Written by S. Bowyer

 

     Mark Evans, vet and former chief of the RSPCA UK, fronts this new series that aims to discover the lesser known facts of dogs' lives, and the little tricks they have in store for us. Using surveillance footage, new inventions and collaborating with dog experts, Evans focuses on cunning canines and the changes our society have instilled. Obesity, behaviour disorders, misconceptions about dog sociality, and their manipulations of humans.

 

      The show is almost super sleuth at times, particularly in the first episode about obesity. We meet 3 dogs, who all struggle with obesity, which the owners are confounded by, believing they are following the diet regimes correctly. Chancer, a Cavalier King Charles, continues to gain weight, despite his owner's insistance they are correctly feeding him. Evan's crew arranged hidden cameras in the areas Chancer frequents, including the family home, the workplace he attends during the day, and cameras on his collar during outings. What the cameras show is amusing and surprising. Chancer has his ways.

 

Chancer

 Chancer: a whopping 50% overweight

 

      A theory circulating states that humans do not understand how to feed their dog properly. The episode features a live test study on pet owners, where they are asked to measure out how much food they would feed their pet each meal. An extended study shows that 88% of people give their dogs too much.  

      During the first episode, Chancer, Molly (Bulldog who is 20% overweight), and Cassie (currently plateauing on her diet), all go through a rigorous diet plan, to consider how easy dog weight loss is when administered correctly. The results are amazing.

      Episode 2 of the series analyses dog aggression, with the understanding that dog attacks in recent years have increased by 500%. 

      While treating the cases, the viewer is filled in on social learning patterns, and many of the misconceptions that are linked to the pack mentality theories most rely on in dog sociality, as well as the breed-based aggression belief systems and their validity. 

      Interestingly, research has shown that owner emotions often affect dog interactions. For example, aggressive tendencies in dogs were often unknowingly encouraged by dog owners. When dogs are aggressive to family members, it's noted that their primary owner will tense and show stress, which is then misunderstood by the dog, who thinks the owner is becoming distressed because of the other family member, not because of the dog's previous and current aggressive actions. One such case is of a woman's partner unable to enter the room without being threatened. 

      New studies have shown that while owners can encourage dogs to show aggression in the above way, they can also re-program their dog to the contrary. Dogs have been shown to understand the difference between laughter and crying in humans, and more responsively when it's the primary owner. The dogs in the study brought toys or became excitable when owners were laughing, and showed signals of sadness or comforting when owners pretended to be upset. Evans suggests to a woman to laugh whenever her partner enters the room, in order to tell her dog that it's play time, not a time to tense. This activity in conjunction with other small changes made for a positive result.

      Episode 3 discusses obsessions and strange behaviours in dogs. We meet Max, a German shepherd who is obsessed with spinning, and Biscuit, who is crazed with buses who aims to bite their tyres, and a Staffie who is afraid of the outside world. The episode looks into behaviour disorders, how owners can avoid encouraging them unintentionally, and what sort of pre-determinants are at play. 

 Dogs: Their Secret Lives is currently airing on UK television, but can be found on many online streaming site. 

 

 

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