Making Dogs Happy

2016, Nature  -  54 min Leave a Comment
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How well do you really know your dog? You're likely to reassess your understanding of man's best friend after watching Making Dogs Happy, a playful and informative new documentary from Australia's ABC-TV Catalyst series.

The film pairs three dog owners with a team of experts from the fields of canine training and behavioral modification. Over the course of two weeks, they engage in the science of "dogmanship", and work together to complete a series of challenges that lead to a deeper level of communication between each owner and their furry family members.

Calling upon B.F. Skinner's highly influential studies on reward-based reinforcement, the first trainer illustrates a canine's finely tuned system of learning. These lessons constitute the basics of training a well-behaved and obedient dog. Each recruit is tasked with establishing the reward their dog most covets, partnering certain sounds with the delivery of those rewards, and avoiding mixed messages in the process.

Understanding your dog's body language and interpreting their signals of stress are also essential in developing more successful communication techniques. An animal behaviorist teaches each owner how to read these surprising signs. For instance, many dogs actually find hugs from their owners to be stressful and confining, and this response is often expressed through a series of physical ticks which include yawns, lip licking, and full body shakes.

While many humans may find it daunting to properly decipher the messages their dogs are sending them, canines are actually supremely adept at reading us. This remarkably attuned sense of connection results from centuries of evolution. The instructors in the film call on each owner to view the world through their dog's unique point of view, and teach them how they can modify their own behaviors to facilitate the most desirable results during training.

Divided into two episodes, the lessons and challenges put forth in Making Dogs Happy allow both dogs and their owners the ability to communicate on an equal plane of understanding. The film is an entirely pleasurable and instructive viewing experience for all dog owners, and will help them deepen the bonds they share with their beloved canines.