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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
What Snow Does To Dogs
Is yours more energetic and less attentive?

As strong as the kinship is that we share with dogs, this year’s nutty winter storms have hit members of both species differently in many cases. Most of the human inhabitants of the US are already completely sick of the snow. They are tired of shoveling, and clearing off their cars, and being stuck on the roads. Many dogs seem to fell differently. Snow is fun for most dogs, and, along with cooler winter temperatures, it really changes them. One of the most obvious changes is that dogs are more energetic, especially when they are outdoors.

That extra energy can be a good thing. The extra exercise is great for dogs who join you on any skiing or snowshoeing adventures. And you probably have company while shoveling snow. People shovel the snow and dogs try to catch it as it flies by to the piles. And I love it when a dog is happily tired in the evenings after a day of outdoor snow adventures.   However, if your dog is super peppy because of the snow and crisp air, it can be exhausting if the snow does not make you similarly inclined to be more playful and full of joy. It’s not ideal when dogs are invigorated by the weather but their people consider winter storms an inspiration to sip hot cocoa while reading a good book in front of the fire.   Energetic dogs are more likely to misbehave with destructive chewing, barking, whining, chasing the cat, and any of a number of undesirable actions that result from being full of energy with no outlet for it. When they do go outside, they may be less responsive because they are so distracted.   The way that snow changes many dogs is a big deal this winter since so much of the country is experiencing extreme and even record-setting amounts of snow. The more you are able to follow your dog’s lead and enjoy the snow, the less tedious and stressful your wait for spring will be.   How has the snow affected your dog?
News: Guest Posts
The Jazz Puppy
Have you seen the singing, piano-playing Schnoodle?

There are a lot of singing dogs on YouTube. But Tucker is the first I’ve seen who sings and plays. Not just sings and plays, but performs. There is a Glenn Gould feeling about it that really blows my mind. According to the “KennedyFamily99,” he wasn’t trained to play; it’s not a trick. And he practices a few times a day, that’s better than most folks taking lessons.

News: Guest Posts
Patricia Simonet, 1959-2010
Jan. 22 memorial for researcher who discovered dog laughter

We were saddened to learn Patricia Simonet, who “discovered” dog laughter, died in December—at only 51, three after years of being diagnosed with breast cancer. She will be missed not only for the contributions she made in our understanding of dogs’ play vocalizations and smiling but also because of her advocacy for homeless dogs in the Spokane, Wash., community.

  Simonet, who wrote about dog laughter for Bark magazine in September 2007, not only translated the “meaning” of various grunts and breathy pants, she revealed the value of laughter in calming dogs, which could be deployed to ameliorate stress in shelter environments. In Spokane, Simonet worked as an animal behaviorist at SCRAPS, the county animal shelter, where she helped promote pet adoptions by matching the animal’s “personality” with that of their prospective owners. She also volunteered at the Spokane Humane Society. In 2010, the Spokane County Board of Supervisors named Spokane County’s only off-leash dog park, the Patricia Simonet Laughing Dog Park in her honor.   ► Patricia Simonet will be remembered and celebrated on Saturday, January 22 at 1 p.m. in the Spokane Buddhist Temple at 927 S. Perry St., Spokane.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Saves Frozen Feline
Cat’s best friend?

I am very interested in the interactions between different species. In fact, as a scientist, it is those interactions that I love to study and understand. For my first research project in graduate school, I investigated the nesting association of two species of tropical social wasps in order to understand why their nests are often found within a few centimeters of each other. No matter what the story is, if it involves more than one species, I’m interested.

  Besides just loving dogs, I’m fascinated by the fact that we are two species with a shared and very close relationship, which is nothing short of a biological wonder. We talk about dogs as our best friends, yet, we have other friends, too. Similarly, dogs may consider members of species besides humans to be social partners, especially if they have been exposed to those species early in life.   It’s my interest in interactions between different species that led me to be so fascinated by a recent story from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. During a blizzard earlier this year, a dog saved the life of a cat that had nearly frozen to death. The cat had apparently been living under the house of the man and dog who saved it. The dog brought the cat to his guardian, who brought it to the local human society because it was in bad shape and actually had a towel frozen to it with ice. The cat was severely hypothermic and its heart rate was very low. The staff at a local animal hospital worked saved the cat with treatment in lukewarm water to remove the towel and warm IV fluids.   The dog needed to interact with both the cat and humans to save the frozen feline, who was named Frosty by the staff at the Kootenai Humane Society. The dog needed to rescue Frosty from his hiding spot and then safely deliver it to the human in order for him to get proper care.   Do you know of situations in which a dog has truly acted as a cat’s best friend?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Bites on the Rise
Hospitalization for dog bites doubled in 15 years

 

According to a new government study, the number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites almost doubled between 1993 and 2008. The researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the department responsible for the survey, are at a loss to explain the increase. The popularity of pets in recent years doesn’t account for the spike, as their numbers have only increased slightly. 

At first I thought that the higher number may have to do with the change in how society views pets. Today, more dogs live inside the home and have more daily contact with people (increasing the chance of a bite). However, the study found that residents of rural areas made four times as many emergency room visits due to dog bites than people living in non-rural areas, presumably where dogs are more likely to be living outside. Maybe better socialization or urban basic obedience classes can explain this aspect of the statistics?

I do hope that more research is done to follow up on this study. It’s important to find out what factors are influencing the dramatic increase in dog bites.

Whatever the cause may be, this study highlights the importance of learning how to prevent dog bites. Children under five (and adults 65 and older) were most likely to be hospitalized after a bite, do it’s important to teach our kids how to interact with and behave around dogs.

Why do you think that dog bites are on the rise?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Emu Who Acts Like A Dog
Who does she think she is?

An Emu named Emma sometimes acts like her best friend, a dog named Charlie. She fetches, plays with Charlie’s toys, sits when asked to do so, and chases things, just like Charlie does. Her human family says that she thinks she's a dog, and that nobody ever told her she wasn’t. (Emus are Australia’s largest native bird, reaching heights of well over 6 feet.)

  It makes a great story to say that Emma thinks she’s a dog, but it’s hard to justify. The fact that she is exhibiting some typically canine behaviors is fascinating, and surely fun to observe, but there are many reasons why she may act in ways that are similar to dogs other than an identity crisis. Animals are capable of learning a lot from those around them.   Imprinting is a specific type of learning. It is very rapid learning that occurs in a specific phase of life, such as when birds become attached to moving objects soon after hatching and follow them around. This sort of filial imprinting typically applies to ducks and geese, though it can happen in a wide variety of animals. It ensures that the animals follow their parents around, which is critical for survival. It is very likely that Emma the emu has imprinted on Charlie since the family got her when she was so young, and that has given her ample opportunity to observe his behavior.   Observational learning is the learning that occurs by watching others perform behavior that is novel to the observer. Role models are common in many species, and Emma may be exhibiting observational learning with Charlie as her role model for behaviors such as chasing, fetching, playing with toys, etc.   The fact that Emma is performing behaviors that may be more typically seen in dogs than in emus is evidence of the fact that the environment strongly influences behavior. So Emma’s potential behavioral repertoire is quite large, but the environment that she is in (a dog is present) results in a particular set of behaviors out of all those that are possible. Emma’s behavior suggests that emus have the capability to learn those dog-like behaviors, but that in their usual social environment, they don’t develop.   So, I’m not convinced that Emma “thinks she’s a dog.” I think that she is an emu whose behavior is perhaps a bit unusual for members of her species, but clearly can develop in the right situation. I also think this is one of the coolest stories I’ve read in a long time, and I wish that I could see Emma myself. She sounds like a very hip bird!
News: Guest Posts
Dangerous Dog Breed List Has No Bite
Daily Beast fearmongering should be muzzled

I don’t know how to break it to my family and friends, but there’s a Pit Bull mix and two Dalmatians in my house! According to the Daily Beast, I should be scared to death to live among the #1 and #11 most dangerous dog breeds, respectively.

Just because you don’t have one of the common banned breeds—Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds—you think you’re safe? Greyhounds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Old English Sheepdogs, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and Poodles all made the list of 39 dangerous dog breeds. Guess all of us dog lovers should run for our lives!

The irreverent online news digest (founded by former Vanity Fair and The New Yorker editor Tina Brown), attempts to persuade the reader at how much research went into creating its “39 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds” list.

Problem is, it relied on a faulty study—which had been discredited several years ago—as its main source. Not to mention, both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association have stated that breed is not the primary indicator for a bite. As most dog lovers and professional dog trainers know, socialization, training and supervision are key to bite prevention.

When glancing through the photo gallery illustrating the 30 breeds, be sure to note the breed name as printed because the Daily Beast posted photos that do not match the breed listed. For example, the Bull Mastiff “pictured” is a Dogue de Bordeaux, and both the Australian Shepherd and the Collie feature photos of what appear to be Border Collies. Perhaps if the Daily Beast had focused more on finding accurate breed photos than digging up muzzled and mean dog pics, readers could take this pet project a little more seriously.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Howling Dogs, Crying Babies
What are these interactions all about?

A common theme for You Tube videos of dogs and babies is dogs who howl when a baby was crying. Interestingly, the dogs’ vocalizations often have a calming affect on the babies. Here are two videos in which a crying baby and a howling dog are in close proximity. In the first one, a dog is howling while a baby cries in a bassinet, and it seems as though the baby stops crying in response to the dog’s vocalizations.

  In the second video, a dog and a baby are lying on a blanket on the floor and both are making a lot of noise. Though more subtle, it again appears as though the baby’s response to the dog’s howling is to stop crying for a brief moment.

  It’s really anybody’s guess what is going on in these interactions. There are a lot of experts commenting on them, but without knowing more about the contexts and the individuals involved, it’s just guesswork. To really know what was happening, I would need to know if the baby and the dog usually act like this or if it was just a one-time event. I’d also want to know what works for soothing the babies when the dogs aren’t involved, and what other sounds or situations make the dogs howl.   Here are some possibilities about what is going on, but as I said, it’s not possible to know for certain which explanations are correct. It’s highly likely that a totally different interpretation is the right one.   Baby The baby stops crying because he likes the howling. The baby stops crying because he likes any loud noise The baby stops crying because the howling startles him. The cessation of the baby’s crying has nothing to do with the howling at all.   Dog The dog howls because she likes to join in with the baby’s “howling.” The dog howls because she has learned that this gets the baby to quiet down. The dog howls because she doesn’t like being near the baby. The dog howls because she’s trying to get a human’s attention: (“Pick up the baby and make it stop!!!)   What do you think is going on? Do you have experience with a dog and a baby who howl and cry together?
News: Guest Posts
Adopt A Senior Dog
Older, wiser, mellower—what could be better?

Yesterday, on my morning stroll with Lulu and Renzo, I met a couple walking an 11-year-old mutt they had just adopted from the Seattle Humane Society. I use the word mutt as high praise because this dog was shaggy and black with a graying, eternally charming muzzle. I’m a sucker for the type. But I knew she was the sort of dog a person with less imagination or compassion might pass by in a shelter. Just as I was thinking how lucky she was to be adopted at this stage in her life, I looked back at the woman on the other end of the leash. She was beaming. Seriously, thrilled with her new dog. And I realized, of course, there was lots of luck to go around.

  The meeting was auspicious: November is Adopt-A-Senior-Dog Month. Time to spread the word about what makes a senior dog a great addition to a home. Seniors settle in quickly, enjoy a more laid-back schedule, and have already passed through messy puppy stages to name just a few of the many reasons to adopt an older dog. What makes your senior puppy the bomb?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Halloween Trick-Or-Treaters
Is this a good training opportunity?

It’s common for even the sweetest of dogs to be little devils when visitors come to the door. Some dogs are afraid of visitors, which can cause them to bark, lunge or even bite. Others are simply wild with excitement when people arrive, which often leads to leaping, jumping, barking, spinning and generally being out of control. Either way, it can mean that every time the doorbell rings, people cringe knowing that what’s about to happen may not be pretty.

  The day of days for doorbell ringing is, of course, Halloween. Not only are there loads of visitors, but those visitors are dressed as, among other things, lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! There are costumes with flashing lights, giant mouths, battery-powered sound effects, and all sorts of weird colors, shapes, sizes and behavior. When dogs are not at their best with visitors anyway, trick-or-treaters are unduly challenging.   Everybody knows that for dogs who struggle to contain themselves when visitors come over, practice dealing with that very situation is a necessary part of improving it. So, I am often asked, “Should I use Halloween night as a training opportunity?” The short answer is “probably not.”   One reason for answering in the negative is that while practice is an essential part of training doors to be polite when visitors arrive, that practice must be in a situation at a level that the dog can handle. Large numbers of excited children will be beyond what most dogs can handle, which means that most dogs will just end up practicing their undesirable behavior rather than practicing the polite behavior we’d like them to exhibit.   Another reason that practicing greetings of visitors on Halloween may be ill-advised is that many dogs react badly because they are fearful of visitors. Trick-or-treaters are bound to be terrifying to dogs since people whose silhouettes are unusual seem to scare most dogs. Masks, capes, giant costumes, carrying bags and other elements of trick-or-treating fashion change people’s silhouettes are scarier to most dogs than the typical tool belts, hats, clipboards and backpacks that fearful dogs react to.   It is especially critical not to use Halloween night as a training session if there is any risk of the dog behaving aggressively to visitors. Most dogs who react badly towards visitors are merely impolite or excessively exuberant, and even that could inadvertently lead to trouble. Trick-or-treaters should not be exposed to the small minority who may actually intentionally try to hurt them.   There are a very few dogs who can benefit from training session on Halloween. Those are the dogs who have worked up to being polite when trick-or-treaters arrive by already showing great success when greeting every other type of visitor, including large groups of people, children, loud people and people dressed a bit oddly. If you’ve worked up to this Holy Grail of training with your dog, perhaps Halloween is an opportunity for you both. If you’re not sure if your dog is ready, the best course of action is to assume that he’s not.   For most people, the only way to make a dog be like Lassie on Halloween is to put him in a Rin Tin Tin costume. So unless your dog has worked up to being ready to handle these toughest types of visitors, don’t plan on training during the trick-or-treating hours. 

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