Temperament test results and statement of trainer to court

Canine consultant Susan Jordan of Paws for Family & Friends, Bedford, Nova Scotia, testified at the 2012 trial as an expert witness .(See Ms. Jordan's testimony on 3/16/2012 here, in which she referred to the defendant as a "very responsible dog owner".)
Below is Jordan's letter to the court, submitted after the trial, as part of sentencing submissions for the defense. Boldface added. Somewhat irregularly, the Judge would not allow this expert - the only one to testify, as HRM failed to produce any experts - to comment on the sentence itself.
June 21, 2012

The Honourable Judge Flora I. Buchan
Dartmouth Provincial Court
277 Pleasant St
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 3S2

Your Honour;

Re: R. vs. Rogier
       Sentencing Submissions

I have read the letter from Ms. Salsman dated June 5th, 2012 carefully with respect to the sentencing recommendations in this matter.  In her document, she states:
By way of sentence, the Crown is seeking to have Ms. Rogier’s dog, “Brindi”, destroyed pursuant to s. 195 of the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter (“HRM Charter”), and that a fine be imposed.”

I should like to ask the court’s consideration to a few of the details before announcing your final decision.

First of all, I understand that the officers of the court must use the terms as stated in the wording of the laws. However, as a professional canine trainer, I am not bound by these restrictions and must point out that the word “destroyed” is a ‘sanitized’ substitute for “killed”. Documents are destroyed by shredding; houses are destroyed by fire. Sentient beings, including animals (and people) are killed/put to death. Ms. Salsman seeks Brindi’s death, plus the fines.

Secondly, I am still in doubt of the standards by which you are able to make the determination in putting this dog to death. The wording seems ambiguous, without well-defined criteria. Certainly I see no evidence of canine expertise in the drafting of these laws.

1.) On Page 10 of the letter, it is cited, “Secondly, Judge MacDonald notes that even when a dog is only aggressive to other dogs, humans can still be at risk from the aggressive behaviour. (pg. 196) “This statement is incorrect.  Brindi has never, in any of the previous incidents, demonstrated what is known as “Redirected Aggression” – defined as aggression that is consistently directed toward a third party when the dog is interrupted or prevented from directing the agonistic behaviour toward the original target. (“Aggression in Dogs Practical Management, Prevention & Behavioural Modification”, Brenda Aloff, page 111).
Not at any time, either past events or present (including the testing) has Brindi exhibited any aggressive behaviour towards people. 

2.) Page 10, (33) Ms. Salsman states, “The existence of four reported incidents of Brindi attacking without provocation underline that the incident before the Court is not an isolated incident.” Territorial Aggression occurs when the dog feels there is a threat – either real or perceived. In the text book, “Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Volume One”, Steven Lindsay states; “Under conditions of intense fearful arousal, strong associative memories are encoded, often causing lasting emotional disturbances that fail to dissipate over time. The hormone epinephrine appears to play a significant role in the formation of traumatic memories.” (Page 110).  In each situation, without the groundwork of proper or complete threshold behaviour modification, Brindi perceived the treat to the property and reacted with the inherent canine posturing techniques found within every dog.  I would ask the court to note that proper training can mitigate this behaviour with steady, patient behaviour modification.

3.) On Page 11 (38) of her letter, Ms. Salsman makes the following statement:
“Even where the injuries suffered by the victim dog are not severe, public safety considerations come into play. As previously noted, if one of the dogs had fought back against the attack, the injuries suffered by both the victim dog and Ms. Rogier’s dog could have been much more significant. Further, even where there are not substantial injuries, the experience can be traumatic and potentially change the disposition of the victim dog. As Ms. Simms noted in her testimony, since the attack, her dog “Lucy” appears more frightened, and she appears to bark in a more aggressive way.” 
As a recognized professional behavioral consultant, I cannot agree with these statements. In my experience, Ms. Salsman and Ms. Simms are neither trained nor educated in the profession of dog training or canine behavioural studies and are poorly equipped to make assessments with any accuracy. I would strongly caution against relying on such conjecture about possible outcomes, not to mention causes, of canine behavior. I believe Ms Simms’s statement, particularly, is hearsay, as to my knowledgethere is no reliable record of her dog’s previous or current disposition, or of having been examined by a professional canine behaviourist before or since  the September, 2010 report.”

4.) I would note here that while working with Ms Rogier, both during the court-mandated training and when additionally continuing on with subsequent sessions of behaviour modification, Ms Rogier always complied with my training rules and recommendations. I did find her to be genuine and honest in her desire to overcome Brindi’s Territorial Aggression concerns. Although she believes in her heart that Brindi is a “good dog” and would get better with practice and training, she did not become lax in her due diligence when I was present and I saw no cause for distrust or alarm when we worked together.

That Brindi has demonstrated the aggressive behaviour known as “territorial aggression” is not at question. With time, it may be modified and alleviated through steady, positive training techniques, or it may be necessary to always maintain at least a moderate aspect of due diligence and alertness to the dog’s signals through the use of restrictive measures. However, to kill this dog for her behaviours would be similar to sentencing a person to death for getting into bar brawls because he believed another man was threatening his partner.

I would ask the Court to consider a different sentence than the death of the dog, Brindi.

With respect,

Susan Jordan
PAWS for family and Friends

Canine Behavioural Consultant / Professional Pet Dog Trainer

Temperament Test Results

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Homeward Bound City Pound

The purpose of a temperament test is to establish the predisposition of a dog’s behaviour’s under stress when behavioural concerns are most likely to present and ascertain the dog’s strengths and weaknesses. As it is the job of a shelter to minimize the stress factors on a dog in confinement and rarely make a dog do something she doesn’t want to do. The tests are designed to measure what happens when the dog is required to deal with a variety of situations similar to the ‘real world’ environment under the owner’s leadership.

The dog, Brindi, was transported from her long-term care shelter by the Owner of the shelter. She has travelled with her in the car to the vets and to the Homeward Bound Shelter on previous occasions. For a perfectly set test, it would have been more accurate to not have moved the dog as she was ‘energized’ slightly by the unusual activity. To counter this concern and in order to carry out the test, Brindi was taken into the evaluation room at 11:00 a.m. and placed in a kennel. The muzzle and leash were removed. The door was closed and she was left to settle in.

Tester (Susan Jordan) and Observer entered the room at 11:38 a.m. The necessary tools for testing were gathered and testing commenced at 11:45 am.

General observations: Upon entry the dog wagged her tail and whimpered in response to our presence. She settled quickly when no attention was directed to her. She was taken by the Tester from the crate with the use of the cotton slip leash.

1. Sociability:
Phase 1: Taking the dog out of the kennel to the testing area and ignoring the dog. Response was “high” – took less than one minute to respond and seek the Human attention.
Phase 2*: Sitting down, ignoring the dog. Response was “high” – the dog checked in and out several times, and then put her paws on the lap within 40 seconds seeking attention.
Phase 3: Backstroking x 3 repetitions (no verbal interaction). Both during and after the strokes, the dog responded at a “high” level, orienting and seeking the attention.
Phase 4: An affectionate interaction (20 seconds of direct attention). Initially, Brindi responded quickly and with interest. She did disengage and move away before the 20 seconds had elapsed. This is a “medium” level response.

* During Phase 2, the dog urinated on the test room floor without offering any signals. This shows, due to long-term confinement in a kennel, that the housetraining skills have become weak.
Conclusion: (Sociability): Brindi exhibits normal to high need for human interactions and desires the bond/connection in the Human/dog relationship. She does not show any measureable signs that indicate concern or aggression towards Humans.

2. Dominance:
Phase 1: Teeth exam level one (amateurish handling). Response was medium to submissive as the Tester was able to complete five repetitions, but the dog struggled mildly each time.
Phase 2: Teeth exam level two (stronger handler skills revealed). Response was medium to submissive as the tester was able to complete five repetitions, but the dog struggled mildly each time. Remained social.
Phase 3: Safe Hug (reaction to hugs/close contact): First attempt to execute “vet safe” hug was unsuccessful – the dog backed away. On the second attempt, she struggled slightly, and then settled. Body was a little stiff, but tolerant. This is a medium level reaction. She was still comfortable with close contact after the hug and did not move away.

Conclusion: (Dominance): Brindi is well within the acceptable norms of canine response to these tests. She does not exhibit any reason for concerns in this area.

3. Play and Prey Response:
Phase 1: Tug and competitiveness. Brindi was happy to chase the squeaky toy, but did not engage actively in the tug component. Fleeting eye contact, calm grip. When reaching or the toy, she showed submission by rolling and exposing her belly and portraying an eye roll/fearful expression.
Phase 2: Retrieve. Brindi was only mildly interested in fetching the toy. She was only mildly competitive in toy possession.
Phase 3: Calming down after play. The dog disengaged quickly, ready to move onto another activity.

Conclusion: (Play and Prey Drive): Brindi measures on the low end of this canine scale.

4. Food and Aggression:
Phase 1: Give the dog a chew toy. Brindi was given a piece of a “pig’s ear” (a highly valued dog treat). She was permitted to engage with it before the tester attempted to remove it from her possession. She responded at mid-level with turning/chewing but there was no growling.
Phase 2: The food bowl. The bowl was filled with a half can of wet (high value) food. Brindi was permitted to become fully engaged in the consumption. Tester tries to touch dog, move bowl, gently “interfere’ with eating. Brindi’s tail was wagging, but she was freezing over the bowl, breathing faster and pushing it away from the Tester.  The moment she was finished, she relaxed. This is a medium level response.

Conclusion: (Food and aggression): Brindi has developed some mild resourcing behaviour due to extended confinement.

Mental Sensitivity:
A loud clap is delivered behind the dog when she was distracted. This was complicated by the fact that Brindi stopped and had a bowel movement (no signals given) in the room. She did startle and move away from the stool.

Conclusion: (Mental sensitivity): This result is not conclusive, but the response is mild lack of sensitivity to surroundings.

Reactions to Strangers:
The Tester and dog were positioned facing the door. The Tester is to ‘act anxious” when the stranger knocks/enters/exits. Brindi had a medium to low response (good). She stared, stiffened and held a slightly conflicted position. As soon as the woman exited the room, the dog returned complete focus to the Tester.

Conclusion: (Reactions to strangers):  Brindi’s results are indicative that she is comfortable with strangers.

Reactions to Strangers with Dogs:
Once again, Tester and dog are positioned facing the door. Tester gives stranger/dog permission to enter but continues to act anxious. Brindi began to escalate upon hearing the dog outside. Upon entry, she shows signs of anticipation (whining, pulling, lip licking, whiskers forward, body animation.) She was not able to stay contained beside the Tester without leash control. When stranger/dog exited, Brindi’s posture did change and she displayed a “prey bow”. There were no “dog friendly calming” signals displayed and she needed a minute to calm herself. After about 50 – 60 seconds, the dog was able to reorient back from her alert state to both Tester and Observer.

Conclusion: (Reactions to strangers with dogs): Extended isolation has been detrimental to the social skills, play and calming signals and acceptance of a dog moving away.

The test was concluded at 12:20 p.m.

Overall Conclusions:

1.     Sociability: Brindi exhibits normal to high need for human interactions and desires the bond/connection in the Human/dog relationship. She does not show any measureable signs that indicate concern or aggression towards Humans.
2.     Dominance: Brindi is well within the acceptable norms of canine response to these tests. She does not exhibit any reason for concerns in this area.
3.     Play and Prey Response:
4.     Food and Aggression: Brindi has developed some mild resourcing behaviour due to extended confinement.
5.     Mental Sensitivity: This result is not conclusive, but the response is mild lack of sensitivity to surroundings.
6.     Reactions to Strangers: Brindi’s results are indicative that she is comfortable with strangers.
7.     Reactions to Strangers with Dogs: Extended isolation has been detrimental to the social skills, play and calming signals and acceptance of a dog moving away.*

If this was a dog from the general dog shelter population, these test results would indicate that the dog could be placed on the adoption floor with a few provisions for specific training. These would include housetraining, food guarding exercises, handling exercises and heavy dog-dog socialization training.
There were no significant “flags” that would preclude this dog from being adopted in to a home.

Knowing the background for this dog in more detail, these tests merely substantiate that the dog is not dog-human aggressive, she seeks human social bonding, is not dominant in nature and has only mild play/prey drive. The issue of territorial guarding is isolated and can be modified.

It is the Humans who have helped shape Brindi into the dog she is today, especially considering the length of confinement over the past four years (in addition to the original two years prior to her adoption to Ms. Rogier). It is the Humans who can also help her to overcome and modify her current behavioural issues.

Susan Jordan
Paws for Family and Friends
Canine Behavioural Consultant / Professional Pet Dog Trainer


FR note: This is Ms. Jordan's description of training, done before Brindi was released from HRM custody by the court in July 2010. Originally the court conditions required that the trainer appear and testify on the results, but instead, upon receiving notification that the trainer was ready, through her clerk, the Hon. Judge Murphy advised HRM to release Brindi as soon as the dog run was approved. It was approved and Brindi was released on the same day. In fact, the dog run had been in place since 2008, because I built it then as part of my offers to HRM in exchange for the return of her dog - offers which included voluntarily paying fines and working with a private trainer as well - all of which fell on deaf ears, as HRM did not respond. Judge Murphy then included them in the 2010 conditions.

2010 Training Program: “Brindi”  /   Ms. Francesca Rogier

As per the ruling by Judge A. Murphy (April 30th, 2012), “…Ms Rogier completes a course satisfactorily dealing with training and obedience of dogs.” and “Brindi the dog should satisfactorily complete training which will teach obedience and aggression

1.) Brindi – one-on-one training:
            June 17th – (1 hour) Initial assessment and evaluation of dog and responses.
            June 18th – (1 hour) Basic commands and interactions in the kennel environment.
            July 6th – (1.25 hours) Off-site training and exposure to other dogs (Shubie Park, Dartmouth)

2.) Owner Training – one-on-one sessions:
            June 11th – (3 hours) Canine Developmental and Behavioural basics, patterns, techniques. Including, but not limited to, Canine Development Periods; Hierarchy of signals; Leadership Checklist for Humans; Proper Use of Voice and Techniques; Nutrition and behaviour; Vaccine Protocols, etc.
            June 15th – (2.5 hours) Theory and background for the skills of Reliable recall and walking on a loose leash. Reviewed several articles on Human-Dog relations; the unique aspects of our canines and their senses; dog aggression and Human-dog most common misinterpretations.
            June 16th – (3 hours) Seminar at “The Chewed Slipper”. Primary focus presented on canine body language and appropriate play, summer-related concerns with canines and canine first aid.

3.) Owner / Dog Combined Training -  one-on-one sessions:
            June 21st – (1.5 hours) Belle Kennel location. Focusing on attention on demand; proper practice of handling techniques and use of voice. Introduction of Reliable Recall outdoors. Initially with low level distractions, escalating to practicing with more animated distraction.
            June 24th – (1 hour) Belle Kennel location. Intensified reliable recall training with greater efforts at animation/distraction. Initiated (completed) introduction and desensitization to the basket muzzle.
            June 29th – (1.5 hours) Belle Kennel location. More (and more difficult) practice with the recall training. Worked on the “Down” command, both close and at distance. Began to build on the “Stay” command.
            July 5th – (1.25 hours) Off site (ball field). Reliable recall (no dogs present) with increased and non-orchestrated distractions.

Total hours under the court-mandated training: 17 hours

At this juncture, the dog, Brindi, was returned to the owner on July 9th, 2010. I wish to note that no request was ever made to me directly, for any written report or accountability of our work or progress by any court representative. There was a letter sent to Ms Rogier  from Geoffrey Newton, dated July 7th, asking for an “update” and as to when I expected “…the training to be completed”. (The primary concern seemed to be more about the cost of kennelling the dog and less about the results of the training work to date.)

On our own determination, Ms Rogier and I felt that the training was not yet to the level of full responsibility that we had set out for our own “yardstick”, as we had yet to proceed towards the ultimate goal of a non-reaction when non-resident dogs moved past the owner’s property (territorial aggression). Complete attention on command, solid recall and non-reaction to other dogs in a neutral environment needed to be achieved before we could further the final modification training. It is important to note that each step must be carefully established and solidified to ensure “spontaneous recovery”  (which is falling back to old behaviours if the dog is pressed over the training threshold too far, too fast) does not occur and undo our hard work to date. Therefore, we continued as follows:

4.) Continued Owner / Dog Training: One-on-one sessions:

            July 26th – (2 hours) Desensitization to a wider variety of breeds in a social (off site) setting. Session was conducted at Point Pleasant Park.
            September 7th – (1.5 hours) Using the on-leash area of Point Pleasant Park, more desensitizing was conducted, both standing quietly on the side, as well as walking along the paths.
            September 14th – Brindi was taken from her home by Animal Control Services. This ended our work as the dog was now incarcerated and unavailable for the work to continue.

Susan Jordan
PAWS for family and Friends
Canine behavioural Consultant / Professional Pet Dog Trainer