News: Guest Posts
There are two victims here
To read the original story, it seems pretty cut and dried. A jogger in Mercer County, Kentucky, passed by a dog on a tie out. The dog got loose and attacked her, requiring plastic surgery. Animal control takes the dog away to be quarantined then euthanized.
But if you read the comments, you'll find several different perspectives. For example, the mother-in-law of the dog's owner claims the dog has a sweet temperament (her name is Angel, after all), she is only occasionally tied out in the yard, the jogger was on private property, and lastly, the supposed "attack" was actually a few scratches to the woman's face. No bites. Nothing requiring plastic surgery.
The jogger's grandmother also comments, reiterating that her granddaughter does indeed require extensive surgery. The reporter of the story even jumps in, responding to criticism that he didn't get his facts straight. He says his source was the sheriff's department, based on its police reports and witness statements.
Some readers claim the newspaper is just trying to sell more papers by sensationalizing a “dog-bites-(wo)man” story. Others blame the jogger for being greedy and “sue happy.”
Regardless of the truth and any of the parties’ ulterior motives, Angel the dog dies through no fault of her own. How is that justice?
News: Karen B. London
Dogs watch us and we talk to them
There’s a little list in my mind of information that dog trainers know and that they wish everyone knew. At the top of that list is the fact that dogs primarily communicate with visual signals whereas humans most often express themselves vocally. This difference explains so much of the confusion between our otherwise largely compatible species.
Dogs often pick up on visual cues that we use, inadvertently or not, when training them. So, if during training, we use a hand gesture while saying "sit," most dogs will learn that the hand gesture means to put their bottom on the ground long before they figure out that the word "Sit" means to do the same thing.
Research has shown that dogs learn visual signals faster than vocal signals. Therefore, it is most likely that if your dog is sitting when presented with both cues, he already knows the visual cue on its own. To check for sure, you can experiment by giving just the visual cue and see if your dog sits.
We often think our dogs are responding to what we are saying, but often they are actually responding to what we are doing. Dogs are watching us and we are talking to them. Dogs can't figure out what their humans are trying to convey and we can't figure out why our dogs aren't listening.
Simply being aware of this difference between dogs and people helps avoid the problems that often result. For more information, check out this short article I wrote for my local paper about visual versus vocal cues.
News: Karen B. London
Each kind contains specific information
Dogs growl in different contexts—when guarding something of value, when threatened by a stranger and during play. These growls can sound remarkably similar to the novice human ear, but a new study in the journal Animal Behavior suuggests that the meanings of these growls are very different to dogs.Scientists in Hungary recorded growls by dogs in different situations and analyzed the structure of the calls. The growls recorded during play were very different than the other two calls in that they were shorter and higher in pitch. In an experiment that was also a part of their study, they allowed a dog to approach a high quality food item (a cooked meaty bone) when alone in a room. Then, they piped in the recorded sound of either a growl made when a dog was threatened by a stranger or a growl made by a dog guarding a bone. They tested 41 dogs in this way and found that dogs were significantly more likely to back away from the bone when they heard the bone-guarding growl than when they heard the threatened-by-a-stranger growl. Dogs have a huge range of vocalizations and yet much remains to be learned about the differences in meanings and structure of their acoustic communication. This study is one step towards a fuller understanding of the vocal repertoire of dogs.
News: Karen B. London
They CAN understand us
One of the coolest studies of behavior I have ever read is a 2001 study by Rooney, Bradshaw and Robinson (Do dogs respond to play signals given by humans? Animal Behaviour, 61:715-722.) The question they asked was simple: Can humans tell their dogs that they want to play? And the really cool part is that the answer was “Yes, people can signal playfulness to dogs.”One really interesting aspect of the study was that the effectiveness of signals at getting dogs to play had nothing to do with how often people used that particular signal. For example, patting the floor or whispering were both common ways that people tried to tell their dogs that they wanted to play, but dogs did not respond much to these signals. In contrast, running towards or away from the dog as well as tapping their own chest were two human signals that were highly effective at initiating play with dogs but neither was used frequently by participants in the study. In the study, the least effective ways to initiate play with a dog included kissing the dog, picking up the dog, and barking at the dog, none of which ever resulted in play. Stamping their feet and pulling the dog’s tail (yikes!) only rarely got dogs to play. The best ways for people to initiate play with dogs were doing a forward lunge (making a sudden quick movement toward the dog), the vertical bow (the person bends at the waist until the torso is horizontal), chasing the dog or running away from the dog, the play bow, and grabbing the dog’s paws. The study didn’t involve toys, so it didn’t look at what I think is one of the best ways to tell our dogs we want to play, which is to pick up one of their toys. That seems to give most toy-motivated dogs the right message. Can you communicate to your dog that you want top play? If so, how do you tell your dog that the game is on?
News: Guest Posts
Dogs and humans have a lot in common
Last spring, Julia Kamysz Lane blogged about a study that suggested a link between compulsive tail-chasing and high cholesterol in dogs. Now, Bark contributor Mark Derr reports for The New York Times on a study linking compulsive behavior in dogs—think: excessive licking, fence running, spinning, staring and more—to a gene for the first time. The discovery is important not simply for the estimated five to six million (!) dogs afflicted with obsessive behaviors but may prove beneficial to the 2.5 to 8 percent of the human population afflicted with related disorders. One more example of how our welfare is tied to dogs.
In particular, though, I’m glad that Derr stresses in his story the important role that environment plays in the development of compulsive behaviors, going so far as to say nurture outweighs genetic factors in some cases. Understanding the genetic piece may prove valuable in treating compulsive disorders in dogs (and people) someday, but it won’t be a substitute for our role in keeping our animals healthy and providing low-stress, low-anxiety environments.
News: JoAnna Lou
Discovering the benefits of playing tug-o-war
A few weeks ago, I wrote about entertaining your canine crew with a variety of indoor activities, including a tugging game. One of our readers commented that they’d always heard playing tug-o-war can encourage biting, a common misconception about this game.
I can see why tugging could be mistaken for encouraging aggressive behavior with all the pulling and growling, but the bad rap is unfortunate since this game has so many positive benefits when played properly.
When I first got Nemo as a puppy, he naturally liked to tug, but it wasn't an activity that I fostered. It was through agility that I first saw the role of tugging as a training reward. Since then, Nemo and I have discovered the many benefits of this interactive game while having lots of fun together.
I like to practice pausing and re-starting several times throughout the game to teach the dogs impulse control. It’s also a great way to strengthen a “stay” cue with distracting toys.
If your pup isn’t a natural tugger, check out Susan Garrett’s tips for creating a motivating toy.
Do you tug with your dogs?
News: JoAnna Lou
Submit your human, canine, and feline nominations.
Each year, the ASPCA celebrates the important human-animal bond by honoring ten inspiring animals and people who have demonstrated compassion and bravery.
The awards are given to dogs and cats that have demonstrated extraordinary behavior and to people who’ve made a significant impact in the lives of animals in the past year.
Do you know any two or four legged friends who fit the bill? The ASPCA is now taking nominations in the categories of Dog of the Year, Cat of the Year, Kid of the Year, Public Service Award (firefighters, law enforcement officers, etc…), and Other, for the 2010 ASPCA Humane Awards.
Submissions will be accepted until June 30th and the winners will be invited to the Humane Award Luncheon in New York City.
Last year’s winners:
Nominations for this year’s awards can be submitted online through the ASPCA’s web site.
News: Guest Posts
Dog senses recent earthquake on video
I’ve been through one earthquake with my dog and I don’t remember her sensing it before it happened, but then again I wasn’t watching to see if she sensed anything and I didn’t have a handy camera monitoring our every move. But apparently this unidentified news station in Arcata caught a canine’s ESP on tape.
National Geographic weighs in with theories about animals' abilities to anticipate earthquakes. What will the skeptics say?
News: JoAnna Lou
A training method that focuses on the whole dog.
You may have already seen the viral You Tube video of a group of dogs decorating a Christmas tree, or the recently posted sequel of the same pack setting up a beach scene.
These incredible videos have been leaving many animal lovers wondering who trained these dogs, particularly if you don’t speak Hungarian.
The group behind these well-trained pups is dog club, Népszigeti Kutyaiskola. The trainers and their dogs are promoting the club’s training technique, the Mirror Method, which is actually more like a philosophy.
The Mirror Method takes a holistic approach, reaching beyond traditional training. Teaching the tricks in the videos is just a small part of their three-part system.
The Mirror Method consists of relationship, training, and lifestyle.
Relationship. Dogs reflect their human’s personality and actions. In order to change your dog’s behavior, you must first change your own. If you want your dog to be calm, you must be calm. Learning to read your dog’s body language will help you achieve a good relationship. The group also mentions developing a hierarchy and creating respect, but stresses that you don’t need force to maintain rules and boundaries.
Training. The group teaches the behaviors seen in the video with clicker training and back chaining, which develops motivated dogs that are happy to learn.
Lifestyle. Dogs have a need for more than just food and a walk around the block. This instinctual need must be fulfilled in order to create the conditions for learning and good behavior. The group mentions taking breed into consideration. For example, a Labrador might thrive with hikes in the forest and a Bloodhound might benefit from participating in tracking work.
It may seem like you need to be a superstar trainer to balance this system and recreate the behaviors seen in the videos, but all of these trainers started as beginners at their dog club, many of them performing with their first dog. Their achievements are a testament to how anyone can find success by remembering to develop a good relationship and to maintain an active lifestyle, along with training.
News: Karen B. London
Saving your hands and your sanity
Puppies use each other as chew toys, so when they move away from their littermates and start hanging out with humans, it is only natural that they should continue their mouthy ways. Trouble is, we humans have skin that is so very delicate. In fact, it breaks when our puppies chew on it, and that is no good for anybody.There are many suggestions for stopping puppy mouthing, and only some work for each puppy. My favorite, which I consider the standard technique for stopping puppy mouthing, is the startle and redirect method. This strategy consists of making a high-pitched sound that is best written as “AWRP!” This sound startles most puppies enough to make them release their hold on you. Then, you redirect your puppy’s mouth to something appropriate to chew on, such as a chew toy or other toy. Many people are really good about remembering to startle but then forget to redirect their puppy to something that can be chewed. The result of this mistake is that the puppy goes back to mouthing the person’s hands or clothing and the person thinks the technique doesn’t work. There are other effective ways of dealing with puppy mouthing, but I advise against any aversive methods, even if they are commonly advised. For example, don’t hold the puppy’s mouth shut or stick your fingers in it, yell, or use physical force to stop the dog. Basically, anything that frightens or hurts the dog is not an option.
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