Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Dr. Michael Colgan explains how nootropics can help your young or old dog’s cognitive and emotional well-being. Alpha Dog Video
(Video) Dr. Michael Colgan provides some tips on how to handle your stressed out pooch.
You have probably seen a Dog Agility competition on TV or at an agricultural show. Agility is the ultimate game for dogs and the most fun canine sport for spectators. During competition, the dog demonstrates its agile nature, its versatility, and its training by following cues from the owner that direct it through a complex timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, balancing walks, weave poles, and other objects.
Agility uses the built-in genetic tendencies of the dog to jump, run, and play. It’s a great sport to strengthen the bond of affection between dog and owner and provides fun and potent exercise for both. Most dogs love it from their first try.
Below is Lesley Colgan’s young competitor Whiskey Jack jumping effortlessly.
The American Kennel Club
Under the control of their genes, pups grow 28 temporary teeth within three weeks of birth. The same genes direct them to chew and nip constantly to prepare the gums for their 42 adult teeth. These start to replace puppy teeth at about 3 months, and are all grown by about six months.
The uncomfortable teething process, intensifies chewing and nipping. It is critical during this time to train your pup into acceptable use of its teeth. This training largely determines how it will bite and chew as an adult. Here are some tips on how to do it.
- Do not allow the pup to nip your fingers or clothes. Every time it does so, trains it that little bit more into biting as an adult. Say nothing. Simply remove the pup from the situation immediately. After a few times being deprived of your company, your pet learns that the reward of crawling all over you with tickles and pats does not happen if it sinks its sharp little teeth into your hand.
- Provide plenty of hard rubber chew toys. (Do not provide fabric toys that the pup can tear up, or soft plastic toys it can eat chunks of.) Whenever the pup starts to chew on you or the furniture, remain calm. Never yell. Never physically punish. We use the disapproval command “Oh dear”, and remove the pup distant from the situation. Give the pup a chew toy in a furniture safe spot. Praise and a treat after it settles down to the toy quickly teach it that chewing toys is a rewarded activity. Use the same safe spot each time.
- New pups socialized properly, that is with their littermates and their mother, nip constantly. Yelps of pain from littermates, and growls from Mom, quickly teach them to restrict the force of their bite to an acceptable level. But many pups do not have this opportunity for long enough. So, you must be the surrogate Mom, giving a loud, high-pitched yell, followed by the “No” command warning, whenever it nips you. If the pup persists, remove it from your company.
- Treat times are excellent opportunities to train your pup’s bite. I wince every time I see an owner toss food to a pup because they are wary of the sharp and uncontrolled puppy teeth. That’s a sure way to train a snapping adult. Instead, hold the treat tightly in your fingers, or totally enclosed in your hand, and let the pup sniff it while you give the command “Gentle”. Give it the food only after it has stopped trying to chew or wrestle it from you. If it snaps do not give the treat at all. Very quickly your pup will learn to wait with its nose pressed to your hand. Then give the treat slowly with the command “Gentle”, and do not allow it to snatch. You will soon be able to hold one end of the treat while the other is in the pup’s mouth.
- Mealtimes are the best. Put down the food bowl and start right away from the first day to train your pup with “Wait” to sit unmoving in front of the bowl, then “OK” to release it to the food Initially you will have to hold the pup back physically. But, within days of gradually releasing pressure, simply a hand held palm forward will be sufficient. Then, just the “Wait” command will be enough. Even young pups can be quickly trained to wait for the “OK” release for as much as 60 seconds.
- Pups must also learn that the food is theirs only if you want it to be. Use the command “Let” and take away the food bowl while the pup is eating. Then do the “Wait” and “OK” sequence while returning the bowl. If the pup growls or snaps at you, take the bowl anyway while restraining your pet with the other hand. Put the food away out of sight, and make the pup wait an hour before going through the food bowl sequence again. Very quickly they will come to accept you taking away the food and returning it.
It is so easy to train a puppy to happily control its bite, and such a delight to get down on the floor and play fight ferociously with them, confident of the safety of your nose and toes. The best of times.
Finally I want to briefly introduce the training component of the ALPHADOG ACADEMY Program. Supplementation by itself is insufficient to improve the dog’s brain and extend its lifespan. In order to reap the benefits, you also have to stimulate your dog’s brain to use the nutrients in accord with its ancient genes.
Expression of these genes provides your dog automatically with a rich language of odors, sounds, movements, postures, and facial expressions. We have especially studied all the great research coming out of the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn, Austria, and Eötvös Loránd, University in Hungary to learn the language ourselves. In addition, Lesley Colgan has studied dog training for six years to become a Certified Dog Trainer and apply all she knows in training dogs at our school on Salt Spring Island ii British Columbia. She is training dogs now to Canadian National Champion level. All modern dogs understand this language, which we call ALPHA-LINGO.
The language of ALPHA-LINGO allows dogs to precisely communicate their physical state, their emotional state, and their intentions to each other and to you. Human owners, however, do not possess the canine genes, or have only weak remnants of them. Consequently, we have no in-built genetic program to understand the ancient canine language. We have to learn it just as we would in learning to speak a human foreign language. We have developed the training to enable you to learn to speak to your dog easily, and train it in a way that builds mutual understanding and affection.
To communicate properly with our dogs, we had to learn their language. Many owners fail to do so. They are then at a loss to understand why their dogs are difficult to teach, disobedient, and emotionally unstable. The first step in ALPHA-LINGO is to learn how to greet a dog, especially one that you do not know. To do it properly, you have to think like a wolf. Just like when speaking badly in a foreign language you don’t know, people make basic mistakes that discomfort and disorient the dog, because it does not know what they are trying to say.
Here are some basic mistakes we see frequently with people who come to our training programs.
1. People commonly lean over a dog’s head and extend their hand towards the dog’s face. In ALPHA-LINGO that is a dominance move, Unless the dog is already your friend, it is seen as a threat Even your own pet dogs do not usually like it.
2. People commonly try to pat a dog on top of its head. In ALPHA-LINGO that is a definite threat.
3. Children especially, try to hug dogs. Dogs often snuggle together but rarely if ever hug. Trying to hug or kiss a strange dog is a definite provocation to bite.
4. People commonly stare into a dog’s eyes. In ALPHA-LINGO, looking directly into a strange dog’s eyes is a definite dominance move. Children especially, often address dogs in loud, excited, high-pitched voices. Wrong! Canine hearing is about five times more acute than human hearing. Anything above a quiet, calm voice is disorienting to dogs.
You will see all the great trainers, such as Cesar Millan, use the same eight basic rules of ALPHA-LINGO in greeting new dogs.
1. Stand upright.
2. Don’t touch the dog.
3. Don’t look in the dog’s eyes
4. Keep your side or your back towards the dog.
5. Don’t approach. Let the dog approach you.
6. Let the dog sniff you. Sniffing the genital area that many people react badly to, is simply good manners in a dog.
7. If the dog’s posture and expression are friendly when it approaches, crouch or kneel at its side. 8. If the dog is still friendly, stroke it on the back or side, not on the head.
ALPHADOG TRAINING includes a thorough course in ALPHA-LINGO, which will make it easy for you to train and communicate with your dog. It is best to begin when it’s a puppy, but if you do it right, dogs of any age can come to understand and respond accurately and happily to hundreds, yes, hundreds of different commands. The top dogs can understand and respond to over 1,000 commands about the same number of language commands as a 2-3-year-old child.
As you progress, your dog will come to realize that you also understand what it is saying. This mutual communication is the key to forming a strong emotional bond, resulting in a calm and happy pet. Just like learning a foreign language allows you to socialize with folk who speak it, learning ALPHA-LINGO allows you to enter the canine world. Your pet becomes eager to respond to your clear and unambiguous ALPHA-LINGO, eager to become your willing and faithful companion.
I want my dogs, and the dogs we train, to be the best, the healthiest, and live the longest. I want them to be the happiest pets on the planet. I am so grateful to mine, so grateful that they have taught me loyalty and love, forbearance and forgiveness, unbridled enthusiasm for life, and appreciation for the wonders of nature around me. I know how much less a person I would be without them, and I am determined to give them (and your dogs) the best science, in grateful thanks.
We embarked on this venture of ALPHADOG, because the science is finally good enough for us to be confident we can do good for other dogs everywhere. I see so many anxious, fearful, angry, and just plain unhappy dogs.
I know they can be transformed into the most joyful and wonderful life companions, if only we release the power of the ancient genes in their brains. If you too embark on this wondrous journey, I will be with you all the way on the internet, on social media, available every moment I can, to follow your progress, answer your queries, rejoice in your successes.
What a wonderful life!
BUILDING NEW BRAIN CELLS
It used to be believed that both human and canine brains received a complement of brain cells at birth and that these cells died off gradually over the lifespan. Since 1997, brilliant research at the Salk institute in California has shown definitively that, given the right nutrition and the right stimulation, human brains can develop literally billions of new cells lifelong ( 12,24). So can canine brains.
What is Neurogenesis?
Since 2005, textbooks of human medicine have all been changed to incorporate this new discovery, of brain cell growth in adults. It’s called NEUROGENESIS. (9,10) Now, we know that the same applies to dogs. The old studies which showed canine brains losing cells and shrinking by as much as 50% with age, all used sedentary dogs, kept isolated in cages, with garbage diets, and no social stimulation or training.
What did they expect? Put a human in the same conditions, solitary confinement on bread and water, and they quickly lose their mind. Fortunately, thanks to the animal rights movement, we no longer torture dogs, (or people) like that. A dog that is properly nourished, trained, and loved, can grow their brain by five times its puppy size, and become very smart indeed. In combination with the right protein, all the nutrients we put in ON! to optimize neurotransmitters, stimulate this brain growth lifelong. (We cover the protein ahead.)
9. Colgan M. Save Your Brain. Vancouver: Science Books. 2008.
10. Colgan M. Save Your Brain: Expand Your Mind. Sound Concepts: Indian Fork UT, 2012.
Our neurotransmitter nutrients together also stimulate what is termed NEUROPLASTICITY. Every time you teach your dog something, little feelers grow out from brain cells to reach other cells, to make a circuit which then contains the memory of the new learning. But unless you have the right nutrients in place, the circuit does not have the materials necessary to strengthen and maintain it. It dies off. The new learning then has nowhere to live and disappears.
What is Neuroplasticity?
Research in the 1980s first showed that many aspects of the canine brain, and the human brain are “plastic” that is can be improved even into very old age (10). This work contradicted older science that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood and then remains relatively unchanged, and declines steadily in old age. Now we know from recent controlled trials, that a combination of brain nutrients plus the right training program can improve the cognition, intelligence, and memory of dogs from puppyhood to even very senior dogs.
We also know that this occurs by a combination of growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis) and growth of new connections between brain cells (neuroplasticity) (10,24,25).
10. Colgan M. Save Your Brain: Expand Your Mind. Sound Concepts: Indian Fork UT, 2012.
24. Head E1, Murphey HL, Dowling AL, McCarty KL, Bethel SR, Nitz JA, Pleiss M, Vanrooyen J, Grossheim M, Smiley JR, Murphy MP, Beckett TL, Pagani D, Bresch F, Hendrix C. A combination cocktail improves spatial attention in a canine model of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;32(4):1029-42. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2012-120937.
25. Sechi S1, Chiavolelli F2, Spissu N1, Di Cerbo A3, Canello S2, Guidetti G2, Fiore F1, Cocco R1. An Antioxidant Dietary Supplement Improves Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels in Serum of Aged Dogs: Preliminary Results. J Vet Med. 2015;2015:412501. doi: 10.1155/2015/412501. Epub 2015 Jun 23.
GIVE YOUR DOG REAL BRAIN NUTRITION
I am writing this emphatically, because many dog owners who come to us have previously made little progress training their dogs, and they tend to blame the dog when it fails to learn. Almost every time, it is not the dog who is dumb, but more the owner, for failing to understand that a dog needs premium nutrition in order to develop its brain.
It’s really just common sense. If you want a fine crop of tomatoes, you don’t plant them on clay, because it lacks the essential nutrients for healthy tomato growth. It would be silly to blame the tomato plants for poor performance. Any sensible person plants tomatoes in a bed of manured soil, rich in nutrients, and gives them growth factors too. Yet many folk get a dog, then feed it the garbage grains that comprise cheap dog foods, often with the sick excuse that it then has dry feces. Then they wonder why it cannot learn, and is miserably anxious, and disobedient.
Each year, millions of dogs worldwide are abandoned by their owners, relinquished to animal shelters, and euthanized because of behavior problems. Most people still do not know that poor nutrition is the major contributing factor. As this website explains and supports with the latest science, canine behavior is totally controlled by neurotransmitters and hormones in the dog’s brain, and changes in the availability of their precursors in the dog’s diet. As we have noted, for example, shortage of tryptophan the precursor of serotonin, is shown to increase the incidence of aggression, self-mutilation and stress in dogs.
Diet composition, nutrient availability and nutrient interactions all affect the availability of precursors to neurotransmitters in the canine brain. Shortage of any one dramatically damages the dog’s behavior and reduces its resistance to stress. Omega-3 fats, especially DHA, for example, have an important role as structural constituents in brain development, and in brain maintenance in senior dogs. Dietary supply of omega-3 can modify the dopaminergic and serotonergic control systems and, consequently, the cognitive performance and behavior of your pet. Given the right nutrition and training consistently, behavior problems disappear.
We do not have behavior problems with our dogs. They have happiness to spare which we all enjoy (26-29.) 26. Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, Milgram NW. Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age.
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2012 Sep 1;241(5):583-94. doi: 10.2460/javma.241.5.583.
27. Snigdha S, de Rivera C, Milgram NW, Cotman CW. Effect of mitochondrial cofactors and antioxidants supplementation on cognition in the aged canine. Neurobiol Aging. 2016 Jan;37:171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.09.015 28. Yeates JW1. Maximising canine welfare in veterinary practice and research: a review. Vet J. 2012 Jun;192(3):272-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2011.10.024. Epub 2011 Dec 22. 29. Bosch G1, Beerda B, Hendriks WH, van der Poel AF, Verstegen MW. Impact of nutrition on canine behaviour: current status and possible mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2007 Dec;20(2):180-94. doi: 10.1017/S095442240781331X.
BRAIN CELLS ARE BUSY SPHERES WITH LIPID WALLS
After nourishing the major neurotransmitters, the next thing we had to add into ON! was the correct lipid structure to build the waterproof fatty membranes that encircle and protect each brain cell. Otherwise the growing brain leaks like a sieve, and learning is severely compromised.
Canine brain cell membranes are made mainly from the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid. It is found most abundantly in cold-water fish. We put premium, human-grade docosahexaenoic acid in ON!
In numerous dog foods, you will see shorter chain omega-3 fats that are found in plants oils, such as flax seed. These are not effective to canine build brain cells. We do add some plant oils, olive and avocado to ON! But these are for other purposes. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (plus a smidgen of other fish-based omega-3 fats) are the only structural fat constituents of membranes in the canine brain. Given a plentiful supply in their nutrition, DHA accumulates in new-born puppies at very high rates up to the end of the first year of life. Endogenous formation of DHA from plant oils is very low, so supplementary DHA intake is necessary for optimal canine brain development.
Data from many animal studies indicate that supplementation with DHA is essential for neuronal cell growth and neuronal signaling. DHA is also essential to optimal visual acuity development. For dogs this is especially important, as dog vision is only about one quarter as acute as human vision. High DHA levels not only promote optimal early development. Research is also showing benefits throughout life. Again this work indicates the importance of DHA to inhibit the cognitive decline of dogs which otherwise begins in mid-life. It is also important for maintenance of canine vision, to offset the decline of sight common in many senior dogs today.
To develop new brain cells that are waterproof and elastic, in addition to DHA, dogs need a compound called a phospholipid in the wall structure, a specific mixture of phosphorus and fat. One of the best is phosphatidylserine (PS) which we have put in ON! Phosphatidylserine is the major phospholipid in what is called the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane in brain tissues. Neuronal survival and differentiation, requires interactions of phosphatidylserine with brain proteins. Furthermore, neurotransmitter release is regulated by PS present in the neuronal membranes. Because of their synergistic action together, DHA uniquely expands the PS pool in neuronal membranes and thereby influences widespread PS-dependent signaling and protein functions.
Research shows that, by these actions, PS supplementation also improves memory functions in cognitively impaired canines, a great benefit for senior dogs,. To build strong brain cells for life, your dog needs PS lifelong (30,31).
30. Lauritzen L, Brambilla P, Mazzocchi A, Harsløf LB, Ciappolino V, Agostoni C. DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 4;8(1). pii: E6. doi: 10.3390/nu8010006.
31. Kim HY, Huang BX, Spector AA. Phosphatidylserine in the brain: m