#70: Dr. Tim Lewis: The Biology of Dogs

[00:00:00] Tim: I have a list of 18 different biological things that impact behavior. It includes genetics, it includes epigenetics, it includes the neonatal environment, it includes the uterine environment, and it goes right on up the line to what I’ve been training. And when you go through this list of 18 or 19, depends on a given day if I lump or split one of the ones. You go through that list; it should tell you behavior is incredibly complex. And don’t be surprised that it doesn’t work like that because things you may think aren’t relevant may be really relevant. So, so that’s one. Or that’s another is the behavior is super complex. Not so complex that we should just go, I give up. No, no, no. But give yourself a break. Learning is hard and there are other things going on in a dog’s brain as it’s learning.

[00:00:46] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:01:04] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:01:05] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Dr. Tim Lewis. Tim Lewis has a PhD in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin Madison and studies a wide range of animals from turtles to domestic dogs. His classes include the biology of dogs, neuroecology, ecology, natural history, and evolution.

He is a professor of biology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. An award-winning teacher, he gives talks about dog biology around the country. He recently published Dog Biology: From Gonads Through Guts to Ganglia available both in English and German. Three border collies allow him to reside in their home.

Y’all, I saw Tim speak at the Aggression in Dogs Conference in 2023 and pretty much as soon as he started talking, I texted Emily that we needed to get him on the podcast. He’s just 100 percent our people. And selfishly, I had so many questions that I wanted to ask him that I in turn asked Emily to ask in this interview.

In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Tim talk about finding the balance between save them all and breed determinism, retraining the amygdala, how we all have five brains, and teaching calm. All right, here it is. Today’s episode, Dr. Tim Lewis, The Biology of Dogs. Content warnings for this episode include behavioral euthanasia in shelters.

[00:02:48] Emily: Okay. Tell us your name, pronouns, and pets.

[00:02:53] Tim: Hi, my name’s Tim Lewis. Also Dr. Tim Lewis. My pronouns, he, him, his. And I have three dogs, Wish, who’s 15, Cricket, who’s 7, and Trooper, who’s 11 months and every bit the puppy.

[00:03:07] Emily: And I assume Trooper is also a border collie.

[00:03:10] Tim: All three of my dogs are Border Collies.

[00:03:12] Emily: So, so you’re living with a juvenile border collie right now, and my hat is off to you, sir.

[00:03:18] Tim: Can, I can top that, not that I want to top, Trooper, when he was 11 weeks old, was playing with Cricket. Who, when she landed, inadvertently broke his back leg. And, the vet says, “Oh, this is not really a problem. Just confine him to a kennel for six weeks. And take him out just to feed him, and, bathroom, and, everything will be fine.”

And I, I, like, raise my hand. Excuse me, Border Collie? Puppy? Either one of those. Kenneling for six weeks. No, that’s too much torture. We need something else. And it it was a lot of, a lot of puppy management. But yeah, he’s got all the inquisitiveness of a juvenile delinquent.

[00:04:00] Emily: Which is great. Which is great. He’s got lots of potential.

[00:04:04] Tim: He’s smart, he’s lovely, he knows how to wrap me around his little paw.

[00:04:08] Emily: They’re, they are pretty endearing for sure. Luckily for them. 

[00:04:12] Tim: What do you have? 

[00:04:12] Emily: I have two mixed breed dogs. Brie was a former feral and she’s a mix, so she’s like Aussie, Kelpie, Border Collie, Blue Heeler mix, then Copper is our so, 15-year-old, he’s also mixed. He’s predominantly border collie, but he’s also got some chow something else I can’t remember. And then I have two eclectus parrots, Bayu and Cah’ya. 

So, uh, tell us your story and how you got to where you are.

[00:04:41] Tim: No, this is a broad question. I’m a wildlife ecologist by training. I studied at the University of Wisconsin Madison. In the wildlife ecology department that Aldo Leopold founded. Aldo Leopold wrote the Sand County Almanac, hugely influential in the environmental movement into the wilderness ethics area.

And I got into that area because I just loved wildlife all the time, and loved biology, and did not want to deal with sick people. And I didn’t want to go to medical school. I had professors all the time as an undergrad say, why don’t you go to medical school? And I was like, I don’t like sick people. I don’t like, like people that much, let alone sick people. 

And so, I went to graduate school, studied wildlife, and went to a college in Ohio and taught there for 19 years studying turtles. In that time a couple years after we bought our house, a dog showed up just on his own. And we tried, we were like, we don’t need a dog, we don’t want a dog, and Beaker didn’t want to leave.

And it was, “He’s never coming in the house.” And by day two he was in the house, and by day three he was sleeping in the bed, and pretty much running the place. And we fell in love with, oh my gosh, having this dog in our life is fantastic. So, we thought he should get educated, started doing dog classes and down the way started rescuing, we, we dog sat a friend who had pair of border collies and we fell in love with border collies and we rescued a couple of border collies, three border collies from various situations. 

And had a really good time, and the third one of the, two, the third dog, the second border collie Grommet is really the one that converted me from a dog owner to a dog partner, dog lover. Fundamentally changed the importance from, “Yeah, you can be in my house. To, “What do you need? You need us to, you need a different yard? We can get a different yard. We, the car’s gotta be a little bigger to hold you? We can do that.” 

And then moved to Minnesota. I now teach at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. And, in trying to reach my students, my biology students who are non-majors, I’m always looking for tricks to reach them. I had been at a dog camp, I just broke the sequence, the dog camp comes before this dog class. I was at a dog camp, my wife was teaching at it, and I was talking to people, and they didn’t know anything about the biology of their animals. They were saying ridiculous things, utterly untrue things. And I said, “Hey, could I do a talk about dogs? Because these people don’t really know them.”

And the camp director was like, ” You can, and if you get 15 people, that’ll be fantastic. We’ll give you two slots. Go for it.”

So, I gave one talk and 15 people showed up. The camp had about 150 people. And that was on a Tuesday, and that Thursday when I went to give my second talk and I was hoping I’d get most of that 15 back, there were 50 people there. And I have been giving talks at that camp every year ever since, so now fast forward. So, I’m trying to reach my general science biology students. They’re there because there’s a requirement to take a science course, and I don’t want to just teach ’em stuff and then have him forget it. So, I’m looking for an angle to grab them, and people like dogs. So, I put together a course on dog biology that that covered all of the kind of intro bio you would do, but used, used biology.

My students wrote in the evaluations, “You tricked us into learning biology.” And I’m like, “100 percent. I picked something you were interested in.” That then, I was giving talks to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and those, it led to talks in a lot of different venues, and publisher Dogwise came up to me after one of my talks and they said, “A bunch of people are asking about your book.”

And I said, “I don’t have a book.” And they said, “That’s the point. You need to write one.” And I, at that session of, it was in Portland. And, friend, Sue Sternberg, and my wife and I all rented a house together, and I went, and I started the book, and I wrote then Biology of Dogs and that’s, was my attempt to try and get the general public to learn enough science to care, and enough science to understand why they can’t always get the answers they want.

And that’s led to. Talks like at the aggression conference for Mike Shikashio in Chicago in September, which has led to me meeting you. So, it’s been this trail that goes all the way back to Beaker who showed up at my house and just said, “I’m moving in, I’m going to change your life, and you don’t even know it.”

[00:09:05] Emily: Isn’t it amazing how you have these encounters with animals that at first, it’s, you’re like, “Oh, well, it’s just, you know, an encounter with an animal.” And then it changes the entire course of your life. It’s, it is interesting to me how profoundly impactful they can be for us.

I want to start by saying that I love your book. And I want to pull out one sentence in particular that had me internally, like, giving you a standing ovation, like, fist pumping and shout cheering like I was at a football game. And that sentence is, “Anyone with all the answers lacks all the evidence.” I really love the emphasis that you place on how complicated all of this is, and how little we actually know, and how nuanced the details are and so forth. And I felt like that’s a good place to start our conversation because that’s the context within this conversation must happen. Everything that we discussed today is going to have lots of asterisks, like, “According to our best current understanding.” Or, “This is the simplification of a complex topic for the purposes of accessibility.” Or, “Just generally speaking, but of course there are outliers.” So, there’s going to be a lot of that in the conversation that we’re going to have today. 

I also love that you brought up the communication disconnect that happens when people from different fields, areas of expertise, and operational paradigms come together, because the same word or phrase can mean very different things and have vastly different implications depending on which school of thought you come from. That alone is the source of so much unnecessary conflict and confusion. 

My favorite example of this is how many times I’ve watched a behavior analyst and an ethologist have a knockdown, drag out fight because they define the word function differently. Like function means very different things in those two fields. And the debates that happen as a result of that one word having different definitions, I’ve eaten a lot of popcorn watching those, those throwdowns, right? 

So, to that end, I would like to take a moment before we dive into the interview to describe our operational paradigm here at Pet Harmony to you, since you and I are new to each other. We really love thinking of animal welfare, animal care, and behavior change through the lens of enrichment, because when we looked at the history of enrichment and all of the research that has been done on it, there’s a lot of different definitions of that term, but the common thread through all of them is that we’re taking everything into account, the animal’s whole life experience, their environment, the people they interact with, the other animals that they interact with, their conspecifics, their health, their biology, their genetics, their learning history, all of that, we’re looking at the whole picture and assessing, what can we change to improve their welfare and reduce the risk of harm? and just give them a better quality of life. And by improving their physical, behavioral and emotional health, by meeting all of their needs, can improve their wellbeing, and their ability to operate in the world more successfully thrive, you know, live.

That is our operational paradigm. That’s how we are looking at what we do and life with animals. And for that reason, we are in radical agreement with you that discussing things like aggression, depression, fear, or a lack of attention plan, and by the way, for those of you who haven’t read the book, I’m pulling that list directly from Tim’s book, as if they were one thing that has one solution. And that’s, that is problematic because behavior is not simplistic and formulaic. And thinking of it like, for this behavior, use this protocol, and for this other behavior, use this other protocol, can cause a lot of problems. 

Not least of which is that we may not actually be meeting the needs of the learners in our care. Now that we’ve established all of that, this is my first question for you. In your chapter about biology and behavior, you have a beautiful discussion about the problem with either taking a, “we can save them all” stance, or taking a deterministic “because breed X, therefore behavior Y is inevitable” stance. How would you advise animal behavior professionals to find a middle ground between those two unhealthy extremes?

[00:13:27] Tim: Yeah, that’s a beautiful question. And a complex question. And so, this will be a simplified version with all those asterisks you talked about. The way I like to think about it, genetics sets up some basic tendencies and you, and think about it. Let’s go to a critter that doesn’t have much of a brain taken, a slug, a bumblebee whatever, something that’s got a very simple ganglion in that where there’s neurons come together, but there’s no evidence of any complex thought.

They can do complex behaviors. A bee can make a six-sided, hive and nobody teaches it. Nobody teaches it to count to six. Nobody teaches it how to make wax. It just does it. So, genetics can set up some pretty good complex behaviors that don’t require any thinking. The brain evolved over time, and got more complex to help deal with environmental situations that change more rapidly than genetics allows you to adapt for.

The adaptive advantage of a brain is you can learn over most of those genetics. And it takes effort to learn over it, so, the knowing breed generalities helps know where a dog’s default is going to be and knowing that a dog is really a wolf in domestic clothing helps set up the default of where it’s going to go unless it’s had learning and experiences to the contrary. And because of the brain, most, I am definitely not going to say all, most, behaviors can be changed, modified, redirected, at least a little bit on the trajectory, but it takes more effort. 

If I want to teach a dog that doesn’t herd to herd, the default is not there. I have to spend a lot more time teaching, and a herding dog’s going to default to certain behaviors, but I can teach them not to because they have a brain, and the further you take from those baselines, the more effort it’s going to be.

I would never go into a situation and say, “Well, the genetics mean this, that’s it, we’re done.” Or “It’s a blank slate, we can do whatever we want.” The genetics help set up defaults and the further your default is from your desired behavior, the heart, the more you’re going to have to work at consistently moving them away.

Learning the defaults is important. That’s why I wrote the book, Biology of Dogs, that I’m going to plug every once in a while. Because it helps set up some of those basics of, you’re a mammal. There are some basic things mammals do that we all do, and straying from them takes effort. But you can stray from them. You can teach a mammal to jump through fire, and it’s not an easy thing. So, the first lesson is learn your basics and learn what the defaults are, and then get really good at training away from when you, where you need to.

[00:16:06] Emily: Yeah I really love that. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask for more. I’m gonna, I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep pulling this thread because one of the most helpful adages or idioms I’ve learned, I don’t know if it’s an adage or an idiom, but that really perfectly encapsulated how I was taught to think about behavior change, came from Dr. Lisa Gunter. Shout out to her. She’s extraordinary. And she said this to me once and it has stuck in my brain forever, ” The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.” And I love that because it’s not saying behavior change is impossible, don’t even try if, their genetics have made them who they are.

What it’s saying is if a learner makes a mistake, and then later they learn things, but then they’re set up to make a mistake again, they’re going to make the same kind of mistake that they’ve made in the past, right?

That is a really important component to striking that balance between save them all and that determinism. Because we really have to think about, like, if the mistake that they make is dangerous, then it doesn’t matter how much training we do, we really have to think about whether or not it’s ethical to put that behavior, that tendency, that possibility out into the general public and expect people to be able to manage that well. 

Where it gets hairy, and where I would really love to hear your take on it, because this is a real struggle in shelters, right? To me, I feel like making euthanasia decisions for the wrong reasons, or just not believing in behavioral euthanasia at all, those are two, the two things that grieve me the most. How would you recommend people who have to make those decisions, which is, they’re hard decisions to make, it’s a sad conversation to have. It’s really hard for people to sort of make objective decisions. How would you, what would be your advice in terms of like, how do we decide whether this is an animal that we can put effort into and safely feel ethically good about putting out into the world versus like, “Hey, this is not a risk that we should be taking.”

[00:18:05] Tim: Okay, first I’m trained as a scientist and you’re not asking a science question here, and I’m definitely going to give you my opinion because I’ve thought about this and argued with it and debated about it. But there is not a science answer to right and wrong questions. What’s the right thing? What’s the wrong thing? I look at, from my lens, I’m a population ecologist. So, I tend to focus on the larger group, the, what’s going to help sustain this population in the long run. So, I look at dogs as living in, in homes and living in society and being able to go walk the streets in society, in our country, on a leash.

But, if those dogs are dangerous, or perceived as dangerous, the default is society is going to shut down options. And so, you’re not just looking at what’s the, what’s this individual dog, but you’re also looking at what is the impact on the next 500 dogs. So, if I let this dog who could be dangerous out, who I’ve reasoned, I have reasonable, reason to believe they’re dangerous.

Sue Sternberg would say every dog is potentially dangerous. We have to remember that, right? And I would say all our dogs are genetically wolves, and wolves have strong teeth, and biting power, and so we are in effect walking around with a weapon that we’re trying to make sure is as safe as possible.

If this dog is going to potentially kill someone, maim someone, some child maimed for life because you went, “I think they’re okay.” That’s not good. That’s bad, not just for that dog, not just for that child, but for all the other dogs in that community that face that. And so, I don’t, I tend, as a population ecologist, to look beyond the one life and say, but what about all the other lives that are going to be adversely impacted if I get this wrong?

And so, that means my default is, not releasing, unless it’s to a really well trained person, someone who really knows dogs, not releasing questionable dogs to people who are just going, I hope it’s going to be okay, it’s probably going to be okay, but if it’s not. That means I default more toward a, I default toward that bigger picture, that the how do we protect dogs and that dog human relationship that we’ve worked on for 10 to 40, 000 years and make that relationship work better for generations?

And I get the gut-wrenching horror of, but I love this dog. Great. You love it. Protect it if you can. Keeping it locked up in a kennel forever doesn’t seem like love. And turning it loose on somebody who can’t manage it, seems, frankly to me unethical, maybe criminal. So, my default is, find out about this person getting dogs. And if they’re new to dogs, they better get a bulletproof dog. They better get a dog that’s gonna make them love dogs for the rest of their lives. 

I’m gonna go on on this one because I had a, a dear student, absolutely one of my favorite students ever, she and her husband got a dog. And some of the warning signs were there hidden in the description from the rescue group that got ’em the dog. Like not good around other dogs, not always good around people.

And this is their first dog. And one night the, my student was asleep and in bed, and her husband came in, like at 2 in the morning from watching TV, and the dog turned and tore up his hand and his arm. And you look then and you’re like they’re wonderful people, but they should never have been given this dog that was known to have had problems, and the more we dug into it, the more. So, we helped them find another dog, find a bulletproof dog. That’s just so sociable, so loves people, and they have a fantastic experience and now they’re zealots for the importance of a dog human relationship. And that matters and that one dog could have ruined a lifetime of future dogs for them, and their friends, and whoever else they talk to.

So, the shorter version of that long one is I default to what’s the larger impact on the dog human society and relationship and say we’ve got to be, we’ve got to be really careful which dogs go where and we’re not careful enough. That wherever the, wherever that balance point is of don’t kill, you can’t don’t kill them all, don’t kill any, don’t, don’t save any in the shelter, don’t put it, put them all out. We’ve got to move the dial to being more conservative. We’re doing a lot of damage out there.

[00:22:35] Emily: I agree. I mean, and I recognize that what I’m about to say is a selection bias, because we all have selection biases and nobody sees the whole picture, but I’ve been in shelters since 1990. Since I was a wee bab and I have watched public opinion of shelter animals shift. And it, originally it looked like, lot of people didn’t think about shelter dogs, they were when people thought about getting a dog, they think about buying a puppy from a breeder, any old breeder, right? The newspaper had ads. 

And then saw a shift as the no kill movement gained some traction. People started embracing the public, started bracing this kind of adopt, don’t shop rhetoric. And then it became very, fashionable for lack of a better word to adopt from shelters. And I have watched as we continue to put dangerous dogs out into the world, or even if they’re not dangerous, dogs who have an incredibly difficult time adapting to the human world to urban environments, right?

Pulling dogs from other countries, pulling dogs from, feral populations and kind of trying to impose the city life on these animals who have no, no awareness of what that life should look like or could look like.

[00:23:45] Tim: Or even dogs who have large activity needs, right? I got Border Collies. You can’t put a Border Collie, you can put them in an urban environment if you have a lot of opportunities available to you, but under most, and it’s certainly not a starter dog. 

[00:23:58] Emily: Or if you get a border collie from a from a like casual breeder who their lineage is really just about looking like a border collie and they haven’t really bred those breed tendencies, I’ve seen those types of border collies do well even in apartments, right? That’s not what people think of when they think of a border collie, right? They don’t think of the casual bred, morphology only type of border collies, right?

[00:24:20] Tim: But a good point, Emily, really good point. Breed doesn’t control everything and, and to look at any breed and just say, this is one where I also, I get into arguments with some other people. I don’t look at any breed out there and say that breed doesn’t belong, but individuals of that breed don’t belong.

I am not in the, let’s ban this breed, let’s ban that breed, let’s promote this breed. Let’s look at the individual dogs, let’s assess the dogs, and assess the families they’re going to and be willing to say, this isn’t a good pairing.

[00:24:51] Emily: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what I’ve seen happen over the past 20 years or so. I mean, again, my selection bias, I work in this field, so I’m more likely to see when it goes wrong than when it goes right, and I acknowledge that. And yet, what I’m seeing is public opinion shifting again, from it being fashionable to adopt dogs to, you know, I don’t have the time, money, and heart, heart grief, heartache ability to take a shelter dog because they have so many behavior problems. And that is a direct result of this sort of, put every dog, every dog deserves a home. It’s not about deserving. It’s, yes, every animal deserves a high quality of life. And just because something is sad doesn’t mean that it’s bad or wrong. And we can’t, sometimes we just can’t give these animals the quality of life that they deserve, that they should have. 

[00:25:37] Tim: Yeah. And I fully respect the people who, I, this is a hard line. Dogs are the greatest thing in the world. I will not kill the dog. I will not. I understand that. But the corollary of that is not release every dog out to every home that comes along. And there are some dogs that absolutely shouldn’t be re-released. And now you got to ask the tough question, which is worse, keeping them confined for the rest of their lives, or I mean, so it’s, it’s, it’s two bad choices. And it’s a horrible decision to have to make but being confined for a dog that’s bred to run, cuddle with people, and to spend its life behind bars is also not, that’s not a that’s not a very good answer.

[00:26:23] Emily: You’re preaching to the choir. I mean, I, yeah, that’s why we’re having this conversation, right? I agree with you. And I think, and I’m so sympathetic to the shelter workers who are pouring their heart out on social media being like, why won’t you come into all these animals? Like the shelters are overflowing. We can’t take any more. And I’m so sympathetic to that. And I know that it’s no, no individual caused this problem, right? And yet some point we have to recognize that the times that we made the decision to try to save this one dog by, by letting it out into the world impacted the ability for so many other dogs in the future to have a home because that dog then soured the perspective that people have on shelter dogs, and what they are like, and how safe is it to buy or adopt a dog from a shelter. And you and I both know. that you can buy a dog from a breeder and have the same outcome, 

[00:27:14] Tim: And shelter work, I have yet to meet a shelter worker who I was not impressed with and blown away by their love of dogs. This is not about shelters; this isn’t about where you get your dog. It’s that there are some dogs out there that are dangerous, or problematic in a very significant way.

And I have seen, I’ve seen how those have wrecked families and wrecked lives. And it’s a hard decision to come out, but it’s not, it’s definitely not, I don’t think any, for anybody, this is an easy decision. I don’t think for anybody, they’re just like, ah, I don’t kill them. It’s just dogs. We’re all in this cause we love dogs. We recognize how special they are and there’s nobody out there who says, “Oh, it’s only a dog. Kill it.” 

It’s not that and it’s not, “Oh I don’t recognize the hardship that this could cause out there.” I mean, this is a real struggle that real people wrestle with, but, I’ve, I’ve gotten in discussions with behaviorists who will say, “Well, there is no dog that the right trainer can’t fix.” And I’m like, “That’s great, but we can’t, even if I accepted the position, and I don’t, but even if I accepted it, getting this dog to the right trainer without injuring three other trainers along the way to find the right trainer, or getting if this, if there’s one magical trainer who can train absolutely every horrible dog, but there’s more horrible dogs than there are time for that person, that doesn’t do it either. There’s still a finite resource out there.” And so, in theory, actually, biologically, it’s unlikely, and I, and if we get to, if we get to the, the discussion on the amygdala, I’ll come back to that what the evidence seems to be on that.

[00:28:49] Emily: Yeah, I don’t know very many people who wouldn’t make the argument that it’s heartbreaking. I’ve been in shelters and clinics since 1990, so we’re going on my 20, 34th year now.

I can count. I can totally do basic math. It’s fine. I started when I was 11, volunteering in a shelter, and then a few months later, one of the vets who worked at the shelter, let me volunteer at his vet clinic. So, I’ve been doing this since 1990, which means that I have been involved in thousands of euthanasias. There has never been a time when I haven’t cried during euthanasia. And most of the time sobbing. And it is absolutely heartbreaking.

I have stood by every decision that we’ve ever made in terms of euthanasia, both in clinics, and in the shelters, and in the sanctuaries, and in the aviaries, and in the stable, and in the wildlife rehab everywhere that I’ve been present for euthanasias, it has been the right decision, and it has been heartbreaking.

And I have never, I have never habituated to that surrendering of a life, right? So, it is, so, without a doubt, this is a hard conversation, it’s a hard decision, and also, like you, I want to look at long term impact, not what feels more comforting to me in this moment with this animal.

[00:30:01] Tim: And I want the argument to be, because there’s this debate will continue and the debate will continue about individual dogs and the broader one, but what we have to be able to do is to respect each other and listen and see where people are coming from. Too often we move, I’ve seen plenty of friends who’ve had their lives threatened simply because of their position on this topic. 

And this makes no sense to me that I’m, I would be okay to threaten you, I’d be okay to damage you, and I wouldn’t do it over here. And I, people are like, well, this is an innocent dog, and you made a choice. No, that threatens it, threats of violence or intimidation, they don’t belong in a healthy communities discussions about how we deal with creatures we love, the humans and then the really important ones, the dogs.

And the priority is there. Dogs first, but they’re living with people. And we have to recognize that this long-term relationship with dogs has not always been pretty, will not always be pretty. But let’s respect each other as we’re debating of it.

[00:31:02] Emily: I love humans. And also, humanity breaks my heart on a regular basis, but I delight in learners regardless of their species.

I agree with you that like, it is a really hard conversation to have and I will be in therapy for years because of the way I have been treated in these environments where these discussions happen. And I don’t think that, I mean, we’re all already dealing with secondary traumatic stress disorder from working with animals in general you know, taking on the trauma taking care of animals and it’s like, okay, threatening each other and getting up each other’s face and gaslighting each other is not the way to move forward, but I do think that this is a good opportunity to segue right into that amygdala conversation. 

[00:31:44] Tim: Cause you’ve already done the hardest question you could possibly throw at me, so after this, everything easy. 

[00:31:49] Emily: It’s all downhill from here, right? We just started off our relationship with the most difficult, sad conversation. Nice to meet you, Tim. I’m going to put you in a really awkward position and make you talk about something that’s really sad and hard. But now we’re moving on to easier topics. And I think this one is really relevant, which is at the Aggression in Dogs Conference, you talked about retraining the amygdala and that was really tantalizing.

So of course, I want to know more. How can we retrain an amygdala? What does that look like? And especially maybe we could add. Like, how do we think about that? How do we add that to the conversation that we just had? 

[00:32:25] Tim: Okay, so, I’m gonna give a little background on the amygdala, and I’m gonna I want to use the phrase, retrain the amygdala, but we need to recognize, this is one of those caveat things with asterisks and everything, that no part of the brain works in complete isolation. So, you have a pair of amygdala, we’re going to talk about retraining them, but we frankly don’t even know for sure, are you retraining, the amygdala? Are you retraining something, some other part that so directly impacts on it? So, I’m gonna let the neuroscientists play around with that. The amygdala as a pair of structures pair of almond shaped and size structures in your brain. Basically, information is coming in to your body all the time.

Emily, while you’re sitting there, you either do or don’t have shoes on. And now that I mention it, you can feel your feet, but you were ignoring that. You’re, the nerves were firing, you, constantly sending the signal, either the shoes are here, the shoes are not. But your brain is like, not important, and not important.

And then there’s some stuff that’s interesting, and your prefrontal cortex is pondering it, so you’re still got part of your brain pondering euthanasia, and the challenges that it creates, and that’s bouncing around in your brain. It’ll bounce around in your brain for years. The most sensory inputs, smell, hearing, for primates, sight’s the big one coming, in for dogs, it seems to be as much older as it is sight. But there’s a part of your brain that’s just checking for danger, just watching for danger. 

And evolutionarily that’s real important. If you see danger where it doesn’t exist, He wasted a little energy. If you fail to see danger where it existed, you’re dead and that’s not selected for. So, you’ve got these two structures in your brain that are basically looking for warning flags. 

I smell smoke. Boom. The amygdala is like, that’s a big one. And there’s some debate about whether we just are hardwired into smoke being something that we hypersensitize to, or if we learn it very quickly. But either way, once the, once that amygdala gets a scary thing that it, I was going to say perceive, an amygdala doesn’t really perceive, but registers as dangerous, you short circuit. The prefrontal cortex is out. The prefrontal cortex takes time. The amygdala acts in a tenth of a second, and the prefrontal cortex takes close to a full second before it has a chance to work with things. 

So right away, the amygdala jumps in and is like, holy, I can’t say that word, holy rats. I’ve got to, I’ve got to do something. I, I, and that response, that hard, that hardwired response, for a wolf is either quickly assess, get the heck out of there or attack. Fight or flight. And so, the amygdala basically kicks you into fight or flight. Now, the amygdala doesn’t then run the structure, you’ve got your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems wrestling with each other, and you’ve got your endocrines that pump chemicals in, cortisol is getting pumped in, adrenaline is getting pumped in, all of those come into play, and they start a cascade of responses.

And because the amygdala said, fight or flight, those cascaded responses are happening, and you go to default behaviors and if somebody shot a gun toward me, my default behavior would probably include incontinence and falling to the ground as a quivering mass. And you can take a person like me, and you can retrain their amygdala response over time so that I would stand there and shoot back.

That’s what we do in military training. And it’s taking average people, or average, and we’re going to talk dogs in just a second. Take average people and retrain their amygdala to not go into the flight side or the collapse into a quivering mass of jelly, but rather ignore it, and respond. And that’s called basic training. And the basic training that we do with humans is about 8 weeks and then continued follow on for the entire rest of the profession. They’re already alert, but we train them to respond to those tense situations in a less self-preserving way.

We train amygdalas in a super realistic two-to-three-month immersion experience. That’s what it takes to retrain an amygdala. And in the military, about 10 12 percent fail out anyway. That seems to be the untrainable number. So, there is, by all evidence, that even in the best trained situations, where people have studied and worked hard to retrain that amygdala response, there’s, for whatever reason, 10, 12 percent washout can’t be retrained.

[00:36:50] Tim: So, anyone who says every dog can be retrained, my first response is probably not 12%. That’s the best evidence we have so far. Some, nobody studied that exact washout number to look as the failure to train the amygdala, but the best evidence right now is 10 to 12%. You’re just not going to reach no matter what you do.

Okay. What do you do about them? And then you would have to have this totally immersive experience for two to three months to retrain, and then continue that training for the rest of the life. So, could I retrain a dog that was aggressive toward humans to not attack humans? My answer is, 10 to 12%? Probably not.

Of the remaining 90, 88 to 90%, you would need this immersive experience that was very realistic to what the dog’s going to encounter the whole time, and then the dog’s going to have to have regular follow-on training to keep that fresh for the rest of their life. Would they, would it work? I actually think it would.

Nobody’s tried it to the best of my knowledge. But the real problem is, okay, great, I’ve retrained a dog away from it. Now, we’re going to go do the experiment on the public to see if it worked. I’m not ready for that ethical problem because if it doesn’t work, now I’ve just turned those same dangerous dogs out into the public again. But it would take that much. It’s wired, but the brain is pretty malleable, but it would take that much.

[00:38:09] Emily: I have so many follow up questions that kind of go off in different directions, so I’m just going to pick one and run with it first.

I need to know how this affects the startle response, and here’s why I’m asking. We’ve been taught by the veterinary behaviorists that we work with you can’t change a startle response, and especially this becomes relevant when a dog wakes up from sleep. Like if somebody startles them, or touches them when they’re asleep, they wake up and their first reaction is to bite. And so, we’ve really just focused on managing those types of situations. So, is the startle response related to the amygdala, is it a totally different thing? And can you in fact retrain startle responses since you can sometimes retrain the amygdala?

[00:38:50] Tim: Short answer is, I don’t know. It, no, it’s somebody, nobody’s done, to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s done a lot of work on that. And when I say a lot of work, there’s got to be more than one study, and we can talk about that. The mammalian brain evolved with the function of dealing with a changing environment to get over other responses, right?

Sometimes it’s just the hardwired response doesn’t work. The, we train people in the military to have a startle response that doesn’t kill anyone around them but focuses on whatever challenges might be in front of them. And then we turn them without undoing it, we turn them back out in society, and many of them eventually lose that same trained startle response.

So, could it be trained away? I would expect, yeah, I expect that except, based on the fringe evidence of the failure rate at boot camps, that there’s going to be some percent you could not change away, but it would take an enormous amount of training, nonstop, repeated over and over. 

With and I’m not enough I’m a biologist, I’m not a trainer, so I don’t know, it’d be like, hey, somebody woke up, you give them something positive, some nice treat, and then the shorter their startle, you give them more treat. I have no idea how you would do that kind of a thing. But the important point is, could you do it with a hundred percent consistency? And that’s what keeps coming back to training, right? If I can teach my dog to catch a ball, and 95 percent of the time he catches the ball and 5 percent he doesn’t, who cares about 5%?

Who cares if it’s 30 percent he drops, we’re just throwing a ball anyway. A startle response that’s a bite, you don’t get a lot of chances to train that. And you don’t get a lot of well, was close. 90 percent of the time, it was okay. It’s got to be rock solid 100 percent and you can never, it’s a logical impossibility. You can never be a hundred percent sure of something like that. So could you, I think theoretically, it’s a biological reality. Is it a practical, trainable reality? I don’t think so. And that’s the tough part about, about a lot of aggression and biology discussion. Is what might be biologically possible in really controlled circumstances realistically might never be achievable, even if it was theoretically possible. And I think a startle response like that would be so hard to train, and would be so dangerous in the process that it probably is not where we should be putting a whole lot of time and energy. 

And that’s the other thing is time and money is finite. I’ve yet to meet a shelter or a person. I don’t run in the circles where I meet people with so much money they don’t know what to do with it. You’d have to say, well, this one dog getting so much intense training with a small percent that they could still fail afterward, and it could be a small child that they failed with.

[00:41:39] Emily: Allie and I met at a sanctuary that, where we both worked, over 400 dogs, the majority of the population of which had serious maladaptive behaviors. That was an extraordinary experience in teaching me what is possible. Because what we were able to accomplish there, what is possible because our full-time job was working with these animals with really serious and complex behavior issues. What we were able to accomplish with these animals was really astonishing to me that the results we were able to get.

And also, it taught me a very clear and stark lesson about the difference between can and should. Because like, yeah, yes, in this very controlled environment where you have a massive staff of people who are working full time to care for these animals, it is possible to do extraordinary things. And also, that is in no way implementable in the real world with people who are not trained to do this, and it’s not their full time job and all of that.

[00:42:40] Tim: Yeah, that’s 100 percent in agreement with what I was trying to say. That even if you could do this, do this proper boot camp and do it all right, even if you could, transferring that to a real-world situation is just hard to imagine.

[00:42:53] Emily: You’re starting to maybe understand why our book is called Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and this podcast is called Enrichment for the Real World, because basically what we’re talking about is central to, to our operational paradigm, difference between can and should.

[00:43:08] Tim: Right. And well, in, in 40 million dogs, there’s going to be one who genetically can do, can fly. Bad example, cause they’re not going to fly. Um, but you know, some extreme thing and that doesn’t say, that doesn’t translate to, therefore every dog has the potential to do that.

And therefore, we, you find the real world with the real-world handlers rather than the ones who are trained to defend themselves. You work in a shelter. You’re trained to defend yourself. You know how to read the dogs better. You know how to defend yourself better. It’s a very controlled environment and that’s not the real world for most dogs or most people.

[00:43:45] Emily: A second question about the amygdala thing. Typical way that I approach working with an animal who is reactive and typically like defaults to a fight response, conflict seeking, whatever you want to call it. Typically, I like to teach that animal, escape first like you can move away from distressing things, you don’t have to move towards it. So, teach them that like, hey, escape as an option. And then we teach all right, now you can coexist in a space with this thing and good things happen. And then, we can teach like, “Hey, how do you feel about investigating? How do you feel about checking it out and maybe realizing that the boogeyman is not actually a boogeyman after all?” And obviously that’s not going to be advisable in every situation, but teaching the animal how to make those decisions. That process that I typically do, although again, behavior is a study of one and every animal is different, and sometimes that’s not the approach I take, but my kind of my go to process, we’re typically teaching those skills, before the dog is in that fight, flight, freeze mode. We’re typically teaching it when the prefrontal cortex is still on the clock. So, here’s the part that I’ve always wondered about.

[00:44:51] Tim: Wait. How long does it take you to teach that kind of flight seeking instead of conflict seeking?

[00:44:57] Emily: On average they can learn it on cue in under a month to get them to the point where they, it’s totally fluent and they don’t need a cue, its default, well, the environment is the cue. It’s a default response, whether or not their handler’s presence can take anywhere from, I think four months is the soonest I’ve seen that happen upwards of a year sometimes for it to be like really solid default response, regardless of their handler being present.

[00:45:24] Tim: So, you just answered the amygdala retraining question. 

[00:45:27] Emily: Okay. So, I was going to ask, like, so here’s why I’m not, here’s why I wasn’t clear about the amygdala thing. Because we’re not teaching it when they’re in that fight, flight, and freeze mode. We’re teaching it sub threshold, for lack of a better term, right? 

[00:45:42] Tim: Sure, and in military training they don’t take you to the fight or flight mode and teach you. They get you closer and closer it. 

[00:45:50] Emily: So that was my question. Is, is it that we’re teaching them how to do it? Is that an example of retraining the amygdala? Or is it just that we’re teaching them to never get to that fight, flight, and freeze mode? 

[00:46:00] Tim: So, that remember when I started and I said, well, I’m not sure if we’re really training the amygdala or the other things associated around it or that are interplaying with it because it’s probably, the amygdala is not some guy sitting there in the brain going checklist, Oh, this hit three out of four, let’s pull the alarm because it’s gonna have other parts of the brain. The brain’s real, here’s a surprise. One, the brain is really complex. Two, there’s really five of them. So, and at some point we should talk about that, the 

[00:46:27] Emily: I do want to hear more about that.

[00:46:28] Tim: Okay. So, what you’re doing is you are reframing in the brain what are the criteria to trigger the amygdala? And I don’t know if that’s happening in the amygdala or it’s happening in parts that are processing things before, they get to the amygdala.

But you’re doing exactly what I’m describing, and you now have a larger sample size that moves outside the military, which I’m now going to be throwing in when I talk about it instead of just going, well, in the military, they do this. I do think that’s exactly what you’re doing is you’re, you’re getting the brain to reframe, the brains. Hold, stop. Let’s hold the brain right now. You’re getting the brain to reframe the situation, so it doesn’t trigger. Because once that amygdala is triggered, so. There, there’s two parts, right?

So, it’s a really interesting question, Emily. Are you retraining everything to keep the amygdala from triggering, or are you retraining the amygdala once it triggers? And that’s a fascinating question. I haven’t really thought of that way. I’m going to check into that. Yeah, because that’s a, it’s a really good question. Certainly, if amygdala from triggering rather than retraining the amygdala. You won, so it doesn’t matter. But it’s a fascinating biological question if you’re retraining the output from the amygdala, or you’re retraining the input to the amygdala.

[00:47:40] Emily: Right, this is not a question that needs to be answered in order for people to successfully go out there and help their dogs. 

[00:47:46] Tim: The biologist wants to know, but,

[00:47:48] Emily: The biologist and the nerd. Who’s not a biologist, but just a nerd. Want to know actually happening. Are we retraining the amygdala? Are we just teaching the animal that these things aren’t these like survival situations that they thought that they were? I would, I’m going to hold you to that. I want to follow up with you. 

[00:48:04] Tim: Yeah, no, this you’ve got me intrigued, so.

[00:48:06] Emily: Sweet. All right. Awesome. All right. So really, I think those were my two biggest questions about the amygdala. So, let’s talk about those five brains that we’ve all got.

[00:48:14] Tim: Alright, so, you get most biologists into a room, or neuroscientists into a room, and most still are referring to the brain. And it’s certainly the paradigm we’re operating under. But let me offer you some interesting information that I think, I think it’s pretty clear you’ve got more than one brain going on.

Let’s start with you ever found yourself eating something after you said I shouldn’t eat that? Did anybody eat or drink anything after saying, I shouldn’t eat or drink it?

We do it all the time. Why does this happen? In your mesenteries of your intestines, you’ve got enough ganglia that, in a human, when put together, are the size of a cat brain. And it’s a distributed network, and until we had computers and could understand how distributed networks worked, we never thought of that acting as a collective. But that would be the first brain that would evolve. And a lot of your neurotransmitters that are doing the work in your singular cranial cavity up there, a lot of those newer transmitters are actually produced in the gut. And they’re produced in the, with those neurons that are making the ganglia.

So, you have, clear evidence is, you have, I think clear, this is, you have a gastric brain. And that would be the first brain that evolved, and it controls things like eating, and if an organism doesn’t eat, it doesn’t live for another day. And so, you, it makes sense that would evolve first. And that’s not the brain that’s to respond to the environment. That’s the brain that’s like, feed me. And the reward drugs, like dopamine are going to be produced there because you’re driving the organism to do it. 

Now let’s jump up to the cranial cavity. You’ve got, you’ve got two hemispheres in your, in the cerebral cortex, and we know that if you separate them they’re connected by something called the corpus callosum, a big band of material that connects the two used to be, maybe it still is, I don’t know, a treatment for epilepsy, was to cut that corpus callosum, to cut, to sever the connection between the two hemispheres.

And we know from those situations that there are certain things like you put headphones on somebody with a severed corpus callosum, and have words go into the right ear which will allow them to control the left side of the body because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, but they can’t do anything to the other side.

You make the sound go in the other ear, and they can move that other side. Those two are operating independently. We know that things like horses can sleep with one hemisphere asleep, but the other cerebral hemisphere awake, they’re doing different stuff. So, the data on like, “Oh, I’m right brained, I’m artistic and Oh, I’m left brained I’m analytic.”

That’s crap. With one study of not very convincing, nothing following up. There is it, there are distinctions on the different side, language, Broca’s regions on one side, not on the other, if I recall correctly, it’s the left side. You have some things that have developed, so one side’s doing, and you favor one side versus the other, so that they’re not perfectly symmetrical, and they’re communicating through that corpus callosum.

Sever that baby, they’re doing their own thing, they don’t cease to exist, they’re just doing their own thing. So, there are two that are coordinating, but they’re not doing the same thing. 

You have your cerebellum, which is handling all of your muscular type coordination activities. You’re driving down the road, you’re, you walk, let’s just take a walk. You’re walking your dog. Your center of gravity is three feet up, four feet up, depending on how tall you are, and how you’re built. Your dog’s center of gravity is twelve inches off the ground. They’ve got four legs on the ground when they’re walking, there’s three legs always on the ground, there’s a tripod, always on the ground, super stable. If you’re walking, one foot is up most of the time, not very stable. Your brain is processing a ton of positional awareness, proprioception kinds of things compensating, I reach my arm out, I don’t just fall over even though I threw the center of balance off. It compensates all this is going on. You are not thinking about it at all.

You play ball, and somebody tosses a ball. That you played frisbee with your dog, and your dog, you’re throwing motion, you’re not thinking I have to do this. And if you do, your throat is going to go off. That’s the cerebral cortex doing, and is it coordinating with the rest of the brains? Yeah, these are all these are coordinating together, but it’s doing its own thing and like you’re driving down the road. 

You ever driven down the road, gone an hour, talking to Allie maybe and then discovered how did we get here? You didn’t go off the road. You didn’t hit anybody. Nobody hit you because that’s not the part of the brain that was running it anyway. So, you got your cerebral cortex. 

And then you’ve got your midbrain. It’s doing all the stuff like attractiveness, limbic, emotion, love. It’s doing the parts like, I’m, I gotta keep my heart beating. I wanna breathe. Oh, I can hold my breath. So, I can override it. But it’s just handling all these parts, and it’s sending signals. And evolutionarily that was probably the second brain to come around because now you gotta keep the basic systems going. Gotta keep the heart pumping. Gotta keep the breaths going. And so, you have these, they’re not centers of activity, they’re actually structurally distinctive units that communicate with each other, and they have different priorities. 

And so, we like to talk about if I have problem X in a dog and I do behavior Y, or I have behavior X that I want to change and I do training Y, I get it. You’re messing with five brains with different agendas, and then they all impact the endocrine system. So, it’s way messier. And you can see that. You can see it yourself. You can see it when you’re driving. You can see it when you’re eating, when you didn’t want to be eating and you weren’t thinking about it or drinking when you didn’t want to be drinking or whatever.

They’re all doing different things. And so, you can’t, you gotta be thinking as a trainer, you gotta be thinking, man, am I dealing with, am I dealing with the gastric, food drive a thing? Am I dealing with something that’s more motor, you know, going on in the cerebrum, or the cerebellum? Is this something the dog is processing and thinking more about, and it’s more in the cerebrum? Your target for different brains is different kinds of training. And thinking, what am I trying to do, is going to lead to different techniques.

[00:54:00] Emily: I love that. Thank you for that explanation because it’s so relevant. I think one of the things that I love seeing in our profession, and that Pet Harmony is a part of that movement for change, is thinking about behavior as being more complex than only the antecedents and the consequences.

That’s not to say that they’re not important. That’s not to say that they don’t play a massive role, but there are other things going on that impact behavior, and we need to be aware of them and be incorporating them into how we’re looking at our learners and how we’re, the decisions we’re making about how we work with them, right?

[00:54:38] Tim: I’m gonna jump in with an example on that. While you’ve got your brain doing whatever it is it’s doing, you’ve got a, the endocrine system as part of the biology students are always like, ah, that’s not really important. I don’t really need to learn about that. And it turns out you really do. 

So, you’ve got the, the parasympathetic system, which is, is a is handling, I’m getting fired up.” I’ve got the flight, the fight, flight kind of side. And the chemicals that” it’s putting, that’s pumping in, things like adrenaline and cortisol, and those have half-lives that range in the 30 minutes to a couple hours, meaning that there’s measurable amounts of those in your bloodstream, out four to 12 hours, cortisol even longer measurable. Biologically significant amounts are hard to just say it’s not, so I can’t go well after 12 hours. It doesn’t matter. We just know there’s a residual amount. So, it’s not just the antecedent to this event, but what happened 30 minutes ago, and what was, what did that do to my chemistry, which now makes the framing of the current antecedent different, right? 

So, it’s we forget this whole chemical milieu that was set up to have us aroused and aware that, that reframes all the data that’s coming in right now. So, this same a series of events could have been very benign, but because my elevated cortisol levels and my elevated adrenal levels from, what happened a while ago, really are what’s driving this. So, there’s a phrase, I wish I could remember who said it, it’s not mine, but it’s, the bite that happened today started last night.

[00:56:14] Emily: Yeah. I mean, I, okay, so I’m going to, not really Play Devil’s advocate, but I am going to, say out loud the response that I’m hearing in my head from my mentors who are behavior analysts. And that is that behavior analysis still incorporates or includes things that are called distant antecedents. So, it’s not just looking at the thing right beforehand, and I acknowledge that, and I think it’s important. Where I think you’re, you’re. um, example has a lot of relevance is talking to other professionals and trainers, and certainly have made this mistake myself. So, I’m not speaking from on high, right?

Like, I think most, if not all of us go through this phase where we’re working with an animal in a stressful situation. And we’re providing abundant reinforcement, and we do observe that the consequences we’re delivering are positively reinforcing because it is increasing the behavior. And yet, the animal also continues to get more and more stressed out until they get to a point that they can’t do it anymore. And I’ve had so many conversations with behavior professionals, they’re like, “I don’t understand. Like I’m positively reinforcing the dog and the dog is learning the skill. And yet they still like have this total meltdown about 30 minutes in.” 

It’s like, “Well, yes, because consequences aren’t the only thing at play.” And even though that animal is getting. really good experiences from that, like they’re doing the behavior that you’re asking for and they’re getting something good out of it. Are also by, by virtue of being continuously exposed to the stressor, it doesn’t matter how many successful trials they have, they are still continuing to get more and more distressed. And so, that’s one thing that. I had to learn as one additional layer, one of many additional layers, is to think about what is the net impact physiologically on this animal? Not just how appetitive are the consequences, and how successful are they at increasing this behavior, but what is the animal’s physiological reality right now?

And so, we have to have these really short sessions in the presence of stressors because by virtue of being in the presence of stressors, we are introducing them to distress, right?

[00:58:21] Tim: Absolutely agree. And the, what the stressors can be doing in the background, for example, is increasing cortisol that’s coming out to the point where it’s no longer controllable. You get a meltdown because that stressor, in the presence of this stress, my body is producing cortisol. And I’m still focused on you, and I’m learning from you, and I’m focused on you, and my cortisol levels are going up and up. And because that stressor, the noise, the sound, the association, whatever is still going on, cortisol levels are going up, and they reach a point where you can’t focus anymore. Now is your meltdown. You’ve been getting good responses from me, my behavior is really good, but if the cortisol level, and I’m using cortisol, there’s more than just cortisol. It’s a simpler way to think about it. The, as that parasympathetic system is getting more and more aroused, it reaches a I was about to use the word threshold, and I hate the word threshold because everybody uses it different ways, and I don’t want to say it. It reaches a point of no return, it’s a positive feedback loop and it reaches the point in a positive feedback loop where a different set of responses occur that are not always helpful. 

[00:59:26] Emily: All right, do you have a replacement word for threshold? Or should we just say point of no return?

[00:59:30] Tim: God, that’s a really good question. Because it’s, it is a physiological, not a psychological, it’s a physiological threshold. The problem is, this is one of those we could debate, threshold doesn’t mean this, doesn’t mean this. The concept is you pass, in a positive feedback loop, I’m going to use frustration.

I tell you, I interrupt you, you get frustrated. I interrupt you some more, you get a little more frustrated. I just interrupt you, you get a little more frustrated. And at this point we can still back down. I can go, “I’m so sorry, Emily, I keep interrupting you”. And your frustration level hopefully comes down.

But if I keep doing this and you’re like, “that is not Listening.” And you blow. And you’re like, ” You I, I,”. You know, there’s ex- explitives that I’m not going to be able to say on the show. You dump them out and it’s like, “You don’t even listen, you don’t even care.” This is how fights occur in relationships, right?

And you just reach that point of no return where you can’t calm it back. You have to go through the negative actions and then that settles it back. On a more positive side that’s often used in sexual arousal examples where a little more arousal, a little more arousal, a little more arousal, now we’ve reached the point that there’s only one way out of this. And those are positive feedback loops. The negative feedback loops are where you can keep coming back centered where the more of the stimulus, the more you get centered back.

Yeah, I’m not opposed to the word threshold. I know I’ve had this discussion with a couple of friends a lot. And I, and threshold is the word I want, but the problem is the community uses it differently. And so, then it’s up to me to come up with another word that’s as good as threshold, and I don’t have one. But just recognize that the way behaviorists use it and the way I’m using it there are in now are similar but not the same.

[01:01:09] Emily: Now, we’re going to switch gears and talk about the opposite of amygdala freaking out, you also speak about teaching calm, and there are a lot of relaxation protocols out there and I’ve used many of them to greater or lesser effect. And there are certainly ways to teach an animal to have like, like an off switch or like, uh, you know, slow your roll signal. But I was curious if you consider those example of examples of teaching calm, and how do you teach calm? And what behaviors or body language signals are you looking for to assess when calmness has been achieved?

[01:01:42] Tim: I don’t teach calm. I am not a professional dog trainer. I’m a biologist. I do have my own dogs and what we do, it, there’s nothing really profound there as we practice getting them fired up and aroused up, whether it’s we’re playing Frisbee, or we’re tugging on a toy, or whatever, and then just we’re stopped. And you settle. And you get rewarded for settling. And in the stopping is what gets rewarded.

Then what gets rewarded, is, okay, now you’ve you’re doing more calming behaviors, which I’ll list out in a second. And you keep rewarding that. And the, there’s one good study out and I don’t think I have it at my fingertips. That, maybe I do. Let me just see. Do I have it? I do. The Role of Early Life Stress in HPA Axis and Anxiety. So HPA is the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal gland kind of connection that is used a lot in calming behavior. So, the role of early life stress in HPA axis and anxiety, it came out of Advanced Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2020. 

And what they found was that exposure to mild or moderate stressors early in life, so puppy stages, makes it easier to control hypothalamus pituitary adrenal gland complex to bring it back down.

So, dogs that practice this as a puppy learn it better than dogs that learn it later. So, there is some age benefit to doing that training early. And that extreme or prolonged stresses induce a hyperreactive HPA axis. So, this is where the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal gland fires off all the time and can contribute to lifelong vulnerability to stresses.

So, it’s teaching it young helps a dog calm in those situations and later if you don’t, it actually works the opposite direction and builds more and more stress in their life. So, how do I train it? I’m very simplistic in my training. If it gets more complex than that, my wife’s a dog trainer, my friends are dog trainers, I go to them and I have them say, in fact, I have, just as a person can’t be their own coach, I have my go to, and whenever I get stuck or whenever my wife gets stuck, we call her up on the phone and boom. And you need that go to person who can just look at it a little more objectively and say, “Hey, here’s what’s going on.”

But this teaching calm is something you start early and what you’re biologically doing, the hypothalamus is a part of the brain that takes nerve inputs from the brain through neurons and then responds by sending out signals that change the chemistry through the pituitary gland. And that chemistry is not as fast as neural responses, but that’s that interface for dealing with stress. And if you practice stress and stress reduction early, it works better than waiting till later. And what do I look for? Room full of behaviorists, I, I, I’ve given a lot of talks, like, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and I’ll say, “Okay, we we, you, do you know what it looks like when a dog is calm versus when a dog is stressed?”

And everyone, “Yes, absolutely.” And then you say, “Okay, give me a specific thing to look for.” And one person will say it’s this, and another person will say no, not that, it’s this way, and they nuance it, and no, you’re looking for this, and the room erupts in a debate.

About something we all agreed. Sure, I can tell calm when I see it. But to delineate the criteria? So, yeah, a relaxed, less tense body. More relaxed eyes. More relaxed ears. Slower breathing. Those are all the kind of obvious ones. But then when you say, well, how much slower? Well, slower than it was.

Yeah, we’re looking for change in that direction because the slower respiration means there’s less metabolism going on. If there’s less metabolism going on, the, you, the muscles aren’t burning as much right now. So you’re looking for that. You, if you could check the heart rate, you would be, you would see slower heart rate.

But then you start getting into the debates about, well, do the ears have to be in this position or that position, and all that. And my answer is, you need to know your dog, I said this a couple of times in my book. You need to know what normal looks like so you know what abnormal is. My dog carries his tail, Cricket, carries her tail up all the freaking time.

People see her and they’re like, “Oh my god, she’s really aroused, she’s gonna.” it’s like no, that’s just the way, she just always carries that tail high. I know her, I say, I know what normal is, this is normal. If you know what normal rest looks like, you know what normal calm looks like in your dog. You’ll be able to tell when it’s not.

And I really encourage people to start writing things down. You think, this is what I’m seeing. When my dog, calm looks like this. Measure the respiration. My gosh, in a 15 second period, I had 5 breaths. Well, that would only be a 20 respirations per minute, well is that normal or not normal for my dog?

Right? So, learn what normal is and look for that change toward what normal looks like in your dog.

[01:06:30] Emily: I love that because yeah, behavior is a study of one. Learn the baseline. One of the things that we emphasize a lot is teaching people how to read body language and operationalize it. What you’re actually seeing, not in these, storytelling type of descriptive ways. And then another thing about what you’re saying is um, it, tracks with how I teach body language, because since I come from a linguistics background, I talk about it in, in terms of linguistics as if it were a language, right?

And so, you can say the species dog has a language and, and each breed, because of their morphology and their morphological differences, think of those as dialects. Because high back play ears in a Basset Hound, it’s going to look very different than the high back play ears of say a Labrador,

But then there’s also the idiolect, that is how an individual uses language. And each of us have a unique idiolect that’s based on where we’re from, where we’ve lived, the people we spend time with, the accents that we are exposed to and hear a lot. And not just the accents, but like the cultural bonding, the jingo that we’ve learned are, the work that we’re in, how we use language is highly individualized based on that complex interplay between genetics, learning history, social interactions, all that stuff.

And so, when we’re talking about body language, we also have to remember that animals have idiolects. And the way that they use, not just the language of dogs, but the dialect of their morphology is highly unique. And I use my own dog Copper as an example of this, because when I first met him, I was really confused by him. Because he would come up and be like, pet me. And I would start to pet him, and his eyes would get wide, and he would immediately start lip licking.

And so, I’d stop. And he’d be like, “Why did you stop? Keep going.” He nudged my hand with his head and, or like just straight up put his head right in my hand. And so, I’d start petting him and immediately eyes would get wide, and he’d start lip licking. And it took me a while to realize that he just gets really excited when people pet him. And his excitement looks like concern, like he just, the wide eyes and the lip licking. And so that is his idiolect.

It is unique to him. If people see us interact with him, they might interpret that as we’re stressing him out. We’ve, we have learned that is just, he just gets really excited when people pet him and that’s what he looks like when he’s super into whatever’s happening. So yes, I love that we can generally speak to what calm looks like in the species. And then we also have to learn the idiolect of the animals that we live with and share our lives with. 

[01:09:05] Tim: And that’s why I 100 percent I tell people, and I tell, write it down because it’s one thing to go, yeah, I see it. What did you see?

What did you look for? And your memory is going to be biased. So, you start writing this down, you look, and you go, “Oh, lip licking occurred every time it was positive.”

Wow. That must be his response to positive. Not, ” Oh, he can’t handle being petted.” Or something.

[01:09:32] Emily: Data collection is how we circumnavigate our cognitive biases.

[01:09:35] Tim: One of my favorite phrases, the plural of anecdote is not data. Anecdotes collectively are simply anecdotes. People will say, well, I’ve seen 20 dogs. Well, that’s not a sample of 20 in an experiment, that’s 20 biased lens views of things you’ve seen. And whether you’ve seen it a hundred times or three times, it’s a series of anecdotes. Anecdotes are informative, and useful, and powerful, but they’re not the same as data collected under a more objective observation process.

[01:10:07] Emily: There’s a difference between anecdotal evidence and empirical evidence. And that’s what we’re talking about. I enjoy talking to you, Tim. 

[01:10:14] Tim: It’s only because it’s been a short period of time. Most people tire of me quickly.

[01:10:17] Emily: I mean, same. My own brother told me that I was like dark chocolate because everybody likes me but just in very small doses. 

[01:10:23] Tim: Oh, I’m using that. That is really good.

[01:10:25] Emily: I was like cool, cool, cool. Thanks, Tim.

[01:10:28] Tim: You gotta have those in the box of candy. 

[01:10:29] Emily: My brother’s name is, is also Tim. So, that’s fun. 

[01:10:32] Tim: Clearly Tim’s are just great. Everybody should have their own Tim. 

[01:10:35] Emily: Everybody should have a Tim. Okay. Moving on. What are our observable goals and actionable items that people can take away from this discussion?

[01:10:43] Tim: Oh, so, I would say there’s a couple of things that I really, that, that take homes that I would want. And I think you, you stressed it really well. Every dog is different. Every behavior is unique to that, to that individual. Watch the individual with an open mind rather than the default lens we have, which is a confirmation bias lens.

We, we’re wired to see what we expect to see, and we’re wired to ignore disproportionately what we don’t expect to see. It’s the, I’m driving down the highway. A red car cuts me off pretty soon I’m saying all red cars are a problem. And all I see are the problems of the red cars and ignore the problems from the blue and the green and the white and the black and the grey.

To see the dog individually and look really closely, like repeated, detailed observations of things you can pay attention to, to get to know the individual. That, so that would be one. Two, their biological, their I do it when I talk about behavior I have a list of 18 different biological things that impact behavior.

It includes genetics, it includes epigenetics, it includes the neonatal environment, it includes the uterine environment, and it goes right on up the line to what I’ve been training. And when you go through this list of 18 or 19, depends on a given day if I lump or split one of the ones. You go through that list, it should tell you behavior is incredibly complex and don’t be surprised that it doesn’t work like that because things you may think aren’t relevant may be really relevant. So, so that’s one. Or that’s another is the behavior is super complex. Not so complex that we should just go, I give up. No, no, no. But give yourself a break. Learning is hard and there are other things going on in a dog’s brain as it’s learning.

Um, don’t ignore. You can’t ignore biology. You can’t ignore the, if your dog’s hungry. It’s going to be in a different arousal state than if your dog is scared or angry. But the mammalian brain, the basic emotions we see in humans, we see, we’ve seen in all mammals that we’ve looked at. When I was a newbie biologist, we were taught human brains are so special, they’re all over here, and everybody else is in this category, and what we’re discovering with functional MRI is that mammalian brains have a lot more in common than they have differences. If you see those things in humans, you probably are going to see them in our dogs. So, get to know them individually, just like people are individually, and really look at what you can observe. Give yourself a break. 

But then also recognize that evolution builds the dog to default towards safety, which is fight or flight. Because if you err and you fight or flee, you’re probably gonna live to see another day, although fighting is dangerous. So, there’s all kinds of pre aggressive, and I get into discussions with people about whether this is really part of aggression or pre aggression. Behaviors that show the dog is aroused and is moving down that path, and get to know those so you can watch for them, and work on those to get your dog more centered again. 

And then practice the calmness. Train it, train calmness the way you train fetching a ball. Every day, and with rewards because calmer dogs are going to be better than dogs that default toward some higher anxiety level. 

And then I’ll throw in a plug the thing you should have done before you got your current dog. So, is look for dogs that are genetically predisposed to orient toward humans. Sociability. And it’s not a simple thing to measure. It’s influenced by at least seven different genes, but looking for dogs, choosing dogs because of their temperament first instead of their looks first, or their breed first, or their friends, or relatives, or opportunities. I knew, I met a guy who was picking his next dog because he wanted blue eyes. That’s it? I want blue eyes. I was like, I want a dog that won’t take my eyes out. So, that was a whole series of things that I would take home from this. Biology matters.

[01:14:46] Emily: Biology matters. I appreciate all of your takeaway points, because yes to all of them. I think that what you have brought us today is really about the complexities of behavior don’t actually lead us to be more cold and clinical, which is what I think a lot of people fear when they think about taking a science based approach. What actually, what this knowledge gives us is more compassion and empathy. And a more realistic way of approaching the animals in our lives, right? When we’re talking to pet parents about, what is possible with their animals, and in this case, we’re talking about dogs. There is a way to be compassionate, but realistic. So, we don’t guarantee behavior because there are so many complex systems at play and we don’t have control over very much of it, right? 

Um, So, we, we, we don’t believe it’s ethical to guarantee behavior, but what we do tell the pet parents that we’re working with, our clients that what we can guarantee is that we can help them have a better understanding of their pet, and that we can improve their quality of life. And we may have to shift our goals based on how their pet responds to the work that we do. But the reality is we can’t guarantee outcomes. We can guarantee that we can give them a better understanding and improve their quality of life. That’s what we can guarantee.

And that is, and that is. That is both compassion and realistic. That balance of compassion and realism is so important, right? So, I appreciate everything that you’re saying, because basically. You’re just validating how we operate.

[01:16:28] Tim: I’m giving you some of the biology behind it. I think that’s part of the perspective I try and add as a biologist is it’s some of this, it’s not just, it’s not a black box where strange things we don’t understand are going on. We understand why things were wired this way, why they can be rewired. We understand some of the physiological processes involved. We understand why sometimes it doesn’t work. And it’s, you can’t guarantee behavior because there’s way too much that impacts it. Plus the, plus an animal’s own initiative to do other than it was trained.

[01:16:57] Emily: We give the members of our professional development group, PETPro, the opportunity to ask questions of our guests and the most popular question that we received was, anecdotally, it appears that gut instability is more common in modern dogs, or at least client dogs that present with behavior issues. this true? And if so, why? How important is a healthy gut for behavioral health? And I think it’s great that this ties neatly into talking about the brain gut connection from earlier.

[01:17:26] Tim: Yeah, so, this is a, it’s a really good question. And it’s a hot area of science right now the changes in the gut biome. So, here’s what I can say with great confidence from the scientific evidence. Changing gut biome affects behavior. Okay, that covered the science. Now you get, there’s a whole bunch of questions.

Can I change, in the real world, can I change my dog’s biome? Can I change my dog’s biome or not, in the real world? If I can, what do I want to change it to? So, some examples, there are dog food products out there, they’re probiotic, this will give your dog’s gut a better biome. We don’t get to see the data on what they’re claiming is better.

Dog research is mostly done by private food companies, the material, it’s not subject to the normal scientific review, peer review process. And so, they can do an experiment, keep all the material proprietary because they funded it themselves, and say this probiotic is the one that works the best. And we have no data to compare it to.

So, we don’t know what really works. We don’t know what those, what that gut community should change to. Like we haven’t said We haven’t been able to say this strain will cause this behavior, this strain will cause this behavior. We don’t know. 20 years from now, when I’m giving this talk You know when we’re having this conversation, I’m gonna be able to go “Oh, yeah, and it’s this colony of bacteria, and you need to do this, and we can fix it”. 

What seems to be important before major gut wrenching activities. My, my dog’s gonna now need antibiotics for a month. What we’re doing in people is we’re saving fecal samples to re inoculate so you get what you had when you were healthy. And so, no, if we could know what your gut, the dog’s gut biome was when it was happy, healthy, and good, we could restore back to it, but that would mean everybody would have to go get samples and get data on that, and we don’t know what to move it toward.

So, so the answer is, yeah, that’s a really good question. And how important is it? We’re not really sure. We know that changing gut biome changes some behaviors. Amazing in itself. Plenty of studies that are showing that now, but that’s the level we’re at. This study showed we could get a change. This study showed we could get a change. This study showed we could get a change. Not studies saying, “Oh, we can’t get a change.” 

But to then narrow it down to what you want to know, got nothing for ya. So, if, this would be one of those we’ve tried some probiotics, and we’ve had some good luck with what we think are positive results. That needs science data. The problem is the science, even if you gave me 10 million dollars and a thousand dogs to work with, it would take years to start teasing out what we really want to know. 

And my dogs don’t have years. Wish is 15. If I want to do something for her, I’m going to go with best available guess. So, ask around and see what other people are finding is helpful. The science isn’t there yet, but you start with anecdotes, and at least that gives you something to build on. If things can’t do any harm, then you’re at least not, you might be wasting your money, but I got so many collars at home, wasting money on my dog is no big deal, right?

It’s not the satisfying answer your community would want, but it’s just where the science is right now. Yes, it matters. Yes, we’re going to get some really good information in the future, but we’re not there yet.

[01:20:43] Emily: And I think this goes back to that, behavior is the study of one conversation where it’s like, you don’t actually need science to have all the answers for you. If you know how to do some objective data collection, you can trial and eval it on your own. Observe the baseline behavior, trial a specific type of probiotic or prebiotic or whatever, make sure it’s the only change that’s happening to your pet’s environment, or diet. And document the outcomes.

[01:21:10] Tim: I’m going to go further, Emily, that might be the most important. Because it’s, averages don’t apply to individuals, right? So, if I walk into my doctor’s office and he goes, you’re this old, you’re male, you’re this race, your blood pressure is going to be this. Or, no, you actually take my blood pressure.

So, if, even if, we had studies that showed that 90 percent of the time, Probiotic A was better than Probiotic B, you should go with A, your dog might be that 10 percent that goes with B. You still, you can’t go by the averages anyway, you still need to try it out on your dog in a carefully observed way. So, your point is, yeah, you don’t have to wait for science to give you all the answers. And in fact, the results you get, if you can be objective about your observations, for your individual dog are going to be more important than that study anyway.

[01:21:57] Emily: I mean, I think that’s one thing that, as our field is becoming more, and when I say our field, I mean Pet Harmony’s, because obviously you’re a biologist and professor, as we at Pet Harmony are in this field and it’s, and it is evolving towards a more science-based approach and people are learning what that means. Learning to find that balance of like, science is important. We need to know what’s, what has been objectively assessed. Those papers or that research has been done. And also, it’s not a religion. And like, you gotta realize that this is all just a way of knowing things, and it is not all encompassing. And we also have to live our lives, and do our own experiments, and be our own little mini scientists as we trial and eval stuff in our own life, which is why data collection is so important. Because if you wait for science to give you all the answers, you’ll be waiting forever.

[01:22:50] Tim: Yep. Because science will never have all the answers. 

[01:22:52] Emily: Science we’ll never have all the answers. We’ve got to, we’ve got to listen to it and learn from it, and also know how to. to live a trial and eval life as a lifestyle. 

The last questions of the interview, I like to ask everyone the same questions, and hear their different answers. The first of those questions is what is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment? Your choice.

[01:23:15] Tim: I think we just said part of it. I want people to know that science is an important part of answering questions. Can’t answer every question. And so, it should be part of what informs us in our dog training, and our dog nutrition, and our dog lives. But it can’t be, it can’t be the end all be all. And science is constantly changing anyway, what we learn informs from what we learned before and we’re constantly getting new information. And that’s part and parcel of science.

[01:23:43] Emily: Awesome. What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?

[01:23:46] Tim: I, so scientist, right? And the epitome of scientific training is if you, if a question is, if you think a question is important, you should go test it. And I wish scientists, and it’s happening more in a young and the younger generation, but science is still taught that go find what you want to know, and it’s, I wish more and more people would, scientists would say, “Hey, what do you need to know? Let me go get some answers that will be useful to you.” We get lots of dog research and pet research on things that are interesting to the scientists, but to the people in the real world, like, yeah, who cares? That’s, I can’t use that. So, I wish that scientists would be a little more mindful of the community that funds and supports them, and a little less mindful of just their idle curiosity. And there’s a, it’s a balance point because curious brains is what leads to new discoveries. And you don’t want to destroy that, but I wish the field would move the dial a little more toward the practical.

[01:24:46] Emily: Yeah, I think I feel you super hard on this because on one hand, I think the world would be a better place if scientists and lay people were better at communicating with each other. And it goes both ways. There’s a lot of anti-science sentiments and kind of Ivory Tower ad hominem attacks and stuff. So, it goes both ways. I wish that everybody was better at talking to everybody better. And I agree with you that it would be great if there was some stuff if lay people had a say.

[01:25:13] Tim: Yeah, if in the process of communicating better, we actually communicated, i. e. listen to what you say. 

[01:25:18] Emily: Right, right. That would be amazing. And also, there is value to scientists being like, “I wonder what happens under these conditions!” Right? Because that’s how enrichment was discovered, right? A bunch of scientists were like, hey, I wonder what would happen if we gave these rats something to do while they’re in these cages, right? So, like, it there’s value to that, like you said, curiosity. And also, there’s value to like listening and being like, “Hey, what would be useful?” So yes, the balance. I agree with the balance. That was a very long way of saying I agree with you.

[01:25:47] Tim: Yeah, I like that.

[01:25:48] Emily: All right. What do you love about what you do?

[01:25:50] Tim: Oh man, every single thing about it. I love talking with people. I love learning, right? You did that to me earlier in this interview. You gave me a new idea that fits with that amygdala training that I went, wow. That’s ground shifting. I need to go follow up on that. I get to learn in this job. I get to teach in this job. I get to go talk with people and meet with people. Get to meet with professional dog trainers. I get to meet with dog parents. I get to meet with people who are thinking or interacting dogs. And almost everybody’s got an opinion on dogs.

And that’s fun. I spent much of my life studying turtles and while they are fascinating creatures, and I could talk to you for days about the fascinating things about turtles, most people if you mention I study turtles. That’s it for the conversation. And if you say dogs, they’re like, “Oh!” So, I love the fact that people care about the work. So, I love responses like you gave to my book where you’re quoting parts, and I’m like, “Damn, that was good. Did I write that?” 

[01:26:53] Emily: Learning and teaching are my two favorite things as well. And also, just FYI, if you want a captive audience of people who actually care about turtles, talk to the Pet Harmony team. Cause we’re all really fascinated by animals in general. 

[01:27:05] Tim: I can come in and do turtles anytime.

[01:27:07] Emily: Yeah. Allie has a turtle named Zorro and, and hit, the saga of Zorro is just a never-ending delight. Yes, we’ll, we need to talk turtles at some point. 

[01:27:16] Tim: So, the thing I, that they, your team probably knows because they’re a little more informed. But turtles live a really long time. And the typical painted turtle can live 50, 60 years, box turtles, 70, 80 years, sea turtles, 200 years. Um, and we, so we give a kid a turtle for a Christmas gift. You gave him a life, potentially a lifetime gift. So, that’s cool but that’s an aside. 

[01:27:41] Emily: It’s the same with parrots. I, I’m a parrot person obviously, and I love parrots, and also when people gift a parrot to somebody else, I’m like, realized you saddled them with 80 years of taking care of a toddler with a can opener on their face, right? Like, was that really the best plan? So yes, same with reptiles, or at least turtles and tortoises.

It’s like, if they want a lifelong companion, this is it. Did they want it though? Were they prepared for all that’s involved in taking care? yeah, you’ll have to see at some point, Allie’s set up with Zorro. It takes up a huge part of her office. He’s got his own, like, like, tank that’s, like, sunk into this structure she built.

It’s pretty great. Okay. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with or learn from you, where can they find you?

[01:28:28] Tim: So, I, in addition to this interview, I’m doing an Aggressive Dog Workshop presentation with Mike Shikashio who did the Aggressive Dog Conference in September. He and I are doing one next, he invited me to do one, we’re doing it next, I guess that’s two weeks from the time of this interview, not the time that this broadcast, but there are webinars like that, that are out there already with that I’ve been a part of and then there’s two future projects that I’m working on. 

There’s, well, I’m going to go categorically, two categories. Two organizations that are, do a lot of dog training that want to bring more science in, and are nationally known that are talking to me about getting involved with them, doing some webinars for them, one way or the other, or both.

I’m, part of the holdup is trying to make sure that, is this going to be one exclusive to the other. So, I’m not naming names at this point, just because, It’s not meant for a business point of view, but I don’t want to put one of them or the other on the spot. So, there will be some webinars put together that’ll be explaining some of the basic biology.

For example, a quick plug from the book, dogs don’t see the world, hear the world, smell the world the way we do. And if you learn that your dog is not taking in the world the same way you are, we’ll learn to train it a little differently. 

The next book that I’m working on, I’ve had a lot of people ask me to do one that’s more specifically on the biology of behavior. Which, I can functionally do a chapter on each of the 19 different things that influence behavior. I think what the public would love is with each one of those a series of, and here’s what you do as a trainer because of it. If I go that path, I will, I’m currently working on the biology side of it, but I want to make sure I bring in some trainers to help me include what are some of the training implications here? What are some of the real, like your language, some of the real-world implications for that? It’s all well and good to say that a uterine environment mattered in my puppy. Two little, two males on either side of a female changes that female differently than if she would have been three females in a row in the uterus.

[01:30:31] Emily: If you want some pretty incredible anecdotal stories of litters that have been split up and had different conditions, I’m your girl, because I’ve got some pretty cool ones from working in shelter and rescue.

[01:30:46] Tim: So, so working on that Biology of Dog Behavior book, I’m going to come around and interview you.

[01:30:51] Emily: Dude, sign me up. I’m here for it all day, every day. I’ll do whatever. I’ll do whatever.

Okay, that all sounds exciting. Thank you so much for sharing information, shareable links. All of that stuff will be in show notes for those of you listening in, and, and then, of course, if you have not checked out his book yet, highly recommend it.

Biology of Dogs is my new favorite book. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed this conversation. I’m grateful for you being here today.

[01:31:20] Tim: And Emily, I want to, one, I want to thank you for having me, but also for the attitudes and training you’re promoting, the focus on what can actually happen in the real world. And enriching a dog’s environment so it has better health and better opportunities. I just appreciate everything you’re doing.

[01:31:36] Emily: Well, thank you. Likewise. I appreciate what you’re doing as well. 

[01:31:39] Allie: What did I tell you? Tim is just so knowledgeable and gives us so many things to think about in this interview. This is one that I’m definitely going to have to listen to multiple times to let it all sink in. There’s just a treasure trove of information that at the end of the day helps to make us more compassionate, and also more realistic about how to care for the animals in our lives. Next week, we’ll be talking about how to trial gut brain health.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.

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