News and insights from special guests—from experts to enthusiasts.
It’s a family thing. A tradition. Handed down from generation to generation. And thousands of dogs are grateful.
In 2006, Rachael Hoyle Salyers stopped in at the Knox County Animal Shelter (in Mount Vernon, Ohio) and saw all the dogs and how desperate they were to get out. Rachael described the participation in the volunteer program back then as not good. “There was only one other volunteer besides my mom and me. My dad, Ed Hoyle, volunteered too. A couple of years ago he had to retire from shelter volunteer work due to a shoulder injury.”
Now keeping the family tradition alive is mom, Felicia, her daughter, Rachael, and granddaughter, Kaya, walking dogs at the shelter every week. The family has been volunteering an astonishing 8-plus years every week.
“I have always been a huge animal lover,” Rachael explained. “Dogs are my favorite animal because they listen and love unconditionally with all their soul. As a little girl growing up in Massachusetts, I was always bringing home strays.”
“I find it very rewarding, giving back to the community,” Rachael continued, “and especially not giving up on the forgotten and less fortunate. I enjoy seeing a dog get adopted and helping with the process. It is a heartfelt experience.”
Felicia remarked about “the happiness of getting a dog out for a walk, to play or pet, and talk to. It is something you just have to come see for yourself. It feels great and makes our shelter better because the dogs aren't isolated completely and can be socialized and loved, increasing their chances of being adopted.”
“Shelter dogs are the best dogs,” Kaya added.
The Knox County Animal Shelter is located at 285 Columbus Road in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Adoptable dogs are on the shelter’s Facebook page.
Have you ever thought about the athletic difference between dogs and cats? We already know that nutritional needs and personalities differ greatly between the two species, but what about their athletic prowess? We know they are both runners, but how long can they go? How fast? As it turns out, there are some interesting anatomic differences between the two, and it starts with a little-known tendon in the neck called the nuchal ligament.
The nuchal ligament attaches the head to the spine and is an adaptation designed to stabilize the head in animals that run fast and far. The nuchal ligament that dogs have is like the one that horses have. It supports the head without using muscles, thus saving energy and making the animal more efficient. Early canids like the extinct euycon canid show elongation of the leg bones, which also maximizes the efficiency of the dog’s stride.
We also know dogs relied upon a scent trail to hunt prey over long distances, while felines use hearing and eyesight to locate and hunt prey up close. Dogs must ‘follow their noses.’ As early dogs evolved longer legs, noses and necks, they needed the nuchal ligament to save energy while keeping their ‘nose to the ground’ posture, run and follow scent trails over miles and miles. And while dogs lost dexterity of their front limbs and evolved relatively weaker neck muscles needed to take down prey alone, they compensated by evolving group hunting techniques, according to Tedford Wang’s “Dogs: Their Fossil History and Evolutionary History.”
Dogs, humans and horses have nuchal ligaments and are unique long distance runners. You know who doesn’t have a nuchal ligament?
Cats, as we know, don’t hunt in packs, nor do they run their prey to exhaustion. Cats are solitary hunters and rely on stealth, explosive power and flexibility. From a sitting crouch, a cat can jump up to nine times their height, and in a split-second they can make sudden changes in direction and twist their spines mid-fall to land on all fours, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. It’s true: cats almost always do land on their feet. Why can they do this?
A cat’s spine is much more flexible than that of a dog. Their vertebral bones have increased elasticity in the disc between bones when compared to a dog, which is why cats don’t have the back problems that dogs tend to have. A cat’s vertebrae also is less tightly connected than a dog’s, making the spine far more flexible, and a cat’s pelvis and shoulders are more loosely attached to its backbone than dogs. A cat can stretch their body and run with a stride length of three times their body length. A cat’s flexible spine, powerful muscles and retractable/extendable claws that provide traction like runner’s spikes all contribute to top speeds of 30 miles per hour. There’s a reason the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world. However, a cat can only sustain this kind of anaerobic activity for very short periods of time, which makes a cat a fantastic sprinter but a terrible distance runner.
The next time you see your dog or cat running, watch how they are different: Whether your companion animals are sprinting to pounce on a cat toy, jogging 10 miles with you, or prefer the strenuous athletic activity of couch surfing, all adult dogs and cats can benefit from daily exercise, a healthy weight and a high-quality joint supplement.
Sponsored by Sleepypod
“I haven’t even allowed myself to imagine the loss I would have suered had I decided not to purchase the Clickit that day”
For a while I was contemplating purchasing the Clickit harness from Sleepypod. My dog and I go everywhere together and so she is in the car 40 minutes each day.
I thought, “I’m a safe driver, maybe I’ll hold off until my next paycheck to purchase the Clickit.” Well finally, one day when browsing Sleepypod.com (for the hundredth time), after measuring my dog four different times to be sure, I decided to do it. I purchased the small Clickit harness in orange! Little did I know, this would be the most important purchase of my entire life.
Fast forward about a month, I am driving through the same intersection I drive almost every single day with my dog. This intersection is very busy, and the speed limit is 45 mph, so I’m always very careful. As I’m driving along, going 45 mph, a car suddenly turns in front of me. I didn’t even have time to apply pressure on the breaks before we collided. My car spun wildly, and I ended up crossing three lanes, landing on the opposite side of the median. My car made some funny noises before it died, smoke pouring from the hood. Immediately when my car settles, I look back at my dog. Her doggy bed that she lays on was tossed from the seat. The leashes I keep in the back are strewn about the car. My dog is sitting on the seat, wide-eyed and confused, perfectly unharmed. She was just sitting there. I immediately start crying. I couldn’t believe it … she was actually okay!
My boyfriend came to the scene as the police arrived. He took our dog out of the car, and she hopped right down as if nothing had happened. When the EMT’s strapped me to a board, she came over and jumped up to see if I was okay, whining for me, tail wagging.
I suffered a fractured sternum, and had to be transferred to a special hospital overnight. The first thing I did when I came home from the hospital was bring my dog to my veterinarian. I had to be sure she was definitely okay. My vet checked her over and gave her a clean bill of health.
I seriously owe all of this to my Clickit harness. Without it, my entire world would have been turned upside down. I haven’t even allowed myself to imagine the loss I would have suffered had I decided not to purchase the Clickit that day.
Last month Ohio passed a law making it legal for a good samaritan to break their way into a locked vehicle saving a heat-stroked animal. It joins a small list of states—Florida, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—that grant this kind of legal immunity to do-gooders.
While 22 states have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a dog trapped in a hot car, the actions that a passerby can legally take are less than intuitive. If a woman walking down the street spots a Basset Hound locked in a hot car, she should be able to do whatever necessary to save the pup and not worry about getting sued for breaking a piece of glass. But the “not getting sued” part is where things get tricky.
The nitty-gritty of the law differs from state to state—in some states only an animal control or police officer can break the window; in others, any concerned citizen can do it under pressing circumstances. In New Jersey and West Virginia though, no one, not even animal control, can legally free a dying dog. Even though it is illegal in those states to leave a dog in a hot car, according to the letter of the law anyone who saves the dog could get slapped with criminal charges. It’s time to revisit that one, dear lawmakers.
The idea here is not to go around smashing windows of course, unless it is absolutely necessary. Here is the Humane Society of the U.S. list of the very first steps you should take if you see an animal in distress in a parked car.
That last point brings us to the demystification section of this article. It is important to know the laws in your state. Below is a very simple overview of who can use reasonable force, aka break a window, when they encounter an animal locked inside a hot car. If you live in a state where everyday citizens are granted this action, be sure to click on the “guidelines” link to read about the required steps you must take in order to avoid legal trouble.
A gentle reminder to all of us pet lovers: be vigilant, but don’t be overzealous. We all want what’s best for the animals. Imagine you’re moving across the country with your cat and you leave her in the car with the AC on at a rest stop while you run in to buy her a bottle of water. You return to your car two minutes later to find your window smashed and your terrified kitty in the arms of a total stranger. It goes without saying: this isn’t why these laws exist and it isn’t what we’re going for.
We’re going for social responsibility on all fronts.
Thank you for caring for the animals of all shapes and sizes in our world. Have you had any personal experiences rescuing an animal?
I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments and am looking forward to the conversation!
Study finds these elective surgeries influence perceptions of dog personality
Just when you think you know a thing or two about dogs, there I was in Italy a few weeks ago after the Canine Science Forum, looking at a dog on the street and exclaiming, “Who the heck is that!”
“A Doberman!” offered my good friend and Do You Believe in Dog? colleague, Mia Cobb.
“Really?” I said in disbelief. Because it was true. I’d never seen a dog that looked like that. Every Doberman I’ve seen has looked like this:
Dog with docked tail and cropped ears. Credit: Figure 2. Mills et al (2016)
Not like this:
Same dog, but natural. Credit: Figure 2. Mills et al (2016)
The bottom image, of course, is the Doberman in her natural form. A dog born from two Dobermans will grow up to look like the bottom image. But the Dobermans I’ve seen have had two post-birth surgeries; their tails are shortened or docked, and the floppy part of each ear is cut, followed by the ears being taped to a hard surface forcing them to stand upright in a way they normally would not.
These cosmetic surgeries (also referred to by veterinarians as elective surgeries) are built into breed standards — see an example from theAmerican Kennel Club. Which is to say that a Doberman puppy born from two Doberman parents does not meet his or her own breed standard.
In some countries, dog surgical procedures for cosmetic purposes are restricted or banned, but in others, the practices are rampant. For example, cosmetic tail-docking is banned throughout Australia and in numerous parts of Europe, which is why I saw my first natural Doberman in Italy. In North America, things look a bit different. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) oppose these procedures, with the AVMA stating that these procedures "are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient," and "these procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection." Even so, restrictions are rare. As of 2014, only two states, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have any restrictions on tail-docking, focusing on the dog’s age at the time of surgery and the use of anesthesia. Only nine states regulate ear cropping.
In addition to welfare concerns associated with docking and cropping, the surgeries could affect dog social communication. Numerous studies find that tails are (gasp) useful and meaningful in dog-dog communication (more formally known as intraspecific communication, or communication between members of the same species). Even Charles Darwin recognized that tail up has a different meaning than tail down, and dogs attend to long tails better than short ones. The side of the body that a tail wags can even be informative to another dog: a dog seen wagging more to his right-side would be perceived more positively than a dog wagging more to his left. A stump is less informative.
The communicative function of dog tails has received oodles of attention (see additional readings at the end of the post), and I’m going to focus on a new issue raised last month by Marina von Keyserlingk and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Their open access article in PLoS One finds that these appearance-altering procedures are not meaningless; they affect how dogs are perceived, independent of the dog's actual behavior or personality.
Study participants, United States residents participating via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk), saw images of four dog breeds that commonly have their tails docked and ears cropped: the Doberman Pincher, Miniature Schnauzer, Boxer, and Brussels Griffon. The first three are in the top 20 of registered breeds, and the Brussels Griffon, while not as popular, was selected to include a small breed in the study.
Participants saw two different images of the same dog breed, one in the natural state (long tail and unaltered ears) and one modified (docked tail and cropped ears). They were told that the dogs were siblings and asked to explain why the ears and tails looked different.
Fifty-eight percent of participants correctly identified that “some dog breeds have part of their ears and tails surgically removed after they are born.” Dog owners were more likely to answer correctly than non-owners.
On the other hand, 40% did not know that these dogs are not born with their ears cropped and tails docked. Instead, these participants thought these traits resulted from genetic variation, agreeing with the statement, “individual dogs of the same breed vary in appearance, meaning some will have tails and ears of different shapes and sizes.” Sorry y’all. Not so for the dogs in this study! The tails and ears on the ‘modified’ dog are all us.
But what’s the effect? Another experiment in the study found that these cosmetic surgeries are not meaningless to dogs or people; in fact, these procedures affect how participants perceived dog personality traits. Generally speaking, surgically altered dogs were seen as more aggressive toward people and dogs than natural dogs, and natural dogs were seen as more playful and attractive than their altered counterparts.
But when looking at the four breeds individually, something odd popped out about attractiveness. For the Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, and Miniature Schnauzer, neither the natural or surgically altered dog was considered more attractive. Take the tail off, leave it on, crop those ears, whatever. For those breeds, people were indifferent — one appearance was not viewed as more attractive than the other. Only for the Brussels Griffon was the natural dog considered more attractive than its surgically altered counterpart.
If not all people know that the cropped/docked look is surgically created and don't find these dogs less attractive than their natural counterparts, what incentive is there to reduce these cosmetic surgeries in the companion dog population? Since 2008, the American Veterinary Medical Association has encouraged “the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.” Who is going to stand with them?
This story was originally published by Scientific American. Reprinted with permission.
Most dog professional feel crates are a necessity when sharing your life with a dog. Crates can be a great management tool. They are helpful with a new puppy’s house-training routine. They can be a wonderful place for your dog to safely go and relax when there are too many visitors in the home or small children are at risk of bothering him. They are often recommended to safely transport dogs in a vehicle, and they can be a nice, comfy place for your dog to take his afternoon nap.
Having said all that, you may be surprised to hear that I don’t always recommend using a crate. The reason is, as a certified separation anxiety trainer, I spend much of my time working with dogs who suffer from separation anxiety and isolation distress. These dogs’ brains process things a bit differently, and confining them to a small space can often heighten their anxiety and stress levels. Think of it like being trapped in an elevator full of people, or in a traffic jam in an underground tunnel. Even those of us without anxiety issues may become a bit nervous or uncomfortable. Now add in an actual anxiety disorder and bam!, you have a full blown panic attack.
There could be several reasons a dog is not comfortable in a crate and it’s not always due to separation anxiety. If you have rescued a dog from a shelter, he probably spent many hours confined to a small wire kennel. It’s very possible that he has a negative association with this type of enclosure and won’t find an even smaller crate a comfortable place. This can sometimes be easily overcome by using positive reinforcement training and fun games to help your new dog build a positive association with his crate. Crate Games by Susan Garrett is one example.
When working with dogs who suffer from anxiety when left home alone, confining them to a crate or other small area is often recommended by well-meaning professionals. They might suggest using an exercise pen (also known as an X-pen), a baby gate, or closing the dog in one small room. The reasoning behind these suggestions is usually to prevent potty accidents on the rug and/or destruction to the home while the human is gone. The irony is that many dogs with separation anxiety manage to cause even greater destruction or self-injury while in their confinement area or crate. This can be seen in the form of torn up bedding, bent crate wires, broken teeth or bloody gums and/or nails. Not to mention, their anxiety typically worsens now that there is a combination of “home alone” and “confined to a small area.”
I have found that many of my clients’ dogs with separation anxiety also suffer from confinement anxiety. Therefore, they actually begin to relax and show more progress when allowed to be free in all or a large portion of the home. Once we eliminate this confinement, they no longer have that feeling of being trapped, or as if the walls are closing in on them. This allows us to introduce our behavior modification program with one less hurdle in front of us. My clients are very relieved once they see their dogs begin to relax and lie down on their comfy dog bed.
Our individualized protocol keeps the dog below their stress threshold during the desensitization process, which means they are not pushed to the point of destruction or self-mutilation. This allows the dog to move about and explore their environment calmly while their guardians’ know they won’t return to a mess. Humans are usually fine forgoing the crate once they realize how calm their dog is becoming.
Please don’t get me wrong. I still believe a crate can be a wonderful thing for a dog. In fact, some dogs I work with will seek out their crate and willingly go in it several times a day. I just think it’s important for all of us, including trainers and veterinarians, to consider that this is not a “one size fits all” solution. We must be willing to consider what’s best for each individual dog and honor those needs. This should include performing a proper and safe assessment to determine if a dog is comfortable in a crate, especially when left home alone. Some dogs need us to think outside the box before placing them in one.
The sensation of fur between the fingers. The sound of toenails tip-tapping across the floor. The ability to offer love and acceptance without uttering a single word… For patients facing the end of life, the sheer presence of a dog can provide comfort and reassurance like nothing else.
Perhaps that’s why Hospice of Southern Maine has introduced PawPrints, a new program that brings trained therapy dogs bedside to visit patients receiving end-of-life care in their facility. Such programs are part of a growing trend around the country, and it’s easy to understand why. According to studies cited by the National Center for Health Research, companion animals can alleviate loneliness, anxiety, and depression in a way that humans — and even modern medicine — simply aren’t able to do.
Sophie comforts a patient at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough, Maine.
“Hospice care is all about making the most of the time we have when dealing with end of life,” said Hospice of Southern Maine CEO Daryl Cady. “For our patients, connecting with trained therapy dogs can help normalize and reduce the anxiety of being away from home.”
That’s no surprise to dog lovers. And as these types of programs become more common, animals may take on greater and more esteemed roles in institutions that were once reserved for imperfect two-leggers.
Prompt park officials in Arizona to ban dogs
The city of Phoenix is now banning dogs from hiking trails when it hits 100 degrees at the parks.
Under the pilot program, which went into effect July 1 and runs through Sept. 1, someone who disobeys the rule could be cited for a Class One misdemeanor, be fined up to $2,500 and receive up to six months jail time. Phoenix officials say they are emphasizing the educational aspect of the program and not the punitive measures.
Phoenix has some of the largest municipal parks in the country with 15-mile trails that cut through desert that is beautiful but shadeless during the summer.
Summertime temps in the metro Phoenix area can easily reach 110 during the day and stay warm throughout the night, hovering around the mid to upper 80s. In 2015, there were 88 days when daytime temperatures were 100 degrees or higher.
Although the parks open at sunrise, it is not uncommon for runners, hikers and cyclists to be on the trails even during the hottest parts of the day. Already this year, six people have died on area trails and there have been reports of dog deaths but no statistics are kept in that area. Frequently, dogs who are overtaken by the heat are taken to nearby vets or emergency-animal clinics for care.
In 2011, three dogs died on trails in the nearby city of Glendale. The only way the city knew about those deaths was because its fire department was called to help the dogs. “For everyone incident reported, we believe there are dozens of animal fatalities that we don’t hear about,’’ said Sue Breding, Glendale spokeswoman.
Kristen Nelson, DVM, a Phoenix area veterinarian, said one Labrador recently came into her clinic with a temperature of over 107. The dog’s owners had taken him hiking at 2 p.m. during the day when it was over 100 degrees outside. The dog had collapsed on the trail and died two days later after many of his organs gave out.
In many southwestern cities like in Phoenix, dogs can overheat at any time of the year, says Aaron Franko, DVM, at BluePearl Veterinary Partners.
At end of February, he had a Labrador mixed breed dog come in who was suffering heat stroke. “It was a very warm day,’’ Franko said.
“People don’t realize how fast dogs can get overheated and into trouble,’’ he added.
All dogs can be bothered by the heat but some types are pre-disposed to problems, Franko said. Those types include short-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers as well as dogs with underlying heart disease, older dogs and those with thicker coats.
If it is warm outside, people need to bring water for their dogs and if it is hot, they need to avoid taking them out at all, Franko said.
He estimates that his central Phoenix emergency clinic sees five or more heat-stressed dogs a week. “And we are just one emergency clinic here.’’
Many veterinarians say that the summertime heat danger to dogs can’t be emphasized enough to people with pets. The Arizona Humane Society says it can easily receive up to 50 a calls a day during the summer for animal rescues and investigations. Up to half of those involve animals who don’t have enough water or shade to deal with the heat.
Phoenix city officials believe this may be one of the few times municipal trails have been closed to dogs because of heat. Many U.S. national parks prohibit even leashed dogs on trails because the dogs may endanger themselves or area wildlife. Parks from Portland, Ore. to Maine have closed dog-friendly trails for various reasons including protecting the ecosystem and safeguarding nearby livestock.
Reason number I’ve-lost-count that dogs are better than pretty much everything else: They’re sniffing out health disasters waiting to happen — and once again proving they are true lifesavers.
Studies out of Cambridge University and the University of Oxford have revealed new findings about a chemical called isoprene. It seems levels of isoprene rise when blood sugar levels fall, and its scent can be detected by dogs on human breath. Which is excellent news for Type 1 diabetics and for parents of children with diabetes.
Diabetics are particularly susceptible to experiencing life-threateningly low levels of blood sugar while they sleep. But Diabetic Alert Dogs, as they’re called, are trained to watch over diabetic kids during the night. If a dog detects the smell of isoprene, she’ll first try to wake the child. If there’s no response, the dog is trained to then go alert the parents.
According to a report in the Endocrinology Advisor, the new role for humans’ best friend is proving incredibly valuable: “Diabetic alert dog owners as a whole have expressed high satisfaction and confidence in their canine guardians.”
So now, in addition to lowering blood pressure and sniffing out certain types of cancer, preventing hypoglycemic episodes can be added to the list of dogs’ health-preserving abilities. Indeed, their noses remain a step ahead of science. Pretty amazing for a species who asks for so little from their human partners.
An ever moving screen, action packed perfect for our video gaming generation, but also very familiar (if you have or have ever had a pet), and completely heart embracing film. This colorful cartoon, laced with a whimsical score, and wonderfully designed backdrops, stars a little brown and white dog named Max (Louis C.K.) who becomes a lost dog along with his new brother/roommate, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), after they accidentally escape from the sight of their NYC dog walker. On their adventure to find home, Max and Duke come across a dark and comical band of abandoned pets of the underground with Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) leading the pack. The cast is exceptional including the likes of Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks, and Dana Carvey.
Max and Duke bring forth our pets’ psyche with such delightful humor and adorable innocence. The directing duo, Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud of Despicable Me, and the actors have brilliantly captured and depicted our very own beloved pets, you can’t help but think of them throughout the film.
Secret Life of Pets is a burst of color and flashy imagery in every moment, if you have a headache skip the movie until it subsides. It’ll be an easy score with the kids and adults will have a lot to appreciate too.
Driving home, I couldn’t wait to reunite with my pets. My chocolate Lab, Caleb, was right behind my door as I opened it and my Betta fish, Koufax, swimming around in his tank to greet me. As Max says, “It’s the best part of the day.”
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