Issue No. 91 | April 27, 2016

The Dog Hierarchy

We've been doing some serious training with our 11-month-old Coton puppy, Cody. As we've been gathering tips, taking lessons, and buying treats, its come to our awareness that there is a hierarchy of actions that Cody and presumably other dogs take in response to the stimuli in their environment. Brought on by the excitement of the world, this hierarchy of actions drives their behavior so that they seem to have no other choices.

The hierarchy includes (1) chasing—(2) eating—(3)smelling. I brought this idea up to Cody's dog trainer and when I asked what we could do to keep him from chasing after the rabbits in the yard, his instructions were clear. "Good luck," she told me.

Biological forces are powerful and each of us possesses our own hierarchy of responses. Our advantage as humans is that most of us can think our way past our initial responses to arrive at a more balanced and effective response than chasing a rabbit that can outrun us. Taking that extra few moments to consider choices when we just want to act is what helps fuel our good stress hormones and builds resilience.

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© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2016

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