2 seminars - Emotions in dogs (EMRA) and the effects of Pain and Nutrition on Behaviour

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About the course

Robert Falconer Taylor will be presenting the following seminars:

Thursday 15th March 2018 The Science of Canine Emotionality and its practical application for owners and canine professionals (including EMRA: Emotion, Mood and Reinforcement Assessment)

Over the last 2 decades there have been huge steps forward in our understanding of emotional states in other animals. We now know what emotional states we humans share with other animals and we also know the ones that are probably unique to us. We know where they are generated in the brain, how they work and what happens when they go wrong. This knowledge is hugely important for anyone working with dogs, or concerned about animal welfare, including dog owners, trainers, behaviourists and veterinary professionals. The reason for this is a very simple one – all behaviour, including behavioural change through reinforcement, punishment etc., is governed by changes in emotional states. Feelings are an essential element of how pets, and humans for that matter, learn anything!

The long-held belief that behavioural change is purely a consequence of simple classical and operant conditioning is fundamentally wrong. So, it makes good sense to start with feelings when dealing with behaviour problems in pets, such as aggression, over-grooming, nervousness, etc.

This approach was developed by the behaviourists at the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and has been adopted as the standard by many successful behaviour therapists all over the world.

Typically this 'emotional approach' is carried out in three stages:-

  • An emotional assessment: This is an assessment of what emotions the pet is experiencing whilst engaged in the problem behaviour.
  • A mood state assessment: This is an assessment of how the pet feels generally from one day to the next.
  • A reinforcement assessment: This is an holistic appraisal of the entire situation aimed at identifying the factors responsible for maintaining the problem behaviour. These factors commonly persist, despite rigorous and varied attempts to eliminate them by owners, trainers and behaviourists.

This one-day seminar is about the scientific principles underpinning all of these ideas. The knowledge you will gain will change how you see dogs forever. This is a bold statement, but it is true because there is still so much misinformation about dogs circulating around the internet, in magazines and elsewhere.


1. The beginning: the evolution of emotions, where do they come from and what are they for?

2. The cognitive dog: understanding the core emotional states.

3. When things go wrong: understanding fear, stress, anxiety, phobias and mood disorders.

4. The every-day practical application of emotions in dogs: the COAPE EMRA system explained.

5. The training approach – changing behaviour by changing emotional states through training.

6. The pharmacological approach – changing behaviour by changing emotional states through pharmacology.

Friday 16th March 2018 The roles of pain and nutrition in (mis)behaviour, the missing links in canine emotionality 

1. Pain (AM)

What few people realise is that we all live in the shadow of a terrible mistake made 400 years ago, and this continues to have serious negative consequences for the welfare of our dogs today. The mistake was a pact forged between Rene Descartes and the church that separated BODY from MIND in order to avoid Descartes imprisonment, or worse, for daring to study human anatomy. The foundation of medicine, and later, veterinary medicine, as a separate science from psychology is based on this pact. The big problem here is that PAIN has remained very much in the domain of MEDICINE.

This arrangement is deeply flawed, out of date and plain wrong. Pain is a very important component of both the MEDICAL DOMAIN and the BEHAVIOURAL/EMOTIONAL DOMAIN. This is the argument Robert will present to you in this session of the seminar 

His aim in this part is to provide you with the information and tools you will need to identify pain in dogs and to manage it more effectively, either as a canine professional, or as an interested dog owner.

What will be covered:

  • Anatomy and physiology of pain.
  • Why chronic pain is NOT acute pain that has lasted a long time.
  • The impact of abnormal pain on the welfare of dogs.
  • Pain and the emotional systems – the missing link explained.
  • Effects of pain on behaviour.
  • The where, how and when of analgesic drugs.
  • Tools to help you recognise, quantify and manage pain in dogs.

2. Nutrition (PM)

Canine nutrition is one of those emotive subjects that nearly every dog owner, and many of those working with dogs professionally, have an opinion on. As a companion animal behaviourist, veterinarian and someone who teaches veterinary clinical nutrition, Robert's aim in this part of the seminar is to show you a joined-up approach to thinking about nutrition in dogs in a more holistic way.

What will be covered:

  • Start with energy and understanding nutrition calculations is easy.
  • Key concepts in energy metabolism, what makes dogs different.
  • From everyday training to competition, getting the best from dogs through diet, it’s often the little things that matter.
  • Raw, carbohydrate diets and the amylase argument? Does it really matter?
  • Separating the facts from the fiction. Getting the best from tryptophan and other supplements, and how they really work.
  • The gut-brain connection. Understanding the link between diet and (mis)behaviour, and common misconceptions.


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