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Section O


Distinct from tricks; obedience is generally thought to consist in reliable performance of sit, down, stay, and come on cue, along with loose-leash walking and generally good social behaviors.  These behaviors are important for safety and for a dog to function well as a companion outdoors and indoors.

Competitive obedience is a dog sport, often found at Kennel Club dog shows.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD behaviors are a sign of anxiety or neurosis in a dog.  Behaviors that a dog does without an obvious trigger, which he also cannot stop once started are labelled as obsessive compulsive.  OCD behaviors are more common in dogs that have spent a long time in a confined space like a shelter.  Examples of these behaviors:

  • Tail chasing
  • Snapping at “flies” in the air
  • Licking one spot on the ground or the body
  • Running in circles
  • Side sucking
  • Pacing
  • Repetitive barking with no obvious triggers

Offensive Aggression

Aggressive behaviors refer to a variety of different things a dog does, and different emotional states a dog might be in. Offensive aggression is characterised by some or more of the following:

  • Lunging
  • Chasing
  • Moving toward the target
  • Showing teeth
  • Raised hackles
  • Barking and growling
  • Tail raised, possibly wagging
  • Ears erect and forward
  • Biting

The dog’s primary emotional state is one of anger rather than fear; he wants the target to go away, but not because he is afraid of it. One example of offensive aggression is territorial aggression.

Operant Conditioning

Sometimes called Skinnerian conditioning, after psychologist B.F. Skinner.  A type of learning where an animal must perform a behavior in order to obtain a reward.

For example: a rat is placed in a box with a lever. When he presses the lever, food is dispensed.  After enough repetitions, the rat learns that if he wants food, he should press the lever.

Operant conditioning forms the basis of almost all dog obedience, whether taught using positive reinforcement or compulsion.

Opposition Reflex

A reflex, innate to most mammals, to push back against pressure from any angle.  Dog owners and trainers most commonly run up against the opposition reflex when they are teaching loose leash walking – the dog will often respond to his owner pulling on the leash by immediately pulling in the other direction.

Overall, Dr Karen

Dr Karen Overall is a faculty member at the University of Pennsylania’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and applied animal behaviorist (CAAB).

She edits the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research and has written the clinical textbooks, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals (1997) and Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats (2013).

Dr Overall also invented the Protocol for Relaxation, which teaches dogs to remain relaxed in a changing environment.


When there are two different stimuli in the environment that a dog is paying attention to, and one of those stimuli has a much stronger importance to the dog than the other one, so that the dog only pays attention to the most important stimulus and not to the less important one.

For example, if an owner only trains her dog when she is wearing a bait bag full of smelly treats, the presence of the bait bag may overshadow the verbal cue, so that the dog only listens to the owner when she is wearing her bait bag and doesn’t learn that the verbal cue is important.