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Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Festive Canine Decorations
Bo Obama at Christmas

When First Lady Michelle Obama guided visitors through the White House to see the Christmas decorations, it was easy to see that First Dog Bo Obama had a starring role. He accompanied the first group to see a preview of the holiday décor wearing jingle bells, but his presence extends far beyond that.

There is a large statue of Bo next to the 300-pound gingerbread White House in the State Dining Room. In the East Garden Room, there’s life-size model of him holding a string of lights in his mouth. Dozens of cut out pictures of Bo are on display throughout the house in what are referred to as Bo-flakes. Visitors can go on a scavenger hunt to search for the Bo ornaments that are in eight rooms. The guide to the scavenger hunt is on a Bo bookmark.

If you decorate for the holidays, do you use images of your dog in any way?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
What a Good Dog

On a recent dark, chilly fall evening, a three year old child wandered out of his home un-noticed by his parents. His departure was, however, observed by the family dog, a large neutered  male Pit Bull, who took it upon himself to follow the little boy and stay close by his side. They were a good distance from home before they were seen by some passers-by who stopped to help. The child was unable to tell them where he lived or give them any other information so deputies were summoned. The dog stayed by the child’s side the entire time, friendly but watchful.

The child was going to be taken into protective custody so one of my fellow animal control officers was dispatched to pick up the dog. The officer scanned the dog and found a microchip which had been implanted by our shelter during a free neuter clinic that we had offered a few years previously. Thanks to the chip, one phone call was all that was needed to get the pair home safely. The situation is still under investigation but could have been much worse had the dog not chosen to stay with the little boy.

I was so touched by the way the faithful dog stayed with the child the entire time and by the way, once again, a microchip led to a happy ending!

I would love to hear from readers about things your dogs have done to be there for someone in need. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Taking Cues From Humans
Dogs look to us for guidance in times of uncertainty

My new rescue, Scuttle, is the bubbliest, most energetic puppy I've ever met--until something startles her. Then she freezes or runs into the corner and hides. I've never had a dog that was quite as fearful as she is, so I was often caught off guard when she reacted to something I wasn't expecting. I think I probably froze and then went into overcompensation mode, trying to feed her treats to reverse the negative experience. As you can imagine, it doesn't sound like such a pleasant experience!

After a training buddy helped me take a step back and realize I was acting way too serious, I changed my response to help Scuttle understand that these things weren't a big deal. I've since noticed she’s much better when it comes to handling uncertainty.

It seems that our behavior really does influence how our pups act--a trait canines may have developed by evolving alongside humans over time.

A team of psychologists at the University of Milan noticed that dogs often look to people when they're uncertain about something, a behavior that's called social referencing in young kids. Children often use an adult's emotional reaction to help understand a situation that they're unsure about and use that information to guide future behavior.  

The team of researchers set out to see if dogs exhibit social referencing only in situations of uncertainty, as it appears in children. The study used an oscillating fan with flapping streamers as the object in question since it would be something most dogs hadn't seen before.

The canine subjects were then brought in a room off leash with someone from their family. If the fan was not present, the dogs typically wandered around, rarely looking back at their person. If the fan was in the room, almost all of the pups took a few steps into the room and immediately looked back at their handler, and then back at the fan.

The next part of the experiment tested how the dogs would act based on their handler's response. The people were told to deliver a message in either a positive or negative tone, saying, “that’s really pretty” or “that’s really ugly.” Interestingly, when the handlers expressed displeasure, the dogs tended to freeze in space. In the case of the positive message, the pups didn't change their behavior much and started moving around the room after checking in with their person.

When taken a step further, the dogs usually mirrored their handler's behavior. So if the person either approached the fan or walked away from it, the dog would usually do the same.

This research has really interesting implications on the human-canine bond. Knowing that our pups look to us for guidance on how to interpret new situations puts puts a lot of responsibility on us as their guardians and teachers. It really influences the way I think about working with my crew! 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Teaching Chemistry
Two talented pups make learning science fun
Chemistry was one of my worst subjects in school, but maybe if my teachers were dogs, I would've paid attention in class!

Lauren Girard has been training her pets to do cool tricks ever since she got her Border Collie, Paige, five years ago. Her pups are so fun to watch that Lauren's sister shows her junior high school students videos of the dogs performing as a reward for good behavior. This inspired Lauren to combine her own science background with her love of trick training to make a You Tube video called Dogs Teaching Chemistry.

The first clip on chemical bonds was an instant hit, gaining over half a million views in less than a week and encouraging Lauren to create a second installment on the atom. Both videos feature Paige and her two year old mixed breed, Dexter, teaching an entertaining chemistry lesson in under two minutes. Lauren taught everything seen in the videos through clicker training. She believes that positive training is not only a way to teach your dog a cool trick, but also facilitates a trusting relationship that creates self-confidence.

The bond Lauren has with her dogs can be seen in their enthusiasm both in the chemistry videos and in the many other activities that they do. When Paige and Dexter aren't "teaching," they're participating in everything from agility to freestyle. The talented duo is even involved in print and television work. Is there anything that these two pups don't do?

Stay tuned to Lauren's You Tube channel, snuggliepuppy, for more videos from these superstars!

News: Editors
The Yellow Dog Project

Tara, a trainer/dog walker in Red Deer, Alberta has come up with a good idea about ways to alert others about a dog who might need a little “space” from another dog on a leash. She calls it the Yellow Dog Project and founded this movement only a couple of months ago. As you know, there are many reasons why a leashed dog might require a safe distance from another dog—health and behavioral reasons, primarily. Our dear Lenny, a little Terrier mix who died last year at 19, was that kind of dog, he was reactive towards most other dogs. There were many times when a friendly dog would approach us and I would have to call out something like “my dog isn’t friendly,” most of the time the response would be “but my dog is friendly.” How much easier it would be if we all understood that a dog with a yellow ribbon or something in yellow on their leash, said it for us instead. So hooray to Tara—help her spread the word.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
When Breed Bans Complicate
Dog loving baseball player is traded to an area with breed specific legislation

Breed specific legislation is unfair to the dogs who are automatically categorized as dangerous, but it's also unfair to the families who share their home with these banned breeds. Bully lovers have to worry about where to live and even where to vacation. The rich and famous are no exception.

Last year, when MLB pitcher Mark Buehrle signed with the Florida Marlins, he chose to move to Broward County with his wife, two kids, and four dogs since Miami-Dade County, home of the Marlins' stadium, doesn't welcome their American Staffordshire Terrier, Slater. Moving to an area without breed specific legislation lengthened Mark's commute but it was a small price to pay to keep his family intact.  

However, now the Buehrle family has a new housing challenge. Last week Mark was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where the entire province of Ontario has had breed specific legislation in place since 2005. Mark's only options are to live hours from the stadium.

The breed ban puts Mark in a really difficult situation, but he's made a positive difference for animals in each of the cities he's played in. In Florida, the Buehrles led a petition to end breed specific legislation in Miami-Dade County andin Chicago, Mark started the "Sox for Strays" charity when he was playing for the White Sox.The pitcher has also been outspoken in criticizing NFL quarterback Michael Vick on the subject of dog fighting.

Hopefully Mark's dilemma will bring attention to how discriminatory these laws are and maybe he can even inspire Ontario to reconsider their breed ban!

News: Editors
Dogs as Economic Indicators

The market research firm Euromonitor International recently conducted a series of studies investigating dogs—as economic indicators—and what this says about greater global economic development. They looked at the growth of dog ownership, the size of dogs (i.e., small or large), pet products and care, plus the cost of feeding dogs. We haven’t been able to find out much about their methodology and how their measurements (like the number of dog households in the U.S.) were derived. But some of their findings were rather surprising including that India has posted the fastest population growth for dog ownership. As for dog sizes, countries like Brazil, Portugal and Mexico lead in favoring small dogs, and large dogs were mostly favored (in proportion to the dog population) in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, followed by the U.S. in fourth place.

Their analysts also charted monthly and annual cost for feeding dogs. These results were also surprising—many more countries like Austria, Switzerland, Australia, topped by Norway as number one, spend more than we do in the U.S.

I would be curious to know how much you think you spend per month on feeding your dogs (minus treats). If Norway tops out at $53.22 per month and the U.S. averages $13.89, where do you fit into this spectrum?

We’ve like to hear from you and learn more about how much Bark readers spend on dog food, and the factors involved in their purchases. We invite you to take part in a brief survey, and would appreciate if you would take a few moments to click on the following link: Start BARK Survey and respond to some questions.

In appreciation for your feedback, you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a personalized dog bowl.

News: Guest Posts
Orcas Frighten Diver and Dog
Biologist suggests whales were more curious than killer

My heart was in my throat while watching this video clip in which a diver and dog narrowly escape a pod of Orcas in New Zealand. The videographer, Deonette De Jongh, had been diving for crayfish with the man who we see scramble to safety onto rocks. According to an eyewitness, the Labrador retriever's owner continued to throw sticks for his dog, even though he knew the whales were there, just to "see what would happen." If that had been my dog out there, you can be sure I would have screamed for my dog to return to shore, and fast! Despite sensational news headlines to the contrary, Orca biologist Dr. Ingrid Visser assures viewers that these wild Orcas were merely curious.

News: Guest Posts
Rescued Bait Dog Receives National Honor
From dog fighting ring to show ring in less than one year

Like many young Staffordshire Terrier mixes around the country, Vivian Peyton didn’t have the best chance of finding a loving home. She was used as a bait dog for a dog fighting ring before ending up at a Philadelphia shelter. Wounded, emaciated and understandably wary of people, Vivian was not considered adoptable.

 

Thanks to New Leash on Life, a nonprofit prison dog-training program, Vivian Peyton learned to trust, earned her Canine Good Citizen certification and was adopted by Michele Pich, a Veterinary Grief Counselor at PennVet. Together, they comfort grieving pet lovers and visit children at Ronald McDonald House.

 

Her extraordinary journey and service has not gone unnoticed. Vivian Peyton will be honored as a Purina Therapy Dog Ambassadors at the National Dog Show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center on Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18.

 

“Vivian Peyton's honor as Therapy Dog Ambassador at Purina's National Dog Show this year is such an amazing honor,” says proud owner Pich. “For such a sweet beautiful little girl that almost didn't make it out of the shelter alive to go on in a year's time to be part of New Leash on Life's prison-dog program, to have the honor of being a therapy dog through Penn Vet's VetPets program - putting smiles on sick children's faces, and to help grieving pet lovers - and now to be given this special title is incredible.

 

“I have loved her since the second I met her, and could see that she was destined for greatness,” adds Pich. “I just had no idea that the rest of the world would see it too. She is gentle yet rambunctious when she should be, she's goofy yet dainty. She has a loving demeanor and she just seems to know what people need to feel better. I feel so fortunate to be her mom and to be with her through this amazing privilege of being part of the Therapy Dog ambassador team.”

   

New Leash on Life USA is a new generation prison dog-training program that saves the lives of shelter dogs by training and socializing them to enhance their adoptability while helping inmates learn to train and care for dogs. With New Leash on Life USA, dogs live in the cells with their inmate trainers 24/7, making New Leash dogs highly desirable for adoption and ensuring the long-term success for both humans and canines. For more information on New Leash on Life USA visit www.newleashonlife-usa.org.

 

“We are incredibly proud of Vivian Peyton for showing the resiliency of animals and what can be accomplished with love and care,” said Marian V. Marchese, the founder of New Leash on Life. “She will always be New Leash on Life’s ambassador dog.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Influencing Pit Bull Perceptions
Study finds that photos can influence how personality is perceived

It’s no secret that Pit Bulls are cast in a negative light, causing them to be passed over time and time again at the animal shelter.  Now with the popularity of online adoption web sites, like Petfinder, a good picture can make all the difference in whether a dog gets adopted or not.  I’ve seen great ways of boosting a pet’s chances, from using professional photographers (many who generously donate their time to shelters) to having dogs wear cute holiday-themed bandannas.  But no matter how Pit Bulls are presented, people often click to the next dog as soon as they see the bully breed appear on the screen.

A recent study set out to see how shelters might increase Pit Bull adoptions by being strategic in photographing the dogs.  Lisa Gunter's experiment specifically looked at how different people pictured alongside a Pit Bull would affect perceptions of the dog’s temperament in six categories—approachability, aggressiveness, intelligence, friendliness, trainability, and finally, adoptability.

In pictures where a Pit Bull was featured with a person, no matter who it was, they scored higher in perceived intelligence as opposed to photos where the Pit Bull was pictured alone.  When a Pit Bull was featured next to an elderly woman or a young boy, the scores increased for friendliness and adoptability, while the numbers for aggressiveness decreased.  On the other end of the spectrum, picturing a Pit Bull next to a rough looking man caused scores for friendliness to decrease.

The findings from Lisa's study could easily be applied to shelter dogs to increase adoptability.  For those of you in the rescue field, what strategies have you tried to put Pit Bulls in a more favorable light?

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