228 Replies to “How to make your animals happy”

  1. Hello Karolina….
    This February I adopted a very very sweet and low key (shut down) Bosnian street dog through Lovepawsrescue. dk

    I need your course so badly, and I’m too late to ask for a free place.

    Her 1. year must have been terrible and she was left in the streets alone with all the other kicked out dogs.
    She was saved to Nirina Dog Shelter and lived 3 years there until she came to me and my Labrador lady in Denmark. I’m a pensionnair and live closely with my dogs, sleep happily with them too. That has helped little Mina a lot.
    She is mostly in the sad and scared end of the spectre. And our wind is heavy on her mind, like with horses.
    I have good backup from the LPR. dk people and use thelepeutic assistense ++ to understand her – but your offer here is what I couldn’t find anywhere, which could help me help Mina to get out of her fear.
    She has moments of happiness, wagging tail, big smile, running around in our 400 m2 closed yard asking Nanna to play – if the wind doesn’t blow in the trees an hide the sound and smell of Evt. predators.
    When I understood that she was basically a wild dog, I got a key to… but couldn’t find the door.

    1. Hello Karen, hopefully you got some insights from the free mini-course! 🙂 Have you tried Nose Work?

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this mini course. It was a nice balance between practical and theory with lots of wonderful graphics and humor, perfect for my non-geeky friends! I hope to one day be able to take the full course as I loved the way you present the information and your availability to discuss questions. I have applied for a scholarship and if I don’t get in this year, will try again for next year. I look forward to the next blog.
    Thanks, Karolina!
    Jaime

    1. Jaime, so glad you enjoyed this mini-course! I emailed a couple of days ago about the scholarship – did you not get that email? Unfortunately you didn’t get one of the scholarships, though it was a really great application! Maybe next year?!? 🙂

      1. I received the email and had sent in a quick thank you for letting me know. Will definitely try again next year, pending my financial situation. Until then, I will check out the free resources you have available! Have a wonderful day!
        Jaime

  3. Hello Karolina,

    We have a little 2 yr old with anxiety issues which we just recognised. Being our first dog we were not aware of the correct techniques to prevent or shape anxiety. I’m so grateful to you for sharing these amazing videos. We have touch base with our behaviourist and have been recommended medication. I hope along with medicine this knowledge will help our pure soul come out or atleast handle his anxiety better. 🙂

    1. Great that you have help, and I’m so glad to hear that the videos were useful too! Best of luck!

  4. We have two Icelandic Sheepdogs, and this is a breed that apart from herding sheep was also bred to guard the homestead.
    Our problem is, that whenever someone knocks on the door, the go into a barking frenzy, it gets worse when we let in visitors, and it is really hard to stop. The best way to stop it, is to sit down with the visitor. But if at some point the visitor gets up (maybe to go to the toilet), the barking starts all over.
    Now I am unsure of which is the main emotion here: I can see that they want to warn us, but they also seem to enjoy the barking.
    What is the best way to respond to this?
    We have tried to train, the situation, by ourselves knocking, and then give them treats, or have a friend be the visitor.
    But they don’t take learning, from the training session on to the next situation.
    They just get used to our friend or our knocking, but with someone else, they bark.

    1. Ooohhh I can see how that would be rather a nuisance! I don’t work with dogs practically, so have no personal experience on this topic, but I’d say that you’re on the right track! I think you need to be very systematic about it. What might they be responding to?
      – the sound of the knock?
      – unfamiliar persons entering the house?
      – unfamiliar persons moving?
      – other stimuli..?
      So all of these stimuli need to be addressed, separately, through counterconditioning. Typically dogs don’t generalize that well so I would expect that you need many “strangers” to knock-give-treat, enter-give-treat or stand-up-give-treat before they stop barking in all those contexts. I’d also rule out any medical condition which may make (one of) them more sensitive to sound/movement.

      Counterconditioning needs to be done carefully to be effective: https://illis.se/en/cc/

      Best of luck! 🙂

  5. I have enjoyed your series of videos and was ready to sing up. However, just got to the checkout and the taxes are too much for me to pay this time. – shame.

  6. I loved your interesting videos!
    I am curious what your opinion about the next opinion is. I have learned that rewarding an animal after a bad experience (firework) is the wrong conditioning because you reward the negative emotion with this.

    1. Great question! There are a couple of cases where the bad experience may completely overwhelm the animal, so no amount of treat giving will work.
      – one is if the animal is in a really fearful state – then it won’t work. The solution to that is to reduce the aversiveness of the situation as much as possible.
      – another is if the treat is average and not super-exciting. We want it to trigger a strong positive emotional reaction. If it’s just luke-warm, it may not do the trick.
      – a third is if the treat is presented before the aversive stimulus. Then the animal learns that treats predict bad things, and he might become fearful or avoidant of the treat.

      I write more about counterconditioning here: https://illis.se/en/cc/

  7. I have so enjoyed your videos, I am wondering if you have any knowledge on obsessive shadow chasing? My pup is 5 months old, it started about 2 weeks after we got her, the first time she did this we thought it was so cute and funny, it has escalated to where she will sit and stare at her shadow on the wall, at times biting at it, or chasing them on the floor, barking at them, she appears really happy while doing this…we do our best to distract her, but at times its not possible!!! We are tired of watching tv in the dark 😉 Thanks in advance, Lisa

      1. Thank you for your quick reply! I had read this article already, I have googled this problem so often! There are many dogs that suffer with this issue: 🙁 Lisa

  8. Hello there.
    Thanks for the short course – this may be what I need for my ‘scaredy dog’. Big problems with al sorts of things, like the car,the vet, fireworks etc…
    I wanted to sign up for the full course, but paying with paypal means a surcharge of more than 50$. I think that’s chocking! Do you have any other, less expensive ways of paying?
    I don’t mind paying for the course, but have a problem with banks/paypal etc. taking this kind of over the top fees… 🙂
    Kind regards
    Kitt, Denmark

    1. Hi Kitt!
      Glad to hear you consider joining the Animal Emotions course!

      The only thing added by Paypal is the VAT. This varies from country to country, but Denmark is 25%. There are no additional fees for you!

      Hope to see you in the course! //tobias

  9. “True fear is a gift” so says Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear. Although the book is specifically about human fear, the same principles apply. Our animals survive because they have true fear. It has its place, but we shouldn’t be the cause of it. Thanks for a great mini-course again Karolina. There is always something new to learn

  10. Thank you Karolina for this course. I love the geeky science content.
    I’m blessed to share my life with a terrier that everyone thinks is spoiled. I allow him to roll in mud, bark at squirrels and play hide and seek with his food ( which some think as cruel ). I like him to have the freedoms that I enjoy.
    We have enjoyed lockdown together but already working on that ‘grief’ system to ensure that when we are separated again it won’t freak him out.

    1. It’s interesting how many preconceptions we have about how life with a dog “should” be… wonder how much that has changed over the centuries? Or just in different cultures, today? 🙂

  11. So interesting, thank you. I recently managed to move one horse from ‘pessimist/constantly bottom of the herd’s pecking order’ through to a well integrated herd member after seven years; purely by using him more than the other horses in the Introduction to Horses days that I run. Gradually his self esteem rose and rose purely because he had so many people groom him, scritch him, basic groundwork and treats. Hope that might help someone

    1. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 Some animals thrive on attention, for others it may be a little overwhelming..! Great to hear that the outcome was so good!

  12. Just finished video three, and it’s been my favourite so far! Love the focus on what the animal wants, rather than what we people want to do to them. Found the section on touch particularly relatable to my dog, Cooper. When he’s in high arousal, for example when we’re playing or having a training session, he makes it clear he’s not in the mood to be touched, he’ll dart away and try to initiate a chasing game instead. But when he’s relaxed he loves to be cuddled or petted, he’ll curl up on the couch as the little spoon, or lie in a bow position to get his favourite butt scratches! I’ve always tried to be sensitive to the signals he gives me, but often find others are not, and have to explain to people we meet on walks that he doesn’t want them to pet the top of his head, he’d much prefer a scratch down his back or shoulders. These videos could bring so much understanding to such a wide audience, and help so many animals live happier lives. Sharing them for free is such a wonderful thing to do, thank you! Off to watch video four now!

  13. I just watched video 4 and you said when an animal shows fear remove the stimuli or triggers, but my toller shows extreme fear to fireworks and now has an intense noise sensitivity.I can not remove the fireworks or outside noises.She is getting better with noises,she notices it and stops and if I do not react she goes back to grazing.I try drowning out the firework noise and I hold her but she just shakes.Any suggestions?Thx.

  14. Hi Karolina,
    I attended your course some years ago and I think I will sign up for the new version of the full course this year. I’d like a repeat.
    Thanks to a deeper understanding of feelings I think I was able to move my somalicat towards a more pleasant state in the core affect space in some of the situations he really disliked. He was an extremely sensitive soul and he hated being out of control. I think it was important for him to know what was going to happen. By clickertraing we managed to change his feelings from panic to enthusiasm. I write “we” because this was very much due to his adaptive responses. He absolutely loved training and we always did it on his initiative. He was a once-in-a-lifetimecat. I lost him 5/6 2020 at the age of almost 15 years.
    I guess it is inevitable that many online animalcourses focus on dogs and horses, but I find many things are just as useful for my species (cats and rabbits).

    1. So sorry to hear about your loss! Sometimes you meet a very special animal, who has a special place in the heart…

      And yes, a lot of the information out there is applicable to all species – including humans..!

  15. I believe my icelandic horse has a positive mindset. He has been curious and interested from the start (I bought him when he was six years old, now he is 13) but I also like to believe that I have contributed to his positivism by encouraging him to smell, look and touch things he was interested in. Do you think that can be right?

    1. Absolutely. Being encouraged to investigate – particularly if leaving it up to the animal to decide when and how to explore can really boost self confidence! Especially if in the presence of a solid partner – they’ll take cues from us as to whether novel things are safe or not.

  16. Hi & thanks for the videos! I’ve just watched video 3 and I’m wondering about ‘play’… You speak about how important play is and it makes me wonder about the definition of ‘play’ and also how one can encourage it… My 4 year old rescue galgo boy (Spanish greyhound) doesn’t really play with objects, despite having a number of different toys, sometimes he will for short periods of time engage with people (like myself or others he trusts…) in what I would call a playful way, e.g. biting & pulling gently on clothes, chewing on my hands etc., but that is often when really he wants something to happen, e.g. he wants to go out. With other dogs, the only play I’ve seen him engage with is chasing and running, where, depending on the situation and the other dog he sometimes is the one being chased or the one chasing. Can adult dogs learn or re-learn to play? What kind of play would you encourage and how would one go about this? Sorry, big questions, but perhaps you can point me in the right direction of where to look further? Thanks!

    1. Great question! Hard to define, but you “know it when you see it” (ideally). The definition that I go by is that PLAY is repeated, incomplete versions of functional behaviour differing from more serious versions structurally, contextually or ontogenetically (that means how old an animal is when performing the behaviour). Play is also initiated voluntarily when the animal is in a relaxed or low-stress setting. It’s carefree, dynamic – a joyful social exchange, often with a competitive edge. This definition includes exploratory fun, too: SEEKING. But the definition captures much of what is unique to PLAY. And then there’s MARS (Meta Signals, Activity Shifts, Role Reversals and Self Handicap).

      I’d say chasing objects taps into SEEKING perhaps more than PLAY, but a tug-of-war might might perhaps be both since there’s a strong social dynamic to it, also. I’m a theoretical person, so I don’t have years of practical experience to fall back on, and I haven’t worked with dogs, but I would look into Absolute Dogs https://absolute-dogs.com/ or Susan Garrett https://susangarrettdogagility.com/ (not just agility but a lot of game-based ideas).

      1. Thank you, will have a look at those resources… And just wanted to say that what you say in video 4 about sensitisation (and the example of somebody who is watching a horror movie and is responding so much more strongly…) was an eye-opener for me in regards to how my dog feels about the dark. He is so much more reactive when it’s dark and now I understand why! Thank you for that insight! Still not sure what to do about that, especially with dark winter evenings round the corner, but understanding is the first step I think…

  17. My 90 lb dog Tyson spent 8 months in the SPCA where his day and movements were scheduled. He was labeled as child reactive (I’ve not seen any of this.. he completely ignores children but I would never allow him to interact as he can be suddenly reactive).; dog reactive – we’ve had a few good meet’n greets but still taking that slowly.
    My main observation re: his happiness /relaxation improved when I gave him the choice of where to sleep at night. He had started out coming into the bedroom. One night he didn’t follow me to bed so I left him in the living room. It was after that I noticed his posture had changed (daytime/evenings) when he slept. Now it was on his side, head positioned backwards. This left his genitals, belly and neck all open to whatever might come along! When I would look at him I’d think “Man that’s one relaxed dog!”
    I have always tried to give him CHOICE. I don’t put his Gentle Leader on until he leaves his head pointing towards me.. if he turns away I wait. I ask “Do you want to go WALKIES?” You have to wear this.” Sometimes he just plows his nose into Leader to get the walk happening faster! If he is wet from a walk in the rain I hold the towel up against me and he moves towards me and the towel, never vice versa.
    Looking forward to getting back to your next 3 videos.
    Wendy

  18. I have a fun example of classical conditioning. I taught my dog to “go hide” in the back bedroom while I hide his food elsewhere in the house. Then I release him and he gets to hunt for his food. At first, he hated going to the back room alone, as if he thought I was punishing him. Now when I tell him to go hide, he’s as excited to run into the back room as he is to run back out of it! He knows it’s a precursor to hunting for his hidden dinner.

    1. great example! I’d even call it counter conditioning, if “going-to-the-back-room” was once aversive. (“just” classical conditioning if it was neutral).

  19. A year or so ago I worked with a mustang gelding who had been a band stallion and taken from his herd. He landed into a great rescue/sanctuary and was shut down, unwilling to be touched or interact with the kind people who did their best to take care of him. He would not approach for food and he guarded his manure piles when they entered his space. He seemed pessimistic and reserved. He was moved to my barn and I noticed how important routines were to him, he also seemed to enjoy patrolling the perimeter of enclosures. So I became very consistent in all management behaviors. Each morning I opened his gate so he could patrol the fenceline, while he did that I mucked out but always left one “pile”. I offered him several type of hay spread out in specific places and would walk ahead of him and point those out, and also provided alternative slow feeder food puzzles. Over time, he began to choose walking with me to find the food varieties, we became “friends” and he touched me first, with his nose and gave me a nice grooming. After that, he allowed and enjoyed me grooming him back. He also delighted in high arousal play behaviors. He thrived in the domestic environment even though it was so different from the wild landscapes he had inhabited before, and I think one key factor was observing his natural tendencies, such as vigilance and exploration, setting up his environment so he could safely perform those behaviors, and having a choice about whether or not to interact socially. He taught me many things about waiting for the horse to offer connection and also observing what behaviors are available on any given day.

      1. Thank you Dr Westlund. He was in training with me only for a few months and then he went to his adoptive family. We keep in touch, and he is doing well. He has had further training and is handled with positive regard. I am pretty sure I learned more from him than he did from me, but what he did learn was experienced joyfully!

  20. Thanks so much for this minicourse, very interesting. I was reading the blog post about counter conditioning and it mentioned the problem one: choosing the wrong procedure. I have this type of dog who presents high arousal and excitement in many situations rather than fear, such as when there’s football being played etc., she also has a high chase drive. So what solution would be better as counter conditioning doesn’t help?

    1. Great question! I’d say it depends on the context. I’d look for ways of having legitimate outlets for energy, and perhaps also trying conditioned relaxation or nosework to help bring focus and teaching to associate certain situations with relaxation and being in a calm state.

      1. Yes she does have many outlets for her energy, and we do nose work and calming excercises. The conditioned relaxation sounds interesting (had to google it!) and I will definetely look into and try that. Thanks so much for your reply!

  21. Thank you, Karolina, for your time and knowledge 🙂
    I have a 19 months old Australian Cattle Dog. He is a beautiful boy, I would say most of the time he is positive on a higher level (hight right corner of your diagram), loves belly rubs, kisses, and hugs early morning before the walk, bark, chase, and tug after his breakfast with some zoomies to follow. We teach him “Show me” when he wants something he will bring you there and show you, like entrance or garden doors, push the box with the toys or fridge 🙂 We are offering him two toys to let him choose one and generally letting him have his agency. Foraging bones and food around the house and implementing interactive toys.
    But he is low on confidence and fearful-aggressive towards other dogs, he is not tolerating puppies and small kids. He is reactive towards big moving cars, and any kind of noisy wheels.
    We did try different types of training from positive to alfa/dominant and now back to positive and I would say we did a huge step forward after covid19 lockdown, we kind of bond a bit but still, we have a long way to go.
    Also, you mentioned pain – he has hip dysplasia, and sometimes we think his fear/aggression comes from there as well, even though he doesn’t show signs of pain, but as you said we can see only behavior. I really hope to learn from you, how to read his emotions and have the ability to change them.
    Thank you

    1. Hopefully you’ll get some ideas in the last video, Elona! The latest research in pain shows that it has major impact on behaviour (aggression, separation anxiety and noise sensitivity to mention a few), but can be hard to diagnose..!

  22. I have 2 very sensitive guys who are so tuned into my moods and actions. It has made me so much more mindful of what I am doing and how I am doing it. I have always wondered if they are ‘happy’ with the way things are being done but after your explanation of ‘asking for consent’ I look forward to seeing how they respond!

  23. We changed our rescue dogs outlook by playing an optimism game. We collected lots of plastic recycling and put small pieces of fresh chicken in it, piling the plastic up so she had to search through it, with some chicken more difficult to get to than others. After a few days we suddenly found her walking happily outside with a spring in her step. We only do the game occasionally now – once or twice a fortnight – to keep up the momentum.

    1. There’s some fascinating studies on problem solving diminishing anxiety in dogs, if my memory isn’t failing me… such a great idea! 🙂

      1. We found so much was affected by this one simple game and I can see from what you have said how seeking comes into play as she keeps searching. The noise of the plastics, scrunched paper etc, improved her anxiety with noise. She would poke her nose into things and from this began putting her nose in a water bowl (until then we had to use a plate). We made her wait on a spot while we prepared, which meant I could use ‘wait’ in other situations and not get pestered. Incredible on so many levels. We only have one major problem left now, which I’m hoping you will deal with in the last video – aggression from sleep. The other problems we have are me not proofing training :)!

  24. For part 3: My dogs love being touched. Especially, the young dog, she prefers scratching on the lower back, a stomach rub or massage on the inner thighs. Since a young puppy, not with a natural “off buttom” the stomach rub clearly decreased the arousal level. Now, as a three year old (still highly geared), both a stomach rub and massage of the inner thighs tend to decrease arousal. She comes forward and request these sessions. Also, if I can see that she has difficulties relaxing (decreasing arousal on her own) I offer her a session with rubbing. Normally, pleasantly, accepted. If she’s not interested, I tend to play some calming games with her.
    Touching for how long….it varies. The parameters at play may be degree of tiredness for the dog; the time of the day; who offers the touching; who’s around to offer touching as in taking turns from different people; if other dogs (e.g., her older “sister”) are around, etc.

  25. I certainly see that my lovely dog Sadee is quick to make connections. Some I want her to make, like she now waits in the car until I say she can get out, and then she goes straight in the gate – she used to run into the neighbours property instead. She knows which of my shoes mean walk and which mean I am going out. With the latter she isnt sure if she will be coming or not. The decider is when I pick up the lead.

    I didnt mean to teach her that every walk is followed by food (her morning walk is followed by breakfast) so she is now learning that doesnt happen every time. She know if I sit at the computer its harder to get my attention. If I sit on tthe sofa I am all hers. When I sit at the computer sometimes she asks me to go and sit on the sofa! A nudge on the leg and a longing look in the direction of the sofa.

    Anyway much of this I didnt teach intentionally and I am becoming more intentional. Clicking on the lead means come. Waiting until I tell her what comes next. She is pretty well behaved now, most of the time.

    Our vet has discovered she will not accept treats from him. She knows he is going to poke and prod aand make her uncomfortable.

    She has been such good company in times of isolation in our current world crisis. It would have been much harder without her.

    1. Lesley, I was smiling reading your list… SO MANY little things – all great examples! About the vet, it’s better if the prodding comes before the treat, not after. That way, the prodding becomes a predictor of treats, and not the other way around. Since emotions infect backwards in time, this is really important – the order of events is very important. There are a few ways in which this type of learning (counter conditioning) can go wrong – I discuss them here: https://illis.se/en/cc/

  26. Finished with video 3 and thanks for another great video 🙂

    Loves the advice to play more, and such a good reminder to look at the animal for consent when petting!

  27. I have had my rescue dog for 8 months now. He was living wild on a mountain in Greece for a year before we adopted him. He has adapted so well indoors and is relaxed and content. However he guards the garden boundaries obsessively, barking constantly at the neighbours the other side of the fence. Those same neighbours come into ‘his’ garden and he loves them (he loves everyone and is very friendly). As soon as they go back into their own garden, he starts barking at them again. I am hoping these videos will give me an insight into the ‘why?’ !!

    1. There may be many whys… 😉 as so often, it depends on the context and the individual’s learning history. Having said that, counterconditioning may work. See friend in their garden – get treat. Seeing the friend becomes a predictor of treats, and the emotional reaction to that context may change. Take care on how you do it, though, there are a few ways it could go wrong. I write more about it here: https://illis.se/en/cc/

  28. Thank-you Karolina. This has been soooo helpful for understanding my 2 pessimistic (rescue) dogs. One is a little bit pessimistic, while the other is a lot pessimistic; and owning him has been a real challenge and a steep learning curve!
    I also really liked your blog that you suggested above about counter conditioning. CC has been explained to me before – but you made it make so much clearer! And the three reasons why counter conditioning might not be working – really does explain why some of my hard work in training is not getting the full benefit. I am really looking forward to trying out some of the things that you have already suggested and can’t wait til lessons 3 & 4.
    As an aside – one of my PhD supervisors came from Stockholm (Karolinksa Institutet) and although I live in Melbourne, I spent 12 years visiting Stockholm every year. Sweden is a great country!

  29. We have a 6 year old German Shepherd – Ella, who was a rescue dog that we adopted about 17 months ago. Although when she came to live with us she was quite relaxed and chilled about most things, although loud noises have always scared her. Since returning from a holiday last year, which happened to be just 6 months into her adoption, she has developed a heap of other issues. We had a friend come to our house to sit Ella, so that she felt safe in her own environment, but something about that experience (or maybe nothing to do with it) has triggered all these other emotions. For instance,she used to be a pleasure to walk, never bothered by other dogs and always willing to interact with them. Now, she is very apprehensive about walking and constantly stops to assess whether it’s safe for her continue on and has now become very reactive towards other dogs, wanting to lunge at them and incessantly barking at them until they have passed by. I am attempting to build up her confidence by letting her walk only as far as she feels comfortable and rewarding her with ‘good treats’ when she doesn’t bark or lunge. She’s definitely a work in progress, but well worth the effort and I’m hoping that I will get my old Ella back very soon.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Lynn! If those changes came about suddenly and inexplicably, I would do a veterinary check just to rule out that there isn’t some medical problem going on. Hopefully you’ll get some more ideas in the last couple of videos, too!

  30. It made me smile hearing about animals predicting what was about to happen. My former horse and I were going to a training session and I had taken out my car and the horse-trolley. They were outside the stables visible from a hill in the field where the horses were presently grazing. I then went to get my horse. He would normally never make a fuss, but would come along at once. This time, however, he ran off (not very far off, so I could catch him after a while). When I arrived at the training, I asked my instructor if he thought my horse had recognized my car? He laughed and said “of course”. Personally I’m against the term “conditioning” when animals learn – I think they learn the same way that we do.

    1. Great example! Conditioning is just a synonym for learning, really; the distinction is usually made between classical (learning about predictors) and operant (learning about actions) 🙂

  31. An answer to the question from video 1. One of my dogs used to be overall overreactive in everyday life and shutting down in certain training (on agility course). When I understood her better and changed my way of handling her, paying more attention to avoid stressful situations in life and to clarity and confidence in training (starting agility again from the very beginning) I started to notice changes. One thing was that I trained her what I want to do, so the behaviours that annoyed me reduced a lot. But also she got more resistant to all the failures that I kept making. Even when something unpleasant happened to her, the effects of this bad event were smaller and lasted shorter.

    And a comment to the second video, the part about animals not liking certain interactions. This is one of my favourite photos, a portrait with my first dog:
    https://zapodaj.net/images/619b7dad5b013.jpg
    It was taken within a month from her adoption. She was a very good dog and accepted almost everything I did to her, but she isn’t looking like she was happy held in my arms, looking away from me. A friend asked me to repeat taking such a picture several years later and… the dog looked exactly the same. Tolerating what I was doing, but not having fun. She just didn’t enjoy being held like this and I didn’t have a reason to teach her to like it – or I didn’t know back then that I did have one. As she got old and became sick I needed to carry her up and down the stairs for walks. But luckily she was ok. enough with it.

    1. Thanks for sharing Joanna! Some dogs never get to the point of actually enjoying being touched (as in asking for it); but as far as I’ve understood you can get to the point of acceptance – and relaxation.

  32. Hi
    We have a 3 yo German Wirehaired Pointer. She is very reactive to visitors to our home, barking etc. it takes a lot of patience for her to come around but many people are too afraid of her to try. She also doesn’t like children (afraid I think) which makes walking her very stressful. We have tried taking treats with us but she is far too distracted to bother with them.
    I’m hoping your upcoming videos will help.
    Thank you!

  33. Love this……video 2 has given me a light bulb moment re classic conditioning and the fact that I have unknowingly probably reinforced my dogs fear response of looking over his shoulder for danger of things coming up behind him……..so now REALLY looking forward to the next videos and hoping I can retrain this behaviour

  34. My girl developed a few anxieties after her first season, she became scared of the dark and scared of children screaming and squealing, She is avoidant so doesn’t display any aggression just wants to get herself away from the situation also noises like bangs even quiet ones, she also developed separation anxiety after having an operation ( Spey and hernia repair) at aged one. She is nearly 5 now, the dark and jumpy scared behaviour with noise is still there, we live across the road from 2 schools so we often hear children playing and squealing, there’s also noise on the way to and them leaving school. The separation anxiety has meant I have had to change my job and hours as she screams, barks and howls if left for more than a couple of minutes. As you can imagine this has taken over my life where I struggle to even go to the shop through fear of being reported for the noise. Is there anything I can do, I have recently introduced a bit of distance, my girl now sleeps in the living room instead of on my bed next to me, I can now take the bin out without her going crazy before I leave but is slow progress is there anything I can do to help her be ok with being alone? And help her be ok with noise?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Separation anxiety and noise phobia often occur together, apparently. Here’s a blog post on everything noise-related: https://illis.se/en/eliminating-firework-and-thunder-phobia-in-dogs/
      about Separation anxiety, that is one condition that has high success rate in being improved with treatment, but it requires dedication and time from the owner, so in order to be successful I’d advise you to find support- a trainer, or a support group – and the knowledge of how to go about doing it. This is a really great resource: https://malenademartini.com/

  35. My dog is 6years old she is a rescue she has a very obsessive nature she goes beserk barking and lunging when she sees motorbikes skateboard street cleaner vans shutters going up and down I live in the centre of the city so it is impossible to avoid them lately she is lunging at dogs and barking at them and barking at anybody who passes my window

  36. My little guy is an optimist. He’s a 4 and a half year old Rescue. I’ve had him since he was 18 mths and he has pretty much overcome his separation anxiety and made vast improvements in wellbeing but is still very anxious/fearful of people, barking at anyone passing our house or calling to the house. Barks for about 10 mins running rampant when we have visitors. So I’m hoping this course will help me to help him not to be so afraid. He likes most other dogs and used to play with them until about 2 years ago. Now he growls when they want to play. He is also jealous if I pet other dogs.

    1. My previous boy was the same. What I did was reward calm behaviour always with a high reward food, in my case it was poached chicken breast. I taught him to go to his mat, which was his “calm” place, but I also rewarded and reinforced calm behaviour wherever he was.
      For you I would work on lowering his arousal generally and then rewarding him when he stays calm for even a milisecond when he sees a person pass by your house and very slowly build up his tolerance to seeing people. You could also close the blinds or put on music to limit his ability to see or hear people while you work on this because we want to set him up for success.
      I would also have someone come to the house so you can practice him staying calm while they ring the door bell or knock on your door.
      When I had visitors and my boy would go berserk I would send him to his mat and repeatedly give him treats for showing calm body language and quiet behaviour.
      This can be very stressful for us so I would look at trying to stay calm when your little guy does bark, I know it’s hard, but they do feed off our emotions too.
      I wish you well. It is entirely possible to turn this around.
      I would also give him lots of brain games and food puzzles and challenges to stimulate and hopefully calm him.

  37. Hello
    I did this minicourse and your payed course some years ago. My little dog was definitly in the left space, I learned to read his fear and act upon it.
    We just went away quickly if he said “this is to dangeres to meet” After a few runs, he actually stopped and looked at me, leaving me with the choice of staying or running.
    I looked out for situations where he might act out and kept our distance. He is now six years and I walk him relaxed, letting him snif his way through the neighborhood.
    I have trained Tricks, Rally O and some Nosework to buildt his confidense.
    Last month we attendted a day course in Hoopers and he loved it, it was a new place, a new instructer, unknown dogs. He layed flat on his back all four paws up in the middle of it all, just chilling and waiting for his turn.
    He moves left.

  38. Karolina, thank you for the first video! Very informative for sure.

    I bought a 16 week old kitten four weeks ago. She was so scared of everything that she was shaking all over when I went to get her. Her mom had a new litter of 6 weeks so I guess her mom didn’t want her around anymore. Not optimal for a 10 week old kitten.
    After we got home she hid under a book shelve for more than a week. It was her choice and I respected it. Just made sure she was ok, fed her and cleaned the litterbox. She only came out at night. I placed myself near her hiding space and sang to her, talked to her but didn’t try to touch her. Then one day at nightfall she came down to our livingroom. I started to play with her and she enjoyed that very much. Now, three weeks later, she’s not afraid of me. I can pet her, brush her and she’s sleeping next to me on the sofa. She’s still a bit unsure about my husband, but he can pet her too.
    So free choice for the kitten and patience, lots of it, for me and now our Disa is much happier and behaves like a kitten should.
    Looking forward to watch the next video.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! 10 weeks is early, recent research suggests they should stay with mom until 14 weeks. Great that you could step in as a surrogate, and become the new trusted caregiver! 🙂

      1. Karolina, I read that too that they should stay with mom until 14 weeks. She was 16 weeks so I thought that was great. But didn’t know she was the last kitten of the previous litter. Well, she’s moving to the right side, a little bit more every day. 🙂

      2. One of my dogs has learnt that if I leave a shoe or boot on the floor that it is a predictor of a bit of fun. I have always retrieved things by never being cross, I just go and get them with a friendly interaction. This has evolved to her taking the shoe, deliberately showing me she has it so that I will go after her while she saunters around the house for a few minutes. It ends with her getting on her bed, I say thank you and shoe is retrieved. Shoes are always retrieved undamaged and the dog has had some fun and attention. All it takes is to be prepared to engage id she takes a shoe…..or out the shoes away!

    1. Haha, sorry, I’m recording now so will release videos as they’re finished *sometime* during that day! Also, since I commission subtitles, that may take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to get done. Today I had microphone problems and had to start over… 🙂

  39. I’m struggling with my cat that came to us in February. She is a rescue who was abandoned in a flat for several days without food or water. Her owner took the other cat and the dog and left Astrid.
    She is a difficult cat, doesn’t behave like other cats i’ve known. She likes to sleep next to me in the sofa or in my bed and I can pet her – until suddenly she bites and claws until it’s bleeding.
    Usually a cat that was abused will relax and calm down after a couple of weeks i a new friendly home. But Astrid is not a “normal” cat. I think she is happy here, she loves my husband and she runs to his bed when he is taking his breakfast or lunch nap and she rubs her face to his beard and purrs loudly. But she might as well bite him, all of a sudden. As if she doesn’t believe that this pleasent moment is for real. She is a living proof of “noli me tangere”. I’m wondering why she is so “disturbed”. Maybe she was taken too early from her mother or maybe she was hit when showing her feeleings. If we try to take her up she hisses, bites and claws. I soo want her to be happy but I’m not sure that she is able to it.

    1. This may be ‘petting and biting syndrome’? As they are prey species as well as predators, cat have an innate survival mechanism and can feel vulnerable to attack if they allow themselves to become too relaxed e.g. when you are petting them or grooming them. This sense of conflict between pleasure and vulnerability can result in a sudden aggressive action e.g. scratching or biting, so they can escape from the situation. If you pay close attention to their body language e.g. watching for their ear and whisker position to change, their pupils to dilate, their tail to start swishing back and forth, their skin to ripple etc. it is often possible to judge when they are approaching their petting threshold and you can stop before they bite or scratch. Have you tried positive reinforcement (clicker) training with her? I find it very helpful when working with former feral kittens, as it gives nervous cats a sense of control, increases their confidence and helps build a positive relationship between you and them. There is some helpful information here: https://www.clickertraining.com/node/409

  40. Thank you for access to this mini course, I love the way you teach. I have a pretty optimistic Standard poodle, now 3.5 years old, he can be very anxious around other dogs however which can sometimes tip over to aggression so I try to build his confidence and optimism daily and look forward to more information from the next videos. Thank you again

    1. I’m curious after watching this second video how clicker training fits into this. Although it seems like it would/could associate whatever is being trained—from sit, stay, come, to complicated tricks—with the “happy” feeling of getting a treat, I wonder if it can become an automated response i.e. “I’ll do anything to get a treat” and might mask real emotions about performing a behavior. Realizing there are many variables like competency of the trainer, maturity of the animals etc.

      1. There might be ambivalent emotions, of course. “I’d like the treat, but that claw clipper thingy is really scary”. Also, the clicker is a secondary reinforcer, and as such it’s actually processed differently in the brain than if you were training the behaviour without a clicker. MOre dopamine, leading to focus, enthusiasm, and better retention.

  41. Spännande första film och tack för att du delar med dig. Jag har tre hundar som på det stora hela är optimister men min mittentjej Himla som är en miniature american sheepherd blev skrämd av raketer när hon var knappt två år några dagar innan nyår av barn som smällde av dem precis som husse gick förbi på eftermiddagen. Under sommaren har det eskalerat och spridit sig till fler ljud. Hemma är hon alltid glad och tålig mot alla ljud vi gör och älskar att träna på att skramla med olika saker men ute har hon blivit orolig och blir stressad av vissa ljud medan andra inte berör henne. Jag försöker nu dela på flocken och ta henne på kortare promenader där vi gör roliga enkla saker och jobbar med nosarbete. Jag hoppas att jag ska kunna hjälpa henne komma över sina rädslor.

  42. Thank you for sharing this series of videos. My 17-month old Golden Retriever male pup is a high strung optimist, always wanting to play however anxious about somethings. I believe his flight from Sydney to Perth (at 8 wks) gave him a serious fright, as he fears large trucks and equipment. He did not like loaing up & riding in our 4WD but is slowly improving as we have more fun experiences and by giving him choice. He’s a lovely but at times naughty boy …slowly learning to “leave it…thank you!” for things he pinches. He has separation anxiety with /from me. His exuberance can be overwhelming as he’s grown into a big pup who doesn’t know his strength nor when to chill …yet. Rubbing him on his chest settles him. Also, “no” is not in his vocabulary… any tone of denial will trigger zoomies as if he is laughing at us. And so we endeavor to be positive whilst giving choice and rewards and having fun. I am keen to lower his anxieties, hopefully? Thanks!

    1. Hi there Diana, thanks for sharing! Sounds like a handful..! Hopefully you’ll get some ideas in videos 3 and 4! 🙂

  43. I really enjoy your videos Karolina! Thank you!
    I have a 10 year old shelter-dog, that was very unsure and reactive when she came to live with us. Now (4 years later) she is much more at ease and relaxed, and I think “happy”. In my experience what helped her most was doing a lot of playing and nose-work with her. She is getting more confident and seems to be having much more fun in solving problems.

  44. Great to “see” you again Karolina and thank you so much for sharing this mini series. I have two dogs. The oldest has always been very confident and optimistic whereas my youngest is less confident. Most of the time she is fine and calm but sometimes she spooks easy and barks at people acting out of the ordinary. That could be a person standing still in a field, a person wearing a cap, a new dog entering a training field, a child walking towards her etc. I do a lot of positive pairings with food in the situation, grow calmness, play games and do nosework. I believe she is becoming more optimistic

    1. Hi there Anita, great to have you back! 🙂 Sounds like you’re using some great strategies to shift her across Core Affect Space! 🙂

  45. Great course!
    My horse ( a mare) was mostly pessimistic, when I bought her, but that has changed gradually, and I am hoping to learn how to help her cope with the last remnants of pessimism and negative stress. My method has been lots of love and patience, logical and calm training, widening her comfort area in her own pace. It has been a learning journey for both her and me, and I strive to become better at it 🙂

    1. It seems that with each new animal one meets, it’s a new learning journey…! HOpefully you’ll get some ideas in the next videos! 🙂

  46. I Think my dogs generally are optimists Always waiting för a walk with playtime but I have one problem with one of my dogs. We lost a familymember and the dog took it upon himself to look out for me, to check my emotional wellbeing and try to comfort me… He reads me like an open book. I am feeling better now and I want him to know that he doesnt need to do that I want him to be thinking about himself…

    1. I have very little personal experiences with dogs myself, but from what I hear that is not an uncommon reaction to big changes in the family. Hopefully that behaviour will fade over time as you all adjust to the new situation. YOu might get some ideas from video 3, also! 🙂

  47. I have a catahoulaxbully, she is 3 years old in November. Always happy fun loving pup until she turned 18 mths old. Now she is fearful, aggressive, always in fight or flight mode. Vet recommended Prozac, do she’s in that and behaviourist rec Clonidine for fearful situations. I can’t see a lot of difference she has been on these for 3 months, I’m very sad for my beautiful dog, my partner, our other dog and me.

    1. For such radical behavioural changes I would recommend a thorough medical check up, just to rule out any medical issues? Also, medications work best when used together with behaviour modification techniques; hopefully the behaviorist can help with this!

    2. Thank you. I am working closely with my behaviourist so I am very hopeful we can at least get Hazel to not be so fearful. We have talked about a complete work up at the vet so that is the next step.

  48. Thanks for sharing!
    I have several animals. One dog, 2 cats,4 horses, 9 chicken and 6 sheep. Work as farrier and horse masseur.
    I can see all kind of animal feelings. But I am still struggeling to reduce my own expectations. My expectations seem to put the animal in a more “down mode”. This I hope to get some info about in your videos.

    The animals are all more or less happy I would say depending on situation. The horses for example always come happily galloping when I whistle and like to be cuddled or scratched. As with the sheep..

    But if I ask for example something as clean a wound or spray flie protection on my grey horse he really gets anxious. He can go introvert in new scary situations at home and extrovert outside home. I work with food and clicker to make him more relaxed and optimist. But if it is too much anxiety this is not enough. He is a very high energy horse with anxiety but as a youngster he was more happy than now as 9 year. As a youngster he moved freely and liked to explore, but not anymore. He was a stallion until last year. I have “started over” to try to find what he find to be fun. Target training with no expectations seem to be somewhat changing his mood to more happy.

    My brown really like to be a clown and make me smile. But for many years I struggled with the best way to train him. He is a pleaser, can be very spooky outside om trailriding. But normally not spooky for odd things on a riding arena. I guess he actually like to get some action and gets excited when we do trailriding. He is a former trotting horse. Here I have worked on a cue to have him focus on me and not the “spooky” thing which excites him and put him on a flight mode.

    Yes so I guess I am supressing some of the excitement to be able to handle the horses…

    Will be interesting to see the next videos.

    Regards Linda

  49. Thanks for doing this…..really enjoyed the first video….and so crossing my fingers that you information can fill in some gaps and make my dog happier……..he is fairly optimistic….but had an accident at a show with a lady running into him with a trolley full of barking Chihuahuas…..he became hyper vigilant about always looking over his shoulder……I have done some google research into different training ……..and applied some, have found games and trick training have given him more focus on me…….he can walk down my street now without being worried but does still take the occasional look to see if anything is behind him…….We have had no shows here since February and have taken him to a couple of show training days……..he is still showing signs of worry with dogs running behind him but ok if he is by himself …..so nowhere near having the problem resolved………

    1. That type of one-trial learning is fairly common, and can take time to recover from. Hopefully you’ll get some ideas from videos 3 and 4! 🙂

  50. Thank you…have found this really interesting and enlightening and looking forward to the rest of the videos…why am I here?.. I have a dog that had a very bad fright at a show in February, a lady ran into him from behind with a trolley full of barking Chihuahua, scared the hell out of the both us……since then he has become hyper vigilant about anything behind him, always looking over his shoulder for danger…but especially now in the show ring. we have been in lockdown so no shows……..so I worked out he needed more confidence, so sign up for the Absolute Dogs Sexier then the Squirrel program…..this has partly worked…..I can actually now walk him down my own road with him only occasionally checking out what is behind….. during this I discovered what gives him the most pleasure and confidence is trick training, and is starting to give him more focus on me, he loves to ride a skateboard, do spins etc……he is still worried about the show ring….so hoping your videos can give me some more incite as to how to make him happy in that environment as well

  51. My latest dog joined me as a pesitmist finding bogey men where there were none and afraid to explore. Nosework and adolescent hormones have helped him tremendously. He decided other dogs might not be so scary when he began to develop into a testosterone filled young chap! We are working with a vet behaviourist on his huge separation anxiety. He is definetly still a pessimist about his ability to cope on his own. He enjoys nosework tremendously and as well as using it everyday both on walks and at home he has also begun to compete. Just a year ago I would never have believed that he would be able to be relaxed enough to compete away from home and surrounded by stranger objects, other dogs and people. He is becoming a more typical happy goofy cocker spaniel.
    Thank you for another fascinating introductory course Karolina. I joined in the last one and learnt a tremendous amount. I hope to join your full course nest year.

    1. Oh! Nosework seems like such a fabulous way to coax anxious dogs out of their shell! So glad to hear that you’re finding it makes such a difference! 🙂

  52. Gideon is a medical trainwreck (allergies, arthritis), but we do a lot to manage pain and keep on top of the medical issues, as well as bring happiness in to his life daily. He especially loves scritichies and getting “up” on things for treats. He is a joy and a sweet, kind soul.

    I should have my fear-free trainer certificate in a few days, and have several vets in the area who are moving in that direction. It’s a challenge for sure, though most are good-hearted and would love to improve welfare.

  53. I have a seven month old puppy. He is adorable, but sadly a pessimist. I really hope I can help him to change this. He is extremely fearful of all new things. He doesn’t know how to play with other dogs, or how to behave with humans, outside of our family. He is very timid and hides behind furniture or under beds, not at all curious about new things. I am trying to socialise him and bring him to lots of new places, he is getting a little better, but it is a very slow process.

    1. THanks for sharing! Make sure to take is real’ slow so that you don’t overwhelm him. Each new experience should be in a familiar context where he feels good about it. If the new experience is scary, things could get worse. Check out videos 3 and 4..! Best of luck! 🙂

  54. wauw what a lot of comments yet. thank you Karolina for this oppotunitie again to hear from you. Its again wunderful ! My dog is really optimistic. There is almost nothing what can make her unsure or troubbeld. But one of my horses is not so optimistic. He is freindly but to quite. For me he is pleasing to mutch. He is never playing. I think he is a bit bored ore so. There are friends, there is lots of space and I hang out with him a lot. But yes there is something not quite good. So I dont no , my question for him is…how can I make you more happy.

    1. Yes, this year must be record year when it comes to the number of comments..! 😉 Hopefully you’ll get some ideas in video 3! 🙂

  55. My cat was diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome a year ago. She was very frightened and was depressed. The only thing offered to treat it was a lifetime on drugs such as gabapentin and prozac. I chose not to go that route and have successfully alleviated the condition by observing what I thought was making her anxious and bringing on the seizures and replacing with making her feel secure and providing pleasurable experiences. The vet is surprised that I am able to treat this condition without meds. But now my cat feels secure and is happy and playful all the time.

    1. FHS seems to be one of those syndromes that manifest with many different etiologies (dermatologic, neurologic, musculoscleletal, behavioural). I’m not a vet, but I’m guessing that successful treatment would differ depending on which of these are in play – and often when it comes to that last category (behavioural), making changes to the environment can have a huge effect. Great that your kitty is doing so much better! 🙂

  56. I am a breeder of Australian Cattle Dogs. We do Puppy Aptitude Tests on our puppies at 49 days of age. The first test we perform is just seeing how the puppy reacts in a strange place with a strange person. We are looking for a puppy that confidently and happily explores this new area he or she is in. Most pups run around and happily check things out. Occasionally, you get a pup that just runs to the evaluator (a total stranger) or who just freezes up or who whines. So right from the start, one can determine what sort of individual each puppy is!

    1. Thanks for sharing! And such a great way to be able to choose a good home for the puppies depending on the personality. But: we know that what happens in those first few weeks (and indeed during pregnancy) can potentially have a HUGE impact on how the puppy turns out! more about that in video 3.

  57. Very much looking forward to the rest of the videos With fingers crossed. I have a dog who used to be optimistic and happy until about 4 months ago. He suddenly started to react to The sound of shooting and birds scarers Which never used to worry him but now he has become very anxious when we are out on walks. He spends a lot of time looking up at the sky and runs ahead then back to me, tail down and panting. I have tried games and distraction methods which can work for short periods but can also be pretty exhausting to keep it up. I have also stopped taking him out everyday and have made walks shorter and more positive. I have three dogs in total and we used to go out all together very happily… he is about to turn 8 years old – is this relevant do you think?

    1. I’d do a vet checkup to see that everything is OK. Pain for instance has been shown to impact dog’s sensitivity to sound. Best of luck!

  58. My dog is a born optimist but had a deprived and difficult start to her life before being thrown out of a car and dumped. Cyprus has an appalling animal welfare record but that’s another matter.

    As a trainer I spent a couple of weeks learning about her and her character before deciding that she was the dog for us. Her trust in me had grown and with that her confidence. She is often wary of novel situations and people but looks to me and being food oriented there are always ‘snacks’ available to make the situation more palatable!

    She often shows me she is conflicted in her emotions. Flicking between ‘I want to say hello/explore’ and ‘I feel a bit anxious/fearful’. I always make it her choice how these interactions go, asking people to respect her space and give her time. I am there to support her but the choice is always hers and with this has come better self-confidence and emotional robustness. We are at the beginning of our journey but I think we are both happy to be on it.

    I love your courses Karolina. My inner geek is in heaven and I’m learning the official names for things that I do innately in terms of my approach to figuring out what a dog’s motivation is and how best to train them. Thank you!

      1. I think choice HAS to be the absolute foundation of any training. It is empowering for the animal and, I feel, leads to less extreme behaviours as the animal doesn’t need to resort to huge behaviour displays of say ‘noise’ or ‘aggression’ or ‘running away’ because they are ‘heard’ and their choices respected.

  59. Hello!
    My 2yearsold male swiss white shepherd is both. Most of the time he is an optimist but from time to time he is a pessimist 🙂
    He is very attached to me and can not handle being appart feom me too well. But he is getting better.

    1. Good point about how important the context is for how animals perceive the world! 🙂 Glad he’s getting better!

  60. WOW! Thanks for the video. I think both of my dogs are optimists, or that’s what I hope they are. Both can be a bit reluctant to new things but behave quite different. One is cautious and the other outspoken (utåtagerande). I will be more observant on them, to see if I can find out if they are optimists or pessimists. I got interested in your emotion course after a course by Eva-Marie Wergård (Think outside the candy box). By focusing on changing the animal’s feelings towards a special situation I have changed my younger dogs feelings towards the metal on her harness. She really didn´t like to wear her harness. I started by focusing on putting her in a calm and secure feeling by letting her lick the metal and a “mjukosttub”. I also let it take time to put on the harness. When the harness was on, we cuddled for a while and then we went out. I also let the harness lay on the floor all the time to put out the novelty of it, and also stop the connection by seeing the harness and the situation where she was going to wear the harness. Now I just start by laying the harness on the floor, she licks the metal a bit and then I get to put on the harness. Much easier and both the dog and I are much happier.

      1. I have cats, 7 cockatiels in an aviary & 3 chickens who get to free range most days. Both my mature cats are rescues. One I know a little of her history, her owner died & then she was dumped. Luckily neighbours eventually notified a rescue group. They found her starving & frightened. I’ve had her nearly 6 years. My boy was feral & in terrible condition when he began coming looking for food. He would attack & shred my legs if I got too near or touched him. He was starving & filthy & has signs of past injuries, I think his nose & maybe his tail have been injured in the past. Eventually he came to me with a huge rotting abscess on his face & let me pick him up & handle him to help him. He had surgery, had to wear a protective collar & I had to apply medical honey to his facial wound for 4 months. He had to completely surrender & trust me. I’ve had him 3 years. He seems to have PTSD. It’s obvious people have treated him very badly. He used to seem to have flashbacks, he would zone out & bite if you touched him during the episode. They have slowly stopped. Every other person terrifies him. If anyone approaches my house he growls & hides. He has become braver, recently some people he will sneakily observe from a safe distance. Unfortunately my girl cat hates that he moved in. She is half his size, but does her best to be boss cat. He still intimidates her though. Even though he is desexed now he was an alpha male a long time. So he wants to rule the house, but he is nervous of her & seems to want her approval. In 3 years they are gradually learning to get along. They will sleep on the same bed & there is chasing & cautious play & curiousity about each other’s activity. However, they both want dominance of our home. Despite extra large clean litter trays & me changing their feeding routine so they are fed at the same time, but separated in neighbouring rooms, with her getting her dish first; there has been an ongoing problem with both of them spraying inside. I’ve used various enzyme cleaners & tried using products with citrus smell etc to try to deter it. There will be days or weeks of nothing, then it will start again. They are both doing it. I really want them to be more comfortable with each other so it stops. We are in a large house, they go out into the garden during the day & are brought inside at night.

        1. Leonie, sounds like you have a handful! the fact that they’re both spraying indoors suggests they’re bothered by something; might also be a medical condition. Typically it’s not just the soiling behaviour that needs to be addressed but three-dimensional space, feeding routines, and building a relationship where they come to associate one another with good outcomes. Are you familiar with Jackson Galaxy and his concept of catification? He is a cat behaviourist who has a lot of videos on youtube. Here’s one that may be relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWohxDOXsl4

          1. Thanks for responding! Yes, I’ve watched his videos. Thankfully my 2 have got beyond that stage, but it took a while. He loves toys much more than she does, but she observes him playing, it was the ice breaker. Unfortunately the eating together to bond was disastrous, the girl stopped eating & lost a quarter of her bodyweight & got a urinary tract infection as she lost condition. She hated it. Now they eat a few feet away separated by a door, she’s back to normal. I was warned by the rescue people she disliked other cats, this wasn’t in the plan to have 2 The vet guesses they are both at least 8 & he was an intact feral boy for a lot of that time probably, so the spraying has slowed down now he’s snipped, but it’s a lifetime habit I guess & she responds. They have plenty of room to spread out & separate when they need personal space, but slowly they are choosing to be together more. She’s growing accustomed to him. I want to try pheromone plug ins, they’ve been a bit beyond my budget, but I’ll eventually get them.

          2. Sorry you had to find out the hard away about the risks of that co-feeding technique..! It needs to be done very carefully, both animals need to be under threshold: a stressed and fearful animal won’t eat. Best of luck!

  61. I think most of my guys are optimists, but two of mine are oddballs. One has chronic pain issues, and the other was manhandled at a vets office repeatedly after a surgery.

    1. Yes, pain can certainly impact mood, behaviour and wellbeing! Hope you’ve found some way to help him..? And the veterinary community is really waking up to the importance of a fear-free environment. I think 10 years from now, being manhandled at the vets will be a thing of the past in most places.

  62. Thank you, Karolina, for providing an opportunity for us to learn about and discuss animal emotions!
    I adopted a 5.5 year old dog who was a pessimist when he wasn’t with his chosen person (me); he had separation anxiety, and was scared of new situations & new objects. After 3+ years of positive reinforcement training, a calm home, exploring the outdoors (at his own pace), and allowing him to give consent in difficult situations, he slowly became an optimist! He also has more emotional resiliency.
    Happiness, to me, means feeling a general contentment, and also being understood and supported. That is what I try to provide for my own animals and the dogs I train.

    1. Oh, so many good points you’re making! The importance of choice and consent. How resilience grows once the animal is confident and happy. 🙂

      1. My current dog is a rescue and when I got him two years ago he was very anxious and pessimistic. He had a lot of fears, did not trust humans and and gave up everytime he felt something was challenging.
        I have primarly focused on enrichment and empowerment, and today he is a “cautious optimist” – he is still easily spooked but he has overall a positive attitude. Actually, he is in some ways a bit harder to live with, but I’ll take a mischievous dog over a helpless one anyday! It makes me sad that a lot of people want an “easy” dog, meaning a passive one that dont take iniatives…

        1. Very common in the horse world – people want a “bomb proof” horse who stands still and volunteers nothing… THat is changing, though! 🙂

  63. Hi Karolina, two emotions can share the same values in arousal and valence but differ in flavours. It suggests a three-dimensional space is in order. What is measured on your third dimension? What does flavour consist of when used to describe emotions? Salty, sour, sweet, and bitter are tastes of the tongue. Emotions?

    I have read some papers where time is the third dimension, and in doing so the researcher discusses pessimism and optimism. Your discussion does not seem to fall in the dimension of time. Where can I read about your third dimension of flavours?

    1. Great question! The third dimension that I’ve seen discussed is surgency. How much psychological “load” the emotional state is exacting. From low, which might be an almost subconscious feeling, to high, the overwhelming emotional feeling that drowns out EVERYTHING else.

      I’d say time is simply the movement we have in Core Affect Space, like a movie screen where each snapshot is sligthly different from the one before.

      As to the “flavours” I’m discussing, the 7 Core Emotions, they’re simply not there, and that is (as I see it) the major shortcoming with Core Affect Space: it’s flat, flavourless. They belong to another emotion theory, formulated by Jaak Panksepp – we’ll get to this in videos 3 and 4.

    2. Third dimension might be approach – avoidance, or promotion – prevention in humans…

      Dogs get happy and optimistic when they get a lot of positive reinforcement training, especially free shaping, with small increments so they can win often. Feelings of personal control/agency are stimulated, and this is important for well-being.

      1. Wouldn’t approach or avoidance be a result of the first two axes? Behavioural intentions because of the emotional sensations mapped on the first two axes..? 🙂

  64. I have one of each. My ‘pessimist’ was a stray, she is anxious and very reactive. She’s increased in confidence from when we first had her but she still struggles.

    After a few years of caring for her we carefully introduced a puppy. The endless research I’d done to raise my awareness of our anxious pessimist’s needs helped me enormously in raising a socially confident puppy who’s enthusiasm for life knows no bounds. He’s a 55kg adolescent Newfoundland, so sometimes his enthusiasm can be hard work, but I’d rather have a dog who was a little mischievous sometimes than a ‘velcro’ dog, too insecure to leave your side.

    My pessimist also inspired me to become a dog trainer as I want to help dogs who are on the early part of that route to becoming anxious and reactive and turn things around for them.

    1. Great to hear that you’ve found some great tools to help raise a confident puppy! Prevention is SO much easier…!

  65. Thank you so much for the wonderful video. my covid pup had a bad experience with another dog at 12 weeks, and then lockdown meant we were home more than out and missed out on puppy socialisation classes. We have worked so hard with her keeping her mind and body acitve with fun activites, she’s a german shepherd and loves scent work and basic agility acitivites. She is steadily moving more and move to the right side, but we are still working very hard on her leash reacitvity, where she is definatelyon the left side, with a behaviourist and lots of positive experiences. I am just getting in to tellington touch with her too

    1. We’re living in extraordinary times, for sure – these Covid-times have upended society in SO many ways. Glad to hear you’ve found ways to manage! T-Touch is great! 🙂

  66. I have 2 rescue dogs, aged 4 & 2. Since adopting the second one, who is an optimist, the older one starting guarding when I fed them. I now have to fed them separately. Just recently, the older one has started guarding me & our bed! She becomes quite aggressive and i have to use something solid to put between us, in order to get her in a different room. Its not happening too often and the rest of the time she is an optimist too, but i worry she may bite the newer one or me! Any help would be welcome.

  67. I am partially deaf and I would just like to say thank you for making the subtitles available.
    I found the video interesting and I look forward to seeing the videos about how to change the animal’s emotional state. I have an older small dog that is starting to become aggressive towards people as she gets older. She has always been wary of other dogs, apart from her sister from other parents, since being set upon by another dog as a puppy.

    1. You’re welcome! It was another deaf person who suggested this to me when I was just starting out. Later I’ve come to realize that many people who are not native English speakers also benefit… 🙂

    2. Aside from the positive or pessimist stances, because you mention that your little dog is becoming older you might want to discuss with the vet the possibility that she could be developing some sort of dementia; becoming aggressive towards people, even people that they used to like, is one of the common symptoms of dementia in dogs. Just a possibility.

      1. Thank you for your reply Nuno. I had wondered this myself. She has an appointment this week to see the vet about her aggression problems to check her out and make sure she doesn’t have any underlying medical issues. I remember my Mum started being more aggressive towards my father when her dementia first started!

  68. Hi Karolina, thanks for the insights in this first video. My faithful companion is a 6-year-old English Springer Spaniel who is definitely an optimist. She is curious, smart and very social. I admire her open and unbiased view on the world. She truly loves about everyone and everything, in high and low arousal . The only creatures she truly hates are cats. Her first encounter as a pup with a cat was with a rather aggressive one that truly attacked her out of the blue. I’ve tried about everything to let her see not every cat is a threat but so far nothing worked. I think her behaviour is based on fear, but I’m not sure. Hope your course will enlighten me, because our neighbourhood is filled with cats.
    Regards, Marianne

    1. Sometimes all it takes is ONE such encounter, we call that one-trial learning. I think video 4 will give you some insights! 🙂

  69. I, too, am studying with Absolute Dogs. This grid is part of their training using concepts; in particular, to teach the concept of calm.

  70. Hi Karolina.
    Thank you for another great video 😀
    Especially the test about wether the animal is a optimist or a pessimist is new for me. Do you have any videos of someone doing a test with their animal?
    Best regards
    Karina

    1. Sorry, I don’t! Actually, what you can try is probably just see how the animal responds to novelty. I’m thinking an optimistic animal will have shorter latency to approach it than a pessimist.

  71. My dog has changed over the the last 2 years from one that was easily over aroused, had no self control, and seemed constantly worried to one that can relax, has self control even in more distracting environments, and seems happy (relaxed, content, not worried). I’ve worked hard to have consistent expectations and to build his confidence. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had two wonderful people introduce me to shaping behavior and not flooding my dog with more stimulus then he was ready to handle. I know very little about animal training so may not be describing this as best I could. But the difference between the dog I picked up at the shelter and the dog lying next to me today is a wonderful sight to see. We are both much happier.

  72. I’ve just retired from training and behaviour work but still loving learning to ensure my dogs have the best life. One of mine is an absolute optimist, embraces all life has to offer and any set backs are quickly overcome. Another was quite pessimistic but is learning to be optimistic (taken me nearly 4 years but we are getting there) and another is probably a bit of a pessimist.
    Looking forward to learning more. Thank you

  73. Hi…I’m so happy you have subtitles..so many times I seek help but videos with no subtitles leave me baffled…
    I adopted my quite large chihuahua in February…I have rescued quite a few dogs in my life and all come with different challenges…
    At first I thought, wow, I have been so lucky this time as she didn’t cause a fuss about anything…looking back I now think she had totally shut down….then came lockdown and I was shielding so we didn’t go any further than the garden, so obviously that didn’t help matters…she would not look me in the eyes for many weeks but I now get eye contact and she shows she’s taking notice of me…
    We have learned sit and wait for food, down took many months but she will now….unusually she will not play with toys…I spend lots of time sat on the floor with her rolling balls and soft toys and throwing down the hallway but there is no reaction at all
    She comes to life with treats…I can hide these and throw them and she enjoys finding them…I can run up and down the hallway and round and round the table and she will join in and play with me and it’s great…she is 5 years old by the way..
    I think she is a pessimist as she treats everything as highly suspicious and she will growl and bark at any noise or people or cars by my house and at other dogs when we are walking…we have a slight improvement on the barking at other dogs in that she seems to cope better with large,calm dogs…I always cross the road so that she doesn’t have to face any dog head on…
    I know it is quite early days as yet but if I could get her to be more relaxed and not feel the need to be reacting to everything it would be wonderful…I have really enjoyed your first video and look forward to the rest..
    Here’s hoping we can achieve a more relaxed happy little chi…
    Many thanks…

    1. You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed the first video! Changing mood states takes time, and it sounds like you’re on the right track! Have you tried nose work? That’s one way of making dogs more optimistic! 🙂

  74. Thank you for the first video. I adopted 2 pessimistic dogs, however we are more towards optimism now. Over time we learnt what they like, started playing games to build their confidence. The younger likes to just hang out but not play with the other, where as the older has a very cheeky side we discovered and would like to play. The younger is curious but not brave enough to interact initially, where the older one is either all in or all out. I also have an optimistic pony, my elderly horse is getting more pessimistic due to health concerns but she still loves her treat ball and to see what I might have hidden in my pocket.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Such an important comment about ways of stimulating the pessimist into seeing the good things that are available! 🙂

  75. Looking forward to the rest of the mini series.
    I have been using different types of concept training games with my dog to reshape his brain to make him more optimistic. Working on different concepts I am starting to see a more rounded happy dog.
    As I did not have him as a young puppy it takes more time and effort on my part to see a difference. It is a journey we are on together with ups and downs but each day there are more ups x

  76. Thank you Karolina, it’s always a pleasure to listen to you. My youngest dog is definitely an optimist. He’ll approach dogs and people as if they were his new best friends. My oldest dog is a pessimist, but I think the best thing I’ve ever done for him, is to show him that he usually has options. He doesn’t opt out nearly as often as he used to and we frequently have “a conversation” about scary things and he then decides that they are tolerable.

  77. This is really interesting, and presented so clearly. One of my dogs seems to be permanently at the top of that chart. If he’s awake he’s aroused, probably mostly on the happy side, but he is uncontrollable. And big. When I play with him he gets so excited he knocks me down. Sometimes he calms down when I massage him with long firm strokes, but it is temporary. I’m looking forward to learning more, like how to move him down towards the centre. Not a puppy, he is 6 years old.

  78. I work as a registered veterinary technician for the last 34 years and this is a concept I love to see. I have 4 dogs all are mostly optimists. Two have anxiety and one shows it with aggression to the other animals (so I make sure he is well exercised and that makes a huge difference), and I adopted a dog at 4 years old and she was never socialized. Was unable to follow through with commands and hates the car. Over the last 3 years she has come out of her of her she. She still hates the car. No nausea but just terrified. Thank you so much!!!

  79. Enjoyed the first video and looking forward to learning more. I think my animals are both! Moving the 2 dogs and 2 horses to the positive side by clicker training. Dogs are from the same litter and have great separation anxiety from each other. Would love to build some confidence in them to seperate once in awhile!
    One feeds off of the energy of the other for sure!

  80. Thank you so much for sharing this series. Your opening statements were very similar to how I am feeling. I have adopted a two year old kelpie (Australian working dog) and he is massively fearful of people, cars, trucks – basically anything that moves. But at home he is cheeky, playful and very loving. I have a very strong bond with him already so starting the journey to help him to trust, and be happy, in the world around him. I feel very daunted but your approach is so helpful. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome! Slow and steady wins the race… hopefully you’ll get some ideas in the later videos! 🙂

  81. I have 2 dogs and I would say they are both optimists. One dog is 5 years of age and the other will be 2 years of age in November. The younger one tends to be in high arousal a lot and gets so excited about stuff that’s quite mundane. Can’t really comprehend such excitement as being “happy” as it’s so over the top. The 5 year old is more what I would consider to be “normal happy”. Probably just an age thing being the difference between the two as when the 5 year old was younger his excitement level was also higher than now. They both are friendly and outgoing

    1. Have you tried nose work? It seems it can really help regulate both high arousal and low arousal – and it’s pleasant, so shifting into the green areas of Core Affect Space..! 🙂

  82. I would say our dog is an optimist inside our home and backyard and a pessimist out there in the world. As soon as we step outside our front door she is very fearful. We are working on it one day at a time and hoping to help her transform into a full time optimist : )

    1. It’s great to have one context where one can relax and feel good about the world! And as you say, slowly expand that into other areas, too! 🙂

  83. My Tibetan Terrier aged 3 is becoming more optimistic. He can be leash reactive . I have been playing games, teaching him to focus on me more, taking note of his body language around other dogs and other dogs body language, I.e. listening to him.

    1. Wonderful. Paying attention to body language is so important. It’s their way of communicating with us, and when they’re heard that really opens up the conversation! 🙂

  84. I have a very happy mini labradoodle. An optimist, for sure. She will be 9 in January. The attention she gets from going for face licks on my 2 1/2 year old grandson are hard. She seems happy and no one else does. I’m not sure what to do to train her how to behave around faces that are at her level. She definitely has impulse control issues I could be helping her with. Thanks for doing this course preview. I’ll be looking for tips to get focused on this and other issues that are related.

    1. Often those types of behaviour can be teaching incompatible behaviours. This article discusses jumping, which is often part of the problem you’re describing – perhaps not with a two-year-old, but still; the concept is the same: ask the animal to do something else. What I particularly like about this article is that there’s no punishment involved – so the animal remains in the happy zone all throughout the training, not having to feel frustrated: https://tromplo.com/how-to-train-a-dog-not-to-jump-on-you-or-others/

  85. A pessimist. I am trying to make him to change his behaviour by making playing with him, treating him for good choices. Have just started with him as he is a COVID puppy and is scared of people being too close to him.

  86. Really enjoyed this video. As always, a thoughtful presentation. An interesting thought that animals can be either optimistics or pessimists, I would imagine that would have a huge impact on their learning capability. Thank you for sharing this series. Looking forward to the next one.

    1. I really enjoyed this video. My mare is now an optimist, always willing to interact with me since we have been doing positive reinforcement training since 2014. Prior to this she seemed angry, even aggressive. We play soccer together, exercise in an arena full of interesting obstacles, all at liberty so she has choice to stay or leave. Then we just hang out together at times with no expectations at all. It’s taken me years to realize I can just be with them, asking nothing of them, and find bliss.

  87. Hi Karlina

    I cant tell you how happy I am to see you again. It has been a while!

    I have moved two of my horses more to the right in core affect space by clicker training, training with no frustration (animals can get really frustrated if you withhold the reinforcer sending them into extinction so it is possible to get really frustrated animals with clicker training if you are not careful about how you approach it). I learned from the best horse trainers I know how to train without frustration and with positive reinforcement ONLY.

    I have no doubt that the two horses are optimists now because of the way they approach people and new things.. they engage and offer behaviours all the time..

    Looking forward to seeing you again soon ♥️

    All the best,

    Kristin

    1. Kristin! So great to *see* you! Great comment about the difficulties of avoiding frustration when clicker training horses! 🙂

  88. Thank you for sharing this mini-series!
    For your question in part 1, moving an animal from being a pessimist to becoming an optimist, me and my dog are under way in that journey. We play games! We use the methods and games put forward by AbsoluteDogs…..and we both love it. We work with various concepts to reshape the brain and it seems to work.

  89. Thank you for a fascinating first video. I am sharing my space with three dogs presently, two absolute optimists, and my newly acquired rescued stud from a puppy mill. Sadly, he is a fearful pessimist. In six weeks, we have made some great strides, but I hope to help him to trust and to enjoy his life. His first 4.5 years were dreadful, and I intend to make the rest of his life the best that it can be! Can’t wait for the next video!

    1. Great to hear that you’ve made some strides! Changing mood states takes time – but being surrounded by optimists may be a good thing (if they’re friends)!

      1. I wouldn’t say that they are friends quite yet, but not enemies! Edgar no longer growls at them when they come close to him, so that’s a great start! My other two are 12 and 14,5, so they choose to just do their own thing and ignore the young fella! Slow and steady progress!

    2. Hi, I am on the same journey. I have just rehomed a 4 year old breeding bitch. She I wants to be sweet, but is very fearful of everything. Only 5 days in, but I can see playing is very enjoyable for her. Working on this to promote good feelings to overcome her fear. Hoping Katolina’s videos will help us.

  90. Thank you for sharing this info, so interesting. I have 2 dogs and 2 horses. After viewing this first video, I would classify the horses as optimists. They generally regard new things with curiosity. The dogs, who are brothers—one is optimistic, always expecting the best, the other is the polar opposite—fearful and nervous at new things, people, situations. It takes him a long time to observe from a distance before he decides something might be safe or even enjoyable. Looking forward to learning more…

  91. I had a dog who was being raised as a service dog for a well known school. She had motion sickness from day one. I used every training (all positive) suggested to me but she never got over it and at the end of the year, she was avoiding me and hiding when she knew we were going somewhere. She would curl up in a ball on her bed and not look at me. She was released from the program and I kept her as a pet. I just let her be herself, not taking her anywhere (except the vet when necessary …once a year) and she will now approach the car but still does not want to get in. I respect her wishes and she’s happy and well adjusted.

      1. Thank you, Karolina, for the link! It is very helpful! Our golden is also facing the problem of travel anxiety. It started gradually at the age of one year (no problem before that) and has developed into real resistance. We now try to avoid unnecessary travels and hope to make her used to the car once again, step by step – getting in and out to pick a treat etc.

  92. I think my dog is an optimist, he always hope for a pice of snack every time someone heading to the kitchen for example. But he is also a bit anxious being home alone or even if I leave the home with other family members at home. And he is a bit scared for men he doesn’t know. But most of the time he like to play, sniffing around and engage in the retriever training we do. How do I know if he is really an optimist and happy.

    1. Great question! Behaviour is context-specific. The animal learns that “in these types of situations, good things tend to happen”, and “in those types of situations, bad things tend to happen”. So within those different contexts we might see very different behaviour; and being in one mood state influences behaviour in that specific context. So being in a good mood increases the likelihood of optimistic decisions in that situation, and vice versa. Essentially, we can turn an animal into an optimist by making sure that most of the things that happen in life are positive… 🙂

  93. Always learning at 73 years of age, lifetime commitment to banishing truly awful treatment of our companion animals. Heart and soul grateful for your so generous gift.
    Stay safe and strong in this emotionally and physically difficult time.
    Lea, Melbourne Australia.

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