as early as possible to training, preferably if you get him at seven or eight weeks. Start right away, because that is the sensitive A critical period of learning. And after a certain period of time, after 14 weeks, you kind of missed the window. Well, I’m giving you some pretty results here, but that ain’t true. We found it. As long as you take you down to trading in the first six months, even just 123 sessions, you’re going to have a positive impact. And you’re going to, for example, reduce aggression going forward, and you’re going to reduce destructive behavior and some other stuff. So that was good. We’ve got another one with juvenile dogs. If you after the puppy training phase. Once you would always know juvenile between six months and a year. If you take him to further training, does that help down the road with an adult dog? And then you got a couple of different. You could be if you took it a puppy training and then further training as a juvenile. How’s that? Or if you didn’t take into public training, But you did take him to juvenile training. How is that? There’s another study that we’re well on the way to getting results. For now. It was working with a group called How I Met My Dog, and it’s like a match dot com for owners, one of the factors that important, How can you choose a dog that’s going to match with you, your personality and everything, so that one is ongoing? And there’s many other studies planned? And all of them really are designed to educate owners about issues that might arrive and arise and how to get around them? What to do, who to see what to expect? What would you do if your cat stop breathing? Would you be able to check their pulse or perform rescue breathing and CPR in time to save their life? Getting certified in cat first aid and CPR is essential to being prepared in case of an emergency. That’s why the Animal Rescue Professionals Association teamed up with Denise Fleck, the pet safety crusader, to bring you the courses and certifications you need to be prepared. Their cat First Aid and CPR course will teach you what you need to know about how to find your cats, pulse and respiration rates and how to conduct rescue, breathing and see PCR if required. You also learn how to deal with other emergencies like snakebites, bee stings and tick removal so you can render the age or pet requires. Learn more at www dot animal rescue professionals dot org and get certified today. So now do the participants in these studies Are they all coming through your website? So can anybody sign up to be a participant? Yeah, we want more members. I mean, the more the better. When we have 6000, we’d like 10,000. Actually, we’d love 100,000. So anybody listening to this they go to dog studies done dot org at no expense. Just sign up, become one of our viewers to our site. There’s a newsletter comes out every every three months, your seasonally spring, summer, fall winter. You find out what we’re doing, and it’s interesting. Other information and that. But those are the people that we have emails for. We send them the surveys, but we also post the surveys on social media. So we have social media outlets. Whether it’s instagram or Facebook or Twitter, we can post them out there so we get other people who aren’t actually necessarily in the group, who maybe are drawn into the group by saying, Hey, that was pretty cool. We did a study with the Center for Canine Behavior Studies. My T shirt, behavior studies, play ball play about doing exactly Oh, yes, it’s very cool. I like it. And, you know, I think you know, the 1st 3rd of my life was sort of in sort of regular battery medicine doing like surgery anesthesia. Okay, the second part was doing animal behavior, and the third part is involving behavior also, but it’s more into welfare. So I’m pleased to say that that paper that we published about the demographic and co morbidity co morbidity means things that our existing at the same time related to each other. Somehow, that paper was awarded the Welfare award for that year, and the General made it free access. And our informatics personal statistician received the young investigator of the year award. So we’re doing something right? Yeah. Now. So how long do these studies take? It sounds like you’ve got a lot of different studies that you’ve done and others obviously that are ongoing. Are these running for months. Years? I mean, tell me about the process. Well, we’re getting better at what we do. So the first one took us a long time for one of our own personality. It was a long study. That was 100 questions, and we left it open for months and months and months, and the data that came in it was stored in a massive data storage unit at Vanderbilt University called Red Cap. And I mean, it’s just wading through reams and reams of data, and it took us a long time to extract out what we needed. So that study probably took us about a year and a half. But some of the more recent ones like, for example, a study with how I met my dog that was posted for a few weeks, and the results are just taking a few weeks to process. And then, of course, we could write it up, and then we have to disseminate the information so weeks to months, and the first exception was over a year was that very first one. But we’re getting quicker. It depends on really what we’re studying. The study for a dog TV that one we had originally had the actual took us a couple of weeks or more to design the survey. We sent the survey out. It was posted for a month, but we didn’t have as many people as we wanted in the month. That study is still open, by the way, till the end of this month. Go to the dog studies that organ sign up for it. But we didn’t have enough, so we went for another month. So it’s two months collecting data and then, let’s say, a month or two, analyzing the data and writing it up. And lo and behold, there’s the results. So then you write these things up, like you said, and it sounds like in some cases you’re submitting it to different journals and stuff. So how do you turn this into actionable things for people? I mean, because you talked about obviously aggression and depression and all these other things in the animal human one. I’m just kind of curious. How do you turn the studies in this information into something actionable that people can do? Well, that’s a really good question, and it’s something we’re working very hard at. We’ve tried in the past, promoting it everywhere we know you know, the studies sending a link to the study, sending out proceeds of what it was about and what we found send every person we possibly can do, ask people to sort of grapevine and send it out to their groups. Now we’ve got a new group about really social media, and we realized that most people these days don’t like to read really long things. They like to read sort of short, punchy pieces. So we’re going to break down our studies. We’ve sort of been doing it. We’re going to really come on strong. So with the aggression study, we might say one post would be. Did you know that if you have two dogs in the home, they’re fighting the best method to treat this would be to be a strong leader, to make sure that none of your dogs are being aggressive to you and to have them work for a living, to have them sit and burn their food and their treats that they respect you. Someone like, you know, if you have two kids in the house fighting, they might bite. No disrespect to Mom’s. There might be fighting when the moms there and then Dad walks in and the fighting stops so we could put a little thing out about that we could put a thing about, you know, did you know 84% of dogs have a behavior problem and it breaks down this way. So many of this so many of that. So many other. And then we could go individually into the individual things. So it’s going to be a stream. We’re hoping to post these facts and factoids, probably every day. Yeah, all our people across all the platforms. I love that because it’s that Ah ha moment, right? What? You’re reaching people Because a lot of times I mean, I know me personally. I don’t go read a lot of the scientific and medical journals because I’m always trying to get to the So what right? Like, what’s the what’s the conclusion of what you just said? There is perfect, right? If you’re giving people that little factoid of the day, it’s probably much more likely to stick with them and then hopefully will encourage them to look more into Yeah, for example, we could say, you know, if you have a dog. This is the study to come. But we will be able to say, if you have a dog with separation anxiety, what you really need to do is blah, you know, or x, y and Z, These things have been shown in one of our studies to be the most effective treatments for this condition. Yeah. Yeah. I wanted one of these stars to fly across the screen. I wanted to, you know, like those little star goes across. This is something you should know. Yeah, I know exactly what I’m talking about. The more you know more, you know? Yeah. So now what’s the goal is that to educate, to give people the tools, the information they need to build a better relationship with their dog. And then I saw that ultimately, someday I’d like to do a center for cats, which is great. Yeah, because a lot of people, like I just said, 85% of people have an issue and every one of those issues, I mean, if you split them down the 12 different types of aggression and the separation anxiety and the thunderstorm phobia, they need to know, you know, what to do. And the fact is, it’s complete. I mean, you can go on the Web and look it up and you’ll find, you know, 12 different approaches. Some will say, You know, I fit in mind with electric shock color and seemed to work for me. You know, God forbid, some people would say, and I took him to a trainer and he used a strong colour, and I wasn’t sure I liked the effect it had on my dog. But by the way it did. Stop embarking, reflect. So we’ve got to correct the misapprehensions. Present the positive side of training, which definitely has a It’s been shown over and over again to have the most effect. So trying to explain to people how to get on with their dog. It’s almost like marriage counseling for an owner and a dog. This is how you going to get on, and this is how that problem is going to get reduced. So you’re not frustrated. You don’t ever think of giving up? No, and I love that I love the proactive approach because, as you know, there’s lots of owner surrenders that happened to shelters across the country and it’s not always, you know. I mean, the owners often don’t have the resources, right? They don’t know what to do. So by you guys focusing on the education and putting this out there. You’re also giving the shelters tools and information to be able to share with people as well to prevent owner surrender. Yeah, I mean, he’s a another little factoid. This is an advanced factoid because it hasn’t been published yet, but will be soon. Is that in that aggression study, we found that for people who took their dogs to see the vet, a medical condition that was actually instrumental in causing the aggression was found in 13% of cases. That’s almost one in six. Wow. So if you if you got some, issue your dogs biting people with that and you go to the trainer, you should perhaps have gone through the vet first because maybe he’s got a thyroid problem. Or maybe he’s got a painful bone condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. Maybe what you’re witnessing is a complex partial seizure, and you think your dog is just acting strange and you try and get trained out of him. you can’t train that out of a dog. Yeah, you know, veterinarian first, and then we’ll be able to direct them to the appropriate best authority credential, trainers and even an credential. Trainers do pretty good work, and there’s some success with all of them. Of course, you’re obviously better to go to somebody that nobody, but that depends on the somebody. So if that person is using harsh techniques that can actually be counterproductive, we know you love animals, but maybe you’re not sure how you can get involved To help save the hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs needlessly euthanized every year. Did you know there’s one place you can go to to sign up as a volunteer, transporter, foster or even social ambassador for rescue animals? Joubert dot com is custom built by animal rescuers. For animal rescuers, you simply create a profile and choose the ways that you can help. Joubert is proud to support more than 5000 rescues and shelters and more than 30,000 duper tears. Just like you working to save animals, join us and you can save lives simply. Go to www dot google dot com to get started today I know you said before your background was as a veterinarian. Take us back to the time you decided to make that pivot and really focus, as you said, kind of like that remainder of your career on animal behavior instead of on the veterinary side of things. It was a specialist, a specialist, veteran anesthesiologist, and I don’t really do that now. But I’m qualified and board certified. And I was interested in pain relief for horses who had gone to gone painful surgeries. Well, it’s known that horses and cats also react completely differently to morphine, the opioid analgesics. And so I was doing a study with that and found out that when you give movie into a horse, they start to do behaviors that, actually equestrians, were called Stole Bisys. One of them is cribbing where the horse grabs hold of the edge of the stall door and he keeps biting. It’s biting, it, biting it, leaning back, grunting, swallowing air. Another one is walking around in circles around and around and around, and I was called weeding. They go. We, we, we we could create that with morphine. Not that we wanted to. We would not just happened. We’re going What? And then suddenly it occurred to me and said, Oh my God, these behaviors are driven by nature’s own morphine substance says the endorphins. And then another thing. If these behaviors are caused by endorphins, if you block the endorphins with a very popular drug naloxone right, that’s the one that used to reverse drug overdoses. If you block the endorphins, the behavior should stop. And it did in his tracks. Wow. In fact, one horse. We had a pump on it, which would deliver the naloxone at different rates. And if you turned it up, the horse would stop cribbing. If you turn the knob down to reduce the flow, the horse would start up again. So we had, like, a radio controlled horse. You could change the behavior on a knob on the side of his neck. And I was like, Wow! And that was such a moment that the professor I was working with the medical school. He was a pharmacologist, and he changed his very famous guy. He changed his research from studying drugs of addiction to studying behaviors of addiction. You know, when you get addicted to a particular behavior as opposed to a drug. Sure, and the woman whose horse it was completely quit her job was an executive highly paid executive in Boston. I went to Loyola University and did a PhD in pharmacology because she was so thrilled with what she saw. And I completely changed from being a straight up and down very anesthesiologist into studying behavior. We kind of repeated that studying dogs and found a very similar results did it in cats. And then I thought I should know more than just these repetitive compulsive disorders. And I started to think about aggression, and I found all. I looked up all the mechanisms of aggression that have been published in human literature and research and started applying techniques that were logical on the drawing board. And they were working in practice, and I had aggression under wraps. And then I moved into the anxiety conditions. Then I moved into, I think the one I left the last was house soiling, which I found a bit. You know, it seems a bit distasteful, but actually, when you look at it, some 10% of people who take their animal the dog to the vet for one reason or another 10% of going there because the dogs soiling in the house and they can’t handle it. And that’s actually a reason for setting into the shelter. If you can’t fix it, you can’t live in a canine latrine. So eventually it had a full repertoire. Opened the Behavior Clinic at Tufts in 1988. And then, sometime in the early 19 nineties, I was sitting there with my modified, personalized program for treating owner directed aggression in dogs. It was then called Dominance Aggression, now called Conflict Aggression. And the person said, I’ve never heard that anywhere before. If you write a book and then another one came in and said, I’ve never heard this before You should write a book So I did. I wrote my first book, The Dog Who Loved Too Much Boom Bestseller. 150,000 copies. Hard was leather bound copies from the publisher. They can you write another one. So they wrote the cat who cried for help. Boom bestseller, New York Times Bestsellers And then there are several others. After that, there were numbers as greatly successful the first two, but I wrote dogs behaving badly. And if only they could talk, only they could speak. I think it was. And then, um, there was I edited. Someone’s was with Tufts, and the team wasn’t entirely my team. We have one called copies, first steps and one called Good Old Dog about how to deal with elderly dogs. And then, um, my last one was pets on the couch, which was basically my life story in story fashion, but not how I met my wife. And you know what my kids are doing? It was my life inventory, medicine and what it came to. The editor made me put in some stories about my own dogs and how I found them. And so I was playing golf was hitting the ball in the first team. My wife started, found this dog at the shelter, and we’re going to get him, I said, Can you wait till I can come and check him out? No, she couldn’t. But when I went home, there was this big orange tail wagging in the kitchen, and that was my rusty who’s right outside now, on this cold winter day, as you see Well, Nick, this has been really interesting to talk to, and I really love the work you guys are doing and the focus on education and prevention of the animals ending up in the shelter in the first place tell us again where people should go, how they can get involved, how they can get in touch with you. Well, the best thing to do is the easiest way to get to us is dog studies dot org. Org. And it’s all one word. No period in between, just Georg studies dot org. And that takes you as if you click on that. The title comes up. Send up a canine behavior studies. You can also go center for canine behavior studies dot org, and that will come up to. And then you’ll see our home page with a mission statement, and you know there’s buttons. You can press it. You can. You can join and become one of the gang, and really, we want as many people to join as possible. The more people we’ve got, the more responses we get, the better science we can do and numbers make good science. And, of course, there’s a little red donate button because all the studies take money we have to pay our executive director. We have to pay to get the stats done. So if somebody goes like we think these guys doing really good work. Hey, I’m going to chip in. You know, I can I’m gonna become a minor monthly donor, or I’m going to give you $100 or something. You know, towards that helps to keep the wheels turning. Helps to keep us in business. We’ve been going for five or six years now, but we do, you know, sort of march from years a year and sometimes holding our breath because we’ve got to We’ve got a board of directors and we have to sort of hit budgets, and we run pretty tight. Yeah, well, it sounds like you guys are doing amazing work, so I’m really excited and glad that you came on to chat with me today. Yeah, it’s great. Well, thank you for being there. Thank you for asking me. I appreciate it. I know your heart’s in the right place and you’re into rescuing and transporting and doing all the right things, and we’re at the other end. You’re helping to get them out. And in and we’re trying to stop them from going there and together. We’re a team, absolutely. And we’re just going to remind everybody if you’ve got an idea where somebody that I should talk to this innovative, just go to innovations that show and let us know about it and we’d love to have them on the show to interview him. So thank you again, Nick. I really enjoyed our conversation. Yeah, me, too. Thanks, Chris. Thanks for joining us for the Animal Innovations show. If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out dilbert dot com where you can join tens of thousands of do for tears supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals. And if you know, if something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to www dot innovations dot show.


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